What Is SEO Marketing? + How to Improve Your SEO

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

This article defines SEO marketing, explains why it’s important, and offers five steps you can take now to improve your site’s SEO and start seeing results.

[Featured image] An SEO marketer presents a chart to a group at a conference table.

SEO (search engine optimisation) marketing is the process of optimising your website and its content for visibility. An SEO-friendly site ranks high on a search engine results page (SERP) for relevant search queries (also called keywords), such as “ice cream near me” or “how to choose a career,” without the use of paid ads. In other words, when you optimise your site for SEO, you make it easier for internet searchers to find your content, products, and services.

SEO consists of several elements that help search engines like Google and Bing determine what a website is about and how it should rank on a search engine results page (SERP). These elements fall into three categories:

1. On-page SEO refers to a webpage’s content and how it’s crafted. Search engines are looking for content that is relevant to the keyword, satisfies searcher intent, is well-structured and easy to navigate, and offers information that is authoritative within an industry.

2. Off-page SEO refers to the backlinks a site acquires. Backlinks occur when other sites link to pages on your site. The more authoritative and relevant, the better for SEO. Over time, backlinks can contribute to your site’s authority and exposure.

3. Technical SEO refers to the backend aspects of your site, including title tags and meta descriptions that appear in a webpage's source code, the site’s structure and navigation, how pages within a site are linked to one another, and the site’s loading time.

The goal is to optimise elements in all three of these categories and have them operate harmoniously. In this article, you’ll learn why SEO marketing is important and steps you can take to improve your SEO content marketing efforts.

Why is SEO marketing important?

An SEO-friendly site can lead to better rankings in SERPs, increase organic traffic to your website, and attract more consumers in your target market. Here are three additional reasons why you should prioritise your SEO marketing efforts.

1. An SEO-friendly site provides an engaging user experience.

When you’ve optimised your website, visitors are more likely to enjoy their experience in the following ways:

SEO elementUser experience
Optimised site architecture and navigationClicking from one page of the site to another with ease
Optimised content on every pageReading a webpage easily, absorbing authoritative and relevant information, taking actions such as subscribing to emails, filling out a contact form, or making a purchase
Faster load timesClicking and scrolling faster with minimal delays in viewing information

2. Ranking well in search results brings more (free) traffic to your site.

According to Statista, a market and consumer data provider, social media ad spend is on a steady incline, with total ad spend expected to reach over US$384 billion globally by 2027 [1]. Statista also reports that search advertising spending in the UK increased from £8.5 billion in 2020 to £11.7 billion in 2021 [2].

Considering these digital advertising trends, you’ll want to build a solid SEO marketing strategy. By using one, you can rank well in search results, and therefore attract more organic traffic to your site, meaning people find and click on your content without paid ads. In addition, you can become a trusted source of information in the marketplace, which can increase the effectiveness of your paid ads.

Did you know? Improving your site’s organic search traffic can reduce the costs of acquiring customers by 87 per cent, according to a report by Terakeet, a marketing technology platform [3].


3. SEO insights can help you understand what customers want.

Much of running a successful business is knowing what customers want. You can gain customer insights throughout the SEO marketing process, including:

  • Keyword research about the terms customers are searching, from questions asking how and why to the names of products and brands

  • Understanding searcher intent or why customers search for particular keywords

  • Learning what content drives actions such as subscribing or purchasing products

Your guide to SEO content marketing

In this section, you’ll begin the process of improving your website’s content, domain authority, and technical elements, with the goal of making your site more discoverable and useful for your target audience. Follow the steps below to get started.

1. Analyse your competitors’ SEO.

Just as you perform a competitive analysis to identify market gaps and differentiate your products and marketing efforts, you’ll need to investigate and analyse competitors’ SEO. That way, you can give yourself a competitive edge when it comes to your site and its content.

  • Make a list of your competitors, including ones you’re already familiar with and ones that rank at the top of SERPs for keywords related to your products and services.

  • Audit competitors’ web content, site structure and navigation, as well as user-experience features like call-to-action buttons and page design. How authoritative is the content? How easy is it to click around, find information, and take action?

  • Find out what secondary or related keywords your competitors are ranking for and the monthly search volume for each one.

  • Find out what meta tags your competitors are using by right-clicking anywhere on their sites and selecting “view page source” from the menu that pops up.

  • Use an SEO tool like SEMRush, Ahrefs, or Google Search Console to determine what keywords these competitors are ranking for on each webpage.

Did you know? Finding out a keyword’s monthly search volume, or the number of times the keyword has been searched online in a given month can make it easier to discover popular topics in your niche.


2. Understand your target audience from an SEO perspective.

In this step, you will gain a deeper understanding of your audience, including what they search for online and the intent behind it, so that you can generate content your audience finds relevant.

  • Install a Google Chrome extension, such as MozBar or Keyword Surfer, to explore relevant keywords. These tools allow you to conduct keyword research right from your browser while viewing SERPs.

  • Use SEMRush or a similar tool of your choice to determine searcher intent for each keyword, including: navigational (looking for a specific site), informational (looking for information or answers to a question), transactional (intending to complete an action or make a purchase), and commercial (intending to investigate products).

  • Analyse SERPs to discover what questions searchers ask, related searches and questions, featured snippets that Google predicts searchers will click on, and more.

3. Create SEO-friendly content.

Creating SEO-friendly content that your target audience finds valuable is the result of consistent effort. You’ll want to optimise every page of your website, including the home page, about page, and other static pages, as well as blogs, articles, sales pages, and lead capture landing pages.

  • Written content should include unique, authoritative information that satisfies searcher intent for a particular keyword.

  • Integrate the keyword and related keywords into your subheadings and text seamlessly and grammatically, without overusing them.

  • Structure the content on each page to provide a logical and easy-to-navigate reading experience. This means using subheadings, bullet points, and numbered lists to organise information into smaller sections that are easy to find and skim.

  • Embed relevant images, graphics, and videos to enhance the reading experience.

  • Include links to other relevant pages of your site in anchor text.

  • Include helpful calls to action to make it easy for site visitors to subscribe, fill out forms, and make purchases.

4. Improve your technical SEO.

Businesses often work with web developers or IT professionals to improve their sites’ technical SEO. If you have access to your site’s admin panel, you may be able to make these improvements or fix issues yourself. Start by logging into your website’s admin panel, where you’ll find different options for updating your site’s settings, including metadata and navigation menus.

For each webpage, follow these steps:

  • Craft a title tag that includes the keyword you want the page to rank for, and that clearly describes the content of each page in 50 to 60 characters.

  • Craft a page description that contains the keyword, summarises the page, and conveys the page’s unique value, in up to 160 characters.

  • Reduce the size of images so that they load quickly. For example, if your image is 5,000 pixels wide, you might reduce it to 2,000 or 1,200 pixels.

  • Name image files with keywords and descriptions and separate each word with a hyphen. For example, if the image is automatically saved to your device as “image1.jpg,” rename it to “dark-roast-coffee.jpg.”

For the site as a whole, follow these steps:

  • Set up a clear navigation menu to help site visitors find pages.

  • Create a site map with information about your site’s pages, videos, and files, and the relationship between them.

  • Create a Google Search Console account and submit your site map, so that Google can crawl your site more effectively.

5. Acquire relevant, authoritative backlinks.

To improve your off-page SEO, create a plan for getting other sites to link to your content.

  • Make a list of sites that are relevant to your website, not competitors, and have high domain authority.

  • Reach out to these site creators or content managers to request backlinks. Be sure to offer an incentive, such as high-quality content to improve upon what they’re currently linking to or proposing a topic for a guest blog post you want to write for them.

  • Post pages from your site to social media and include links in your email marketing, not only to get more clicks, but also to increase the chances that other sites will choose to link to your content.

SEO marketing key takeaways and best practices

Remember: SEO marketing is a crucial part of your digital marketing efforts, as it can increase organic traffic to your site and entice potential customers to subscribe or make a purchase. Be consistent with your SEO marketing efforts over time and keep these best practices in mind:

  • When using different SEO tools like SEMRush, Ahrefs, and Google Search Console, pay attention to new features or updates to existing features that you can use to improve your SEO marketing efforts. For example, SEMRush offers a Google Chrome extension called PageImprove, allowing you to make quick SEO improvements from your browser. As of November 2022, you can sign up to use PageImprove as a beta tester.

Stay up to date on how search engines like Google and Bing rank web pages. Periodic changes can affect how your pages will rank and how you should address SEO. For example, on March 23, 2022, Google rolled out updates establishing criteria for determining whether a product review can rank high in a search [4]. Product reviews must now:

  • Show reviewers’ knowledge about and experience with products, through visuals, audio, or other links.

  • Detail the benefits and drawbacks of a product, based on the reviewer’s original research.

  • Describe how a product compares to its competitors in quantifiable terms.

Improve your SEO marketing strategy with Coursera

If you’re ready to master SEO practices for the long term, consider taking online courses. A great starting point is the Google Digital Marketing and E-Commerce Professional Certificate, where you can build SEO skills, produce authoritative content in your niche, rank higher in search results, and attract more potential customers to your site.

Article sources


Statista. “Social Media Advertising - Worldwide, https://www.statista.com/outlook/dmo/digital-advertising/social-media-advertising/worldwide.” Accessed August 15, 2023.

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