The siren call of SEO is well known. It goes something like this:
- Rank your website #1 on Google!
- Get massive search traffic and passive exposure!
But for many beginners, their SEO journey ends before it even begins. White‐hat versus black‐hat? Site audits? Backlink profiles? URL Rating and Keyword Difficulty? No thank you—I’ll be over here hitting “promote” on some Facebook posts.
As for more seasoned marketers, the struggle to keep up with an industry that moves at breakneck pace is real. What if the next Google algorithm update tanks my organic traffic? Will the tactics I’m using now still be relevant three years on? What should I be focusing on?
Somewhere along the line, we all end up asking the same question:
What is SEO, really? And is it all worth it?
Let’s ask the experts.
If you’re not already familiar with Ahrefs, we run an SEO blog—and we pride ourselves on an objective, data‐driven approach to our posts.
So we decided to do something way better than coming up with a definition of our own: we reached out to the best minds in the SEO industry and crowdsourced this ultimate “What is SEO?” post.
After combing through the 40+ responses, I found that most definitions fell into three categories:
- Website or search engine focused (15);
- User‐focused (16);
- Larger strategy focused (14).
Almost an even mix, actually.
Of course, there were also some outliers that we’ll look at towards the end of this post.
Let’s get to it!
SEO is about optimizing websites for search engines
It’s almost 30 years since the launch of the first search engine, but plenty of responses still align with the more traditional take on SEO. That is, what coined the term “search engine optimization” itself.
These definitions of SEO explore the process of optimizing websites to best fit search engine algorithms, all in the name of ranking higher in the search results.