The Science of SEO

As a SEO specialist, I often come around a question from juniors colleagues and other people that is “what is SEO?“. It is a question that people either do not understand and or limit this broad term. The most common answer of this question in my circle is:

“SEO is about ranking website on Google’s first SERP for the given keywords.”

Therefore, in order to rank their keywords they forget about users and all they care about is Google. Hence, they often end up being penalized by Google.  The SEO of these people starts from keywords and end on ranking. They pay attention neither to traffic nor to conversion.

I often tell people, in order to be a good SEO they should understand the science of SEO and the search engine they are trying to optimize. Search Engines are not non-profit organizations who will give you traffic without making money from it. They are business and make money from their SERPs. Like every business, what search engines care about is their users. It follows that in order to be the best candidate of SERPs first page you should optimize your website for search engines’ users instead of trying to manipulate search engines.

You care about Search Engine’s users and they will care about you. I have seen websites that have URL structure like a maze and have done many things that are against Google’s guidelines. However, they have two plus points that helps in ranking them on competitive keywords:

  • They acquire links from top media sites globally on daily basis.
  • Google knows this website is exactly what the user is looking for.

The best definition of SEO I have ever heard or read is by Lee Odden of TopRank Online Marketing. According to Lee Odden:

“SEO is the set of methodologies that make it easier for search engines to find, crawl, index and rank web content.”

Although this definition is about ranking (SEO is indeed about website ranking on SERPs), but it does not limit SEO to the ranking of few keywords. It starts from web content, goes all the way through indexabilty, crawlability, and finally ends on content’s ranking.

Although keywords are not dead, but in this age of semantic search it should be more about user’s intent than about keywords. In a post, Neil Patel told about his research that he downloaded keyword data of quick sprout from GWT and searched those keywords on Google. Then he checked the position of each keyword on the respective page. What he found is interesting:

Position of keyword on page

From the list of 10,269 keywords, Neil Patel and his team could not found quicksprout for 2,852 keywords. In the remaining 7,417 keywords:

  • 14% keywords were mentioned in the title of the blog post.
  • 41% keywords were mentioned in the body of the blog post.
  • 27% keywords were mentioned in the comments
  • 18% keywords were not mentioned anywhere on the page.

In the above data, 18% may look like small amount, whereas it is not. It is actually the data of 1,332 keywords, which should not be ignored. Neil Patel did the same and analyzed those keywords deeply. He found that although keywords were not on the page, they were relevant to the page. In Neil’s words:

“Google was acting more like a thesaurus, matching what people searched for with what they were actually looking for.”


In the light of this study, I can say that although keywords are still important for SEO but we should not limit ourselves to keywords. Apart from all the other necessary things, which I would discuss sometime later in sha ALLAH, if we only look at 1,332 keywords data we can conclude that if we will limit ourselves to keywords, we will actually limit our traffic opportunities.

the author

Shariq is a Google Analytics Certified and Inbound Certified Professional. He is a B2B Digital Marketer and a creative writer with experience of working numerous industries. He is also a contributor on ProPakistani.Pk and TechJuice.Pk. He is specialized in Technical SEO & Web Analytics as well.