What is SEO in Marketing and Why Does It Matter?


geometric shapes representing SEO


18 min read

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation.

It is the process of making your website and content so usable, accessible and useful that Google (and other search engines) recognise it as the best source of information and put it at the top of their search results. Part art and part science, this process isn’t easy, or simple.

So, What are the benefits of SEO? Isn’t it just easier to pay for Google Ads to appear at the top of the SERPs(Search Engine Results Page)? Can’t I just build audiences on social media and rely on them for traffic?

Well… you could.

Top Tip


A combination of a great PPC marketing agency and a strong social media presence will put your business on the track to success… but with over 50% of the global population using search engines like Google, Baidu, Yandex, and Yahoo! You’d be a fool to ignore SEO altogether.

SEO offers benefits beyond what paid advertising or social media marketing can offer.

Let’s dive in and find out some of the benefits of SEO.

person typing on a laptop

The Benefits of Search Engine Optimisation

There are tons of benefits to optimising your website for search, aside from the obvious SEO benefit of bringing more potential customers or clients to your site.

Here is an overview of ways to help your business grow through SEO.

    1. Greater business autonomy

Autonomy is vital to the success of any business. When thinking about the risks to your business, you probably consider things like economic risk, compliance risk, or things like operational or logistical risks.

You probably don’t think about things like ‘what if all of my customers disappeared?’ but if you’re relying on social media marketing alone for traffic and leads, what would happen if Facebook (and it’s associated digital properties) updated the advertising terms? If your account got suspended? Or even hacked?

Multiple client streams offer resilience to this, and gives your business greater autonomy- it becomes less reliant on third party websites like Facebook. With search engine optimisation, you’re on safe ground as long as the internet exists- and if the internet disappears tomorrow, I imagine there will be a lot more to worry about than just your drop in traffic!

    1. Brand trust and reputation

If you appear in the top 10 search results in Google, your brand is getting exposure. People inherently trust brands that appear on the first page of Google, because people (generally) trust Google.

Shortening the top of your sales funnel, or managing some initial trust based objections that might otherwise appear in your sales journey, should be enough of a reason to invest in SEO marketing right off the bat.

Instead of considering SEO as ‘just another marketing resource’, you can also consider it a valuable branding tool. SEO is digital PR as much as it is traditional marketing and audience driving.

    1. Google search captures a more aware and engaged audience

9 times out of 10, if someone searches for something on Google, they are searching for a solution to something. This means they have an awareness of an issue, and understand that they need it fixed.

They are also aware that a solution to their problem exists.

They are also aware that they aren’t capable of solving this problem themselves.

In business, whatever the problem your products or services solve, if you can capture people at the point of high awareness of both problem and solution you are more likely to convert them into customers or clients.

SEO can work as a pre-qualifier to leads, if done correctly and in a strategic way.

    1. SEO is the gift that keeps on giving

With PPC, or traditional advertising generally, your results only continue as long as you pay for your advertising.

SEO doesn’t stop working for you, even if you stop pouring money and resource into it. Once a page is ranking in the 0-4 slots in Google, unless the content becomes inaccurate or outdated, it doesn’t tend to drop off of the all important page 1 in Google for a long time.

For example, if Canny Creative just stopped all SEO efforts dead tomorrow and didn’t publish any blogs or maintain the website, or examine any of the user experience journeys, or any of the 1000 other things we do every day to make sure the Canny site performs well, we’d still get leads, clients and traffic from Google for at least 12-18 months afterwards.

If we relied entirely on paid advertising, and we stopped paying for adverts, that stops the flow of traffic immediately.

These are extreme examples of course, and Canny already has the benefit of a well executed SEO strategy that has been ongoing for years… but the fact of the matter is that even 6 months of well thought out SEO efforts can really move the needle.

    1. You need it to stay competitive

To put it bluntly, when it comes to SEO we’re at the point where it is becoming a mandatory consideration.

Top Tip
Get on board, or get left behind.


Your competitors will either already be doing SEO in some form or another, or considering it. The earlier you commit to real SEO efforts, the better you’re going to do.
man giving a speech to a crowd of people

    1. SEO helps you better understand your audience

With SEO, comes measurability.

If your traffic becomes predominantly organic traffic, you get a much better idea of who is engaging with your content and services as your Google analytics captures more and more demographic information on the people using your website.

You probably already have a few core customer personas created, or at least an image of your typical customer in your mind’s eye, but the statistics don’t lie. The more organic traffic your site receives, the more granular you can get in your details around your customer base.

This can inform things like tone, positioning, and even how your offering works. The one thing that never changes in business is the fact that knowledge is power.

SEO gives you that knowledge.

    1. SEO forces consideration

SEO is becoming more and more all encompassing.

After every major update from Google, an article or think piece comes out posing the question ‘Is SEO Dead?’

It asks this because as Google becomes more sophisticated in it’s understanding of user behaviours, SEO becomes more difficult.

It used to be the case that just repeating phrases enough times on a page would guarantee rankings. Then Google became smarter, and realised that spam doesn’t fulfil searcher intentions.

Then it was a case that building links from less than reputable sources or PBNs (Private Backlink Networks) was in vogue. Then Google became smarter, and realised that these weren’t true indications of quality.

Then, in the early 2010s, Google switched focus to quality content, and shortened the gap between what the Google AI understood to be quality and what humans understood to be quality. Google also started serving answers directly in the SERPs, forcing companies to adapt once again.

Google has continued to update and evolve, with the goal of fulfilling user need to the best of it’s ability.

This means that SEO has gone from a ghoulish game of trying to ‘trick’ Google into putting their content first to creating user-centric, world class content.

SEO isn’t dead, and it isn’t going to die any time soon. SEO is evolving with the times, and has become a sophisticated mix of human psychology, AI and data fetch science, research, user interface design and user experience design, and creative writing.

Modern SEO forces a business to consider every facet of it’s user journey, from awareness to purchase, and streamline that journey as much as possible- but wouldn’t we all want that anyway?

If the user journey is as enjoyable as possible for the consumer, from being able to discover your product, to fast loading websites, to developing an understanding of exactly what problems or needs your offering satisfies, to a seamless and easy purchasing process… it benefits the consumer in that their problem is resolved and they can do what they set out to, but it also benefits you and your business.

There are less potential objections, less potential pain points, more qualified leads and sales, less returns, less need for customer service interactions after the point of sale.

By considering SEO you are considering buyer psychology and the user journey.

By considering buyer psychology and the user journey you are actively facilitating more conversions.

Why wouldn’t you want to do that?

Of course, there are literally thousands of reasons to do SEO. It is arguably the most important piece in the modern marketing puzzle.

The only real reason not to do it is if your business doesn’t have a website… and if that’s the case then let’s get that sorted now!

If you’re still an SEO cynic and need a little bit more persuading, let’s look at it from the other side.

illustration of a stand alone marketer

Reasons to not do SEO

For these list items I’m going to give you a kind answer just in case you need your hand held, and then the honest answer.

Spoiler alert:
The final honest answer is that there isn’t a reason to not do SEO.

Even if you’re the only game in town, the top of what you do, and you have brand reputation coming out of your ears, you should be doing SEO.

Walmart still does some things that move the needle from an SEO perspective.

If you’re not turning over $500,000,000+ a year, and employing 2.3 million staff members, you should still be considering SEO in some way.

With that in mind, here are some of the typical reasons people give for not doing any SEO and content marketing.

    1. I don’t have the time

The kind answer to this is ‘a stitch in time saves 9.’ If you don’t make time, your business will suffer for it.

The honest answer to this is ‘that’s a load of rubbish.’ Even if you personally don’t have time, get someone to do it for you.

There’s a reason advertising is one of the oldest professions in human history.

It’s because it works.

You’ll see tangible, real benefit from your marketing efforts.

    1. I don’t understand it well enough

The kind answer to this is ‘well, there are plenty of ways to learn about SEO and plenty of small changes you can make to start implementing SEO.’

The honest answer is ‘that’s fine. You don’t have to. Hire someone to do it for you.’ Unless you are an SEO consultant, a part of an search engine marketing agency, an SEO specialist, or a marketeer that specialises in data science, you don’t need to understand the ins and outs of SEO.

Do you think Jeff Bezos could build a rocket ship on his own?

If you are a business owner, you don’t need to understand what’s going on for it to work for your business.

If you are a marketing manager, you probably should have some basic knowledge of what SEO is, but if you don’t that doesn’t really matter either.

SEO is results driven.

The process isn’t the important part- the increased revenue and traffic is the end goal.

    1. I can’t afford it

This is an interesting objection.

The kind answer is ‘you’ll see a good ROI and SEO is vital for the growth of your business.”

The honest answer is ‘you can’t afford not to do it.’

Some SEO campaigns have seen up to 300% increase in lead flow, 200% increase in search visibility, and 50% increase in lead conversion.

What would that mean for you, in terms of your business?

Add to that the fact that your competitors will be making SEO efforts and pretty rapidly eroding your market share through this if you don’t commit to an SEO strategy, and you should have your answer.

As previously acknowledged, SEO is the gift that keeps on giving. To raise your business flow by that much, consistently… never mind thinking that you can’t afford it, you can’t afford not to!

    1. I’m too busy to sort that out now, I’ll do it in the future

The kind answer to this is ‘that’s ok, you’ll find time to do it soon but you should start on it ASAP’.

The honest answer is that when it comes to marketing and SEO, tomorrow is a day too late.

The more you put it off, the more revenue you are leaving on the table for your competitors.

No business has ever succeeded by ignoring potentially lucrative revenue streams. Yours probably isn’t going to be the first.

    1. I am the CEO of Google.

Fine. You win.

You are probably the one person in the world who doesn’t currently have to worry about SEO.

But with new search engines like Neeva challenging the way Google operates, Baidu and Yandex challenging Google’s monopoly on search, and Yahoo Search and Bing still surviving… maybe some SEO marketing wouldn’t be such a bad thing?

And that’s pretty much the top and bottom of common objections to SEO. A lot of the objections are based around fear- and that is fair enough. Being concerned about spending money on something that you’re not sure will work is good business sense, really.

If you’d like to see some real life results from Canny’s SEO efforts, you can check out our case studies to see how SEO has worked for other companies.

If you’re ready to have a bit more of an in depth conversation about how Canny can help you with your SEO content marketing efforts, why not get in touch?

Types of SEO

There was a great discussion on reddit recently about all of the different types of SEO, following a question posed by Justin Driscoll, editor of the The Online Advertising Guide.
I personally think this list is non-exhaustive, but it’s a pretty good starting off point for anyone wanting to jump into SEO in a super granulated and specific way. Obviously there are a lot of overlapping skills between these types of SEO, so becoming an expert in one will put you in good stead for the others.

There are 4 main broad categories of SEO (On-Page, Off-Page, Technical, and Local) which essentially cover all SEO work.

However, there are many more subcategories of SEO, as well SEO strategies, tactics, specialisms, and discrete blocks of SEO work too- here are just a few of them:


Using AMP to improve ranking in search results. Using AMP can make pages load faster as they are a stripped-down (lighter) version of web pages.

App Store SEO

Working to get more downloads for an App in App Stores.


Focuses on maximising SERP real estate and the importance of being on comparison websites like Capterra, etc.

Black Hat SEO

SEO techniques that are against the terms and conditions set by search engines.

Brand SEO

Any branding activities online. Being mentioned on other sites (with a link or not) can improve your ranking.

Content SEO

A form of SEO that focuses solely on content (eg blogging, guest posting etc).

Competitor SEO

A focus on searches that include the word “vs” or “alternative” as they are so common. Example: McDonalds might write an article titled “Big Mac vs Whopper” so that when people search for that term, their article is found. By doing this McDonalds can influence how people view the two products.

eCommerce SEO

SEO specifically used for increasing the likelihood of purchases online. This is different from regular SEO as there are many unique factors on eCommerce sites (such as product descriptions and reviews).

Digital PR

Getting links in the press or on news sites, as well as reputation management.

Enterprise SEO

SEO for very large websites. Large sites have different problems and resources than smaller sites and so SEO work is very different than when working on smaller sites.

Grey Hat SEO

SEO techniques that are not against the rules but which are still obviously dodgy (and likely to be made against the rules in the future).

Image SEO

Optimising images to appear higher in image search results, and bring searchers to your webpage.

Internal SEO

Focussing on internal linking, site structure, and internal search results.

Council Brand - Fingers of a Map

International SEO

SEO for sites that operate in multiple countries. This can mean localisation of content, links etc, and creating multiple versions of a page in different languages. Check out our post on local, national and international SEO for more info!

JavaScript SEO

Optimising sites built using JavaScript. Search Engines generally find JavaScript more difficult to read, so extra care is needed to ensure they are indexed properly.

Local SEO

SEO for a business that operates in a specific location (such as a shop, or local delivery service). This is different to other types of SEO in that it is about a business, rather than a webpage. Local SEO is about making sure all mapping sites know about the business (as well as any sites which talk about that location).

Mobile SEO

A focus on mobile related SEO issues (such as mobile usability).

National SEO

Optimising for searches within one country (or with the country of operation in mind). National SEO is similar to Local SEO but has a focus on branding.

Negative SEO

An attack on a site in an attempt to decrease the ranking of that site in search. This generally involves using Black Hat techniques aimed at your site with the hope of being caught.

Non-Competitive SEO

Where your SEO efforts are focussed on helping your sector or an ecosystem of businesses.* Example: You sell a product but don’t repair it. You create content to boost your business, but actively avoid any keywords related to repairing the product so that repair businesses can rank higher for them. Having a product that is easily repaired makes it easier to sell your product.

Off-Page SEO

Any SEO activity you do without editing the page you are working on (such as link building).

On-Page SEO

Any SEO activity you do on a webpage (such as improving content structure).

Parasite SEO

Exploit the high domain authority of sites that allow you to create pages on them (Think BuzzFeed, Wikipedia, Medium, YouTube etc) and utilise this authority to both rank and use links lower authority sites wouldn’t succeed with. First coined in the early 2000s by Eli from Blue Hat SEO.


Using Progressive Web Apps to improve search ranking and performance.


A set of optimisation considerations for software as a service websites. Common SaaS SEO strategies include creating key landing pages, rich content integration, and finding blog opportunities. The most common challenges in SaaS SEO include competition from aggregator sites and limited search volume.

Semantic SEO

SEO for real-world objects or entities made up of people, places, and things (such as ideas and concepts).

SERP Feature SEO

The process of mining rich snippets and PAA (People Also Asked) for opportunities to enhance your current pages display on SERP results themselves (e.g. FAQ markup, product schema, etc).

Social SEO

Using Social Media to affect search rankings. While social signals may not affect search ranking directly, posts from some social networks do appear in search results, as do profiles. Social media can also be used to generate 2nd order links.

Technical SEO

SEO efforts that don’t revolve around content (such as improving page speed and information architecture).

Video SEO

Optimising videos and related meta details to gain more (and better) traffic from video hosting platforms.

Voice SEO

Optimising pages for voice search. Voice search is generally more question and answer based than text search and requires a specific technical markup.

White Hat SEO

SEO techniques that aim to follow terms and conditions set by search engines.

Platform-specific types of SEO

This is where you try to improve results on that platform. Some of the more common examples are:

  • Amazon SEO
  • eBay SEO
  • Etsy SEO
  • Pinterest SEO
  • Spotify SEO
  • YouTube SEO

There are plenty of other forms of SEO, and a good marketing strategy will more than likely fold in several of the forms mentioned above to ensure success.

Top Tip
Avoid black hat and grey hat SEO techniques like the plague. Things like paying for backlinks, spamming keywords in metatags, or deliberately misleading the Google crawlers and blocking crawls only harm your website in the long run.


a plant sprouting through mud

What is SEO in Marketing and Why Does It Matter?

So, just to recap what we’ve seen in this post:

    1. 99.99% of businesses need some form of content marketing/SEO

If you’ve read this post, you can’t help but agree with that statement. Businesses and the business ecosystem is becoming increasingly more online led. Without SEO you’re dead in the water.

    1. SEO marketing is complex, and requires some expertise

With so many different types of SEO, and Google becoming ever more sophisticated, SEO is swiftly becoming an ‘experts only’ game. Between learning consumer psychology, web behaviours, user experience design values, creative writing styles for businesses, and the technical coding aspects of SEO, search engine marketing isn’t something you can dabble in.

    1. Canny Creative has the expertise to help your business

If you’ve just spent the best part of twenty minutes browsing through what we have to say, you must trust that we at least know a little bit about what we’re talking about. Odds are, you probably found the Canny Creative website through Google, or a link from another website that was placed there as a result of our online marketing efforts.

If you’re a business owner, startup founder, marketing manager, or someone looking to boost their businesses online presence in any way, shape or form why not get in touch?

You have a problem, we have a solution and with SEO, starting tomorrow is starting a day late.