Friday, February 17, 2017

What is "Organic" SEO?

An "organic search result" appears on a search engine results page (SERP) because it is relevant to a browser's query.

The search engine industry uses this term to make a distinction between results that satisfy the search engine's algorithm and paid results. Google calls an organic result a "free listing," whereas "non-organic search results are paid advertisements."

This is the standard definition you will find, say, on the Wikipedia page for "organic search." However, in the world of search engine optimization (SEO), the meaning of "organic" is more nuanced.

Why "Organic"?

For most people the word "organic" conjures images of the bountiful fruit and vegetable displays at Whole Foods Market. For a select few "organic" conjures a discipline in chemistry.

Few people, however, are familiar with the word "organic" as it applies to search engine results and search engine optimization (SEO).

For all of these examples, one definition of "organic" is relevant. From Merriam-Websteror·gan·ic : of, relating to, or derived from living organisms.

Organic Strawberries from Whole Foods Market
For the first two examples--produce and chemistry--the relation to "living organisms" is obvious. Of course, a search engine's results cannot be classified as living, carbon-based organisms. Nevertheless, search is alive.

The Six Pixels of Separation explains Twitter and Facebook's "living" nature quite eloquently: Twitter and Facebook are "living organisms that change, evolve and adapt based on who is putting what into it and how the content is being collaborated on and extrapolated."

The same explanation can be applied to search engines results. Just like living organisms, search engine results "change, evolve, and adapt based on who is putting what into it and how the content is being collaborated on and extrapolated."

What is Organic SEO?

To appear on the first page of search engine results, a website has two options: organic SEO or paid advertising. Organic SEO describes the use of certain strategies or tools to elevate a website's content in the "free" search results.

Many websites use a mix of organic SEO and paid advertising to ensure placement on the first SERP. Organic SEO can be the most cost-effective solution to online marketing, yet SEO can take time to produce a first page result. 

The goal of organic SEO, of course, is to maintain a high placement on the "free" search results. To do so, organic SEO as a discipline studies the search engine's ever-changing algorithms to keep up with the evolution of organic search. This work can be tedious and time-consuming. 

As Wikipedia's helpful article on SEO notes: "According to Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, in 2010, Google made over 500 algorithm changes – almost 1.5 per day."

Google's goal, of course, is to increase the quality of organic results. Organic SEO, then, works with the search engine algorithms to produce quality content that satisfies the algorithm.

Even then, the guiding principle of Organic SEO is to "write for users, not search engines."

Although organic SEO and search engine algorithms often focus on technical aspects of search, the goal for both, in the end, is to promote quality content to users.