What are the 4 areas of SEO? Guide To Understanding SEO

When I first started my career in SEO, I quickly realized that if I asked 10 people what SEO was, I’d get 10 different answers. However, according to Google, “SEO is the process of making your site better for search engines.” If this sounds like an oversimplified explanation to you, you’re not alone.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a set of techniques that we use to put our services and/or products in front of our intended audience. SEO is a way for marketers to improve their websites to increase visibility on search engines, such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, YouTube, and Yep.com. Using “best practices” SEO techniques give websites the best chance to rank higher in search engines.

Some of these techniques might seem minuscule and arbitrary, but 10 small changes to your site add up to a big change in how search engines view your website. Our goal today is explain the basics of SEO, how to implement them, and why SEO is so important to a business.

What Are The 4 Areas of SEO?

SEO often gets jumbled into one area of focus, when if fact, there are 4 distinct areas of SEO that must be accounted for.

1. Technical SEO

Technical SEO is where web developers (coders) provide context to Google through HTML or JavaScript, or CSS. I placed technical SEO as #1 because even if George R. Martin or J.K. Rowlings writes an online article, if the code is messed up, Google won’t index your article.

What’s an example of technical SEO?

Technical SEO takes a lot of work and a lot of time to understand the intricacies of Google. A good website will have a sitemap built into the code to show Google the organization of the page and what’s most important.

2. On-Page SEO

On-Page or on-site SEO is the optimization of everything visible on the site, including text and the HTML code. For example, anytime you add an image, video, or graphic to your site, it’s considered on-page SEO.

What’s an example of On-Page SEO?

Keyword research and placement is where every on-page SEO campaign starts. Matching keywords to search queries is an important step to making yourself relevant to your intended audience. There is so much more on-page SEO, but understanding keyword research is a great place to start.

If you’re looking for more information about on-page SEO, Ahrefs On-Page SEO: The Beginner’s Guide is the most comprehensive beginners guide online.

3. Off-Page SEO

In short, off-page or off-site SEO refers to any factor of optimization that happens off the webpage. Off-page SEO is where marketing meets content creation. Off-page SEO is all about building your brand authority and promoting your content on platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

What’s an example of Off-Page SEO?

The main aspect of off-page SEO is all about building backlinks to establish your Domain Rank (Authority Score).

4. Local SEO

Local SEO is the most underutilized area of SEO because most bloggers and content creators don’t know how to utilize it. It optimizes your webpage to be visible in your local area of business. For example, if you’re searching for the best hot wings in Charleston, SC, it doesn’t help to show search results in Buffalo, NY.

What’s an example of Local SEO?

Local SEO is measured by installing a proximity sensor, such as a Google My Business profile. Another great way to implement local SEO is to install a Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP Citation) anywhere on your website. According to a comprehensive study conducted by Backlinko.com of 11.8 million Google search results, 86% of all searches for businesses are done on Google Maps.

How Does SEO Work?

Although there are many search engines, the true authority on SEO is Google. SEO is similar to all search engines, but Google is by far the most comprehensive and popular search engine in the world.

Before we get into the techniques of SEO, it’s vital to understand how Google ranks webpages. For example, Google uses a fully automated system of bots (Googlebot) to crawl over your website to determine if it meets the guidelines Google sets for ALL websites. There are 3 stages of Google search that will determine if your webpages are visible to your intended audience. These steps must be followed to rank on on a keyword in Google.

What Are The 3 Stages of Google Search?

Stage 1: Crawling

The Google Spiders crawl each page and download all text, images, and videos from billions of pages everyday. Google is looking for content that is high-quality, fast and easy to access for users, and judges your site based on security (HTTP vs HTTPS). The initial crawl is called “URL Discovery” and determines if your page makes it to the next step, called indexing.

Stage 2: Indexing

Once your webpage is discovered by Google, it’s placed into an index along with billions of other pages. Google uses an advanced algorithm to analyze the text, images, and videos to determine what your page is about and if it offers value to your intended audience.

If you want your page to be properly indexed by Google, your page needs to have the proper titles, content tags, and attributes, such as a relevant title, alt attributes in images, videos, and any other media you place on your site.

Once a webpage is indexed, Google will determine if the page is a relevant to the intended search query of users. This leads to the final step, Serving search results.

Are you interested in learning more about best practices for titles and tags, read the Google Best Practices For Title Links.

Stage 3: Serving Search Results

As an SEO, I’ve learned the best way to ensure your page is indexed and ranked inside Google is to match the search intent for the user. For example, if a user is searching for the best electronic lawnmower, Google won’t rank my page high for electronic lawnmowers if I’m writing about gas-powered lawnmowers.

How Does Google Measure Relevancy?

It’s easy to say match search intent and make your pages relevant to search quarries, but it’s important to explain what relevancy is. Google uses hundreds of factors to determine if your page is relevant, such as a user’s location, language, device used, and whether someone is looking for information, making a transaction, comparing services, or navigating to a specific site.

Looking for more information on search intent? Look no further than Ahrefs Searcher Intent blog


SEO is the only way to optimize your website to make it easier for search engines to find your page and improve your presence online. Understanding the 4 areas of SEO, including technical, local, on-page, and off-page, will help you create the perfect SEO strategy to optimize your website.

Our next blog will discuss how to build an effective SEO strategy. SEO is only one of 4 in our authority building series.  If you’re interested in becoming the authority in your niche’, request a free copy our book, “Authority Marketing” today!


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