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What is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)?

Why should you care about SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. In simple terms, it’s the process of improving your site to increase the chance that it will show up in relevant searches on search engines like Google.

If you’re using your site to answer questions or talk about important topics that hold value for your audiences, this will improve the exposure of your content and help your website appear in relevant searches.

In general, there are three types of SEO: on-page, off-page, and technical.

On-page SEO is all about the things you can do to the content on your website to make sure search engines can understand the value and relevance of your content.

Examples of on-page SEO are things like including searched-for terms in the content and headings of a page, making sure the images have alt tag descriptions to describe them, and including relevant links to other content on your site within the text.

Off-page SEO is all about gaining links to your content from other websites and social media. As Google is a link engine, this is something it looks at to make a judgment about the quality of your content.

Examples of off-page SEO are things like articles on other websites that share a similar target audience to your own and link back to content on your site within it, or social media posts linking to your website and brand mentions.

Technical SEO is all about the things you can do to improve the code and structure of your website.

Examples of technical SEO include making the pages of your website load faster by reducing image sizes, making sure the site is well coded and structured or making sure the site pages include special code that search engines can read and understand.

Here are some top-level statistics on the benefits of SEO:

  • Google processes 3.5 billion searches per day. Investing in SEO means more traffic, leads, and sales for your organisation
  • 76% of people who search on their smartphones for something nearby visit a business within a day
  • 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine
  • You get a higher return on investment with SEO, as you don’t directly pay for the clicks

How do you make your search result stand out?

When you search on Google you sometimes see extra information within the search results. This can include showtimes for cinemas, or opening times for shops, sometimes even statistics or other information.

Screenshot of a Google search results page

This is because Google has rolled out an array of enhanced search results features called one-click searches. One-click search results enhance the way Google presents information from your website into the search results. You can use this technique to make your links stand out and appear even more engaging for your audiences.

Some good examples of enhanced search features are:

  • Event: where Google will show event details and images within the search results
  • Knowledge graph: where Google presents snippets of information in information boxes next to search results
  • Local pack: where local businesses appear in search results and you can get directions
  • Featured snippets: where if your website is relevant, up to date, marked up correcting elements of your site are shown on the top of search results
  • Site links: where Google provides links to the most important pages on your website

Before we get into how SEO works, we believe it’s important to understand how search engines work.

  • Search Engines have 3 primary functions: Crawling, Indexing, and Ranking.


  • Crawling is Google’s process of finding new information. Google uses code that is referred to as “spiders” to crawl and collect information from your website. Google’s “spiders” can only see code so we use different tags to make our content clearer to Google.


  • After Google has crawled your site and has a good understanding of its topic, it stores a web page in its index. Think of it as Google putting information in its own huge encyclopedia.


  • After a search engine crawls and indexes your content, ranking factors are used to determine which pages should be displayed first.
  • All search engines look for relevance and authority. This involves looking at factors such as the website’s user experience, the types of links pointing to it, its social engagement, how long people spend on it, and what keywords it’s relevant for.

With this, there are 3 main activity types organisations can use to improve their SEO:

  1. Owned Media: this describes everything you can do for your online presence which you have control over. Examples include creating more keyword-targeted content and improving how your website is technically made up, so you’re giving users the best possible experience. Generally, this will fall under on-page and technical SEO activities.
  2. Earned Media: this describes the publicity your organisation receives that you don’t directly control, such as digital PR and links from other websites. This part of SEO is important as the links to your website are Google’s most significant ranking factor. Every link to your website is like a thumbs-up in the eyes of Google. Remember that the quality of your links is more important than the quantity. Having 20 links from a high-value website is more impactful than 200 low-value links. This causes Google to think you’re trying to manipulate its algorithm with paid likes and could result in a penalty. Generally, this will fall under off-page SEO activities.
  3. Finally, Paid Media: this describes all the traffic to your website that you directly pay for, like pay-per-click (PPC). Pay-per-click advertising is a way to market and gain higher visibility on search engines such as Google and Bing. With PPC, visitors are 50% more likely to make a purchase than organic visitors. This advertising tactic is one of the most effective online marketing tactics. This is another off-page SEO tactic you can use.

Google is always updating its ranking factors so that users have the best possible experience. It’s because of this that our learning about SEO will never stop, and nor will the opportunities to review how well our websites are working for us.

Here at the Digital Culture Network, we can help you and your team to understand what the best practices are, build a strategy, assess how effective your website is, and answer any questions that you have along the way.

The current Digital Culture Network Tech Champions for Search Engine Optimisation and Search Engine Marketing are Monica Thomas and Muhammad Momin.

What next?

This article has explained some of the basics of SEO. If you’re keen to learn more, check out the links below.

The Digital Culture Network is here to support you and your organisation. Our Tech Champions can provide free 1-2-1 support to all arts and cultural organisations who are in receipt of, or eligible for, Arts Council England funding. If you need help or would like to chat with us about any of the advice we have covered above, please get in touch. Sign up to our newsletter below and follow us on Twitter @ace_dcn for the latest updates.


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