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noun [uncountable]

search engine optimization: the process of editing the content of a website so that it has a higher search engine ranking and therefore attracts more visitors

SEO or seo

verb [transitive]

'SEO is important for businesses … Allowing people to find a website in the search listings via natural search engine optimisation (SEO) is a key discipline for businesses.'

DirectNews 23rd September 2009

'How newspapers SEOed Patrick Swayze's death …. When news breaks, if you want to do well for related searches, publish early, publish often and put your keywords at the front.'

Online Journalism Blog 16th September 2009

If you're thinking of making a purchase and are googling a product or service on the Internet, chances are you'll start by clicking on the first couple of links which appear on the screen. In today's business world, the higher your web-based profile, the greater the chance of success. It's no surprise then that companies are investing in ways to manipulate search engine technology in order to place themselves at or near the top of the listings. This process is described as search engine optimization, now frequently abbreviated to SEO.

search engine optimization (SEO) is big business, with an industry of consultants … carrying out optimization projects for clients, either as a specific service or as part of a broader marketing campaign

With Internet users unlikely to click through pages and pages of search results, the higher a website ranks in the results of a search, the more chance there is it'll be visited by a user. SEO employs a variety of techniques to ensure that a site will be found by a search engine, such as manipulation of a search engine's indexing mechanism, cross linking between websites, or the editing of a site's content to include and/or repeat keywords relevant to a wide variety of search queries. This latter technique, sometimes described as keyword stuffing or spamdexing, is now largely viewed as unethical, and search engines often look for sites employing such methods in order to remove them from their results. There is therefore to some extent a kind of 'adversarial' relationship between search engine providers and these more 'aggressive' SEO techniques.

That said, search engine optimization is big business, with an industry of consultants (sometimes described as search engine optimizers) carrying out optimization projects for clients, either as a specific service or as part of a broader marketing campaign. IT experts often draw a contrast between what is referred to as passive SEO – web content that does not require constant updating in order to provide solid search rankings – and active SEO – such as news and blog items which require an investment of time and effort in order to stay relevant.

Background – search engine optimization (SEO)

Along with early search engines, the concept of search engine optimization and related abbreviation SEO first emerged in the mid-nineties. Prior to this, SEO had primarily existed in the business domain as an abbreviation of senior executive officer, which is still the first explanation recorded in most printed dictionaries.

SEO has now also morphed into a transitive verb, sometimes occurring in lower case form, so that we can talk about a website being SEOed/seoed.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 14th October 2009.

Open Dictionary


a form of location that involves the underwater detonation of a bomb which causes sound waves that are picked up by ships

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