Agency > Definition – SEO terms > What is Google referencing

What is Google referencing

What is SEO?

In the broadest sense, referencing is the action of listing something (products in a shop, information, files), mentioning it in a system. On the internet, the term referencing has been used to define the action of registering a site on a search engine or directory. Internet referencing is not limited to websites or web pages. It can also be used to reference images, documents (.doc, .pdf, .rar, etc.), videos, products, locations or even applications.

Referencing necessarily involves an indexing phase, during which a database is created. Referencing therefore also defines the action of registering something in a database so that it can then be found / consulted.

What are the different types of SEO?

On the internet, there are two distinct types of search engine optimization. Paid or sponsored search engine optimization (SEA) and natural or organic search engine optimization (SEO). These two practices do not follow the same rules or meet the same needs.

A search engine optimization strategy for a website can be based solely on natural search engine optimization (SEO) or can combine the two practices if necessary. On the other hand, a search engine optimization strategy based solely on paid search is not viable in the long term. Natural search engine optimization is essential to the success and effectiveness of your website.

We’re going to look at both types of SEO in more detail, with a particular focus on natural SEO, which is more important, more extensive and more complex.

Search results on Google

Before going into detail, we need to look at how the results indexed by search engines are presented to Internet users. Let’s take the example of the leader in Internet search: Google (over 93% market share in France). Discover the history of Google here.

In the majority of cases, this is what the web page will look like when a user performs a search. The presence of both types of search engine optimisation is very easy to spot.


The green box containing the first links shows the results of paid search. The red box, below the sponsored links, shows the results of natural referencing. Here, the presence of sponsored links indicates that companies have bought these keywords in order to appear first on the results page. Not all searches show sponsored links, because some expressions are not used at all by companies (lack of interest or return on investment).

The results pages or SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) can also present much more data than that thanks to specific optimizations (product to buy online, location for a business, etc.). We recommend this excellent infographic from the Telegraph to see a results page in all its complexity (the different modules have been brought together on the same image, as a results page will never present all this information at once).

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Paid search, or SEA

Definition of SEA

When we talk about paid search or sponsored search, we think of sponsored links or Google Ads campaigns (formerly Google AdWords). To appear in Google Ads, you need to buy keywords by auction. The cost paid under this system is per click. In other words, the site publishing the ad will pay the specified bid each time a user clicks on the ad.

For example, if I place my bid at €2 for the expression “SEO agency” and I’m within the average bid for this keyword, when an Internet user searches for “SEO agency”, my ad will appear in the inserts reserved for sponsored links. If the user clicks on my ad (and only in this case) then I will have to pay the sum of €2.

The price of a keyword can vary from a few centimes to several dozen euros for a highly competitive term. It is therefore very important to carry out tests and calculate your conversion rate and return on investment.

A paid search strategy is generally put in place to :

  • E-commerce websites
  • Position your site very quickly
  • Launching a new site with poor natural search engine positioning
  • A special time of year
  • Positioning in a highly competitive search
  • Compensating for a poor position in the natural results

A Google Ads agency will support you throughout your digital strategy by creating and managing your online advertising campaigns to optimize your return on investment.

Example of ads for consoles promoted during the festive season

Natural Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Definition of SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to all the practices involved in making your website visible on a search engine (in the natural results). Good natural referencing requires a great deal of time and technical knowledge to put in place. This is why website publishers generally call on the services of an SEO agency. The search engine indexes files according to complex algorithms that determine their relevance, and then highlights these files in a logical order when an Internet user performs a search. If you want your site to stand out on the search results page, you need to understand how this algorithm works so that you can optimize your site accordingly.

Optimization takes place on two levels:

  • On-site search engine optimization: these are practices that are carried out directly on the site to be referenced. They include technical optimization of the site, optimization of its structure, optimization of its content, etc.
  • Off Site referencing: these are practices that take place outside the site to be referenced, but with the aim of indirectly promoting its referencing. This is essentially a strategy of inbound links, external links, link building or backlink acquisition. If sites B, C and D link to site A, the search engine algorithm will consider that site A is relevant because other sites mention it. Site A will therefore improve its ranking. The more reputable and authoritative the sites making backlinks to your site, the more their links will have a positive impact on site A.

Why use paid search?

Unlike paid search and its immediacy, natural search is an in-depth process that ensures long-term positioning in Google search results. It is therefore essential for any website. Setting up the most beautiful shop in the world when no one can find it is pointless.

To find out more about natural referencing, read our article dedicated to the importance of natural referencing.

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Gain visibility on Google

The concept of SEO cannot be considered in isolation. It is inseparable from a key concept: the notion of visibility.

While the notion of referencing defines the action of being referenced and thus present in a database, the notion of visibility defines the ability of the thing referenced to be found. This is an essential concept to always bear in mind when talking about referencing. Imagine a department store with 3 floors. Your product is listed there, but at the end of an aisle on the third floor at ground level and in a single copy. You’ll agree that this is of very little use. But if your product is listed at the top of a shelf near the entrance to a department store, it’s a completely different story.

Google referencing works in the same way. 3/4 of Internet users won’t even visit the second page of search results. So when you think about SEO, you need to think about visibility, with the aim of being present on the first page of search results for relevant keywords that relate to your business and your customers.

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