How does SEO work?

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To understand how SEO works, it’s important to understand how search engines work in gathering and ranking information from different website. There is a need also to understand people use search engines to find information. Fusing the two brings the perfect answers to how SEO works.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization is a digital marketing service needed to make a website page rank high on search engine results page for specific searches or keywords. SEO aims to affect organic results produced by search engines.

The efforts can be grouped into two: website optimization and out of website work. The goal of SEO is to drive traffic to the website. Local SEO is the effort to rank high for location-based searches.

How Google creates its index?

Google does not display what’s live on the internet on its search result pages but what is stored in its index. The search engine index is a huge collection of information on website pages and the information they contain.

To create the index, Google runs spiders which crawl through (reads and follow links) websites while taking note of the information on the website pages.

The first challenge that SEO seeks to overcome is indexability. Making sure that when Google bots come to crawling the website they will have access to the content. There are so many websites that cannot be crawled and those will not be indexed.

Ranking factors

After collecting information from millions of websites on the internet, Google has to bring the most relevant results for each search made. To determine the most relevant there are some things which are considered, those are called the ranking factors. The following are some known ranking factors. Google’s formula for ranking websites is their trade secret: they will not disclose it.

High-quality content

To rank high in a particular topic, your website page must contain very good quality content on the topics in question. Content marketing works hand-in-hand with SEO.

What is quality content? Quality content is original, trustworthy content which Google users will find relevant. Relevance is with the search terms used.

So to produce quality content, search engine optimization practitioners must do keyword research. Keyword research is an effort to discover what people say when they are searching for the products or services that you offer.

The keyword research guides the production of quality content by making sure we are using the same language that our potential customers will use when looking for our services.

Content length

When producing online content for SEO, we should not summarise. We must write long-form content. The average size of pages ranking number one on Google is around 1 800 words. Tools like semruch.com can help you estimate how long the content must be for to rank high for a specific keyword or phrase.

You don’t have to reduce your quality by repeating yourself or adding unimportant elements. This only calls for better research. Your content must be comprehensive, well researched and useful to the human readers.

On-page SEO

Since Google crawls to learn what it is on your website, it is important to communicate the right things. There are some key elements (also called page factors) in a website page which require careful crafting for better rankings. Let’s look at these:

Meta Tags (Page Title and Descriptions)

This is content that may not be seen by people who visit your website directly. This is the content that will be submitted to Google as the summary of what your website page is about. If this is not specifically provided, Google takes the first paragraph of the web page for the description. Crafting specific page titles and meta description is known to improve rankings and clicks from search engines.

Image ALT Tags

Each image on your website can contribute to higher rankings by having crafted titles and alt tags. The image alt tag is an HTML tag that is used to describe the picture.


The headings on your website communicate what the website page is about. The H1 tag is the most important one, which gives the page a clear topic. While H2, H3 etc. are important, they cannot replace H1.

Website structure

The structure is an important element in SEO. The website pages must be at most two levels from the root page. Website pages that are too deep will have lower page value in SEO. Learn more about how website structure affects SEO.

Page loading speed.

The goal of search engines is to provide results that are useful in content and also give the visitor good user experience. Slow websites, no matter how beautiful they are, turn away users. Bounce rate is a very critical SEO signal.

To do well in SEO, it is important to make sure your website loads very fast. Five seconds loading speed is a good place to start.

Internal links

Internal linking is very important for SEO. Pages with more internal links tend to do better than those without. Footer and menu links are good but most important are links within the content with the right anchor text.


Google has two different indexes: the mobile and desktop. A website page ranking high on desktop SERPS may not rank on mobile. Having a website which is mobile-friendly or responsive is an important rank factor, websites which are not mobile-friendly will not rank well on mobile devices. Since 2018, more than 50% of Google searches are done on mobile devices globally.

Schema Mark up

This is a special language used to communicate and submit special information to search engines what the content on your website. You can learn more about schema markup here.

External Links

Links from other website are seen as votes of confidence in SEO. The link’s anchor text is important if it has the relevant keywords, the targetted page will rank much better. The is a section of SEO called link building, which is an effort to get more website links for your content.

Social signals

Social signals are reviews, likes, shares, votes, pins, or links on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media sites. They indicate a brand is being talked about and are similar to mini-reviews. These indirectly affect search engine ranks.

Domain age.

The age of the domain that is hosting the content affects SEO. Older domains rank better than new ones/

Types of Search Engine Optimization

Local SEO

This is when SEO is done with a location in mind. The local SEO goal for a business to be visible in a particular location (country, town or suburb). It involves listing the website in local listings including Google My Business.

Black Hat SEO

This a word used to describe illegal SEO. When you trick search engines to rank you high through some kind of scheme or manipulation. A website can be blacklisted or removed completely from a search index.

White Hat SEO

When SEO is done the right way, it is called White Hat SEO.

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