SEO – Search Engine Optimization and How It Works

By March 17, 2020 May 7th, 2020 Blog, Marketing

Looking at it plainly, SEO is defined on Wikipedia as is the process of increasing the quality and quantity of website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website or a web page to users of a web search engine.

Or basically, SEO is the art of ranking so high in the search engine listings, without using ads.

SEO is the unseen power that makes you and your work/content desirable to your potential searcher via a high rank in a given search engine. For more than 70% of internet users, that search engine is google. The goal is to be on Page one of Google because anything that is not page one is as good as useless. There’s a joke that the safest place to hide anything is on the second page of Google. The audacity!! But so funny, and almost true.

The term SEO also describes the process of making web pages easier for search engine indexing software, known as “crawlers,” to find, scan, and index your site.

There are ideally three determinants of SEO i.e. Quality, Quantity, and Organic Traffic.

  • Quality of traffic – Is your traffic coming to you because they need what you have or they are misguided. In other words, are they on your site because their search results tell them you have solutions about computer software problems when you are a finance consultancy? There is no quality in that traffic.
  • Quantity of traffic – Once you have the right people clicking through from those search engine results pages, that’s the good news right there.
  • Organic results – Organic traffic is that which you don’t have to pay for.

How does SEO work though?

Primarily, search engines are like libraries and their archives are full of web pages. That search engine you are using has an algorithm/program in place that has scanners that go out looking for information about absolutely anything on the world wide web. This program gathers data matching with your query and gives back results.

All search engines have the same goal – show the most useful, and relevant results for you, the user. If you want more organic traffic to your web pages, then you need to cater to Google’s algorithm. If you want more video views, then it’s all about YouTube’s algorithm.

With Google being the biggest search engine, this will be more directed that way.

PS: Google ranks web pages, not web sites.

Search engine giant, Google will never give away the exact algorithm they use to rank sites. Nonetheless, we can make an educated analysis of some of the factors that impact search engine results page (SERP) rankings.

So, which are these factors that affect ranking:

1. Content

This is ideally why you are looking for this ranking. Content is King.

It is as simple as, “The more quality, relevant content pieces that you have on your site, the more likely search engines will be to rank your pages higher on the search engine results page.”

SEO friendly content is that which is well written, and also is addressing relevant and immediate topics for your searcher/readers.

Types of content to help you boost SEO:

  • Blog posts and articles
  • Social media content
  • E-books and whitepapers
  • How-To Guides and Tutorials
  • Videos and audio recordings
  • Infographics and or visual content

One thing is supposed to make your content stand out and have SEO working for you and that is keywords and phrases. These are phrases that a searcher may probably use while searching content around what you are providing. When you create content around these keywords and phrases, you improve your chances of ranking higher for these keywords on the search engine results page.

Fresh content sells like hot cake literally but also if you keep updating your content to suit the times, it will go a long way in having your content ranking well.

2. Scanning

Now that you say your content does exist, you should know that Google uses several ways to discover new content on the web, but the primary method is scanning. To put it simply, scanning is where Google follows links on the pages they already know about to those they haven’t seen before.

The program they employ for scanning is called Spider. If your homepage has a backlink from an already ranked website by Google, next time that site is being scanned, they will follow that backlink to your website and add it to their index/ranks.

Beautiful as that sounds, there are few things which can throw these scanners off and Google may block you or lock you out:

  • Poor internal linking: Google relies on internal links to scan all the pages on your site. Pages without internal links often won’t get scanned. Internal links act as referrals or directions to those pages.
  • No followed internal links: Internal links with no follow tags won’t get scanned by Google.
  • No-indexed pages: You can exclude pages from Google’s index using a no-index meta tag or HTTP header. If other pages on your site only have internal links from no-indexed pages, there’s a chance that Google won’t find them.
  • Blocks in robots.txt: Robots.txt is a text file that tells Google where it can and can’t go on your website. If pages are blocked here, it won’t crawl them.

Read More about Scanning – Ahrefs Search Audit

3. Optimize For Mobile

63% of Google searches come from mobile devices, and that number is bound to grow with time. Owing to that, Google announced a ranking boost for mobile-friendly websites in its mobile search results – going ahead to adopt mobile-first indexing in 2018.

People are most likely to avoid anything on your site if they can’t access it easily over their mobile devices. Because of hardware and connectivity issues, page speed is even more important for mobile users than desktop users.

Did You Know – There are at least 30 billion more searches performed on mobile devices than on desktop.

Ideally, your site should:

  • Load resources across all devices
  • Not hide content on mobile versions of your site
  • Load quickly as mobile users expect
  • Have working internal links and redirects
  • Boast a UX that’s optimized for any device that your visitors use

4. Page Speed

Alright! If I am searching for something and I have been led to your site, I don’t want to spend all night waiting for a page to load. It is hectic. I will simply move on to the next best solution.

It may not be your site by the way. Many mobile users around the world use 3G Internet but will still want your site to load fast, with next to no hiccups.

Page speed is basically how fast the content on your page loads and is an SEO ranking factor both on desktop and mobile.

Page speed is often confused with “site speed,” which is the page speed for a sample of page views on a site.

But you know, speed is very relative. It depends on so many factors such as the website’s performance, the server’s performance, the particular web page you’re on, the connection type, the user’s internet service provider, the internet package, the device’s processing power, the Browser, what the user is doing at that point, how many apps are running and so on.

What can lower your page speed?

  • Your host: You get what you paid for. In the long run, a cheap offer can damage your page speed.
  • Heavy images: Images that are too heavy to load can lower your page speed. It is often due to extra data included in the comments or to a lack of compression.
  • External embedded media: external media like videos are highly valuable but can largely lower your load time. To gain some load time, host the videos on your server.
  • Unoptimized browser, plugins, and app: you should test your website on all browsers since they do not load your site in the same way. Moreover, apps like Flash can seriously lower your page speed.
  • Too many ads: more than just bothering your visitors, lots of ads have the drawback to slow down your page speed.
  • Your theme: some highly designed themes containing a lot of effects can penalize your load page.
  • Widgets: some social buttons or comment areas can have an impact on your page speed.
  • Double-barreled code: if your HTML/CSS is not efficient or too dense, it will lower your page speed.

5. Search Intent

This is the consumer’s goal as they type a query in Google Search.

Search Intent can be broken into 4.

  • Navigational Search

Navigational searches are the easiest to understand. Usually, the user knows exactly where they want to go. The search is direct.

  • Transactional Search

People who buy stuff off the internet usually browse through several options trying to find where they will get the best value.

  • Informational Search

This is the most generic kind of search there is. Here, people are usually looking for more data on a specific topic.

With Google showing more and more “People Also Ask” queries in the SERPs, it is easy to identify and capitalize on these keywords or phrases. When you consistently rank with these, you are most definitely getting ahead of your competition.

For more reading: how to optimize for featured snippets and “People Also Ask” in Google.

For the sake of review, you can look at the top-ranking pages in your field/industry and ask yourself questions to identify the “3 C’s of search intent.”

  1. Content-type: What do the results looking like? Blog posts, product pages, category pages, landing pages, or something else?
  2. Content format: What kind of content is enjoying the high ranks? How-to guides, list-style articles, tutorials, comparisons, opinion pieces, or something entirely different? (Note. This one applies mainly to informational topics.)
  3. Content angle: Is there a common theme or unique selling point across the top-ranking pages?

When you get the answers to these questions concerning your industry, you are going to position your content to be seen fast by your customers/clients.

6. Backlinks

A “backlink” is created when an external website links to yours. This why some people refer to them as “external backlinks” or “inbound links”.


You can call it a “vote of confidence” coming from an external source. They help search bots to scan your site and rank it correctly to its content. Each backlink is a part of a ranking puzzle.

As usual, links have 2 types of attributes that make sense for SEO.

Nofollow link attribute – prevent search engine robots from scanning a specific link. Initially, the Nofollow attribute works at the meta tag level, but later, for more flexible control of search robots, it is considered for each link.

Dofollow link attribute points search bots what links are should be indexed. They intend to pass link juice from one website to another or from one web page to another. It is important for SEO goals.

According to site checker, here is your to-do list for relevant SEO backlinks

  1. Keep your links relevant
  2. Make friends with authority websites
  3. Concentrate on websites with real traffic
  4. Get backlinks from high standard websites




If you are in the business of creating content online for it to be viewed by many, you need to know the metrics search engines are all about and the attributes they are scanning for to rank your work and content.

Nonetheless, it is the internet and trends change. The same goes for algorithms – they may change and you may need to beware of what is HOT and what’s NOT. But, with consistency, the good work of SEOs shall show the results in the ranks. It is only a matter of time.


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