How SEO Works

By Maria Singer

SEO. If you’ve used the internet at any point in the last ten years, there’s a good chance you’ve at least heard of it. SEO is one of those terms that is sometimes used as a catch-all when referring to anything related to online marketing but is actually much more specific than how the term is sometimes casually used. Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to the different ways content creators, copywriters, and web developers can optimize web pages to make them easier for search engines to understand and recommend to users through search results.

“Why is that important?” you may ask – and with good reason. If you’ve built a content-rich site with loads of valuable information for your users about your products, services, or goals, shouldn’t your site be high up in search results when someone is seeking exactly what you offer?

The answer is not exactly.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll be focusing mainly on Google organic search results.


To understand how SEO works, it is important first to understand how search engines like Google work. Whether you’re troubleshooting the tapping noise coming from your 2009 Toyota RAV4, trying to find the highest-rated dog food for your senior schnauzer, or searching for a helpful beginner’s guide to SEO just like this one, Google displays search results for pages that have gone through the following 3 step process:

  1. Discovery: There are two main methods of discovery: bots and manual submission. If your site is brand new or has recently undergone a significant overhaul, you can submit it for indexing (below) through Google Search Console. In another method, bots (commonly called spiders) ‘crawl’ web pages and download information. There are also other methods for Google to discover your pages, but these are among the most common.
  2. Indexing: Once Google is aware of your page’s existence, it extracts what it thinks are the essential parts and adds them to its index.
  3. Ranking: Google’s algorithms define and rank your content’s quality in 200+ areas. Some of the key areas include:
    • Relevance
    • Location
    • Page speed
    • Freshness
    • Authority on a topic

How Google personalizes your search results

The most commonly known and understood factors that come into play when personalizing your search results are your location, browser language, and past search history. Within a split second, Google identifies a list of top websites that fit your queried keywords. In that same timeframe, it compares those search results against what it knows about you to re-prioritize and even eliminates some of those results.

Understanding the basics of how Google delivers results to its end users is half the battle when it comes to deploying a better SEO strategy. The good news is that most other search engines, like Bing or Yahoo, work in much the same way that Google does. According to BrightEdge Research, 53.3% of all trackable web traffic comes from organic search results; this means that focusing on improving the overall quality and readability of your web pages could be the single most important thing you can do to increase your website’s long-term, completely free web traffic.

We Could Go On

Understanding the basics of search engine optimization is the crucial first step to improving your site’s ranking overall. Above all, it’s important to simply write good content – be the authority on your topic, and generate rich information that users actually want to read without too much (or too little!) fluff. When it comes to search engine results, each spot your website is closer to the top, the more likely it is to receive valuable traffic. If you have questions or want to learn more about how we help our clients at Zer0 to 5ive build or revamp their websites, let’s chat.