What is SEO and How does it work?

Search Engine Optimization Explained For Beginners In Plain English

In today’s modern digital era, everything happens online.

So, whether you want to attract more customer for your online business or accelerate your existing website/blog’s growth.

When looking for tips you must have encountered this term SEO again and again.

In this guide, I will tell you What is SEO,  How Search Engine functions,and how to approach SEO in the best possible way!

Let’s get into it!

what is SEO and how it works

01. What is a search engine?

Before understanding search engine optimization (SEO), you first need to understand what are actually search engines.

A search engine is an internet-based computer program that provides results from its database based on the search query (keyword) submitted by the internet user.

The main function of these programs is to collect massive information available on the internet, categorizing that information and present an ordered list of these results based on the search algorithm. This list is generally referred to as search engine results pages (SERPs).

There are many (more than 40) active search engines on the market, while the most widely used is Google.

Search engine market share in 2021

02. What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. It is the practice of optimizing a website or webpage to make them reach a high position in the search results of search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

It is important to note here that SEO deals with only organic or unpaid search results section and has nothing to do with the paid ads section appearing at top in SERPs.

Organic vs paid search results
Organic vs paid search results in SERPs

03. How Search Engines Like Google Work?

When you search for something in a search engine like Google, an algorithm works in real-time to bring you what that search engine considers the best result for your search query.

Specifically, Google sort through hundreds of billions of webpages from their Search index to find a set of results that will best answer your search query.

Now you must be wondering “how does Google determine the “best” result for you?”

Well, nobody knows the exact inner working process of Google algorithms, but based on various documentation & statement,  we know that websites are mainly ranked based on:

1 Relevancy

When you search for “chocolate pancakes recipe”, you don’t want to see a webpage about “White pasta recipe”.

That’s why first Google looks for pages that are closely related to the ‘keyword’ (search term) you type in the search box.

However, Google can not simply rank the most relevant page on the top of the search result.

That is because there are more than thousands (sometimes millions) of webpage available on the web for every keyword.

For example, there are more than 90 million webpages available in Google for “Chocolate pancake recipe.”

Number of Google search results

So, how does Google decide which are the top 10 best webpages for a given query?

That’s where the other element of Google algorithms comes into the picture…

2 Authority

Authority is Google’s way of determining whether the content of a web page is accurate & trustworthy.

So, how does Google know if a page is authoritative?

Well, they look at the number of other website links to that page (the page you want to rank).

[Links from other websites are known as “Backlinks” in SEO terminology]

how backlink works in seo

In general, the more link a page has, the higher it will rank in Google.

However, this is not always the case. The authority and relevance of linking site is also important.

For example: If you have a webpage about “vegan diets” and you have two backlinks, one from a webpage about “healthy recipes” and other from a webpage about “Politics”, the former backlink is much more valuable.

Topical Relevance of backlink

3 Usefulness

If a webpage is both relevant to the search query and authoritative, but it is not useful, Google won’t rank it in the top position of search result.

In fact, Google itself has clearly said that a higher quality content not necessarily more useful content in every case.

High quality content vs usefullness

Let’s understand it with a simple example.

Suppose you searched for “how to grow biceps” in Google.

The first result you click on (“Result A”) is written by a renowned gym trainer and because the page has so much quality content on it and written by an influential person, a lot of other websites has also linked to it.

However, the content is completely unorganized and full of fitness jargon that most beginners won’t understand.

Unorganized and not useful content

Contrast that with another result (“Result B”).

It is written by a fitness enthusiast who is not as influential as the first one. As well as his website doesn’t have nearly as many links pointing to it.

However, his biceps growing tips is organized in different section along with simple to-do list that any beginner can follow.

content examples

Now, even though “Result B” doesn’t have much trust or authority compared to “A”, it will still perform much better in search engine based on the “usefulness” scale.

How Google measure the usefulness of a webpage?

Well, Google measures usefulness mostly based on “User experience signals”.

In simple words: how users interact with the search results.

If Google notices that people really like a particular search result and spending more time on the webpage, it will get a significant ranking boost.

04. Why SEO is important?

There are endless benefits of SEO, but no one can deny these 5 major reason why every website, blog and online business needs SEO.

1 Organic search is most often the primary source of website traffic

Before search engines became popular, people use to get information by reading books, newspaper, and searching through other offline sources.

But from the 21st century, Search Engines revolutionized how people find information.

Today, Google alone serves billions of users per day looking for the answer to their questions or for the solution to their problems.

Fact: Google gets over 3.5 billion searches per day. If you break this stats down, it means that Google receives over 40,000 search query every second. Click To Tweet

So, if you have an online store, website or blog, search engines can become the biggest traffic source for you.

And we have so many data available to back this up:

Here is a breakdown of traffic sources for most of the website according to Jumpshot.

Top 10 traffic source for websites

As you can see, nearly 60% of total traffic for most of the websites comes from Google organic search.

And if you combine traffic from other popular search engines like Bing, Yahoo & Baidu, 70.6% of total traffic originates from search engines.

2 SEO is often cheaper in the long-term

As compared to other paid marketing channels, SEO is one of the most cost-effective solutions to get traffic and leads.

Let me give you a simple example of how profitable SEO can be for you:

Let’s say that you run a photo editing business/blog. According to Ahrefs, 283k people search for the term “online photo editor” every single month.

Keyword volume and cpc

As per Brian Dean latest study,  #1 result in Google’s organic search has an average CTR of 31.7%.

That means you can get over 84k visitor to your website each month if you show up at the top for the search term “online photo editor”.

Now let’s quantify how much are those visitors worth?

The average price advertisers pay for this key phrase in paid search is approx 0.50 dollar per click (data from Google AdWord).

That means, if we have to to buy the same traffic through PPC, it would cost us an estimated $42000 per month.

CPC of keyword

And that’s just for the one search term. If your web page has good SEO, then you can rank for hundreds of different keyword with one page/post.

Not to forget, if you are in a competitive industry like insurance, personal finance, or real estate, PPC can get expensive fast.

3 SEO traffic is more likely to convert than others

Either you are running a blog or online business, you need highly relevant traffic in order to convert them into leads, email signups or affiliate purchase.

And one of the major advantages of SEO is that you’ll obtain traffic that consists of an audience that is interested and highly relevant to your niche.


See, unlike other outbound marketing strategies, with SEO, you don’t reach out to people and convince them to visit your site.

Instead, people visit your site because they were actively searching for something in Google and your site was among the most prominent results relevant to their search.

"Small Businesses are currently reporting 8x higher conversion rate from SEO traffic than other traffic sources" Click To Tweet

4 SEO Yields Long-Term Results

With SEO, you have to make an initial investment in terms of funds, time, and effort.

After that, you will enjoy the long term benefit of your investment without the need to make any additional investments.

Although SEO takes about 6-12 months to really move up in organic ranking for competitive terms.

But once you get there, it is usually difficult to move back down unless your competitors are doubling down on their efforts.

So, except for constant rank monitoring & tracking, you would not have to put in much additional effort to enjoy the benefits of SEO for a very long term.

This is a major difference compared to social media or PPC ads, which delivers quick but only short term results.

SEO vs paid traffic, organic traffic vs ppc traffic

5 SEO improves user experience

User experience and SEO are strongly intertwined.

Google’s ultimate goal is to provide the best possible results on the web to its user.

As a result, many of their updates focus on making sure they direct users to sites that not only provide relevant content but also positive user experience.

That’s why today, technical factors like page speed, mobile responsiveness, site structuring and engagement metrics like bounce rate, dwell time, and scroll depth plays a much bigger role in rankings than ever before.

While this means optimizing your website might require more time & effort, it also means you will continuously improve the user experience of your site to keep up with SEO changes.

Mobile Friendliness

05. How SEO Works?

In simple terms, SEO works by demonstrating to search engines that your website or webpage is the best & most relevant result for your target topic.

Precisely how you do this depends on the search engine you’re optimizing for.

Because every search engine has a different set of ranking algorithms to determine the “best” result for a search query.

For example, Google ranking algorithms take into account more than 200 factors during the ranking process.

Quick Tip: If your main aim is to drive more organic traffic, just keep your focus on Google algorithms. Google dominates 91% of the search market.

To make it easier to handle, the various factor can be grouped into three different categories.

The seo process

Technical SEO – With Technical SEO, you need to ensure that the search engine can crawl and index all your important pages without any issues.

On-page SEO – Optimizing your page/post adhering to google guidelines to get better rankings on search engines.

Off-page SEO – Activities that you do outside your blog or website to improve organic visibility of a web page.

5.1 Technical SEO

The very first stage in the SEO process is called Technical SEO.

It refers to settings you need to configure to help search engine spiders understand, crawl, and index your site quickly and efficiently.

Usually, once you get your technical SEO correct, you do not have to deal with it again and again.

On the other hand, if search engines are having any problem in crawling and indexing your site, then your site will never appear in SERPs.


Check our Step By Step Technical SEO checklist to create solid foundations and ensure that your site can be crawled and indexed.

5.2 On-Page SEO

The second stage of the SEO process is called On-page SEO (also known as “on-site” SEO).

As you might be knowing, search engines can’t read a webpage like a human, so they look for signals to figure out what a webpage is all about.

The goal of on-page optimization is to give search engines enough signals so that they can understand the meaning and context of our content.

On this stage, you’ll have to deal with keyword research, meta title & description, URL, image SEO, internal links, schema markup and other SEO techniques that can provide right signals to search engines about your content.


Check our Step By Step On-page SEO checklist to ensure your blog post/article is optimized for ranking in search engine.

5.3 Off-Page SEO

The third and final stage in SEO is Off-page SEO (also known as “off-site” SEO).

Off-site SEO encompasses factors carried outside of your website or blog but still affect your ranking.

The main aim with Off-page SEO is to show search engines that your page/post is valuable, authoritative and deserves to rank high in search engine results.

But how?

This is where “Backlinks” comes in to picture.

Backlinks are basically links that comes from external websites to your website.

Search engine like Google takes Backlinks as a signal of trust that your site contains quality contents.

That means if a well-reputed site in your niche links to your site, they can greatly affect your organic ranking position.


Link Building Guide For Bloggers – Proven techniques you can use to acquire quality links for your blog.

06. Frequently Asked Question related to SEO

While starting with SEO, there are many burning question SEO beginners have in their mind. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked SEO questions.

1 What does SEO mean?

SEO stands for search engine optimization.  SEO comprises all activities aimed at ranking higher in search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo and drive quality visitors that are highly relevant to your blog and business.

2 Why SEO is important for your online success?

SEO is incredibly important for your online success, especially when it comes to driving relevant traffic that can easily convert into leads, email subscribers or affiliate purchase.

Without it, you could waste hundreds of dollars on paid advertising like Google ads or Facebook ads, without generating any meaningful, long-term results for your blog & business.

3 What is the difference between SEO and Digital marketing?

Well, SEO is a subset of digital marketing. Digital Marketing is a broad term which includes many marketing strategies.

To put it simply, Digital marketing means you use digital mediums to promote your brands/products/services — this can include blogging, email marketing, social media ads, and even search engine optimizations (SEO).

On the other hand, SEO is only concerned with one particular medium to promote your brand/product and that is search engine. The goal of SEO is to optimize your website for ranking high in the search engine and drive more organic traffic.

4 What is SEO writing?

SEO writing is the process of researching, outlining, creating, and optimizing content with the primary goal of ranking in search engines like Google.

5 What skills are needed for SEO?

Excellent researching skill and the ability to create interesting and compelling content for the target audience.

There are some technical aspects of SEO too, but that can be easily managed if you are interested in SEO.

6 How bloggers use SEO?

SEO is the primary medium for any bloggers to attract readers to their blog. They find good blog post topic with the help of keyword research and then optimize their content for target keyword to rank in search engine.

7 How do businesses use SEO?

Business use SEO to attract potential customers who are searching for queries related to the product & service in Google.

They do that by making sure who their ideal customers are, and the problems they are facing.

8 How long does it take for SEO to work?

This will completely depend on your approach and the competition in your niche. But always keep in mind that there is no overnight way to rank in the organic search result.

You would probably need at least 6 months to see notable results from SEO. So, consistent efforts and patience is important for getting result with SEO.

9 What is SERPs in SEO?

A search engine results page (SERP) is the web page served to users when they search for something in search engine.

The user enters the search query (eg. how to make butter), upon which the search engine presents them with a SERP which consists an ordered list of top 10 websites that can answer the question.

10 What is the best blogging platform for better SEO?

A self-hosting blogging platform like WordPress.org is the perfect choice for most of the user. WordPress is designed to be search engine friendly from default. Plus the availability of thousands of free and paid plugins gives you full control to make your site more user friendly and appealing. 

11 What is LinkBuilding in SEO?

LinkBuilding is the process of getting hyperlinks from other websites to your website. From the SEO perspective, the goal of link building is to increase the quantity of high-quality relevant inbound links to a page in order to increase its ranking in SERPs.

12 How can I track my SEO efforts?

There are several free and premium tools available to track your SEO effort. Google search console and Google Analytics are two of the best tool available for free to track your SEO efforts.

These tools will help you monitor your keyword ranking, website traffic, SERP impressions, bounce rate and much more.

5 thoughts on “What is SEO and How does it work?”

  1. Shivam,

    I have seen all your blogs there is some important points are hidden in them. Your conveying expression is so good. At the same time this graphical presentation. Each and every factor give some knowledge.

    Best Regards
    Mary Claire

  2. SEO is quite a nightmare topic for beginners especially. Widely, we can categorize it as on-page & off-page optimization. But, related factors like web designing, user experience, influencer marketing, blogging and even more things come into rescue to make any SEO campaign successful. Hope, your article can help the start-ups to understand SEO in a better way.

  3. Shivam,

    Your blog post looks simply awesome to read on. Further, on-page SEO can be made easier with a checklist whereas off-page SEO varies one site to another. And, that’s where having a proper link building strategy in place becomes critical. Then, technical SEO is where the real game lies in. SEO has evolved a lot. In this competitive digital age, every aspect of SEO should be met for any web page to ranked well. Your insights are great!


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