What Is SEO and How Does It Work

April 16, 2024

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If you were to ask Google “what is SEO,” you would get 865,000,000 results.

But, how does Google know which articles to display on the first page of search engine results (SERP) and which to bury deep? Surely it’s not just a game of guessing.

Google (and other search engines too) use highly sophisticated algorithms to analyze the tens of millions of results about a topic and decide which ones answer the question best. Search engines look at the quality of the content, the design of a webpage, the user experience, and other ranking factors to ensure that internet users get only the best and most relevant results for their queries.

What does all that mean exactly?

We’ll tell you in this guide below. We’ll explain what SEO is, why it matters so much for your business’ success, how it works, and what the best SEO strategies are. By the end of this guide, you should feel more confident in your SEO knowledge and ability to use search engine optimisation to grow your business.

You might also be interested in WHAT IS THE RELATION BETWEEN WEB DESIGN AND SEO?

What Is SEO and Why Should You Care About It

SEO stands for search engine optimisation and it refers to the process of optimising a website so that it ranks at the top of search engine results page.

Let us break that down further for you.

Imagine two web pages (Page A and Page B) that sell kitchen appliances. They want people searching for “air fryer toaster oven” to find their page first before their competitors. So, they use different tactics to increase their visibility in the search results. But, Page A is using unique descriptions for its products while Page B has duplicate content. Although both pages are well optimised, this seemingly small difference tells the search engines that Page A is friendlier than Page B and provides a better user experience. In the eyes of Google (the search engine the vast majority of people use,) the decision is quite simple: Page A is better, thus it will receive a higher rank.

Of course, this is just an oversimplified look at how search engines work. We’ll provide a better, more technical explanation later in this article. For now, you may be wondering why all the big fuss about SEO when other digital marketing tactics like social media or email marketing can provide better and perhaps more goal-oriented results.

Answer this: what was the first thing you did when you realised that you need to learn more about SEO? You probably hoped on Google, searched for “how SEO works,” and clicked on the first few results. If one of the pages you’ve opened didn’t meet your needs, you probably hit the back button without giving it a second thought.

That’s exactly what your target audience is doing too.

One study found that 81% of consumers research a product online before purchasing it. In other words, most online experiences begin with a Google search.

Why does getting on the first page of search results matter so much?

According to one study, the first page of Google gets 92% of search traffic clicks while the second one only sees around 6% of the click-through rates. There’s actually a joke among SEO professionals that the best place to hide a dead body is the second page of Google because no one ever looks there.

What that means exactly is that without SEO, your website will get buried at the bottom of search engine results and you will lose a ton of organic traffic that could turn into conversions. But, even when your page is optimised and you manage to rank high, you can still lose potential customers if you are unable to meet their needs.

So, how can you satisfy both the search engines and online consumers? By understanding how search engines work.

How SEO Works

If you want your website to appear at the top of search engine results, then you need to make it visible for the search engines.

Search engines use robots called crawlers or spiders to collect information about a website. This information is processed and stored in a huge database also known as the search engine index.

Let’s imagine that someone looks for “vegetarian pizza recipes.” The search engine will dig through their index for relevant web pages. It then looks at over 200 ranking factors, such as the title tags, page speed, backlinks, internal linking, and so on to decide how to order these pages and offer searchers the most relevant content.

Before you start tweaking your pages to ensure they are optimised for search (and we’ll show you how to do that in a minute,) you must make sure first that your site can get crawled and it’s indexable. Otherwise, all your other efforts will be in vain.

If you already have a website and want to see if it’s indexed, then you should head to Google and type “site:yourdomain.com” into the search bar. This will show you the pages Google has in its index for that particular site. You can also use the Index Coverage report in Google Search Console to get more accurate results about which pages are currently indexed on your website.

We’ve mentioned above that even when your website is properly optimised and indexed, it’s not a guarantee that prospects will choose you over your competitors and we want to tell you why we think this way. Although it might seem like a highly technical realm (after all, we’re talking about robots and sophisticated algorithms,) SEO is ultimately more about people than about the search engines. If you don’t know what your audience is searching for, the answer they are expecting, or the words they are using when looking for solutions to their problems, then you can’t deliver the type of content they want

Let’s learn more about how you can make your website visible for the search engines and meet your target audience’s expectations at the same time.

On-Page SEO vs. Off-Page SEO

You can divide your SEO strategy into two broad categories: on-page SEO and off-page SEO. Both are equally important for the success of your website, but they focus on different factors.

On-page SEO allows you to optimize parts of your website that are within your control, such as the content, title tags, headlines, site architecture, and so on. Off-page SEO, on the other hand, focuses more on the elements that are not entirely under your control, but that can have an impact on your domain authority. The websites that are linking to your site are a good example of off-page SEO.

Factors That Affect Your Site’s Ranking

SEO Sydney

Before we talk about the factors that affect your on-page SEO and how to properly optimise them, it’s worth mentioning the importance of content marketing.

E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness and refers to the three factors Google uses to assess the quality of a website. While there are a lot of things that business owners can do to improve their E-A-T, such as making sure your website is mobile-friendly or present in online listings, the quality of your content is perhaps the most important factor. Google has always placed a high price on high-quality content as it wants to ensure that users are always getting the most helpful and relevant answers to their questions.

Content is not only effective at making your web pages visible to the search engines but also building a strong relationship with your target audience. If you deliver quality content consistently, then your prospects are more likely to turn to you whenever they have a problem or pressing question.

How can you create content that both people and the search engines will love? We can give you a never-ending list about how you need to come up with original content ideas, write creative headlines, back up your claims with facts and figures, and so on. But, what matters most is getting into your audience’s shoes and seeing things from their perspective. If you know what their problems, needs, and desires are, then it will become easier to create content that truly resonates with them.

So, you should pay more attention to your keywords research phase and try to uncover the key phrases your audience is using when looking for a solution to their problems. Use tools like the Keyword Planner or SEMrush to check the search volume, clicks, and difficulty of your potential keywords.

On-Page SEO Optimisation

With that in mind, let’s have a quick look at the on-page SEO factors that can help boost your ranking.

  • Title Tags: The title tag tells the search engines what your page is about, so it would be smart to include your target keyword here. Make sure that the title tag doesn’t exceed 70 characters and that it’s clear and to the point.
  • Meta Description: Although not a ranking factor per se, the meta description can help internet users decide if the content on your page is worth reading. The ideal meta description length is up to 920 pixels, which usually means around 160 characters. Again, make sure to include your keywords in the meta description so that users know the content actually answers their questions.
  • Sub-headings: By structuring your content into H1, H2, and H3 tags not only that you are making it easier for your audience to read your content, but you are also helping search engines understand your web pages
  • Image Names and Alt-Tags: Search engines cannot see pictures. Even if the photo has text overlaid on it, the search engines are still not able to crawl it. So, alt-tags understand what the image represents and how it connects to your content. Moreover, alt-tags can strengthen your SEO and help you rank in image search results.
  • Internal Linking: When it comes to link building, most people focus on acquiring links from other sites, but building internal links is just as important. Internal linking allows you to transfer page rank from high authority pages, such as your homepage to another page on your site.

Other on-page SEO factors include site speed, site architecture, and accessibility (whether your website is accessible from different devices.)

Off-Page SEO Optimisation

As mentioned above, off-page SEO factors are not completely under your control. However, that doesn’t mean that you should just leave this aspect to the Gods of search engine optimisation and hope for the best. There are a few things you can do to improve the chances of having off-page SEO work in your favour.

For example, one of the most common ways of building off-page SEO is through link building. While you can’t control every page that will link to your website, you can still influence the quality of the backlinks. Focus on building relationships with the influencer in your niche or reach out to the top content creators in your industry and offer to write a guest blog post. More than anything, always strive to create high-quality content that people want to link to and share.

Your Business Cannot Thrive without SEO

In this day and age, most shopping experiences and customer interactions happen online. If people can’t find you online or if your website offers a poor user experience, then they will take their business to their competitors.

It may be tempting to focus the bulk of your energy and resources on more fast-paced and engaging tactics, such as social media. But, at the end of the day, most consumers turn to Google or other search engines to find answers to their questions.

We get it: search engine optimisation can feel intimidating. There are so many factors that can influence your ranking and one small oversight can ruin all your efforts. But, while the work is arduous and ongoing, the satisfactions are well worth it.

Now, if you are not eager to dive into the realm of SEO or simply don’t have the time for it, help is just one click away. Take a look at our services and see what Australian Internet Advertising can do for your business. Then, get in touch with us, and let’s discuss how we can help you grow.


Billy P.

About The Author

William Polson founded Australian Internet Advertising in 2013 and has over 12 years of experience immersed in Digital Marketing.

With an in-depth level of digital marketing knowledge, William has been sort after by and worked for, many large national brands including Subaru, Blooms The Chemist, and Nova 96.9.

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