How Does SEO Work?

In our industry, we constantly hear “What is SEO?” and “How does SEO work?” and we are here to shed a little light on an internet marketing strategy that confounds a variety of business-minded professionals. Thankfully, SEO isn’t rocket science.

What is SEO?

Letters S E O in different patterns

SEO is an acronym that stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO is the technical art of optimizing your website to improve your rankings within search engine result pages (SERPs). The importance of this digital marketing campaign is to increase your organic traffic to your website without the assistance of paid or sponsored advertising. To put it more simply, it is the process of making changes to your website and content to make it clearer for search engines what your website is about and what search terms it should show for.


Search engines want to provide results to their searchers that are relevant to their query. So not only do search engines provide high quality, reputable web pages to their users but they need to be relevant to what they want to find. For search engines to be able to do this, they have bots crawl pages all over the web to sort websites to their best ability of what they are about to use in search results. These web crawler bots analyze not just the content on your website but how easy it is to navigate as well as the user- and mobile-friendliness of the website design.

When you optimize your site for the benefit of search engines, you are implementing SEO strategies to accomplish your goals. That’s what SEO is. Learn more about the history of SEO and how it’s become a crucial marketing strategy for online business. You know what it is now but how does SEO work?

How Does SEO Work?

To successfully optimize your website for search results, it is important that you understand how SEO works. The SEO industry is constantly changing and the tactics that were used 5 years ago more times than not are outdated practices and will no longer be very effective. As SEO professionals, it is not only our responsibility to provide top-notch SEO services but to also stay on top of the constant flow of industry news so we can do our jobs to the best of our ability. Let’s deep dive into how SEO works in today’s tech-centric world.

SEO can be summarized in two main categories: On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO. Each category has components that need to be manipulated to have a successful SEO campaign.

What is On-Page SEO?

two people meeting at a deskOn-Page SEO is essentially anything that you can change and manipulate on your website itself. These factors are within your control that helps bolster your rankings. These changes on individual pages can be within the content and images or within the HTML of a site structure. Factors that make up On-Page SEO are:

  • Content of a Page: The content of your web page should be keyword focused, each page should have its own unique keyword selection so you aren’t competing against yourself for results for the same keyword. If your website has too many pages that are trying to rank for the same keyword, search engines will usually not rank any of them due to the fact they can’t prioritize which page is more relevant to the search since they are all the same topic. Hence, the importance of having a different keyword for each page on a website.
  • Title Tags: This is part of the HTML code of a website that specifies the title of a page. The title tag is also the title that shows for your page when it populates for a search result. It is important to be as specific as possible with title tags and to include your page keyword within them, towards the beginning.
  • URL Structure: A good URL structure keeps clean navigation of your site on the URL level. For example, if you were selling shoes on your website, your product page URL should keep in line with the navigation to get to said shoe on your site. I.E. would be a good URL structure as it goes from men’s shoes to athletic shoes to the white running shoe product page, as they would find it in your website along with those same category navigations.
  • Image Alt Text: This is a description of an image on a web page that can be read by search engine crawl bots since they cannot interpret images themselves without a text-based description. This is helpful in SEO as you can incorporate your keyword into the image itself, thus helping the keyword focus for the entire page.
  • Internal Links: These are links to other pages within your site that are relevant to the content of the page you are linking from. When using internal links, you should use the keyword of the page you are linking to (or a close variant) so when crawl bots travel through these links it will give more authority the page you are linking to that it is what the link text says it is. Having internal links throughout your site also improves the user experience and navigation of your site which is rewarded by search engines.
  • External Links: These links are a link to a site that is not yours, referencing relevant content to the content on your page. For instance, linking to credible sites that go into more detail of what you are referencing gives search engine bots a clearer idea that your web page is about the same subject matter.

What is Off-Page SEO?

Off-Page SEO refers to actions taken outside of your website that can improve your rankings within SERPs. Off-Page SEO is helpful for your rankings as it gives search engines an idea of your site’s popularity, authority, trustworthiness, and authority on your site’s subject matter. Factors that make up Off-Page SEO include: close up of chain links

  • Backlinks: A backlink is a link from another site that points to one of the pages on your site. Backlinks can be good or bad for your site based on where the link is coming from. What weighs the good or bad nature of a backlink is based on the site’s credibility, is the site is relevant to your site material, if the surrounding content is positive, what the age of the link is, what anchor text is used for the link, how many other links on the page, as well as the authority and trustworthiness of the site it is coming from.
  • Social Signals: These signals are links that come from social media sites. For instance, if you post blog content to your site and then post a link to your Facebook Business page, the contributes to your SEO efforts. While this is technically a backlink, links on social media sites are considered “social signals” and don’t carry as much weight as if that same link were coming from another web page. It is important to keep your social profiles up to date with the content you are releasing to give your SEO efforts an extra leg up.
  • Linked and Unlinked Brand Mentions: If your brand name or product is mentioned on the web somewhere, this can be accredited to your rankings, with or without a link to your site. Now, if the surrounding content is a negative review or blog post, the result can be not what you want. This is why it is important to ensure that your customer service is top notch as well as your product and service. You really do want people to have only good things to say about company because bad publicity in this instance is not good publicity.
  • Influencer Marketing: Similar to social signaling, influencer marketing is becoming relevant to SEO as influencers continue to rise in popularity. Influencers are highly revered on social media now as they are seen to give honest reviews of companies and products with links back to their reviewed product/service/company. You can grow your rankings by asking a few influencers in your industry to give you a review by sending them a product.

So, how does SEO work? It’s a combination of all of these factors that can provide the best results for your SEO campaign. SEO works by giving clear indications across the internet of what your website is about, what you provide or sell, and how you go about building your online reputation. Whether you are doing it on your own or want the help of SEO experts, knowing how SEO works is the first step to making the right decisions for your company.

Interested in learning more about SEO? You can find more in-depth details about SEO ranking factors or you can give us a call at 1-800-724-0252 and set up a free consultation.