what is seo and how does it work

What is SEO and How Does it Work?

what is seo and how does it work

I am pretty sure that if you are a beginner when it comes to SEO, you’ll probably want to call it Severely Exhausting Optimization. So why not learn what is SEO and how does it work? 

I completely empathize with you but once you start understanding the concepts and applying them, you will realize that it is quite interesting. 

SEO is Search Engine Optimization.

Why not relate it with our life? That’s how I learned.

Imagine SEO being a person who is put on a pedestal in society. But, it requires some effort to achieve that.

Let’s imagine that society is the internet and you are a website. You want to be number one, which you can achieve only through hard work since a huge inheritance isn’t in the cards for you.

Google ads can be compared to the few fortunate ones who have achieved name, fame, money in a short time through their billionaire parents. But I am an AAM AADMI (not from the political party). I am a middle-class person and I am willing to put in all the hard work even if it takes time. Let’s understand what is SEO and how does it work?

There are two types of SEO:

  1. On-Page SEO 
  2. Off-Page SEO

What is meant by search engine optimization (On-Page) is that Google checks if the basic elements of your website are optimized. This optimization is not limited to the appearance but extends to the following factors as well. Let us look at On-page SEO in detail. 

On-Page SEO

Appearance matters and so does your abilities. Imagine you went on a first date, shabbily dressed, without putting on any perfume, not taking the extra effort to look your best (even if your heart is gold). Of course, your date would not be pleased and you would not be preferred over the next date they matched with on Tinder. They would assume you do not want to make an effort to win them over. If you are only good-looking but your brain processes slowly, it can yet again hamper your image.

This is exactly what happens when Google search crawlers (robots) visit your website. They assume the website is of low quality because you have not optimized your page and it is slow in loading and Google ranks you lower. 

Through On-Page SEO, Google checks if the basic elements of your website, design, fonts and color are optimized. The following factors are crucial elements of On-Page SEO. 

1. Keyword Research

This is the most crucial part of On-page SEO. Here, we’re going to discuss Keywords which are basically what our audience types into their search engine. 

Keyword research is very important to rank on the website. Website content should contain target keywords, to let Google know that you provide the information, services, or product that the consumer is looking for. 

Here, we’re going to discuss two different techniques for doing keyword research.

  1. Keyword research using Search Engine Result Page
  2. Keyword research through Your Competitors Site Analysis

|Keyword Research Using Search Engine Result Page

This technique is a very simple and smart way to get started with keyword research where you don’t need any paid tool. Here we’re gonna use Google’s SERP and it’s features to get our keywords.

Let’s say you want to do keyword research for “SEO agencies in Bangalore”. 

How do you start?


Type in the generic terms you would use if you were to look for an “SEO agency”. You would get the list of related searches and Google suggestions for that particular keyword. Pick out the ones you feel like could be targeted.

what is SEO and how does it work?


On the same page, go to the bottom and as shown below, find the related searches. Take all the keywords you feel are the best matches for your services/products.

List out all the keywords that you got from step 1 and 2.

what is SEO and how does it work?


Go to Google Keyword Planner or any keyword research tool as mentioned below, and analyze all the keywords that you have based on Search Volume & Competition.

Note: You will see other keywords that people are using to find services/products like yours. Pick the good ones that you can rank in case you pick up High Search Volume + High Competition keywords.

Take the keywords with maximum search volume and the least competition. Remove all the other keywords after you pick up your target ones from the list.


Repeat the same for all of your Services/products to get all the keywords you want and then you start Keyword mapping.

There are other tools such as – Ubersuggest, Answerthepublic, Keywordtool.io, and WordStream Free Keyword Tool. You can follow the above process using any of these tools.

|Keyword research through Your Competitors Site Analysis

This is another way of picking out the best of available keywords. Your competitors have most likely done all the keyword research and they might have even used paid tools for the same. 

Why not get some keywords from them? Right?

I’m sure by now you’d have guessed how to go with this technique. But to make sure, I will list out the three small steps.


Search on Google with very generic keywords for your services/products.

I.e. SEO Company India, Digital Marketing Services, Social Media Ad Company.

These are the top keywords in the Digital Marketing Industry on Google. You will find 7 websites on PPC ads and 10 organic SERP sites.


List out all the 17 websites from page 1 and 2. You will get another 14-15 websites that you can add to your list. 

Analyze all of these websites pages (homepage & services pages) one by one and extract the target keywords from that page. Keywords will be included in Title, Description, and Content. Make sure you get the right keywords. 


After you are finished with keyword extraction, go to any Keyword Research Tool and look for Search Volume & Competition. 

2. Canonicalization

A canonical tag (rel=canonical) in the back-end tells the search engine that the particular URL is a master copy. 

E.g., we have an HTTP version and an HTTPS version of the same website. Search engines can get confused about which version has to be shown in the SERP (Search engine result page). 

That is why having a canonical tag prevents the problems caused by multiple versions of the same website.

How to put a canonical tag? This is a code that goes in the back-end of the website.

what is SEO and how does it work?

The canonical tag indicates that the page on which this tag is put should be treated as a duplicate of the mentioned URL.

3. Header Tags Optimization

Header tags are mostly headings on your post. They are HTML codes that provide structure to your content. 

The most significant heading tag is the H1 tag and the least significant is the H6 tag. 

We have to follow the hierarchy that is the H1 tag followed by H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6. This helps crawlers understand the content better. 

4. Internal Link Structuring and Optimization

There should be a proper internal link structure that the user can navigate through, to find relevant pages on the website. 

Just like in a family, if the family members are not connected, then there would be a lot of misunderstandings. 

Similarly, website pages need to be interconnected.

Image Author: SEObility

5. Image Optimization 

Image optimization is making images readable by crawlers so that they can understand what the image is about.

Go to the back-end of your website in the media section and put keywords in the Alt Text. Let’s take the following example:


You go to the media library.


Select an image from the media library.


Go to the Alt Text part and describe the image. Enter the title, caption, and description. It is advisable to put the keywords here if they are relevant.

6. Robots.txt Creation

Robots.txt is a text file that tells the crawlers/robots, which pages to crawl to or not crawl to. 

When the robots crawl a page, they look for – allow or disallow attributes to know what their instructions are. 

This is done on the back-end of the web-page. 

Disallow attributes are relevant for financial transactions mainly on e-commerce websites.

This tells the crawlers not to crawl through those pages.

7. XML Sitemap

An XML sitemap is a blueprint of the website. It is a guide to tell search engines which content is available and how to reach them. It helps web robots with faster indexation. It’s an important one. So, don’t ignore it.

There are plugins for the same. Like Yoast, Google XML generator.

8. SEO Friendly URLs (URL Rewriting)

URLs should be written in a user-friendly way and the keywords should be integrated into the same.

Why should it be user-friendly?

So that the user/person can easily understand what the page is about when they look at the URL.

Think that you are looking for some info on “personality_dev” online and you open some link with /xmlsajd/ types of URL which has all the info you are looking for and another one is /personality-development/ which to has almost all the info that you need. In these 2 URLs, you know for sure that the second one has the info you need but you are not sure whether the first one has the info you are looking for or not. That’s why having a user-friendly URL is important. It helps increase your CTR.

9. Title Tags and Meta Tags Optimization

Title tags and meta-description is the title and description that we get on search engine result pages. It should contain the targeted keywords that you are trying to rank on.

The title plays a very important role in ranking your keyword as well as making your prospects get onto your website. Meta descriptions, on the other hand, do not help in ranking your keyword but help in increasing your CTR (Click-through rate).  

As you can see the keyword is “Australian shepherd puppy,” and it is present in both, the Title and the description (meta-description). Similarly, ensure that your keyword is used in these places. 

10. Page Loading Speed Optimization

The page load speed forms an integral part of On-Page SEO. Google gives the utmost importance to speed. It has released the mobile-first indexing update and checks for mobile-friendly websites. 

You can check your page load speed here

Let us take an example of the following website: 

what is SEO and how does it work?

The score here is low since the higher speed score is between 90-100.

You can increase the mobile speed by using Better Amp.

Another plugin to optimize the images is the Smush plugin.

11. Structured Data Implementation

Google shows schemas (enhanced description) if you add structured data to your site which is a piece of code.

Search engines read the code to create these enhanced descriptions. There are plugins available to create the code without coding knowledge. 

what is SEO and how does it work?

In this case, the highlighted sections like group tours, contact us, and stores are part of structured data. It enables your site to rank better for a wide range of content types like articles, local businesses, restaurants, TV episodes, ratings and reviews, Movies, and Products.

12. Content Optimization

Finally, we have content optimization where keywords should be included but keyword density should always be within 3%. The content of the website also forms a crucial part of On-Page SEO. If you provide irrelevant content by keyword stuffing your rank may go down.

By ensuring that you address the On-Page SEO, you show the search engines that you know how to target your audience by providing a smooth experience to the users.

Off-Page SEO

You are known by the company you keep and networking matters.

Let’s say you are a very good person but you often hang out with goons. So you are more likely to be misjudged. 

However, if you have associations (links) with the right people then you would also be respected and trusted. 

Just like in human nature, socializing is one of our many priorities.

Making the right connections, having the right friends, or knowing how to carry yourself at social events adds weight to your portfolio. 

Social engagement is a crucial skillset, and it would be beneficial for you to hone it. What is meant by search engine optimization (Off-Page) is exactly this. It is always about the right connections and associations. If you get backlinks from the right website/page which has a high domain authority or page authority, you will be given priority by Google. 

These connections can be made in the following ways:

1. Creating Shareable Content

It is important to create extraordinary content that is both informative and engaging. This would help get organic backlinks when people share your content on different social media platforms.

2. Using Influencers

If you have created shareable content then you must reach out to influencers and ask them for backlinks if they like your blog. 

3. Guest Posting

There are several blog websites available for guest posting like Medium. Post your blogs on them and get a backlink. 

4. Social Bookmarking Sites

There are multiple social bookmarking sites, like Reddit and Tumblr, that can get traffic to your website when you bookmark your blog page or website. 

5. Forum Submission

Take an interest in forums that identify with your site and business, and make associations with that network. Answer threads, individuals’ inquiries, and offer your recommendations and guidance. Utilize “Do-Follow” links.

6. Directory Submission

Directory Submission attempts to assemble quality backlinks. Pick a viable catalog and select an appropriate classification. 

It requires some time and investment to convey great outcomes, but these outcomes stand out over a greater timespan.

7. Article Submission

 Submit your article in a high-quality article submission directory. Make sure you do not do keyword stuffing. 

8. Question and Answer Sites

Try websites such as Quora to increase traffic to your website. Provide solutions to queries related to your business. If required, provide links to your website.

9. Video Submission

Another technique is to submit engaging videos on video submission sites, like YouTube. Ensure that you give a title and description tags to the video. 

10. Image Submission 

Submit your images in popular image sharing websites such as Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Optimize with the correct URL and title tag.

11. Document Sharing

Create unique documents in PDF or PPT format and share them on sites like Slideshare, Scribd, etc.

12. Newsletters

A newsletter is a cost-effective technique to communicate with your target audience. 

Plan your newsletter by incorporating recent content from your site, along with some fresh content.

For the most part, you should keep your newsletter short, however, loaded with intriguing and applicable data. 

While creating content, ensure that you provide proper valuable guidance and relevant data so that you add value to your subscribers’ content consumption. 

But make sure that you abstain from sending an excessive number of bulletins because you will end up irritating your users and will begin to lose them. 

So now you have learned what is SEO and how does it work, you will want to know how to check your SEO score. There are a few sites that permit you to check your SEO Score. One such site is SEMrush

Another option is to hire an agency and learn more about what is meant by search engine optimization. They will also help you optimize your website and other content to be SEO friendly. 

Tools Summary

Tools MentionedFunction
Keyword PlannerIt researches on keyword search volume and average bid cost
                     UbersuggestIt finds trending keywords and search volumes
                  Answer the public  It searches and maps keyword suggestion that you see when you perform a Google search
Keywordtool.io Generates hundreds of relevant long-tail keywords 
Wordstream free keyword tool Allows marketers to pull out lists of  actionable keywords to use in their marketing campaigns
Yoast SEO It gives you tons of flexibility over your site’s content by letting you set up titles, meta descriptions and manages sitemaps
Pagespeed InsightsIt calculates your website speed and gives recommendations
Better AmpImproves loading speed of your website in mobile search
Smush PluginTo optimize images 
Google XML GeneratorTo create sitemaps

What is SEO in simple words?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization which is done to improve the ranking of a website on search engine results pages (SERPs).

What is the purpose of SEO?

The main purpose of SEO or Search Engine Optimization is to gain organic traffic to your website, to increase the visibility for your website, and to increase the possibility of the conversion.

Is SEO important in 2020?

SEO has been around for more than a decade and a half and contributing in the share of traffic for successful websites, optimizing your pages for SEO is going to be even more important in 2020 as organic search continues to rise above other search traffic.

What is whitehat SEO?

It is a practice that improves the website rankings on the search engine result pages without doing any unethical activity.

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