Confused about SEO? Here’s a simple and straightforward explanation about what’s happening behind the scenes of your website.

Virtually every digital marketer has encountered that marketing phrase “SEO.” And they know that when it comes to digital marketing, having a strong and effective SEO strategy is crucial to the success of a website or business.

Let’s define SEO first. It is short for “search engine optimization.” But what exactly does that mean? Well, it’s a set of techniques and processes that help improve a web page’s visibility in a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). If you spend the time diligently working on your SEO, making sure it is done correctly and effectively, your web page will appear high up on a search engine results page whenever a user types a certain keyword or key phrase that you are targeting.

A Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is a page of results delivered by a search engine, typically Google, in response to a user’s query. It contains a list of links to web pages whose content includes that targeted keyword or keyword phrase. Your web page’s position in SERP is called its “rank”.

SEO is all about improving your web page’s “rank” in the search engine results page (SERP). That’s because if your page ranks high and is highly visible on the first page, there’s a much greater chance of more people clicking your link and visiting your website. If you have more visitors to your web page (this is called web traffic), there’s a greater chance that these visitors will become interested in your business and become loyal readers, followers, and eventually customers.

To maximize the effectiveness of your SEO strategy, it pays to have a basic understanding of how SEO works.

Step 1: Publication of your web page

Contrary to popular belief, search engines only rank individual web pages, not entire websites. The home page of your website is an example of a web page. In the eyes of Google, each page on a website is a unique piece of content that will be indexed and categorized individually by Google.

Knowing this, your goal should be to optimize each web page on your website individually. It is therefore important to have a clear idea of the structure and intent of each web page and how they fit within the structure of your entire website. In addition, through internal link building, or links on your web page that point to other pages on your website, Google will have an idea of how your content is structured and how each page relates to other pages on your website.

Step 2: Search engine robots crawl your web pages

Before a search engine can start ranking your web pages, it needs to find your published content in the Internet so it can be indexed. To do this, the search engine sends out its team of digital robots, also known as “spiders” or “crawlers”. As creepy as they may sound, they are actually special programs that scan, collect, and analyze every word in each of your public web pages. Robots also scan and follow inbound links (links from other web pages linking to one or more of your pages) as well as outbound links (links from your web page linking to another website’s page).

The problem is that robots can only read text. They cannot “see” your amazing images, graphics, and videos, or hear “sound clips.” That’s why it is important to add captions supplementary text so robots can index non-text content.

The robots will then go back to the main search engine engine database to index and analyze the content. Here, the information they gathered undergoes a thorough analysis using a set of algorithms. Algorithms, by the way, are formulas and rules used by search engines to determine a web page’s significance based on specific search queries.

Note though that no one except those employed in a search company like Google knows and understands all the algorithms which are used for determining page rank. Also, Google announces and implements regular algorithm updates that makes it necessary for you to adjust your strategy.

Step 3: Search engine algorithms determine your rank

With the analysis done, the search engine now has an understanding of your web page’s main keywords and how relevant your page is in relation to other content on the web.

The search engine algorithm then assigns your page a degree of authority, which is a relative measure of how important and relevant your page is compared to others. Your level of authority is determined by several SEO ranking factors such as backlinks (pages that link to yours), the level of authority and influence of the web pages linking to you, audience engagement, and more.


Step 4: The search engine indexes your web page


With all of these steps completed, your web page is now indexed and ranked in the search engine.

Let’s assume you’re running a specialty steakhouse in Cleveland, Ohio, and you have a website. Diners use a search engine to research the great steakhouses in the city.

When on the hunt for a local steakhouse, they will almost certainly type the main keyword “steakhouses” in a search engine. Most likely though, they will add more words to make their search more specific such as adding a category (e.g. popular 5-star steakhouses), a geographical component (e.g. steakhouses in Cleveland), inclusion of a specific product or service (e.g. steakhouses with spiced lamb chops), and whatever else is important to them.

The key here is making sure that you, as the business, are including these types of keywords and search terms within your website. Even better, try to create specific pages of your website that are dedicated specifically to some of the most common search terms based on your geographic location and/or specific products or services that you offer.

Stage 5: The search engine displays your web page

If your web page is properly optimized, it will appear in a SERP when users enter the specific keywords that align the content you’re writing about on your site.

In the example above, if your web page is optimized for the keywords “popular 5-star steakhouse in Cleveland,” it is likely that your web page will appear on an SERP when a user types that phrase if:


  • That phrase appears on your website in multiple locations
  • There is a page specifically dedicated to that exact search term
  • You have testimonials from other third party sources that talk about you being a “5-star steakhouse in Cleveland”

    With enough time, number of searches, and level of engagement, your rank moves up as the search engine recognizes your web page as authoritative and relevant. Soon, your web page can be seen on the first page of popular search engines like Google and Bing!

Using the right keywords is a major consideration when formulating your SEO strategy, but it is certainly not the only thing to focus on. Backlink quality, content quality, user engagement, and user experience are just some of the many factors that help improve your web page’s ranking.

These are the basics of SEO. At its core, it’s quite simple. But it is the implementation of strategies that allow you to take advantage of this process that makes SEO complex and challenging.

Fortunately, with thorough study, constant updates, or through the assistance of an SEO expert, you can soar up to top rank and open the floodgates to new business.

Check out Folio Websites and see how we incorporate quality SEO into every aspect of our web page builder.