How Does SEO Work?

How Does SEO Work?

It’s always fun showing up to family gatherings and trying to explain what it is that I do.  My parents have finally resolved to just tell people I “work on the internet”, but anyone in the industry knows that there is so much more to digital marketing than that.  I already write a lot about SEO, but one of the things I enjoy explaining the most is how SEO works.  Most marketing strategies, be them PPC (“billboards on the internet”), content marketing (“writing articles”), social media management (“interrupting pictures of children on facebook with ads”) and so on can be summed up pretty easily, but SEO always seems like this larger scale project.

There are so many moving parts to SEO and so many elements (social, content, website, links, usability, speed, etc) all contribute in some form.  It doesn’t help that it seems to neve ends and is clouded in a bit of mystery thanks to Google’s constantly changing algorithm.

According to one of my favorite websites, SearchEngineLand:

SEO, or “search engine optimization” is the process of getting traffic from the “free”, “organic”, “editorial”, or “natural” search results on search engines.

This is well and good, but with all of it’s different parts and requirements, how do the different components of SEO work together?

Web Analytics & Insight

Statistical analysis provides insight into a website’s traffic, what content is popular, and how visitors interact and engage.  This is the foundation for a solid SEO strategy.


Primary and secondary keywords are chosen that drive page content which, in turn, drives website traffic.  Keywords are decided based on relevance, search volume, and competition.  I use SEMRush heavily to find new and competitive keywords.

Site Architecture

A website’s structure is analyzed for user experience.  Page hierarchy, navigation, and more are reviewed for accessibility.

Site Optimization

There are a lot of large pieces that take time and strategy to get right, but a site’s SEO takes regular maintenance to ensure that everything is operating smoothly together.

Link Building

Incoming links from other websites are huge, huge, SEO boosts.  Similar to keyword research, the goal is to develop good links based on relevance and quality.

Usability and Design

The overall web design and page layout are important to keeping a low bounce rate and giving your visitors the best experience possible (which is a ranking signal).  The priority and presentation of your site’s content, organization, and clarity all affect your usability rankings.


Finally, the biggest component to a solid SEO strategy is your site content.  An effective website needs to be updated consistently and often with SEO-friendly content that includes keywords, alt tags, anchor text, proper formatting, and so on.

Posted in SEO