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What is SEO and How it Works – Plain language explanation for the beginner

What is SEO and How it Works – Plain language explanation for the beginner

What is SEO and How it Works – Plain language explanation for the beginner

What is SEO and how it works seems to always end up with a complicated explanation. When in fact, the basics are pretty easy to understand and with a little know-how anyone can work on their SEO.

When you have a question or want to try and find something that you need, how many times do you turn to Google for the answer? ?

If you are one of these people, then it’s not surprising given there are how many billion searches performed every day on Google?? 

As a business owner, understanding what is SEO and how it works will allow you to tap into a gold mine of people searching for you and what you offer. The next question is how to be present in the search results?

What is SEO?

What is SEO and how it works starts with the Search in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). The aim is to have your website appear in the search results when someone is actively searching for information or products that you are able to provide.

Being in the top position on page one of the results page  is the key to success.

Just about everything gets indexed by search engines. Text, images, videos and Google offer a whole heap of additional value with other things like local search and shopping. Showing up as much as possible when people are searching is the key to search marketing success.

What is SEO and How it Works:
The words people use matters

Understanding the words or phrases people use to search for your product or service is the absolute key and fundamental to a good search marketing approach.

The words that people use to search with are called your ‘keywords’ or ‘keyword phrases’.

And its not rocket science to find this out using real live search data from Google! There are dozens and dozens of tools that will will you research exactly what words people use when they search for 'your thing'.

You can have broad terms that are generally about your topic or you can be very specific. For example "Cupcakes" or "Red velvet cupcakes delivered".

Generally, the more specific you are, the more success you will have.

This is what we call keyword intent. Think about the following example of what SEO is and how it works.

If you were thinking about buying a new TV, what would you search for? You might search for any one or all of the following:

Question #1 What kind of TV do I need? What’s the current technologies and which brand is reputable?

If this is your first thought, then you might search for reviews, comparisons and the types of TV’s that are available. At this stage you don’t know what kind of TV you want. So you need to understand the options and also the pros and cons of each of these. You want to understand which TV will best suit you.

Your search term might be "best TV 2023".

Question #2 Who sells the type of TV that I want? 

Once you know the type of TV you’re after you will then want to know who and where to get it from. The search queries will likely become much more precise and narrow eg. Models or manufacturers.

The search queries will be quite different to the one above.

Your search term might be "Sony TVs".

How much, delivery, warranty? 
Once you’ve found a store or place to purchase from, you then hone in on the best deal, the return and warranty policies, if it’s in stock, where you can collect it from or the delivery costs.

Price SONY 65" X90L BRAVIA.

Therefore the first step is to research and identify the keyword phrases that you want to rank for.


What is SEO and How it Works:
Applying the keywords to your website content

Showing up in the search results for each of these different types of search queries is the way to ensure you’re being helpful, getting noticed and increasing the odds that someone will choose to purchase from you.

So to make SEO effective you must:

  1. Content that matches the search term
    Have content on your website that matches with the search queries that people are using, particularly the intent of their search. Google will only show results they assess as the best match for the users search query. They won’t show your page with a dozen or so TV’s when the person is asking for ‘reviews’ or latest tv technology.
  2. Website must be quick to load, and mobile responsive 
    Your website must be what Google considers to be a ‘good user experience’. They will consider whether your website is mobile ready, how quick it is to load, and how long others stay on your website or bounce off it ( more on this later).

What is SEO and How it Works >
How does Google determine what to show and what not to show on the coveted first page of the search results?

Google determines what to show based on an algorithm that assesses things such as:

  • Keywords and how closely they match the search query and the searchers intent
  • How much the page deals with the topic of the search query
  • Whether there are relevant images, links on the page
  • Length of the page, Google does prefer longer content of more substance
  • Volume of traffic, particularly if there are other pages just as ‘relevant’ as yours - this can be used to help judge your 'authority'.
  • Mobile readiness
  • Engagement with the content eg. Time on page
  • Whether the rest of the site is related to the topic ie a once off mention or other pages with related content.

To rank in the organic search results does take time and to be quite honest, depending on your competition, you may never to be able to rank as number one on the first page. It will be difficult if there is a lot of competition, and they have more traffic and interaction than your page.

What is SEO and How it Works:
SEO DIY Checklist

  1. Get your website SEO hygiene in order. By hygiene, we mean all of the things that Google will mark you down for, ie. a non-mobile ready site, slow speeds, low engagement rate and low time spent on page as mentioned above.
  2. Focus on creating a great resource or page of content to match the keywords you are trying to rank for. A great experience or content that is for the user not Google is always the best approach.
  3. On your page, make sure you have the following things on the page, and ensure that they feature the keyword.
    a.    Page description (in the code)
    b.    H1 Tags
    c.    Page title
    d.    First 100 words that talk about your topic and include your keyword.
  4. Niche down so that you are targeting most relevant words, instead of trying to rank for the most obvious (broad) and popular of search terms. This will give you the unique advantage of being able to be the perfect fit for those looking for exactly what you have to offer.

Check out our DIY SEO Tools list to help you identify your keywords, as well as optimise your pages.



Some additional things to think about to rocket your ‘discover-ability’ with search are:

  • If you’re a local business make sure that you are verified by Google and able to appear on their map. Ensure that you have optimised for the location that you do business at.
  • You can boost your likelihood of appearing on a page on organic search results or the local listings map if you’ve got some customer reviews. So get yourself a Google plus account and encourage people to give you a review.
  • If you’re selling a physical thing – be on Google shop. If you combine this with some paid promotion you can appear on page one with a prominent image and shop listing.
  • Do some YouTube videos. YouTube is a Google-owned property and trusts it as an authoritative site. The videos of YouTube are indexed and if you linked back to your website it will add some link juice to help with the ranking of your organic listings.
  • Focus on quality content – no quick bounces.
  • Use social media to boost your search results, a profile on LinkedIn, Facebook or Pinterest will help you appear in the search results as well as boosting your traffic.

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