What is SEO? What is it not? How does it work?

If you’re new to the world of SEO you likely have a number of questions about it.  I’m writing this post to give you a good overview of what SEO is, what SEO isn’t and how it practically works to get you and your website seen in Google.

Firstly though:

SEO means Search Engine Optimisation and so it basically means the process of making our websites better for a search engine (which is generally Google since it’s the biggest).  


What is SEO?

So as I mentioned above its the process of optimising our websites for Google.  Yes other search engines are available but since Google is the biggest one with the highest number of users it makes sense to follow their best practices – any SEO advice generally has Google in mind.

So really, if you’re working on your SEO, it means that you’re trying to be the best you can be to show Google that you’re worth putting on page 1.  It’s like we’re trying to attract them in some weird dating game!


People say ‘this is good for SEO’ – what does that mean?

If someone says that something is ‘Good for SEO’ that generally means it’s one of the many aspects that Google takes into account when deciding where to rank you.


It should be noted here though that nobody knows exactly what Google likes and dislikes.  Or how much value it puts on one thing over another.  They do tell us some things but they keep a lot of it secret because if we know what they want it can be manipulated.  


How does SEO work?

Before we get into what is generally accepted as what to work on in SEO let’s have a little analogy.  I love a good analogy and hopefully it will help you understand how SEO works.

Google is like a waiter

I want you to imagine that Google is a waiter and the entire internet is the kitchen which is stocked with meals ready to go out.  You, the customer, ask for a specific meal and the waiter goes off to get it – right?

A good waiter would:

  • Bring you exactly what you want.
  • They would bring you enough that would make you satisfied
  • They wouldn’t overfill you with random extras.
  • They would serve it to you on a plate that was clean & unbroken
  • They would try bring it to you from the best chefs that have a good reputation.


If you asked for beef steak with salad that would be what you’d expect.  You wouldn’t want to be served fish.  And if you did you might think twice before using that waiter again.


This is what I imagine Google is like.  It’s serving us up the best and most relevant content on the internet.

It wants to keep us happy and to provide us with the exact content that we require and it wants it to be from reliable sources with spam free websites.


Although we don’t always know exactly what Google likes and dislikes and what value is on everything, I think we can probably agree that providing the best content to its searchers is pretty high up there.


The different aspects of SEO

So with that in mind I want to go over the different parts of SEO that are often worked on.  As you can see there are a number of different things and this isn’t really an exhaustive list, but it gives you an idea of the aspects that are there.  I’ll aim to do a more thorough post about each section soon.


Website / Technical SEO

This is the plate that our content is served up on.

Google values:

  • well structured sites
  • secure sites (having an SSL certificate)
  • fast sites (they don’t want their users to have to wait ages for images to load)
  • and sites they can ‘read’ (Google crawls websites to get information about what is there)


Authority Building

This is where we look at the ‘reviews’ and calibre of the person that’s created the content

Google looks for:

  • sites where people show an authority and expertise in a subject
  • sites that have been linked to (it’s a crude way of showing that another site endorses you – even though it’s often misused it’s still a relevant aspect of SEO for now)


Content SEO

This is the meat and potatoes!  This is what the user came for right?  The content.  They want to know and be satisfied that their search query is answered and that’s where the content comes in.

Google looks for:

  • content that matches exactly or closely to the searcher’s intent – they use keywords and words that are similar to gauge what your content is about.
  • thorough content – it doesn’t have to be super long, but it should thoroughly cover the subject rather than thinly go over it.
  • images that are related

Often our content isn’t our website as a whole, but more often nowadays is a blog post or page on your site that helps answer a query.


Looking to learn more about how keywords work? – See my post here.



How SEO works is very complicated and there are a lot of moving parts.  This is one reason why I don’t like when people say something is ‘Good for SEO’ – it can be yes, but it can also be a small part in a giant machine!

So all of it combines and Google takes bits of each area to determine whether they will serve up your site or not.


What is SEO not?

So now that we’ve talked a bit about what SEO is and how it works, let’s quickly just go over some of the things that it isn’t.

SEO isn’t paid advertising

SEO isn’t the same as using keywords for PPC (pay per click) advertising like with Google Ads – that’s a completely different beast.  SEO is a method of gaining organic traffic.


SEO isn’t an exact science

I think I’ve shown above how many different ways SEO can be involved in your site and your content – the not so amazing part of it is that even if you think you have all the boxes ticked it doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll be there on page 1.  Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

And Google changes things all the time too.  It’s just the name of the game.


SEO isn’t a fast marketing technique

As well as not being an exact science it’s also not something that yields results fast.  It is something that can take time to get right and to bring in traffic from.  The good thing is that once you have content on your site it’s something that you can tweak and make better rather than having to constantly


SEO is more than just one keyword

It’s tempting to just set your site up and try and rank for just one keyword – example could be trying to rank for ‘business coach’.  But it’s so much more than that and there are so many more opportunities to be seen if you look more for the keywords in each blog post or article that you write.



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