What is SEO and how does it work

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of attracting and improving the quality of traffic to a website from the organic results on the first page of various search engines.

SEO is much more than just appearing first in search results.

While the term refers to search engines as the target of strategies, SEO is fundamentally about understanding how people use search tools: the words they use, the type of content they want to see, and how they create and evolve their interests over time, beyond just automated robots, crawlers, and processes used by search engines.

Common tasks associated with SEO services include creating high-quality content, optimizing existing content around specific keywords related to certain topics, and building backlinks.

To attract the right audience, it’s crucial to segment properly and define customer archetypes. However, designing an effective website is the first step.

The SEO process can be divided into two major groups of tasks: those done within a website to optimize its content (on-page) and those performed outside to attract users (off-page).

On-Page SEO

This involves optimizing elements of a website over which you have control and can make changes. These are generally the elements within the site itself, and these optimizations aim to help Google better understand the page, offering more chances to rank higher and gain more organic traffic from any search engine.

Tasks in this stage include publishing high-quality content, optimizing titles and meta-descriptions, unifying formats of headings and content, among others.

It’s important to note that on-page SEO is an ongoing marketing activity. It’s not something you do once and forget. You must constantly develop and publish content on your site and optimize it. Without content creation, positioning is almost impossible unless you’re very strong in off-page SEO.

Off-Page SEO

This improves a website’s position by increasing its authority through actions not directly related to content optimization. Instead, it involves building a network of links that boost the site’s position through external actions (external links leading to the site’s content) and increase the flow of visitors month after month.

Tasks in this stage include social media marketing, influencer marketing, guest blogging and guest posting, backlinking.

How does a search engine work

When someone conducts a search on Google or any search engine, an algorithm operates in real-time to bring what it considers the “best” result. This algorithm assesses a multitude of factors to determine the most relevant and useful information for the user’s query. This process involves complex analysis and ranking mechanisms, designed to provide the most accurate and helpful results possible.

How Google Determines the “Best” Result

Due to numerous factors, it’s not possible to know exactly how the algorithm works. Even Google itself can’t fully explain some of its behaviors. However, through experience and extensive study, we can understand what it prefers when searching its indexes.

1. Relevance

Google evaluates the content of thousands of websites, searching for what most closely relates to the keywords used in a specific search. Thus, it ranks pages with more relevant content higher in relation to that search.

2. Authority

This refers to how Google determines if the content is accurate and trustworthy. The algorithm focuses on the number of internal and external links a page has (backlinks). In other words, the more external links that point to a particular piece of content, the higher “authority” it has in Google’s eyes.

3. Usability (Structure)

Google clearly distinguishes between high-quality content and “usable” content. The usability of content is determined by how it is organized within the website (site architecture) and how easy it is for users to access it, in addition to being logical and coherent.

Thus, it’s not enough to have a lot of relevant information on a website. It is crucial to organize it considering the audience you want to reach and the goals of your digital marketing strategy.

Google rates usability by measuring each user’s experience on the site and how people interact with search results.

How Does SEO Work

SEO acts as a tool to optimize a website, making it easier to find for Google, Bing, Amazon, YouTube, or any other search engine. How? By generating high-quality content. Search engines consider the authority of the content, its relevance, loading speed, and much more.

For example, Google has over 200 ranking factors in its algorithm.

Here are some of them.

Top 10 Google Ranking Factors

  1. Site and Page Speed

Nobody likes a slow-loading page, and neither does Google. A key component of SEO is ensuring that a website loads quickly and offers smooth navigation.

  1. Mobile Usability

When Google searches its indexes, it uses a mobile-first filter, prioritizing sites with a mobile version, as the algorithm evaluates each page on this basis. Nowadays, if a website does not have a mobile version, Google might not easily find it.

  1. Strategic Keyword Selection

A keyword is a key word or phrase that a user employs during an internet search, and choosing the right keywords is a fundamental axis of any SEO strategy. Before generating content, it’s necessary to define them, using the marketing strategy goals as a reference.

There are two types of keywords: product and informational. Product keywords refer to those used for searching something specific, while informational keywords are used when people are not looking to buy something specific but are conducting related searches. In SEO, content is optimized based on these two types of words.

  1. Header Tags and Titles

Choosing the right keywords isn’t enough; you need to know how to use them in the right places, like in titles and header tags. Google uses this information to learn about the site and index it correctly.

  1. Content for SEO

As we can see, SEO is closely related to content creation and its strategic management within and outside a website (on-page and off-page SEO). Generally, the better the content of a site, the better its position in the search results pages, and although this relationship is not as simple as it seems, it is fundamental for achieving the highest spots in organic search results.

High-Quality Content

Internet users are increasingly demanding, necessitating better and more personalized content for the target audience. Over time, content begins to lose value, and search trends change, so it’s necessary to refresh and fine-tune content while continuously generating new ones. Google also rates sites based on the currency of their information.

  1. Link Building

This strategy aims to improve a site’s visibility to Google by building a network of links that attract and generate traffic to chosen sites according to marketing objectives. This network can be internal or external.

Internal Links

These are links on a web page that lead to another page within the same site. The better this network is woven, the easier it is for search engines and users to find what they are looking for.

External Links or Backlinks

These are links that bring traffic from an external page to ours. For Google, the number and quality of links pointing to a page are strong indicators of a website’s quality. Implementing backlinks is a fundamental part of any off-page SEO strategy.

  1. URL Structure

The way a site’s URL is structured greatly impacts its web positioning. A strange, nonsensical URL structure with combined characters does not facilitate Google’s search within its indexes and will not be easily considered. Conversely, a URL with a simple, concise structure is a great SEO tool for the site.

  1. Image Alt-text

All images on a site have an alt-text or alternative text that serves several functions:

  • Makes the site more accessible to users with visual disabilities, as it facilitates image descriptions in screen readers.
  • If the image fails to load, the alternative text appears in its place.
  • Helps search engines understand the image for appropriate indexing.
  1. Meta Description

This is a short text in the HTML code of a web page. Although it does not appear within the page, it is in the text of the search results page. This text (meta description) tells Google what the page is about before the engine enters and crawls its content. It should align with the main keywords you aim to rank for.

  1. Social Signals

Social signals refer to the collective likes, shares, and overall visibility that web content receives across various social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. Essentially, they are human interactions with your content on social media.

Why are Social Signals Important?

  • Indicators of Content Quality: A high level of engagement (likes, shares, comments) often indicates that the content is resonating with the audience, implying quality and relevance.
  • Increased Web Traffic: Popular content on social media can drive significant traffic to your website. This traffic is not only beneficial for direct engagement but also contributes positively to your site’s SEO performance.
  • Improved Brand Visibility and Authority: Regular, positive engagement on social media platforms enhances your brand’s visibility. Over time, this can build your brand’s authority and trustworthiness, which are important factors for Google’s ranking algorithms.
  • Enhanced Content Lifespan: Content shared on social media can see a prolonged life, with potential for virality, thus ensuring it remains relevant and visible for longer periods.
  • Backlink Potential: Popular social media content often attracts backlinks from various websites. These backlinks, especially from reputable sites, are crucial for improving a site’s SEO.

Juan Esteban Yepes

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