SEO, search engine optimization, like the internet can be a hard concept to wrap your mind around.  It’s all so intangible.  It used to be that all you had to do was put in a few keywords and your site would pop up at the top of search engine listings.  Things seemed pretty black and white. Then with each new release of Google’s search algorithm the ease of ability to capture that top spot has become less black and white and trending towards grey.   When an individual searches a topic or question, a search engine has the ability to gather relevant information to provide to the searcher. To guarantee your website and search engine are able to work in harmony, think of how SEO works as having four big success factors.

How SEO Works - 2017 SEO Ranking Factors from Search Metrics

Infographic courtesy of Search Metrics depicts 2016 SEO ranking factors.

How SEO Works Success Factor #1: On the Page

On the Page ranking factors refer to content within your website. This includes the content you publish on your blog and pages and the way you format that information using HTML coding and clues to help search engines easily find and understand the content on your site.



Two grey areas Google weighs heavily is quality content and site design.  How can a search engine possibly tell if your content is good or your site is beautiful.   The content on your pages must be original.  Google will know if you copy and paste it from another site.  If you do so your site may be blacklisted and cease to show up on search results all together.

GoogleBot sees what users see and judges your site quality using similar criteria.  Your site should be well designed, offering a quality experience to both mobile and desktop viewers. Users must be able to easily navigate the site and find what they’re looking for.  In a recent article published by Search Engine Land warns website owners that Google may add mobile user experience to their ranking algorithm.  Search Engine Land explains that GoogleBot actually sees what real users see, it recognizes if the buttons large enough to click on, or the interface is confusing to mobile users.

The content not only need to be compelling it also needs to have an adequate length, contain keywords, link to other pages within the site, share images and of course contain relevant search terms.


Ever heard of the dummy curve?  Sometimes business owners are subject to the dummy curve, or rather not being in the dummy curve at all.  Business owners and experienced sales staff know their products so intimately sometimes they’re out of touch with how their audience is searching for their product or service.   Do your research to find the best fit words for your website so that when your viewer does his or her research, your website will have the opportunity to show up in listings.

How SEO works is those magical keywords must then be included in the content of your website.  Listed in title and sub title tags, meta tags and throughout the body of the text.  When including keywords in the body of your text they must flow with the content and seem conversational.  Keyword stuffing, or jamming keywords in places they don’t belong just to get more in the page, is another offence frowned upon by Google.


The ways your website is physically coded can impact the ranking of your site.  When search engines view your site they look for key elements to tell them the content within each page. Proper coding and markup allow the search engines to easily scan and catalog the presented information.   There are many factors weighing into this equation:

  • Not using tables as a layout tool
  • Properly formatting text using heading tags
  • Using alt tags on images
  • Linking appropriately from one topic to another within your site
  • SEO friendly page URLs and more
  • Fast loading pages
  • Video integration
  • Using keywords in the meta description and title

Moz.com does a great job of explaining how SEO works on a page with good SEO appeal in their article On Page Factors.  According to Search Metrics recent study many of these factors are trending downward, becoming less important for good SEO rankings.  However using the Keyword in the title of the page, integrating video, fast loading pages, formatting pages with H tags and placing the keyword in the title are still as important as ever, possibly becoming more important as search engines continue tweaking algorithms.

How SEO Works Success Factor #2: User Signals


Think of engagement as building rapport with Google.  If your users like your site, Google will too.  Google looks at how long visitors stay on your site, the number of pages visited, return visitors and the frequency of those return visitors.  According to Search Metrics recent study click-through rate is now one of the biggest factors influencing on SEO,  bounce rate and time on site also make an impact on the equation.

For example, pretend your website is your house.  An acquaintance might visit your house one time entering only the public rooms of your house, not staying long, perhaps just for dinner, then leave.  When family visits your house they feel more comfortable, entering most areas of your house (stay out of the laundry room though, it’s a bottomless pit) and spending more time in each of those rooms.  Google wants your website visitors to treat your website like family treats your house, come in, stay as long as you want, make yourself at home.  More Family = More Engagement.  That’s not to say that acquaintances are bad,  just that we need to treat them like family and make sure we them feel comfortable and give them a reason to come back and visit.

How SEO Works Success Factor #3: Backlinks

Backlinks are considered an off page SEO factor.  Consider each link leading into your website as another road visitors can travel down to find your content.  The web is just that a big web.  A spider’s web connects at many points all eventually connecting at the web’s center.  All the pages linking to your website are like the points on the spider’s web, your site is at the center.  The more connection points the spider puts in his web the stronger it becomes.  The same is true of your website, the more links you have to your content the stronger your chances are of good SEO rankings.

As with everything else backlinks have many compartments that influence site ranking.  The number of links, how they’re formatted, the site type and quality from which they link are all backlink quality factors.

How SEO Works Success Factor #4: Social

Like backlinks social is a way to lead visitors into your website.  It’s also a way to help build your site’s credibility in the eyes of search engines.  Well shared content can boost SEO. This works a bit like karma, you create quality content that people like and then people tweet, pin, comment, like, share and link to the content.  Search engines see that your audience values your content and raises your site in rankings to share the content with more viewers.

The size of your social network also impacts how SEO works.  The size of your Facebook, Google +, and Twitter followings can weigh into the ranking of your site.

Social’s impact on SEO feels a lot like the contest for high school homecoming queen: the more friends you have the more likely you are to be voted in.  The idea of a popularity contest isn’t always appealing.  However, if you create great content your audience loves and share it like your crown depends on it your following will develop over time.  And you’ll know you’ve won your crown not because you’re pretty but because you’re perceptive, helpful and smart!

When Seeing Professional Help Go Whitehat

Good SEO providers use progressive whitehat techniques.  A good SEO provider will review the health of the site examining the critical SEO factors.  They’ll then create a plan to boost your SEO over time leveraging your current sites strengths to build momentum and fill in the gaps until your goal placement is reached. They’re on top of the changes in the search engine  and can propose solutions when past techniques no longer work.  Steer clear of providers who tell you they can get your site to #1 in days, as a rule this isn’t possible and if they do achieve these types of results they’re often doing so by tricking search engines using non-progressive blackhat techniques that can ultimately lead to search engines banning your site from their results all together.

More about the Author

Alternative Text

Monica Pitts

Monica is the creative force and founder of MayeCreate. She has a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with an emphasis in Economics, Education and Plant Science from the University of Missouri. Monica possesses a rare combination of design savvy and technological know-how. Her clients know this quite well. Her passion for making friends and helping businesses grow gives her the skills she needs to make sure that each client, or friend, gets the attention and service he or she deserves.

© MayeCreate Design 2021 | 573-447-1836 | [email protected] | 108 E Green Meadows Rd STE 9, Columbia, MO 65203