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What Is SEO And How Does It Work?

Hey, so you made it to section one of my How To Rank On Google Guide!


Throughout this chapter, you will learn what SEO is, and what you need to do to get started on the right foot. 

Since there is so much information available regarding SEO, you must begin with the basics and learn the correct approaches and techniques that will lead you to success!

I, too, was once (many many moons ago) clueless about the fundamentals of search engine optimisation.

Heck, I didn’t even know what SEO meant…

So, what exactly is search engine optimisation (SEO)?

Well, keep on reading to learn everything you need to know.

Table of Contents

What Exactly Is SEO?

As mentioned above, SEO is the acronym for search engine optimisation.

It is a process that involves different steps and techniques to rank a website at the top of Google. Whether you own a blog, a local business, or e-commerce, you need SEO if you want to stand out.

When your website ranks higher, it gets more traffic, which can then lead to more sales. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

However, getting started with SEO can be confusing and overwhelming, especially with so much conflicting information available.

Not only that, but SEO is always evolving. Google releases updates on a regular basis, which means marketers must test new ways to outsmart the big G!

Getting more eyes on your website and convincing Google that your website is worth sending visitors to is a battle you will have to fight throughout your search engine optimisation journey.


The Most Commonly Asked SEO Questions 

There are a few questions that are frequently asked by those who are new to the SEO world, and I believe it is necessary to address them all.


Is Search Engine Optimisation Dead?

You will be happy to know that SEO is still alive and well.

Even though SEO is continuously evolving and new strategies are required, marketers and business owners will always need to optimise their websites for these to appear at the top of search engine results.

The key to success is accepting change, and that you must adapt and tweak your strategies to stay ahead of the competition.


What Are The Most Important Aspects of SEO?

This is a hard question to answer because when it comes to SEO, things sort of complement one another.

For instance, some people are really obsessed with building backlinks. 

Are links important? – Yes, they are. 

But will backlinks work if a website lacks content? – Hardly…

Is it better to write a 3000 words blog post rather than a 500 words long blog post? – Usually, yes.

Will the 3000 words long post rank without proper keyword optimisation? – No, keyword research and optimisation is just as important as content length.

As you can see, there aren’t specific factors that are more important than others when it comes to SEO. It is all about the overall combined strategy. 


How Long Will I Have to Wait for SEO to Produce Results?

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to predict this.

You can get a rough idea by looking at the competition, but the truth is that we marketers cannot control Google (boo).

We can, however, experiment with our strategies and adapt based on niche and competition.

SEO can take weeks or months. That’s when being patient comes in handy!


On-Page SEO vs Off-Page SEO – How Do They Differ from One Another?

In simple words:

On-page SEO refers to all of those actions you perform on your website, for example, content creation, website speed optimisation, and so on.

Off-page SEO refers to those actions that happen away from your website, for example, press releases, social signals, niche edits, and so on.


Is It Safe to Buy Links?

Like with anything, you will find good places to buy links from and bad places to buy links from.

Some argue that you should not be buying links at all and that your website will naturally gain backlinks as time goes on.

Yes, that may as well happen. But you will have to wait a long time for that, especially if you are fighting in a very competitive niche.


SEO Basics Everyone Should Be Aware of

Although I previously mentioned that there aren’t specific stand-alone factors that are more important than others, there are some SEO basics that you should definitely incorporate as part of your strategy.

Please bear in mind that SEO constantly evolves, so always make sure you keep up with what is working at the time.


Write Relevant and Optimised Content

Content should be well-researched, keyword optimised, interlinked, and include the appropriate headers, among other things, to be effective.

Having high-quality and well-optimised content is critical for sending the right signals to Google and establishing your website as an authority in your chosen niche.

Furthermore, creating high-quality content is essential for naturally gaining backlinks over time.

But how do you go about creating great content? Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Conduct keyword research and include these in your content along with relevant secondary keywords based on user search intent. This approach will help Google understand how relevant your content is. 
  • Add keywords in your headers, alt attributes, meta descriptions, and URLs.
  • Don’t just crank out a 3000 words article for the sake of it. Write content that focuses on relevance rather than length. 


When sprinkling keywords throughout your content, make sure that you do not overdo it (keyword stuffing) and that you place keywords are placed in a natural way.

Always write content by making readers your top priority, rather than writing to please Google crawlers. 


The Importance of Metadata 

Metadata is the information displayed to users when your content appears in search results.

Results will include a meta title and a meta description.

In addition to creating metadata that encourages users to click on your result, it is critical to optimise your metadata so that Google understands what your content is about.

Here is how to effectively optimise metadata:

  • Add relevant keywords and variations of your main keyword both in the title and description.
  • Aim for 160 characters or less in your meta description. Google does not display more than 160 characters in the search result.
  • Write a meta title and meta description in a way that entices users to click on your content. 


How Important Are Links?

For many years, links have been a key component of search engine optimisation.

When a website receives a backlink, Google considers it to be a “vote” in favour of the website in question. Backlinks signal Google that your content is both useful and related to the website from which the link was received.

Back in the days, when Google was not as clever as it is now, you could send tons of spammy links to your website, and easily rank without being penalised.

Nowadays, obtaining high-quality and relevant backlinks is critical for SEO success.

In conclusion, links are a vital aspect of SEO, as long as they are of good quality and highly relevant.


The Importance of User Experience 

When it comes to ranking in Google, a great user experience is crucial.

Numerous aspects contribute to a positive user experience, ranging from website layout to content.

Follow these recommended practices to improve the user experience:

  • Improve your website and content layout to make it easier for users to navigate. Minor changes can have a significant impact on your website’s click-through rate and bounce rate. These matrixes will signal Google that your website provides a positive user experience.
  • Make sure your site loads in under 2 seconds. If your website is overly slow, users are more inclined to leave early. There are several things you can do to increase speed, including improving code structure and compressing images. To gain an understanding of how your site is performing, use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.


Mobile Devices Take Priority

Since 2018, Google has been prioritising mobile indexing over desktop indexing. Thus, Google will rank your site based on the mobile version of your web pages.

This is understandable since the majority of us these days search the internet using our mobile phones.

But how do you ensure that your content is optimised for mobile devices?

What you need to do is create a website that is consistent across all devices. This can be achieved by adopting a responsive web design approach.

Your website should load quickly on mobile devices and should provide users with a positive user experience.


The Future of Voice Search

Voice-activated search is currently used by over 3 billion individuals, making voice search optimisation a crucial SEO step.

As people get too busy to type, voice search will become more prominent, so keep voice search in mind while optimising your site.

Here are some of the things you can do to implement voice search optimisation:

  • Write content in a natural manner and respond to users’ questions
  • Optimise your content so that it shows up as a featured snippet
  • Incorporate an FAQ page


Staying on Top of The SEO Game

Above we covered some technical aspects of SEO. However, I’d like to point out a few factors that will ultimately assist you in staying on top of the SEO game.


Beware of Shady Techniques

SEO comes in various shapes and forms, ranging from black hat to grey hat to white hat.

Black hat SEO refers to the use of techniques that violate Google’s guidelines. Cloaking, keyword stuffing, hidden text, and misleading redirects are all examples of black hat SEO techniques.

Grey hat SEO refers to the use of techniques that are a combination of white hat and black hat. For example, using PBNs, purchasing expired domains, building web 2.0s, and many other strategies.

White hat SEO entails using only ethical techniques that are compliant with search engine guidelines. For example, creating high-quality content, developing a responsive website, increasing site speed, and so on.

The use of white hat techniques is, without a doubt, the most secure approach.

However, some grey hat techniques may come in handy, especially when dealing with highly competitive niches.

Whatever strategies you decide to use, you must ensure that you implement them the right way.

For example, if you are buying links, make sure that you purchase them from reputable sellers. Buying cheap, crappy links may end up damaging your site’s reputation!


Learn from Real SEO Experts

There are a plethora of self-proclaimed gurus who, in reality, have no idea what they are talking about.

Some are just out there to sell you their course and make money off of you, without actually having the skills to teach you how to do SEO effectively. 

It is important that you not only learn SEO from actual experts but that you also test and implement the strategies you learn. Then take those strategies and refine them based on what works for you.

Not every website will rank using the same techniques!


Never Stop Testing!

As previously stated, SEO is all about learning the proper techniques and then fine-tuning them based on what works best for you.

Testing is the only way to know if you’re on the right track, and it’s ultimately the key to successful SEO implementation.



SEO is constantly evolving, so what works now may not work in a year or two.

You can learn as many SEO tactics as you want, but at the end of the day, you need to figure out what works best for you and your website.

Check what your competitors are doing, as this will give you an idea of what you could do to replicate their success.

And finally, never stop testing! That is what will ultimately help you win the SEO game.

SEO & Web Design

About Scott Latham

For over 15 years, I have been building and implementing WordPress web design and SEO, having worked with some of the largest companies across a range of industries to see their business growth to the next level.

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