What is SEO, and How does Search Engine Optimisation Work?

SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is the way to improve how search engines like Google understand and index a website and content to increase organic traffic.

Table of Contents

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimisation Defined

SEO stands for ‘Search Engine Optimisation’, which is how to get free or organic traffic to your website from search results in search engines, with the overwhelming and dominant player being Google. It ultimately aims to significantly improve the place in the search results where your content or website is ranked, which will drive more traffic to your website.

In simple plain English for a beginner, SEO involves the following high-level activities:

  1. Improving the technical aspects of your website
  2. Creating high-standard original content produced by a person for a person is then the most crucial thing.
  3. Working on On-Page SEO.
  4. The final stage would be the promotion or marketing of your content.

Initially, focus on those areas in which you have the most control.

What are the different types of SEO?

Generally SEO is divided into three distinct categories:

  1. On-page SEO
  2. Technical SEO
  3. Off-page SEO

On-Page SEO is the part of SEO devoted directly to a website and its posts that help create the ultimate user experience and improve its search rankings.

Technical SEO focuses on your website’s behind-the-scenes configuration and layout, enabling search engines to understand and navigate pages and content.

Off-page SEO refers to external activities away from the website that develop the brand, market content and draw traffic to improve search engine rankings.

On-Page SEO and Technical SEO are closely related as they both involve optimising the website and pages. Technical SEO deals with behind-the-scenes stuff or “under the hood”, so to speak. On-Page SEO focuses primarily on the content and user experience while defining elements such as keywords and metadata.

Google SEO - Laptop with Google Search screen
Photo: Firmbee.com @Unsplash

How do Search Engines Work?

How Search Engines Work Overview

To understand SEO, we must first understand how Search Engines work.

Search Engines work by

  1. Crawling,
  2. Indexing and
  3. Ranking.


Software known as crawlers builds the Search Index. We know these crawlers as bots, in Google’s case, Googlebots. They visit websites and follow the links on the pages, capturing and storing information about what they find on these pages. The bots often revisit websites to capture changes and new content.


Search Engines store hundreds of billions of web pages and other content in their databases called Search Indexes.

To understand these pages and posts, they classify numerous attributes.


When a search query happens, a Search Engine determines what pages and results it should provide and in what order. Search Engines determine a complex set of factors to rank and then deliver the most relevant and reliable information, including:

  • the keywords used in the query
  • the quality and relevance of content,
  • the expertise of the author, and
  • the location and language.

What are the top Search Engines?

Google is the largest Search Engine and the dominant player by the proverbial country mile, with 92% of the market.

Refer to the post “How Google Search Engine Works”.

The Search Engine market share worldwide as of May 2022 (reference: StatCounter):

  1. Google 92.48%
  2. Bing 3.08%
  3. Yahoo! 1.3%
  4. YANDEX 1.05% (Russia)
  5. Baidu 0.79% (China)
  6. DuckDuckGo 0.62%

When you consider devices, mobile searches now account for 54.86% of searches, while desktop falls to 42.65%. Mobile searches are now a critical factor in SEO.
In Mobile searches (reference: StatCounter), Google dominates even more:

  1. Google 95.91%
  2. YANDEX 0.94%
  3. Baidu 0.89%
  4. Yahoo! 0.74%
  5. Bing 0.5%
  6. DuckDuckGo 0.48%

Both Bing and YANDEX have bots that extensively crawl websites like Googlebots. Bing and YANDEX have functionality for SEO tools (plugins) to perform instant indexing with new posts and updates from WordPress websites.

On-Page SEO

What is On-Page SEO?

On-Page SEO is crucial to a new website owner and content creator. It is the one area of SEO over which you have the most control, and much of it is practically achievable. You can implement On-Page SEO immediately if your website is new or recent. However, fixing older websites with dated themes, add-ons, and plugins may not be achievable without a significant overhaul.

High-Quality Content

Create high-quality content by focusing on original content, not just copying existing content but adding value and conveying authority to the article.

  • Produce sufficient detailed content on your subject
  • Be topical and relate to the latest trends
  • Keep your content up to date

Use an SEO Plugin

Use an SEO plugin to help with ON-Page SEO, as it will identify and score many of the items and attributes to provide an On-Page SEO assessment. It can help with:

  • keywords
  • headings and URL.
  • links.

Identify and define Keywords.

Using Keywords is a significant part of On-Page SEO as they match your content to Google searches and their rankings. It is the specific marker that connects your content with user internet searches.

First, define your post’s purpose and specify a keyword or keywords. The post heading must contain the keyword, preferably near the front, and you should put it throughout the article.

Great Heading

Write your first cut Heading that describes what you intend to write. When you have finished writing your content, revisit your Heading and update it to reflect that it accurately describes the completed content. The Heading is critical in SEO and needs to match the top searches Google receives on that topic or group of words.

Meta Description

Define the Meta Description up front and revisit it later to improve the wording and confirm that it reflects the full content. The keywords must feature prominently in the meta description.

Well-structured Post with a Table of Contents

Table of Contents is beneficial for On-Page SEO as it creates a structure that helps the writing and the reader. It also assists the Search Engine in understanding the post structure. While WordPress does not include a Table of Contents, you can add it with a Table of Contents Plugin or some Gutenberg Blocks library plugin.

Can’t access a URL – Redirections

If you change a URL as you work on On-Page SEO, the old links will no longer be accessible, resulting in a 404-page error – Page not found. Broken links are unacceptable for On-Page SEO, so you must set up redirections for any of these pages until the new URL is indexed. SEO plugins provide this functionality and are very effective.

Use Images and Videos

Enhance your content using different media, including images and embedded videos. Describe them in the alt text for accessibility and to enable search crawlers to know what they are. Google’s search results display media images and videos, providing further options to get included in search results.

Content Readability

Content readability is enhanced using brief paragraphs, bullets, and lists wherever possible. Ensure plenty of white spaces on the page with easily readable fonts, good font size, and adequate accessibility. Check for spelling and grammar errors with Grammar checking software.

Technical SEO

What does Technical SEO involve?

Technical SEO includes the following tasks:

  1. Website Structure or site architecture
    • URL structure
    • select a preferred domain
    • HTTP errors – 404 Redirections
    • Implement SSL – HTTPS protocol
  2. Crawlability and Indexing
    • XML sitemap
    • Robot.txt
    • Meta robot tags: noindex or nofollow a post or page or link.
    • Indexability
  3. Page Speed
    • Core Web vitals
      • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
      • First Input Delay (FID)
      • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
    • Resolve identified Core Web vitals issues
  4. Optimise Images
  5. Mobile responsiveness and friendly

Website Structure or Site architecture

In technical SEO, the website structure or architecture defines how the website pages are organised and linked. It enables Search Engine Crawlers to navigate and understand the website. It also improves the User experience of the website.

URL structure

The URL structure should be short and descriptive though don’t allow WordPress to default to Month, Day and name. Only the post name should follow the website URL, and edit the slug to keep the words short.

Select a preferred domain.

The preferred domain feature lets you decide whether to use the www version “https://www.mysite.com” or the non-www version “https://mysite.com” should be crawled and indexed.

HTTP errors – 404 Redirections

Over time or when you apply changes to your website, some links will no longer be accessible, resulting in a 404-page error – Page not found. Broken links are unacceptable for SEO, so you must set up redirections for any of these pages until the new URL is indexed. SEO plugins provide this functionality and are very effective.

Implement SSL – HTTPS protocol.

The website must be secure with an SSL certificate, and this is an identified ranking requirement of Google. SSL is recognisable by an “https://” instead of “http://” and a lock symbol, and it ensures that information shared between your website and the server is encrypted.

Crawlability and Indexing

Googlebots will need to crawl your website so that it can index it. The process occurs at the convenience of Google. Search in Google to see if it recognises your site’s name. Your website has a robots.txt file that provides limited instructions to a crawler.

For Crawlability and Indexing to be successful help Google understand your website and its content you should:

  • Use accurate and descriptive titles
  • Ensure all content is readable as text
  • Update images that need descriptions
  • Any headings in a picture

Google Search Console can provide issues or list feedback on your website based on the crawl results.

XML sitemap

Create an XML sitemap that lists your website’s pages, posts and categories. The sitemap is a roadmap to Google and other search engines navigating and trying to understand your website. It is also an excellent tool for identifying any irregularity in pages and posts.

Upload a sitemap of your website to Google Search Console. An SEO plugin can automatically create a sitemap at yoursitesname.com/sitemap_index.xml.


The robots.txt file is the first file a Google crawler looks for on your website. The robots.txt file is the first file a Google crawler looks for on your website. It provides instructions with disallowing and allowing rules on how Bots should conduct themselves on the website.

Robots Meta tag

Robots Meta tag is a line of code in the header providing specific directives to Bots on whether to crawl and index a page. These tags can instruct to “noindex” or “nofollow” a post, page, or link.


To check indexability, you must confirm whether Google has indexed each page and post. Use Google Search Console to review what pages were indexed and find out why any weren’t.

Page Speed

Page loading speed is now a ranking factor for Google and an essential component of Technical SEO.

The primary factors that define the speed at which a website like WordPress will load are:

  • Host Provider’s Server speed
  • type of WordPress theme
  • bulky Page builders and plugins
  • additional customisations and code
  • age of the website

Core Web Vitals defines how Google measures web page speeds.

Core Web vitals

Core Web vitals are performance metrics measuring the speed a web page loads. There are three elements involved:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
  2. First Input Delay (FID)
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures how quickly the most prominent components on your page load.

First Input Delay (FID) measures the time between the user’s first interaction with a website and the browser’s response to that request.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures the user experience of any unexpected shift of page content as the page loads.

Online tools like GTmetrix and Google PageSpeed Insights test web page speeds and display scores for Core Web vitals. All issues on the webpage that impact these results are listed. You should take corrective action to resolve these and improve the scores.

  • Check if your website loads quickly.


PageSpeed Insights is a free Google developers’ analytical tool.

Optimise Images

The size of images is one of the most common errors in the Core Web Vitals measurement, Largest Contentful Paint (LCP). Any images identified should be reduced in size or compressed.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) can result when browsers struggle to correctly display or position specific images. The cause can be undefined height and width attributes or problematic aspect ratios.

Mobile Responsive and Friendly

Mobile-friendliness is a ranking factor and critical to Technical SEO. Mobile searches now exceed desktop, so this significantly impacts indexing. Test the website’s Mobile friendliness using Google’s Mobile-friendly test tool. A suitable recent WordPress Theme should handle mobile responsiveness.

You can run some basic preliminary tests yourself using free online tools to:

  • Check if your website is mobile-friendly.


Mobile-friendly Test is a free Google tool belonging to Search Console. Enter your website URL.

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO is the most difficult and demanding part of SEO, and it is where you have the least control. It is also the most controversial and has given rise to a vast, lucrative SEO industry focused on this area of Off-page SEO. There is also a tendency in various websites and agencies dealing with SEO to narrow Off-page SEO down to one topic – Backlinks. It is no longer that clear or straightforward.

Off-page SEO involves the following activities:

  • Brand Building
  • Content Marketing
  • Social Media Engagement
  • Develop Inbound Traffic Sources

We conduct all of these activities with the ultimate aim of building traffic to our website.

Photo: Alex Dudar @Unsplash

Do not make these Mistakes

When you start with SEO, the initial focus should be improving the user experience and creating high-quality content rather than diverting effort into forcing better rankings.

Write content for people.

You should avoid:

  • Automatically generated content
  • Taking part in link schemes
  • Producing posts with no original content
  • Include hidden text or links
  • Taking part in affiliate programs without adding value
  • Use unrelated keywords
  • Engage in malicious behaviour, such as phishing, spamming or malware.

Google has penalties for sites that violate its quality guidelines

Frequently Asked Questions:

Does Word Count Matter for Google SEO?

Should you write long articles with a large word count? Many SEO articles and most SEO plugins say Yes.
However, Google does not have a word count amount you need to have. So No.

John Mueller said on Twitter: Word count is not indicative of quality.

  • Some pages have a lot of words that say nothing.
  • Some pages have very few words that are very important & relevant to queries.

In Google Search Central, under Creating helpful, reliable, people-first content – it says:

“Are you writing to a particular word count because you heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? No, we don’t.”

Some sites have shown that top-ranking articles in searches often have a large word count. So it would be about matching the depth of the content of the competing articles rather than meeting a requirement of Google.

Most SEO articles out there say Yes.

Google has said No. They do not recommend guest posts to earn backlinks.

Matt Cutts: “If you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links – you should probably stop. Why? Because over time, it’s become a more and more spammy practice.”

Is Domain Authority important?

Domain Authority is a terminology created by Moz. It is not from Google. It is a tool by Moz to try and calculate what authority Google might assign to a website and then apply it to its search results.


  1. Featured Image: Dartboard. Afif Ramdhasuma @Unsplash

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