How Does Search Engine Optimization Work

How Does Search Engine Optimization Work

April 19, 2021

The goal of SEO or search engine optimization is to help make your website more visible on search engines like Google for keywords related to your niche or business. It encompasses multiple different skill sets from writing, data analyzing, research, UX design, web development, and more. These skill sets are brought together to make your website more attractive to search engines and potential users through increasing your organic rank within a given keywords search results. 

In order to know how SEO works, we must first understand how search engines work. This blog will detail how search engines work in the context of improving your website to increase organic ranking.

3 Primary Functions of Search Engines

Crawl. Scan the entire internet for content. Also looks at the code for every URL found. Crawling is what happens when search engines send out a team of robots called spiders to find new and updated content. Content varies, it could be an image, video, or a blog article. Either way, content is discovered by links.

Index. Store and organize everything found during the crawl. Once in the index, a page has a chance to be displayed as an organic result on search engine results pages (SERPs). The Index is a database where URLs are stored. This is a good place to be because it means those URLs were deemed good enough to serve to users.

Rank. Display the best content that will  “best“ answer a users query. Ordered from most relevant to least relevant. Ranking is where your URL shows up when users search. There are 100 positions available, divided into 10 pages. That’s why you don’t see more than 10 pages whenever you’re on search results. Go ahead, try it.

Everybody Do The Crawl!

In order for your website to even be considered for ranking, it has to be able to be crawled by search engines like Google. The more crawlable your website is, the better the chances of your website being indexed and ranked. So what can make crawling difficult for your website. There a handful of crawling issues a website could face such as:

  • Issues with Meta Tags or Robots.txt
  • Broken links
  • Server challenges
  • Lack of proper site mapping
  • Mistakes with site architecture (load speed, redirect, etc..)
  • Outdated web technology
  • Lack of mobile friendliness

During our SEO audits, we do a deeper discovery of all the hurdles your site is facing during the crawling, indexing, and ranking process

Getting Indexed

The simplest method of getting a page indexed is to do absolutely nothing. As mentioned, getting indexed is the direct result of your website being crawlable by Google.Indexing is the process of getting your sites content entered into Google. But just because your site can be crawled, doesn’t mean it will be stored in the index. Pages are also sometimes removed from the index. Those reasons could be:

  • The URL is returning a not found error (4xx) or a server error (500). This could be by mistake like if you changed the URL and didn’t put a 301 redirect in place.
  • URL had a ‘noindex’ meta tag on it. This is a tag site owners add instructing search engines to omit the page out of the index. It can sometimes happen accidentally by developers who are not conscious of  SEO best practices. That said, Google can choose to ignore these directives and crawl the page anyway. It’s up to them to adhere.
  • URL has been manually penalized for violating the search engines guidelines and, as a result, was removed from the index.

If you think you’ve had a link that previously showed up on Google but now no longer comes up, you can use the URL inspection tool to learn more.

Laughing Straight To The Rank

How do search engines ensure that when someone types a query into the search bar, they get relevant results in return? That process is known as ranking, or the ordering of search results by most relevant to least relevant to a particular query. This relevancy is based on a set of rules or philosophies used to determine who's worthy and who’s not. The royalty among these various websites Google crawls are those throning the 1st page.

To determine relevance, search engines use algorithms, a process or formula by which stored information is retrieved and ordered in a meaningful way. Google makes algorithm updates everyday. Some minor, some major such as core algorithm updates used to address specific issues, like Penguin to attack link spam.

These “ranking factors” determine what pages go on search results pages 1-10. So what do search engines actually look for? Well there are, speculatively, over 200 ranking factors in Google’s algorithm but they fit 6 categories. I say speculative because the true contents of the algorithm is a fortified secret not even the CEO knows. 

To summarize, here are the most important Google ranking factors in 2021:

  • Referring domains
  • Organic click-through-rate
  • Domain authority
  • Mobile usability
  • Dwell time
  • Backlinks
  • Content quality
  • On-page SEO


To summarize, SEO is the process of improving your website’s performance through every step of the search engine process. Just remember to focus on:

  • Making your website easy to crawl so that it may be indexed.
  • Stacking as many ranking factors in your favor as possible.

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