The internet is filled with a great many things; information and e-commerce, advertising and entertainment, all of which are right at our fingertips. But how do you find the things you’re looking for? You “Google” it sure, but how does it work exactly? Here we take a look behind the curtain of how search engines work and how SEO can benefit your business.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

As a digital marketer, knowing how to get your brand, website, or company found by searchers is a core skill, and understanding how SEO is evolving will keep you at the top of your game. However, while SEO changes frequently in small ways, its key principles do not. We can break SEO into three components:


Technical Optimization

The process of completing activities on your site that are designed to improve SEO but are not related to content. It often happens behind the scenes. 

On-Page Optimization

The process of ensuring the content on your site is relevant and provides a great user experience. It includes targeting the right keywords within your content and can be done through a content management system. Common examples of content management systems include WordPress, Wix, Drupal, Joomla, Magento, Shopify, and Expression Engine.

Off-Page Optimization

The process of enhancing your site’s search engine rankings through activities outside of the site. This is largely driven by backlinks, which help to build the site’s reputation.


What Happens While Searching?

Search engine algorithms are computer programs that look for clues to give the searcher the exact results they are looking for. Search engines rely on algorithms to find web pages and decide which ones to rank for any given keyword. There are three steps to how search engines work:

1. Crawling 

This refers to a search engine’s ability to send out “crawlers” to discover new pages based on the website’s themes and topics. They also check previously discovered pages to see if there have been any updates or changes made.


2. Indexing 

When the crawlers have concluded their search, they will index a website based on its evaluation. This registration will then store the website within its database, linking it to certain topics. A web page may not be indexed if:

  • it’s not mobile-friendly
  • its content is considered duplicate
  • its content is considered low value or spammy
  • it couldn’t be crawled
  • the page or domain lacked inbound links

3. Ranking 

After a website has been crawled and indexed, it can be ranked. For any given keyword, search engines sort or rank the results to give the searcher the most useful and relevant results they can find. There are more than 200 ranking signals that search engines use to sort and rank content, and they all fit under the three pillars of SEO: technical optimization, on-page optimization, and off-page optimization. Some examples of signals that search engines use to rank web pages are keyword presence in the title tag, the loading speed of the web page, and website reputation.