What is SEO and How it Works (Organic Search Rankings Guide)

You already know Google as the most popular search engine and use it regularly to find many things.

You also know the full form of SEO.

But how well do you really understand this full form of SEO?

And you also wonder how we get the search results i.e. the websites which you click then here is your guide.

If you want to understand what all goes into ranking websites in organic search results (and not the paid advertisements on search engines) then here is your complete guide.

What you actually need to know is what is SEO and how it works.

Let us uncover it all in front of you right now.

This is the answer which will unfold before you what goes behind the scene in the world of searches we make daily on search engines like Google.

What is SEO and How it Works (Organic Search Rankings Guide)

What is SEO and How SEO Works is Your Guide to Organic Search Rankings

The term SEO instantly brings the term ranking to our minds.

This is the prime reason why businesses look for the expertise for their websites.

Google ranking expert. This is what most businesses want.

Both these terms: SEO and Ranking; are like two ends of a long bridge or roadmap.

This bridge is what explains the details behind organic search rankings.

Understanding these details means understanding all about what is SEO and how it works.

And the best way to understand and start is to expand and learn about the full form of SEO. This full form holds all the secrets of behind the scene workings.

What holds the two ends of this bridge together?

What binds it all together and goes all way through from SEO to rankings?

It is optimization.

This is what defines and explains all about SEO.

SEO Full Form Explains What is SEO And How It Works

How do you learn about what is SEO and how does it work?

It is the full form that when explained properly tells us all about what SEO is and how does it work.

Because everything to understand about SEO is in the proper explanation of the full form and its meaning.

Summary is proper introduction to what is SEO and how it works.

What is the proper summary of SEO?

When you properly summarize what SEO is and how does website optimization for search engines work.

What is SEO and How SEO Works Explained in Full Form

SEO Definition

What is SEO? The full form of SEO is search engine optimization.

SEO is defined as the practice to help websites become visible to more and more search engine users or searchers and get clicks and traffic from search engines.

What Is SEO

Search engine optimization is the process that we follow to improve positioning and ranking of a website. This is the only way to help more and more searchers see it as one of the top search results.

It is all about optimizing websites for the useful queries on search engines.

And all that we do in this works collectively as a practice and a process.

This process covers techniques which help websites improve ranking in search results.

These techniques are also the steps which are also like suggestions, guidelines of search engines mainly Google which we follow.

These are the parameters which we need to abide by for correct optimization.

How SEO works therefore is based on how search engines of today’s world works.

Therefore understanding of search engine process and the various factors that help these search engines work properly is the key to understanding what SEO is how search engine optimization works actually.

What is SEO All About

What is SEO and how does SEO work?

SEO is all about optimization and to understand it properly it is important that you know how it works.

Optimization is more practical and dynamic which involves many factors and things. All these work together.

Therefore, how SEO works actually tells what SEO is in real terms.

What you are going to learn about here are the factors that influence how we optimize websites for search engines.

This is how you can learn SEO fast and is one of the best ways of learning about it practically.

Because you also understand how SEO works for a business.

And if you are a business then you will understand what SEO consultants do if you are looking to hire one for your website.

Knowing how optimization started and evolved builds the right perspective and frame of mind for learning.

This will make it easy to understand what we will cover next.

As we are going to discover various aspects about SEO and about how it works you need to start with a summary or overview.

Knowing what is SEO is actually understanding how search engine optimization works.

This means understanding how we get organic search engine presence and rankings step-by-step.

But it is much more than this.

SEO is and can be your beginners roadmap to digital marketing too.

Here is how to understand all that.

What is Optimization?

Optimization means to make something better.

Using a given resource in its best way to bring a more favourable outcome or result and to make something more useful is what optimization is.

Optimization by definition and essence means organic. It means a process of steps. And optimization is for a goal or purpose.

We can also understand optimization as a better way of using, presenting and structuring give resources to make them work better and be more productive.

What is Optimization in Search Engines and How It Works

Search engines present results for all types of queries. You may search for general information or for products and companies and you get search results which are links to websites and web pages.

There are two types of results.

Paid results and organic results.

Paid results show those websites which typically chose to advertise their products or offerings on search engines.

These website listings are shown as Ad (advertisement).

These Ads are shown separately from the organic results, on the very top and bottom of search engine result pages.

These advertising websites may or may not be indexed on search engines.

In a website does not need to get indexed to use PPC ads on Google or other search engines.

Now what if you do not want to pay to advertise your website on Google?

You take the organic route.

Search engines were, actually, created for people to search for information across the web.

These search engines developed and improved over the years.

From being a platform displaying a (more random) list of websites having a very narrow view of optimization which counted repetition of key words.

To having an elaborate system to check and ensure a user focused optimization of content and complete website.

What evolved was optimization actually.

The way search engines looked at the best ways to optimize websites for users progressed and expanded through the years.

This you can call as the evolution of SEO.

How using & repeating certain key words transformed into the complete practice of optimizing websites for searches using improved and intelligent ways to target keywords and users.

This is your organic route to search engines.

This organic route of optimization is the roadmap and the bridge from SEO to organic search rankings.

When someone wants to make a website visible within organic results they need to go through the optimization process.

Organic results are the websites that are indexed by search engines and are optimized as per certain criteria and parameters.

This optimization process is what is SEO.

In terms of a website optimization means and covers using the website as a whole and its resources which include what all a website consists of and make it look and perform better for organic searches on Google and other search engines.

Optimization aims to bring and create a better experience for the organic search engine results and users.

Optimization works as a set of techniques or steps.

This is how SEO works today.

So to understand what is SEO completely we need to understand how it works.

To understand how SEO works we look at the steps and techniques which we do.

These techniques are a set of practices that we follow today. These practices of optimization took shape along the growth of search engines, following their guidelines.

So to actually learn about SEO and its techniques we need to look at how search engines work today. This helps us understand why follow the techniques and steps.

Learning what is SEO and how it works is basically about the techniques, how they work, and how search engines work.

How SEO Works

How SEO Workings Evolved

SEO workings evolved. And from the very start the objective was always to rank in organic search.

In fact, when the search engines started it was only organic search. It was like a listing of websites that focused primarily on a particular term.

This term was the keyword and people who searched for that term could see list of websites that used that term more often than other websites.

This was the start of keyword usage and also a broad and unclear way to look at relevancy for a term or keyword.

At that time the other aspects of SEO mainly optimization and link building were not yet evolved. Or you can say these were missing.

SEO evolved as a practice and became what we know it today.

And now we are in 2023.

Along those years there were many algorithms and updates issued by Google, the largest search engines.

These algorithms are believed to have learnt from how people search, what they search for, what are they looking for, etc.

This we can understand as the input of how search is evolving.

The output is the guidelines to suggest websites and webmasters what they should focus more on.

The end result is how search engines work broadly.

And this in turn creates the roadmap of how SEO works and what all it is.

What is SEO and How it Works in Digital Marketing?

What is SEO and how does SEO work in digital marketing? This is how beginners should start understanding it.

As you all know that digital marketing is an umbrella term which consists of different channels.

The advancement of the era of the Internet and further developments of the web gave birth to digital marketing.

With the growth of Google use, the first social media site and the first clickable ad banner, all became part of digital marketing and gave shape to it.

So, SEO is one of the popular and most effective channels and technique of digital marketing.

Two Types of SEO in Digital Marketing

This is how beginners can easily understand what is SEO in digital marketing.

There are basically two major types of SEO we have in digital marketing.

On-Site SEO. And. Off-Site SEO.

What is On-Site SEO and How it Works in Digital Marketing

On-Site SEO is all about optimization. This covers all the steps and techniques that help optimize a website for search engines.

On-Site SEO covers these main techniques

  • Technical SEO Optimization
  • Keyword Research
  • Content
  • On Page SEO Optimization

What is Off-Site SEO and How it Works in Digital Marketing

Off-Site SEO is all about off-page SEO.

Off-Site SEO on the other hand is like promoting a well optimized website.

  • Off Page SEO Optimization
    • Link Building
    • Content Marketing/Promotion
    • Social Media Promotion
  • Off-Page SEO is mainly about link building and content marketing and social media are mainly used as sub techniques to acquire or earn backlinks to a website.

    How SEO Works in Digital Marketing

    SEO is a process of website optimization that we do in digital marketing to reach and connect with search engine users organically.

    The way SEO works in digital marketing is that it helps a business build regular online traffic to its website. A business can maintain this traffic and even make it grow with the help of a consultant or expert.

    What SEO actually gives a business is a proven and long term digital marketing strategy of getting free traffic.

    It helps a website target the largest source of online traffic in the world to get free clicks and visitors.

    This is what only SEO does.

    Search engines are the biggest platform from where most industries get their online traffic.

    What SEO does is help your website rank to get free organic traffic.

    This no other online technique gives in digital marketing.

    And this is what is SEO and how it works in digital marketing.

    How SEO is Used in Digital Marketing

    The way how is SEO used in digital marketing is when a business wants to get free traffic from search engines as one of the many or few online platforms and ways to do online marketing.

    SEO is used as an organic digital marketing technique.

    The primary use of SEO in digital marketing is to build organic presence, visibility and rankings on search engines.

    Within digital marketing SEO is the organic way of marketing on search engines which does not use any paid methods.

    Search engine optimization actually works as one of the two SEM channels. It also a part of organic digital marketing.

    Here it is also important to know what is SEM.

    SEM stands for search engine marketing which uses organic and paid methods to get online visibility and traffic from search engines.

    So SEO is used as the organic SEM strategy in digital marketing.

    To understand how SEO works organically now we need to look briefly at how search engines work organically.

    This is because SEO is based at how search engines work and search engine optimization follows the guidelines and the procedure to help websites rank and get traffic.

    How Does SEO Work on Google

    SEO Actually Works Organically: It Is Used to Get Free (SEO) Traffic And Not The Paid (PPC) Search Positioning

    Google and other search engines give results as search engine result pages or SERP.

    There are two types of results these search engines present, organic and paid results.

    These are the two ways we can build presence and visibility on search engines.

    These two ways are SEO and PPC.

    SEO is the organic way to build presence.

    PPC is the paid method to advertise your website in front of the searchers on the search engines.

    Both are part of SEM.

    Searching for a product, service or company you see sponsored ads right at the top of the SERP.

    These are called the PPC or pay-per-click ads.

    PPC helps you to list your website among the top few sponsored paid results.

    All you need to do is go to Google Planner and place your ads. Once you optimize your ad details and pay Google starts showing your ads.

    SEO, on the other hand, builds your visibility by ranking your website among other competing organic results or websites.

    Now let us understand how search engines work to rank and show organic results.

    How SEO Works Step by Step

    How Does SEO Work As a Step by Step Process?

    SEO works as the process of website optimization and link building to rank websites on search engines so that they can generate traffic.

    This process consists of techniques which cover different aspects of website optimization and link building.

    Here are the 5 essential techniques how search engine optimization works.

    • Technical SEO Optimization
    • Keyword Research
    • Content
    • On Page SEO Optimization
    • Off Page SEO Optimization

    These techniques define SEO as a process. This broadly gives you the steps you need to follow.

    This ensures that the website is best prepared to be presented for searchers.

    These techniques are how we do SEO. And this how search engine optimization of a website actually work.

    Technical SEO

    You have a website which has some objective. It could be a blog, a company website or an E-Commerce site offering products or services, or a general information website.

    You want people using search engines to see your website and read the content.

    The first thing you do is get your website on Google by following certain steps which are called as submitting website to Google.

    After this you follow the guidelines or steps to make your website technically optimized to appear on search engines.

    Keyword Research

    You start with finding out what all your target audience is searching for related to your content.

    People search using words, terms or phrases. These are the keywords which if you target then you target and reach those searchers.

    What you need to do first is find as many of such keywords to target relevant and interested audience on search engines.

    This is called Keyword Research.


    Information is content. Websites and its pages present information though content. And it is the information that searchers are looking for.

    You need to write about what you want to offer. Whether it is a blog or a product you need content. Searchers will be reading this content when they visit your site.

    You need to cover your keywords with right and proper content.

    Content is therefore the King.

    You write content for your website and its pages.

    On Page Optimization

    After this you need to tell Google and also let the users know that you are talking about what they are searching for.

    On Page Optimization is a way to present & say the right things at the right places. Optimization helps searchers to see the appropriate keywords you are using. This way they know what your page is talking about, and help them decide.

    Optimization also allows a website to help or say to Google that your page is about such and such topic.

    What you see in search results for each website is properly optimized & targeted key phrases at the right places. These places are optimization techniques and the most important ones are:

    • The Title of the page
    • Main header of the page
    • URL of the page
    • Brief (Meta) Description about the page

    Off Page Optimization

    Now you need to give your website some authority & power to make it rank.

    This is how you secure votes of marketing, popularity and confidence to show Google that your website is genuine.

    You built the website for your targeted users and want it to be there on search engines.

    When you build backlinks then you show that your website is important for your business and for your users.

    You show that you are willing to do all the things necessary to make your website appear & serve users on search engines.

    And you should know that building genuine backlinks for a website also means to list your site on those other sites where it can be found by your users.

    Link Building is also a way to market your website in a very particular way.

    You create business profiles and list your website at places where your users can find it.

    These places include business listing websites, business profiling websites and also social media platforms.

    This is how we do Off Page SEO Optimization including link building.

    How Search Engines Work in Digital Marketing?

    How Search Engines Work Organically

    How search engines work organically is slow and based on a system of constant evaluation.

    Search engines keep on evaluating websites and its content on various parameters.

    And here the quality of SEO work plays a big role. The other factor that has significant impact is the competition on search engines.

    How well search engines rank a website depends upon the level & quality of SEO of that website and of other websites that are competing for the same keywords and rankings.

    Based on this websites see changes in rankings. When websites give positive signs the rankings improve.

    On the other hand the rankings can also go down if the signs are weak or negative.

    Although no one knows exactly what parameters search engines look for. But there are few basic parameters which we need to optimize our websites for.

    So the techniques we use in SEO collectively work towards adhering to and satisfying the criteria and parameters.

    What search engine look for in every website are these.

    • Is the website targeting some keywords
    • What type of keywords a website is targeting
    • How well they are using those keywords
    • Do they have enough content for those keywords
    • How good is the quality of content is
    • How relevant the content is
    • Is the website mobile friendly
    • Is the website fast loading
    • Are there any technical issues that may prevent it from indexing or pose any issue for user while they access and view the website
    • Are there any backlinks pointing towards the website
    • What is the quality and relevance of backlinks a website has

    These are few important parameters search engines use to evaluate websites.

    You can also call these as factors which help get a website indexed and then ranked.

    According to experts there are more than 200 ranking factors on which search engines evaluate factors like quality and relevance of content. This is why website content is important.

    Although SEO and its impact on website rankings can take months there are quick changes too which can help us understand how search engines work.

    You can notice changes if you go to major SEO websites like searchengineland or searchenginejournal or searchenginewatch and read the discussions after any major algorithm updates.

    You will see people there talking about how many websites lost rankings and traffic as a result of those updates.

    They will also list out websites that improved their rankings and traffic.

    And most importantly you can read about what that update meant and how can it impact the SEO.

    Experts who have been long enough in this industry would remember what Google’s Panda algorithm update in 2011 did to SEO and the websites.

    Thin content was probably the first major SEO issue that Google confronted with this algorithm and its update.

    This update hit the industry hard and many big websites were on the loser side.

    You can read more about it here.

    So much changed in the SEO after the Google’s Panda algorithm update in 2011.

    This is how search engines work. And based on that this is how SEO works.

    How Search Engines Work to Index Websites

    When we do SEO then the first thing we need to do is to get our website indexed by major search engines like Google.

    How websites get indexed is like the first part of how search engines work.

    Search engines follow a particular procedure to get new websites and web pages indexed and included in its index database.

    This procedure has two steps which are

    • Crawling
    • Indexing

    After this procedure and after web pages are indexed the website usually is assigned rankings for all its prominent keywords which it is targeting with the use of on page optimization techniques and through its content.


    Search engines periodically and regularly crawl the web.

    They use bots or spiders for crawling.

    It is through this crawling that they discover new web pages and also notice new content or content changes.

    This crawling is an ongoing process that search engines keep on doing.

    According to Google’s John Mueller, Google uses two types of crawl.

    One is discovery crawl.

    Second is refresh crawl.

    The purpose of discovery crawl is to discover new web pages which are not yet in their index database.

    The refresh crawl on the other hand helps Google update pages already indexed in database. This way they also notice content changes.


    When a new page is crawled or a page is crawled and it is established by Google that this is new and therefore is not indexed then only the process of indexing starts.

    To get indexed properly a page should have properly optimized content and keywords.

    It just may not indexed if it has low quality or using spammy techniques.

    A page getting indexed also means that it is properly categorized for its keywords.

    It is like putting the page in different keyword categories or buckets or baskets.

    This is done based on keywords it targets and the content that it has published.

    Understand How SEO Works with Examples

    Let us give you two exmaples which help you learn how SEO works for search engines practically and easily.

    EXAMPLE ONE: Where would you go to find information or products you want to find?

    Whenever we want to find anything we go to Google or other search engines.

    We use search engines to find information and also find products, services and companies.

    We do not go to social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram usually.

    This is because we know search engines will give us a list of relevant websites and content that we are looking for.

    That is the purpose of search engines.

    And SEO helps in providing this relevant content on search engines by helping rank websites with query relevant content rank higher than those that have little less relevant content.

    EXAMPLE TWO: How do you decide which page has information you want?

    Once you are on search engine then you search for your query. As your query results are displayed now all you need to do is click the best or most relevant page and read the information you were looking for.

    How do you decide on the search engine result page itself which page could be better or have better or more relevant content that could satisfy your query was?

    For this search engines display brief details about each page there itself. It helps you know what the page content would be about.

    This brief information of each website are the 3 important on page tags.

    These are Title, URL and meta description. This is what on page SEO optimization is.

    And this is one important role of SEO as part of onpage optimization.

    This is how SEO helps users find out which website could have more relevant content and which website to click on the SERP (search engine result page).

    EXAMPLE THREE: How best to find products nearby your location?

    What online platform do you use to find products or companies that are nearby your location?

    For example you could be looking for nearby restaurant, a parlour, any shop or for any services like saloon or plumbing.

    You again use Google to search.

    All these are called nearby or local products, services, companies or even places.

    This is what is called as Local SEO.

    Search engines like Google have categorised this as a distinct type of SEO or search intent.

    And there are guidelines to suggest how to optimize your website if you are selling any of the local or location based products and services.

    This is how search engines and SEO helps people find best of the local products or places nearby.

    EXAMPLE FOUR: How do you find any information fast on Mobile?

    We all use social media or view videos on our mobiles.

    And we also visit search engines on mobiles.

    In case you did not know, most local searches are made from mobile.

    For this Google gives high importance on how mobile friendly websites are.

    They focus on mobile websites so much that they index these websites first for mobile viewing.

    Your website may face indexing issues or struggle to rank and get traffic if it is not mobile friendly.

    Second important aspect which you need to get traffic from search engines is website speed.

    Especially mobile users want fast loading websites.

    And this is one important area which Google suggests your website should follow.

    And SEO experts try to make sure to make their website as light as possible to increase their loading speed.

    SEO works here to make sure the websites are mobile friendly and fast loading for their search users.