How does SEO work?

It’s fascinating to see how SEO is discussed outside of the website design world. Especially with people looking for a new website, requests like “Must have SEO” are common. But is SEO something you can simply “have?” How does SEO actually work?

Is SEO a magic bullet?

For people unfamiliar with website design, it seems like the expectations for SEO work something like this:

  • Someone desires to “have” SEO on a website.
  • A website designer clicks a button to “add” or “turn on” SEO for the site.
  • The website ranks #1 in Google searches and drives tons of traffic to a website.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. There is no toggle or button to “add” SEO to a website. And aside from paying for ads, there’s not a way to instantly get to the top of Google searches.

How does SEO really work?

SEO’s reality is a lot less exciting than the above hypothetical magic formula. It really works like this:

  • When writing content on a website, the website owner uses language to accurately describe what the website is about.
  • Over time, Google tracks where people go to get information on particular topics. Of course this means that other sources of traffic (like links from other websites) help boost search results. This is known as backlinking, and is one of the biggest keys to what Google calls “authority,” one of the main factors in SEO rankings. You can read more about backlinking and authority here.
  • When Google (or any other search engine) determines that a particular website is a useful destination for searches on that topic, it elevates that link in its search results.

As we’ve said before, Google’s primary goal is accuracy. While we can offer tips to better optimize your website for search engines, there is no golden ticket to a #1 ranking. Remember, when everyone follows the same rules, content is key to a good search ranking. While this truth doesn’t make for an exciting headline, it’s better to understand how SEO really works than spend time searching for a magic solution that unfortunately doesn’t exist.