SEO Basics: What is SEO? How Do Search Engines Work? (Introduction To SEO)

What is SEO?

SEO Basics

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to processes that help your site to rank higher in organic/natural search results and become more visible to users when they are looking for something related to what is on your site.

If your site’s SEO is great, content that you rank for will be listed on the first pages of search results, thus increasing the number of visitors to your site.

Of course you can pay for your site to be listed on the first pages of search results so that when a user enters the keywords you paid for in the search engines, your content becomes visible to them. But this can be very costly.

In order to fully understand what SEO is, we must first understand how search engines work.

How do search engines work?

Search engines have two functions: crawling and indexing and providing answers to the search queries.

Crawling and indexing –

There are billions of documents, pages, media, files, news and videos in the internet. Search engines are made up of robots called search engine crawlers/spiders. These robots visit each and every website and its pages (crawl) and then report back, record it on the search engine database for future reference (index).

Providing answers to search queries

Search engines are like answer machines.

When a user performs an online search, search engine goes back to the billions of pages stored in its database and does two things:

First, it pulls out pages that are relevant and useful to the search query, and second, it ranks the results in terms of popularity of the websites serving the information.

It is therefore important to note that relevance and popularity are what the process of SEO is meant to influence.

How To Approach SEO Strategy

When crafting an SEO strategy, it is best if you split it into three categories; technical SEO, On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO.

On-page SEO involves the process that you can do within your website so as to make your site more friendly to search engine spiders to crawl and index.

Off-page SEO is all about the things that happen outside the website to collect quality inbound links.

Let us look at these aspects of SEO one by one.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO covers everything that you do to your website as instructed by the search engines in order to make the site more visible to search engine crawlers.

Technical SEO practices involve processes like adding your site to webmasters tools, optimizing XML Sitemap and updating robots.txt.

Google and Bing created the webmaster tools as a way of helping website owners inform the search engines about the existence of their websites and which pages to crawl and index.

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO involves the process that you can do within your website so as to make your site more friendly to search engine spiders to crawl and index.

There are lots of elements on your website that you can control in order to make your site more easy for search engine spiders to crawl and index.

They include:

The Website Content.

If you want to please search engines then you must write and publish SEO Friendly Content.
Content is king. We all know that. It means that if your content is of high quality and relevant, it might stand a chance to be listed on the first pages of search results.

There are various ways of optimizing your website content for SEO. Some of them include; correct post length, catchy headings, right post formating etc.

URL Structure

URL Structure has a great impact on how search engine spiders see the pages.

SEO optimized url of a page should be descriptive, short and stop words free.

If you are using WordPress, you can change your URL structure by going to SETTINGS ->>PERMALINK SETTINGS and choose a format that interests you.

Also, while writing your blog posts, edit the page url by changing its slug to a shorter and meaningful one.

The whole process of optimizing url structure is to make it easy for search engine crawlers to be able to understand what the page is about.


It’s very boring to visit a web page with loads of texts and not even a single image.
Images tend to illustrate the point of the day within a blog post.

While inserting images within your web pages, make sure that you include the title attribute and the alt text. This is because search engines don’t view images but rather they read through the title attribute and the alt text to be able to understand what the image is about.

Title Tags and Meta Description

Title Tags are the clickable links that appear on the search engine result pages while Meta Description is the group of texts below the title tags.

While writing Title Tags and Meta Description, always ensure that they are descriptive of the web page and contain the keywords. This technique ensures that a user gets to see and decide if the page is containing what he was looking for or not.

Internal Linking

seo basics- internal linking

When writing your blog posts, it is important to reference the old blog posts to help emphasize on the point you are trying to put across. You can do this by inserting links to the old blog posts by use of anchor text/link text.

A word of warning, avoid using meaningless text links like click here. Always make your link texts descriptive.

For example, if I wanted to refer you to a web page within my blog that is having the details of Technical SEO, I would use Technical SEO as the link text so that I’d have something like this: Technical SEO.

Off-page SEO

Off Page SEO can be a little more difficult to execute.

It involves building relationships with other websites through creating quality content and reaching out to other websites. This process of building relationships is called link building.

It is actually called off page because you can’t control what’s happening and it’s all happening outside your website.

Link Building

When it comes to link building, your first concern should be “Who is linking to you?” Trust me, you don’t want sites with adult content linking to your site.

The sites linking to you should be those that are within your niche. This will tell Google and other search engines that the web page that is being linked to is helpful and relevant to other people within the niche.

How Do You Ask People To Link To You?

Simple. Ask.

Send them emails and ask them if they can link to you.

My favorite link building technique is the broken link building. Here, you run a website within your niche on a broken link checker tool, identify the broken links and then contact the owner of the website with the details of the broken links with alternatives- which are actually links from your own sites.

Other methods of executing off page seo include:

Promoting blog posts on social media.

Sharing posts on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ can also influence a page rank on search results.

In fact, search engine crawlers consider pages with big number of social shares as important, relevant and helpful pages. And they tend to rank them higher.

Email Marketing

Spreading your blog content using email marketing is also a great way of building links to your site.

While emailing your subscribers, ensure that you make your content sharable across the social media networks. That way, your content will become visible to a very huge audience thus giving it some score.


I have talked about the basics of SEO and I believe that you now have a clear understanding of what SEO is. All you now have to do is learn how to execute each and every aspect of SEO.


I am a twenty-something savvy web designer / social media manager / SEO strategist and a blogger based in Nairobi, Kenya. I am passionate about web design, HTML/CSS/Javascript, beautifying things and internet marketing. Follow me on social media and say hello!

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6 Responses

  1. James says:

    I find everything you have talked about in this article very helpful. It’s really a great article for beginners. Good job.

  2. Mia says:

    I’m a freelance social media consultant and virtual assistant, so from time to time, I do some basic SEO strategy. You did an amazing job clearly explaining the different attributes of SEO!

  3. Kerry whyte says:

    I found this article really helpful and easy to read! I am going to change my links on my blog because of this as I tend to use click here links. Thanks for the tips and look forward to more!

    • Patrick says:

      Hi Kerry. I’m glad that you found this article helpful.
      Yes, please do update your blog posts with correct anchor texts.
      Thanks a lot.

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