What is SEO and how does SEO work?

What is SEO? or Search Engine Optimization, is a collective name for all processes that contribute to the organic high score of a webpage in search engines. Effective use of SEO techniques makes it possible to attract more visitors to desired web pages.

SEO is the abbreviation for Search Engine Optimization or search engine optimization. Those who are involved with SEO ensure more traffic to websites or webshops through organic search engine results.


What are organic search results?

There are two categories in which all search results fall: paid and organic. Figure 1 shows the difference between paid and organic results for the search for sponsored ads on Google.

You can see that they are advertisements because it is indicated in the top right that it is sponsored or ad. Sponsored text ads are also there.



In figure 1 you see them in the second block. You see that a search result is paid for, because under the title of the search result and for the displayed link.

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Organic search results are search results that the search engine thinks gives an answer to your question. The higher the organic search result, the more the search engine thinks the search result answers your question.

You have all kinds of organic search results, but the most common search result is a text result like in figure 1.

difference between organic and paid search results
Figure 1 the difference between organic and paid search results

Why are the top positions in search engine results essential?

The top positions in relevant search engine result pages (in the SEO field better known as SERPs, “Search Engine Result Page“) are essential. It is mainly about the top three.

From study, it shows that most people start scanning the first search result and then view the following two results with their eyes left the page. After that, the attention of the other search results decreases drastically.



The attention that people give to the top three search results resembles a triangle, which means that it is also known as the golden triangle. If people do not find what they are looking for in the golden triangle, they often adjust their search.

A top-three position is therefore essential for maximum visibility, but you do not have to achieve this for every search engine assignment. You only want to score for products and categories that you sell in your online e-commerce shop.

If you also want to score on other products and categories in the top search results, then consumers who visit your online e-commerce shop via these results are disappointed if they find out that you are not selling it. The result is that they leave your online e-commerce shop.

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So you only want top positions for relevant searches so that you attract quality traffic. More quality traffic is of course better.

How does SEO work?

But how do you score well in the SERPs? For this, you need to know how search engines determine the ranking on the SERPs.

Search engines use an algorithm (a mathematical formula) with which they determine which search result best fits the search query. The exact content of the algorithm is Google’s secret.



How does SEO work?

But a lot of research over the years has shown that you can divide the elements of the algorithm into four categories:

  • Technic
  • Content
  • Link building
  • Usability
  • Optimizing to the most important keywords
  • Well-arranged META structure


Search engines use robots called spiders. The spiders visit webshops so that the search engine can find out what your online e-commerce shop is about. This process is called crawling (see the process in Figure 2). The spiders then include crawled pages in the search engine (indexing).

Because new web pages are constantly being added or updated, spiders cannot be in every webshop continuously. That is why the spiders have a so-called crawl budget that they can spend per visit to an online e-commerce shop. Once this runs out, they will continue to the next online e-commerce shop.

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Many web shops do not take the crawling budget into account. They allow all spiders to crawl all pages. This is a shame because usually this also means that there are many technical obstacles that prevent a spider from properly crawling your online e-commerce shop.

Search engines crawling process
Figure 2: Search engines crawling process

Clear And Clean Content

Search engines can only know what your online e-commerce shop is about because they can read the content. You must then offer content that is relevant to your target group and also written in such a way that a spider knows exactly what your online e-commerce shop is about.

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There are all kinds of guidelines for strong SEO texts. One of the best known is that you have to process the search query in the title.

Link Building

For the organizations behind the search engines such as Google, showing the appropriate search result as quickly as possible for the search is essential for the success of the search engine.

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In other words, the seeker must receive an answer as quickly as possible. Reliability of the information plays an important role in the seeker.

An online e-commerce shop to which several reliable sources refer, therefore, views a search engine as more important than an online e-commerce shop to which hardly anyone refers. That is why an SEO specialist is also involved in creating relevant links to their online e-commerce shop.


This factor is often not recognized in the SEO industry, but it does have an impact on your SEO performance. The most important mission for search engines is to give searchers the answer to their questions as quickly as possible.

A search engine such as Google, therefore, wants to prevent everything that a searcher clicks on a search result, finds out that the online e-commerce shop does not provide an answer, and hopes to find his answer with the next search result. This process is called pogo-sticking.

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So you want to prevent Pogo sticking. Make sure your online e-commerce shop loads quickly, and can be well viewed on any device (responsive), is well-arranged, and has clear content that answers the question. It also means that you need to know what the search intent is for each relevant keyword.

Optimizing to the most important keywords

When users search on Google, they enter keywords. The goal is that your website is found on those keywords. For example, if someone searches for “Bakery Amsterdam” and you have a bakery in Amsterdam, you probably want to be shown on that search with your website.

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This is not easy; You must show Google that your webpage is relevant to this search. After all, the purpose of Google is to make it as easy as possible for the user by providing the most relevant information.

Well-arranged META structure

A META structure is the entire structure of a website, minus the content. Consider the use of the correct layout of titles, URLs, breadcrumbs, and internal links.

Search engines use robots, also known as crawlers or spiders, to scan your website. A neat and optimized META structure ensures that robots can better understand your website.

Google will, therefore, place your website higher than websites where this META structure is not optimized.

seo META tag structure
Figure 3: Well-arranged META structure

Why do you constantly have to deal with SEO?

The most used search engine in Nigeria is Google, so you take SEO into account when responding to this search engine. The Google algorithm is constantly undergoing changes that affect the findability of your online e-commerce shop.

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In 2011, for example, there was a so-called Panda update, an extension to the algorithm is that ensured that non-qualitative websites were excluded from the search results. In 2012, the Penguin update was aimed at reducing the trust of webshops that obtained backlinks in an unnatural way.

Hummingbird is an update that is regularly mentioned in the SEO industry. This update allows Google to make semantic connections between terms and to better understand what you really want to find.

For example, if you search for a hairdresser in Google Maps, you will see an overview of hairdressers in your area. Another update that Google mentions is the addition of HTTPS as a new part of the algorithm.

Search engines do continuous updates and your competitors continuously optimize their online e-commerce shop. In short, you must do continuous SEO to maintain your top positions. And of course, you also want to be found well on your new products.

Is SEO the same for online e-commerce shop as for websites?

Broadly speaking, optimizing an online e-commerce shop is the same as for websites. Yet there is an essential component that makes SEO a specialty for webshops: e-commerce. An e-commerce platform is often technically more complicated.

An example is a common problem regarding URL generation arising from filters, sorting options, and pages. Many of these options are likely to cause pages that are hardly searched in a search engine, so you want to prevent them from being indexed.

Let spiders mainly crawl valuable pages. In addition, the entire customer journey at webshops is often different than at webshops, which makes it smarter to adopt SEO differently.

How do you grow with SEO?

You can still have your SEO activities well under control, but you may still have trouble getting or maintaining top positions for relevant search results. Sometimes it is difficult to identify a specific cause.

I notice that many retailers and brands are struggling with this challenge at some point. That is why I write this post on what is SEO and how does it work?. after you are through with this article, you will also know at which SEO level your business needs to grow in order to make the maximum impact on the search results.

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