What Is SEO? Understand SEO In 15 Minutes

(Welcome to the tenth article of the series ‘how to start a blog’. This article is the simplest ever yet valuable piece of writing on the topic of SEO. What is SEO? Let’s see.)

Do you wonder, “What is SEO?” Have you heard about SEO? Does it seem like a complicated concept? Does the terminology scare you? Do you think it’s not easy to understand SEO?

Today, you’re going to understand the whole story of SEO. You’ll know the answer to your ‘what is SEO?’ question in an astonishingly simple and enjoyable way.

What follows is a unique story which you’ll love to read. It’s the story of SEO. If it impresses you, which I’m sure it will, you owe me a comment and a share. That’s the deal!

So, What is SEO?

While defining SEO in my article about blogging terms, here’s what I wrote.

“SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is considered to be one the greatest sources of traffic. SEO brings organic (natural) traffic to your from search engines. The process of helping search engines crawl (discover) your website and blog posts through keywords, tags, and backlinks, etc. is called SEO.”

Let’s discover the history of SEO and understand the concept through its story.

World Wide Web

The internet started becoming available to public through ISPs (Internet Service Providers) in the 1980s. The first website was created on 6 August 1991.

The web gradually grew into what we know as Word Wide Web. The www in www.facebook.com means exactly that. Pretty basic, right?

But World Wide Web started becoming so big that we needed some place where we could go and find anything from the humungous network of web pages. This gave birth to…

The Search Engines

Search engines came into being in the 1990s. It happened because we all know that: –

“Necessity is the mother of invention.”

As the web pages increased in number, search engine like Yahoo (1994) and Google (1997) started delivering results to their users by crawling the world wide web. They managed to display results by doing two simple looking things.

Google started in 1997

Google started in 1997

These simple looking things require millions and billions of dollars to set up though because the process needs efficient servers and large data centers to store data. It also requires continuous software and web development which has its cost. These are the two essential functions of any search engine.


Search engines use softwares called crawlers to roam around the web and look for new pages. These crawlers crawl all the known websites and look for updates. Millions of blogs post thousands of blog posts each passing day, for instance.

The web is connected more than ever before. Websites and blogs link to relevant web pages on other website/blogs. This makes it simple for the search engines to discover more and more web pages every day.

So the search engines started crawling the web more and more. Whenever these crawlers find something new but useful (useful is the important word here), they do…


You can say in simple words that indexing is a process of registering, listing, archiving or storing the newly found web pages (as a result of crawling) in the data centers of search engines.

Search engines kept indexing (and deindexing) web pages for years and decades. The process is always going on because the primary job of a search engine is to provide accurate results at blazing speeds.

This data is used for displaying the most relevant search results against the search queries of the users.

Search Queries

People started using search engines more and more to find what they needed. They opened search engines like google.com and typed their queries in the search box (hence the name search queries).

The engines displayed the most appropriate results from their indexed data of web pages. As the use of search engines increased, many people started searching for similar and then the same search queries.


Keywords became popular in two different ways.

  • Business owners saw the opportunity in search engine traffic and started optimizing their websites with the keywords related to their activities. This diverted a considerable amount of traffic to their business websites from the search engines.
  • As the search queries became famous, some of them started attracting a lot of searches. People with smart brains started optimizing their sites for those the most popular search queries which brought massive traffic to their pages.

This is how SEO became mainstream. SEO is also called SEM (Search Engine Marketing).

Businesses, and now blogs too, are always at an SEO war to claim the number one spot in the organic (natural) search results because it adds a few thousand to a few million dollars to the revenue.


All this progress ignited the phenomenon we now know as ranking. Because there were thousands of results for every keyword, there was a need to establish the rank of search results.

Quite logically, the best matching search results required to be shown on the first page, with the best one on the top. Search engines did this by evaluating the indexed results in order of relevance and quality.

On Page SEO

On-page SEO became the most dominant factor in search results’ ranking when relevance and quality mattered. On-page SEO just means optimizing a web page or a blog post for a particular keyword.

This optimization was done by including the keyword in the title, URL, first paragraph, and at suitable places on a web page. Blog post SEO is done when you write a blog post.

Using Yoast SEO plugin to do on-page SEO

When a search engine robot crawled a web page, it noted the keyword and indexed it in that keyword data. Well, this was pretty much it for the SEO in early days. On-page SEO used to bring massive traffic because…

  • Internet was not too crowded back then, so there was almost no competition for most keywords.
  • Search engines were not so smart those days, so keyword remained a dominant ranking factor.

But then something expected happened…

Search Engine Manipulation

More and more people started abusing the weaknesses of search engines. To gain more traffic from the search engines and to rank on top for different keywords, people started using manipulative techniques.

That’s how the term ‘Blackhat SEO’ got introduced. Let me explain some of the abusive techniques people used back in days (and amateurs still use to no gain and much loss).

Keyword Stuffing

This one is an old disease which still survives due to lack of awareness. Keyword stuffing means filling your text with repetitive keyword and overdoing it.

For the keyword best maths teacher, an example of keyword stuffing would be ‘The best maths teacher is available in Manhattan. He’s the best maths teacher ever. No matter how bad your previous teacher was, you can study from the best maths teacher in the town. Let’s see who this best maths teacher is.’


Cloaking is pure deception. It has no place in modern SEO but let’s see what it means. It means that you optimize a web page for a keyword, but the content on that page is not related to that keyword.

Search Engine Spamming

Use of abusive techniques to rank on top of searches made way for search engine spamming. The engines started fighting that spam because that spam caused them the loss of credibility and revenue.

Google has consistently been good at fighting spam through innovative algorithms. That’s the main reason over 80 {51dd7ed95205891393782e36461aa0d439b6d3b9828c25a34c6c88cac41da828} of online searches are performed on Google.

Search Engine Algorithms

Search engines started developing smart algorithms to refine their results and keep the spammy pages away. Abusive techniques no more remained as effective.

Algorithms are simply sets of rules followed by search engines. These rules or the algorithms were introduced after understanding web pages, content, and SEO from the human perspective.

User Intent

Whenever you search for something online, there’s a particular intention behind it. That’s what search engines started focusing on. Queries are one of these kinds.

  • Transactional queries mean the user is looking for something, product, book, or anything.
  • Informational queries indicate the user is looking for some information like ‘what is SEO?’
  • Navigational queries mean the searcher wants to go somewhere.

User intent is the most valuable standard for you to write your content. I’m writing this blog post for those who need the basic understanding of SEO, for instance.

Does it fulfill the user intent? Do let me know in the comments, please.

Off Page SEO

On-page SEO no more remained sufficient for ranking. Modern algorithms and artificial intelligence spawned the new and a not so easy dimension of SEO; the off-page SEO.

While content and on-page factors remain integral parts of SEO strategy, off-page factors have become essentials for gaining high rankings in search engines.

Modern SEO is a bit more complicated than we can think of. Here's why.

Modern SEO is a bit more complicated than we can think of.

SEO and search engines have moved far ahead of mere finding keywords at the right places. Off-page SEO is not easy. It requires strategy and consistent hard work.


Search engines soon started considering backlinks a strong signal of a web page being valuable enough to be considered for ranking. A backlink is a created when some page on the internet links to one of your pages.

Let me create a backlink to 〉 The Beginners Guide To SEO by Moz 〈 which I’ve read today to refresh my SEO knowledge and to include any useful ideas for you in the post.

Why did I link to Moz? Because Moz is totally worth a link. The content I linked to is beneficial for my readers; you. Will I link to something that is not valuable? Most probably, no!

I gave this example to underline the fact that only valuable content gets backlinks. Which means search engines can trust the linked content and rank it.

Dofollow & Nofollow Links

Backlinks can be Dofollow or Nofollow. Without going into too much detail, dofollow links are the ones which affect rankings of ranked pages significantly. They are important because they signal to search engines that linked page is valuable.

Nofollow links tell search engines not to go to (crawl) those links. Therefore, nofollow links do not have much impact on off-page SEO. Both will be discussed in detail in future.

Social Signals

And there came the social media to facilitate SEO and in some ways, to make it a challenge. Social media marketing has spiked since 2011. Search engines give attention to social sharing on your pages.

The social media revolution image

The social media revolution affected SEO too.

More social shares mean strong social signals to the search engines and an increase in ranking. Social media sharing buttons are a favorite feature on all blogs.

Speed & Mobile Friendliness

Do you always use your laptop or the desktop to surf the internet? The answer in most cases is no because mobile devices have become popular. Search engines realize that and consider mobile friendliness an important ranking factor.

Google and other engines understand that no one likes slow websites. Therefore, the speed of your website matters a lot too. Recently, algorithms have changed to favor secure sites (which use HTTPS protocol). I updated my site today and here’s how it looks.

Here's how my website address shows in the address bar now with secure connection.

Here’s how my website address shows in the address bar now with a secure connection.


You’ve probably heard about Google Analytics. It’s not the only analytics tool, but it is the most commonly used one. When search engines started focusing on user experience, analytics became the hub of measuring that experience.

Analytics not only indicate traffic and its sources but show its behavior too.

Analytics not only indicate traffic and its sources but show its behavior too.

Here’s an introductory list of what analytics track when connected to a website.

  • Number of visitors who come to a site in a particular period (traffic)
  • The number of pages visited by visitors. (Page Views/Number of Pages Per Visitor)
  • Percentage of visitors leaving the site after viewing only one page (called Bounce Rate)
  • Average time spent on site by the visitors (Average session time)
  • Returning visitors (people who liked your site and visited it again).

There is much more to analytics than these points. Note that all these analytics indicate user experience on the site. Positive analytics means good user experience and better chances of ranking.

Good User Experience

You can create good user experience by managing the on-page aspects of SEO in best possible manner. Your site should be professional, fast, user-friendly, readable, and should contain valuable content.

Off-page aspects like effective backlink building and marketing also enhance the user experience by making your site look valuable and authoritative.

SEO has evolved into much more than just keyword placement.

SEO has evolved into much more than just keyword placement.

So, the whole point of improving your SEO is to create a good user experience on and off the page. That’s the crux of SEO if you ask any expert.


I hope this simple and unique SEO story has given you the basic understanding of SEO. Let’s summarize what we learned so far about SEO.

  • Search Engines became a need due to the massive volume of the internet.
  • Top results provided by the search engines received more traffic, so it became a lucrative target for websites and businesses.
  • The race to rank higher in the search engines gave birth to SEO.
  • SEO used to be just about indexing your site and optimizing content for right keywords.
  • But search engine abuse started happening through manipulative techniques like keyword stuffing.
  • Search engines felt the need to become smarter to fight this spam. The introduction of new algorithms improved search results.
  • Top priority (and the fundamental job) of search engines is to provide users with the best results, so new, human experience based ranking factors catered for user experience.
  • Great user experience is the key to advanced SEO.

I hope this simple knowledge has given you the essence of SEO without complicating anything. Just a quick word, though.

This blog post is not a ‘how to‘ guide. By telling the story of SEO, I wanted you to grab the essence of SEO and how it works. This article lays the foundations of how to do SEO right. This post is the ‘what is SEO’ part. I’ll cover how to do on-page SEO in detail in the next article.

Do leave your comments and do not forget to share this article with your social connections.


Ilyas Tarar

My mission is to ‘make a positive difference in lives of people’. I love writing content and I hope I can use this passion to fulfill my mission.

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