What is SEO? Demystifying The Concept in 5 Minutes

So, what is SEO?

In less than 5 minutes, you will understand the concept and what to do.

In a few minutes, I wrote it for bloggers, businesses, or beginners who want a firm understanding of search engine optimization (SEO).

If you should forget all you read on this page about Search Engine Optimization, don’t forget these two things: 

When it comes to SEO, think like this: 

  • What do search engines (like Google or Bing) like?
  • What do people like?

I will simplify SEO and how search engines work in 15 minutes.

But I need you to think of these two things. They work hand-in-hand if you think hard about it. For now, think of two entities:

  • Search engines
  • Humans

Hey, Ade, are you saying I have to study human behavior and “robot” behavior? 

Yes, that’s what I am talking about here. 

Robots and people. 

Understand Robots, AKA crawlers (used by search engines like Google). Then understand people and how they like to consume content. 

What Is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It involves designing websites, creating content, and optimizing pages so it is easy for search engines to discover, crawl, and index pages on the web.

You will understand it better in a bit.

What Are Search Engines? 

They are tools humans use to find websites or information on the internet. 

It’s like this. The internet is like a town with houses. Let’s say you are looking for one blonde girl with blue eyes. Normally, you should go around knocking on each door in town asking, hello, who has a blue-eyed, blonde girl in their bedroom?

Scrap that.

You stay at the town entrance and ask someone with names and descriptions of everyone in town. They check their diary and show you the list of names they’ve got, all arranged according to some factors. Maybe age, maybe height, etc. 

In SEO, the town is the internet.

The place you search for what you want is a Search Engine. They include Google (the big guy), Yahoo, Bing, etc.

What you are looking for are queries. So you type them in the form of keywords.

On the other hand, search engines use crawlers to discover, crawl, and index pages on the internet according to relevance and authority to certain queries.

When you go to search engines and type “restaurants in California.” They go to the list of websites they have collected and show you what’s there. They usually list them according to some factors (which we will talk about soon). So, you don’t have to go round and round by yourself. 

The problem is that too many websites exist, and only a few could appear on the first page.

The work of SEO is to put your website or page on this list. Business owners hire consultants to achieve this purpose for their websites.

It’s a lot of work, but it gets better once you understand the foundation of how search engines work.

Who Gets to Come First in This Ranking?

It’s not about the year or age or how good your content is. It is about what the robots consider great and what users (humans) want to see

At the time of typing this, search engine crawlers are looking for two things:

  • Relevance 
  • Authority 


The crawler collects information about how people relate to the pages for each keyword you search. For example, they consider the time you spend on the page, the number of keywords on that page, the content format, the exact keywords on that page, etc.


This is where it isn’t very easy. You can’t just tell these crawlers you are the best place for a certain topic. For instance, if I am selling phones and people search “Phone sellers near me.” My page on the internet will not rank because I am the newest and biggest phone seller in town. Instead, it will rank according to what a crawler sees on the internet when it visits my website. 

Have I left you behind?

Sorry, let’s go over it.

Crawlers (which I call robots for the sake of this post) collect information on the internet. So when creating a page or writing an article, you must prepare for what they will like. That’s how they have a giant library of all websites and pages on the internet. That’s how they know when to show the page to users.

If you’d like me to help in this process, I offer an SEO writing service at an affordable price. You can use the contact form or check my service page, and I will respond shortly.

Let’s continue. 

Search Engine Updates Their Algorithm Periodically

Search engines adjust their algorithms regularly. Google, Yahoo, Bing, or whatever search engines you want to rank on their page will keep updating how things work. You’ll need to learn about the updates if you want your page to rank. 

In that case, it’s a continuous challenge of learning, tweaking, and improving what you know and the content you create on your websites or platforms. 

The point of this blog post (how search engines work) is to give that foundational understanding that nothing will surprise you when the algorithm gets updated.

Let’s start with “robots” and what they like.

I have to ensure that you know what I’m talking about here. So, I will start from scratch. 

A Great Part of SEO Is About Creating Relevance and Authority

I said crawlers like “relevance.” Does your page solve the problem the person is looking for? 

Then I said crawlers like “Authority.” Are you the greatest person to ask about this topic at this point? 

To crawlers, “greatest” does not mean great content.

I’ve seen pages that don’t rank on search engine result pages (SERP) but have quality content.

How Crawlers Measure Your Authority

Crawlers are not humans who can determine authority by the qualifications of the author of a blog. Instead, they use other methods to assess web page authority.

They use 3 major factors. You can learn other things about authority later or just focus on these 3 for now. 

  • Backlinks 
  • Your website structure and content
  • Quality of your content

Okay, this post is getting longer than I want, but we are almost done.

I will not talk excessively about what humans like and how they consume content. I believe you can do that by putting yourself in your readers’ or users’ shoes. How likely are you to return to a page you just visited? Content-wise? How easy is it to use the page? Did you find what you are searching for?

Let’s focus on what crawlers (robots) want to see.

First, backlinks.

What is a backlink in SEO?

Backlinks are links from other websites pointing to your website pages.

Crawlers think it’s a sign of trust from other people. So when you have a lot of backlinks, your content will be considered an authority. 

When you are working on backlinks, you need 

  • Quantity and
  • Quality backlinks

How Can You Build Backlinks?

Now that you know what a backlink is in SEO, it’s time to get quality links to your post. It’s like the missing piece if your content isn’t getting ranked.

You can use guest posting, answering press releases, or reaching out to other bloggers.

Quality matters when asking for backlinks. So a backlink from an authority website in your niche is way better than 5 backlinks from random blogs that have no authority.

How Many Backlinks Do You Need? 

You need as much as the number one page on search results. 

Let’s say I search for “phone sellers near me.” The first page that pops up has about 100 backlinks. So  I need about the same number of backlinks — plus better quality content that solves people’s search queries. 


Other things that can help you rank better:

  • How you designed the content on your page: pages or content format
  • How you mapped out the pages on the whole website: website structure

Focusing on Topics Instead of Just Keywords

Some time ago, Google said their crawlers now focus on topics rather than keywords. 

In other words, they can rank pages that don’t have some keywords. 

It also means they could rank pages based on how people trusted the websites on certain topics. 

Let’s break it down. 

There’s a website. They have written great content about phone repairs, how to buy phones and phone reviews. Hundreds of blogs have linked to their website over time. So people stay on their page for a long time.

When you type a keyword, their page may pop up if they don’t have that exact keyword on that page. 

And if that page gets backlinks from other websites and people spend time reading it, crawlers will rank it for that query even if the exact keywords aren’t on that page.

So How Can You Use This Information On Your Website:

Three things: 

  • The structure. Have sections and pillar pages (a page where they could see every topic, or sections of topics, or other pages in one place)
  • It should be easy to navigate. If someone comes to your page, it should be easy for them to move around.
  • It should focus on topics more than keywords. Define your niche and write great content around a set of topics. For instance, if you sell phones, someone who wants to buy phones will also ask questions about phones. Create a list of topics or problems that a person would have. Write content around them.

Arrange everything in what’s called a pillar page. Make it easy to go around and check what you have by creating one page that links or shows all they can click on a certain topic.

Other Tips You Should Know

If the top-ranking websites use certain formats (listicles or how-tos) or content types (video, write-ups, or images), it means crawlers and people like those things. So you should do the same.

Remember the rules I mentioned earlier when we started this blog post?

Focus on what crawlers and humans want. In SEO, your job is to serve these two entities.

That’s it. This is the summary if you want to understand crawlers. 

There is another part of SEO called technical SEO. This part is about setting your website correctly and the steps you need to take for crawlers to find and update the records they have about your page. 

It’s better to employ someone skilled in that area. You can learn about technical SEO on the Yoast blog.

For further reading, you can check Content Writing for New Business. I explain how to create better content that people want to come back to read or share with their friends and coworkers.


  • Understand what crawlers and humans want.
  • Crawlers like relevance, authority, and formats (when it comes to content)
  • Authority is measured with backlinks (links from other websites pointing to yours) and how well you cover the topic and those related to it.
  • Your website structure helps humans and crawlers navigate your website easily. 

Further readings: