How Google Works In Simple Terms (on-page SEO)

Do you want the content you have written for the internet to rank higher than your competitors?  Of course you do.  In order to rank highly you must first understand how Google works.  This should be a starting point for any SEO training.

Understanding How Google Search Algorithms Work in Simple English

Understanding How Google Search Algorithms Work in Simple English

Here is a simple version of how Google works in laymans English.  If you know how Google looks at a page then you can make sure that your content is written in a way that is complementary and therefore help you to rank higher on Google and other search engines.

At the core of Google is a set of mathematical algorithms.  Their purpose is to  try to determine the relevance of your page as opposed to other pages for a specific search term.  Imagine being given a billion pages of text in a language you don’t understand and having to give back the most relevant page for information on a word you also don’t understand.  You may know that there are pictures, but you can’t see them.  That is what it is like for the algorythm!

I am going to describe the process the Google search algorithms have to go through as if I was the algorithm.

If somebody was to do a search for “flabrat” then I am first going to look at URL’s to see if any of them have “flabrat” in them.  This is because is more likely to have information on “flabrat” than “”.  However, is also highly likely to have some relevance.

Unfortunately there is no guarantee that a pages content has any relevance to its name without going and reading it.

Meta Title

The first information I will find on a page is the Meta Title.  This is the text that will be displayed in my search results.  Does this say “flabrat” in it?  If it does then I could be on the right track.

Meta Keywords

I’m going to take a cursory look at the Meta keywords too if they exist.  Not that I am going to put any weight behind them at all.  I’m just checking to see if they look spammy to me.  If they do I’m going to assume that the rest of the page is also trying to pull the wool over my eyes a bit.

H1 tag

Next comes the H1 tag.  This is really really really important.  The h1 tag is the heading for the whole page.  It is the heading that people will actually see when they view the page.  If the word “flabrat” is used in the h1 tag then there is a good chance that the page is actually about flabrat. See The importance of h tags for more information.

Other Header tags (h2, h3 etc)

These are sub-headings and should relate to the content in the text that comes after them.  They are not as important as the h1 tag but are still useful, particularly for breaking up your text and making it more readable for us humans.  The header tags used in these segments are h3 tags.

p tags

Not content with just looking at the title, like Google, I will then look at the actual content of your text contained in p tags or paragraph tags.  The first paragraph is particularly important, but if it was me I would be looking for the word flabrat throughout the entire document.

I would become suspicious if it appeared a lot though, so don’t overdo your keyword density.


Google can’t actually see pictures.  Google can however read text associated with pictures.  For this reason your picture file names and alt text should both reflect your keywords.  Think of it as another way of getting your keywords onto the page without being overly spammy.  Without alt text in your images (img src=”images/picture.jpg” alt=”a flabrat in full bloom”) your pictures are doing precicely nothing for your Search Engine Optimisation.

Google search algorithms are a lot more complicated than that.

What I have just described is a very simplified version of what actually goes on to choose which page gets ranked highest in Google.  There are over 200 factors involved in Google’s search algorithm and nobody knows exactly what they all are or what weighting is applied to each one.

What I have done in this post is give you a foolproof method of ensuring your on-page SEO is good enough to help you get ranked higher.  Depending on what market you operate in, it could even be enough to get you ahead of some of your competitors.

On-page SEO is only half the battle though.  You will need to do some off-page or external SEO too if you want your page to rank in any but the very least competitive of markets.  My next post will be describe off-page SEO in simple terms.

On-page SEO is massively important.  It is the foundation to getting found online.  It is always my starting point.  Get it right and everything else you do will work better too.

About Ian Wortley

Ian is one of Irelands leading SEO consultants with over 8 years experience in the Irish market. Ian discovered his love of all things internet related in 2005 and has been living nearly exclusively online since then, causing much worry to friends and family, but getting great results for clients. Contact Ian: Phone: 01 6854806 Mobile: 086 3817149