What Is SEO? How Does Google Understand A Website?

What Is SEO? How Does Google Understand A Website?

It’s all just ‘semantics’ I’m told.

When we ‘nit-pik’ or ‘get in to the detail’ in a discussion, that’s semantics; Googles quest for information, when it digs to very deep levels and interprets the signs and information provided to get a real sense of a website's purpose and intent. That’s semantics.

se· man· tics | \ si-ˈman-tiks

noun (used with a singular verb). The study of meaning.

the study of linguistic development by classifying and examining changes in meaning and form. Also called significs. the branch of semiotics dealing with the relations between signs and what they denote. The meaning, or an interpretation of the meaning, of a word, sign, sentence, etc.


Semantic search systems consider various points including context of search, location, intent, variation of words, synonyms, generalized and specialized queries, concept matching and natural language queries to provide relevant search results.



As an SEO consultant, the constant question is, ‘How do we understand the myriad of things Google is looking for?’ How does Google get that information? How can we provide it to Google?

duck image for seo blog

What does your room say about you?

Go with me on this; What can I tell about you from your room?

What information do we make up about a person, or a family, or a shop, by what we pick up from their ‘place’? When you enter a home and smell fresh-baked bread in the air, see a guitar in the corner, see three ducks on the wall, a lot of photos on top of cabinets; inside which are somewhat fancy dinner plates and glasses; what do you make of it?

70's Lounge

Does the colour of your room or place tell us whether you are ambitious, creative, energetic or perhaps sensitive and chilled? Are you poor or eclectic? Are you old or young? Is your front door clean or a little dusty? Does the TV dominate the room, is there some wall art? Is the place super tidy, lived in or, actually pretty messy?

What can we tell about you or your place from observation?



Toilet Paper

And if we dig a little deeper, are your socks and undies in order in draws? Do you vacuum under your bed? Is it true that those who roll the toilet paper over tend to be more dominant? Does the fact that you use instant coffee tell me anything about you? Do you fly a flag? Do you have religious symbols? Pamphlets about the Rohinga or the situation in Yemen, ones about the latest specials at Crackerjack or perhaps the latest Property Research from Crockers?

It’s simple Psychology

We regularly look at someone, and then use deduction and basic psychology to determine things about their personality, about their recent activities, and about their intentions. This sort of appraisal, that we all do no matter where we are, is something that Google does as well. But Google does it so that it can note the information to serve up as needed.

So if you are looking for a house with fresh baked bread smells and a guitar in the corner, Google, like any good guide, will point you in the right direction.


We do that sort of assessment with shops and businesses too and this is obviously Googles specialisation. Google, like us, looks at the outside of the shop, the street address (Website name or URL), notes whether the colours are bright or not, whether there is a clear message on the outside

‘we sell ice creams’

or a more obscure message

‘we probably sell what you want’

Whether there is a more sparkly shop next door. And after entering; is the ice cream stand in an obvious place or hidden at the back of the shop? Are there signs pointing me to where I want to go? In a department store, is there a store index so I can find what I was looking for; or someone to tell me where to get one? Is the lighting good? Is the customer service excellent? All of these things and many more Google will take note of on your website and ‘file away’ in its memory.

ice cream parlor

But Google will also take note of which people go into the ice cream shop, and if set up correctly, whether they buy any ice cream and what sort of ice cream. Did they say they liked the ice cream? Or the store, or the staff? Did they look at the store index and go somewhere specific in the store? Where? What did they do there? Did other people of similar age and gender do the same thing?

Next time someone of a similar, age, gender (or any other identifying factor Google has about you) is looking for ice cream should Google send them to the same place it sent you? Or is there a better ice cream shop to tell you about?

It’s all about the story

Martin Lindstrom spends 300 days a year travelling the globe and snooping around people's homes. In his book “small data” he says that “No matter how insignificant it may first appear, everything in life tells a story.” It’s important when thinking about a website or any internet ‘property’ to understand that Google is looking for that story. Google looks at the big data but is also busy gathering up what may seem to be insignificant data all in the quest to provide the searcher with the closest response to what he or she wants.

Making sure that Google can understand your site, what it’s about, what it’s for, is the essence of what SEO is. Some of that gets quite technical like making sure that Googles Spiders can find a directory and track a path that it can tell others about to the place you want them to go. That the text is coded correctly, the site works fast, everything is labelled properly and myriad other things. But never forget the essence of what this is about, helping people who want to, to find you and what you offer on the internet.

So what story does your website tell?  How could your website be interpreted? What is it for? What will Google think its purpose is?

Need help with search engine optimisation? Give us a call.

David Dennis

David Dennis

Head of SEO & Content

With a lifetime’s experience including roustabouting, forays into film, ceramics, cleaning, motel and property management and a background in radio and marketing David comes to SEO with a wealth of real-world knowledge. His technical understanding of SEO and an innate appreciation of the importance of seeing the bigger picture is invaluable.

When not at work David can be found at church, taking drives in the country, spending time with friends and family, reading, learning about documentary film-making, swimming and taking an interest in diverse politics.