If you’re looking to get started with SEO, look no further. I’ve got you covered.
In this article, I have discussed the best SEO guide for beginners which can help you understand SEO from scratch and introduce you to a few strategies which can help you boost the organic growth of your Website.
Before I move on to SEO strategies, let us have an in-depth understanding of what exactly is SEO? Why is it essential? What are the factors affecting the ranking of your webpages?
How do search engine rankings work? And a host of other factors that might come in handy while crafting your first SEO campaign.
What Is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization can be explained as the process of enhancing the visibility of your Website on search engine results pages(SERPs).
In simple words, suppose you own a business that deals in ‘toys for kids’. If any user searches for ‘toys for kids’ on any search engine, your Website should be amongst the top few results that the search engine yields.
SERP positions are determined with the help of ‘rankings’. The ranking of your Website/ Web page depends on a host of factors determined by the search engine algorithms.
Each search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo) has a unique algorithm that checks and ranks hundreds of sites for any keyword searched.
The goal here is to rank in the top 3 positions for your business/ blog related keywords.
SEO helps you optimize your content in a manner such that it is highly relevant to what the user is looking for.
If the content on your Website closely aligns with the content that users are searching for, it will improve the ranking of your Website and it will automatically boost the traffic on your Website.
In turn, help you generate higher revenue.
There is a stark difference between paid promotions and SEO. The major difference is that there is no direct cost involved when it comes to SEO.
This is the reason why this growth in traffic on your Webpage is termed ‘organic’. Since most of the traffic on your Website is from search engine queries, there are strong chances that these leads would be of good quality.
If you’re a smaller business looking to attract potential customers online, local SEO is your best bet. Local SEO focuses on being ranked among the ‘local pack’ or the ‘3 pack’ popular on Google.
Whenever a user searches for ‘restaurants near me’ or ‘restaurants in Chicago’, Google yields the top three results with their ratings, contact number, and navigation details.
Click here to check out how to optimize your restaurant website for SEO.
Below is an example of the local three-pack:
How Does SEO Work?
Next in SEO guide for beginners is to understand how SEO works.
Search Engines help users find results that are most appropriate for their search keyword.
This happens in a series of steps known as crawling, indexing, and ranking. These functions help search engines find relevant Webpages and display it to the user.
One must understand that the first step in any SEO is being visible to search engines. Only after your site can be found by search engines, they can be ranked accordingly.
Each function can be described as follows:
Search engines send in bots, commonly known as spiders or crawlers to search relevant content on the internet.
These crawlers keep looking for instances for new and updated pieces of information that are most appropriate to search queries.
Every content on the internet is stored in the form of URLs, be it word file, images, pdfs, etc.
All the data is stored in a database known as ‘Caffeine’ which stores all the URLs discovered by the crawlers.
This data is later processed and stored in an index. Once all of the Webpages are evaluated and only after they are deemed good enough, they are stored in the index.
Every indexed Webpage is in contention of being ranked.
Whenever a user keys in a search request, search engines iterates through their index and decides the order of preferences in which it will present the Webpages to the users.
This entire process is known as ranking. In simple words, the content that the search engine finds most useful is placed higher. There multiple factors that the search engines consider along with the content to attribute the rankings.
Every search engine relies on certain algorithms that help it undertake these processes.
Hence, for any SEO campaign to be effective, it is essential that it aligns itself with search engine algorithms such that search engine crawlers are easily able to scour through your Website for content.
One more thing that one needs to keep in mind is that search engine rankings are dynamic. It means if a Website is ranked 1, there is no guarantee that it will stay that way.
Crawlers keep checking for relevancy regularly and if your Website is filled with junk data or if there is a high ‘bounce-back’ rate, chances are that your ranking will fall.
The very algorithm on which this data is based keeps getting updated regularly. Hence, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for improving search engine rankings.
However, there have been various proven strategies that have yielded considerable improvement for Websites. Before I dive deeper into these strategies, let us understand the importance of SEO.
Why Does Your Website Need SEO?
There is no dearth of statistics that highlight the burgeoning growth of search engines.
- According to the stats, Every day there are more than 3.5 billion search queries that are put on Google, which is approximately equal to 1.2 trillion searches per year.
- Of all the ‘near me’ searches done via desktops and tablets, 34% of them result in visits to the store.
- 97% of people reported that they learned about a local company online, compared to other sources.
As the volume of Google searches increases every day, it is a no-brainer that you must invest in driving traffic to your Website.
It is also worth noting that 75% of people using search engines don’t even scroll past the first page.
There has been a joke which has been doing the rounds on the internet, it goes like this if you want to hide a body, hide it on the second page of Google.
This is evident from the fact that when only a negligible amount of people consider navigating to the second page.
Boosting your ranking and improving the overall online presence, helps generate valuable traffic for your Website.
Since you connect with people around the world on the internet, your marketplace is no longer restricted. Building your online presence also plays a key role in boosting your credibility as a brand, as mentioned above.
People tend to put higher trust in brands which can be easily found on search engines. Thus improving your search engine rankings lends an overall boost to your existing brand.
What are the Various Types of SEO?
There are multiple ways in which you can increase the organic growth of your Website.
Some of these factors directly involve optimizing the content while some factors play a passive role but contribute to improving the ranking.
These methods are broadly classified as:
- On-page SEO
- Off-Page SEO
Before I dive deeper into each of these methods, it is important that one puts their content at the forefront.
The content present on your Website is the primary criterion through which search engines determine your rankings.
One must ensure that their content stays up-to-date, and contain relevant information in the most precise manner.
Blog posts, tutorials, how-to guides, infographics, visual content help attract audiences to your content.
I’ll look at how to create an effective strategy later, but in brief, it is important that your Website has good, clear, and concise content.
Once you have decided upon the content, these are ways in which you can improve its visibility.
1. On-Page SEO
As the name suggests, on-page SEO techniques are those that directly involve modifying the content on your Webpage.
The best part about on-page SEO is that you’re directly in control of the various aspects of your Website, and you can keep updating these elements to align with the latest algorithms.
These factors can be further enhanced when you develop an understanding of SEO techniques as on-page SEO strategies are not restricted to your content.
Click here to learn more about how content marketing and SEO are related.
These practices also involve the use of the back-end of your Web page, for instance, your Website’s HTML code.
Some of the most commonly used factors that play a direct role in helping you increase your rankings are as follows:
A. Title Tag
The title tag can be considered as the first impression that you put on your clients.
It basically gives the user a general idea of what your content might be. Since it is essentially the title of your article, it should be crisp, brief, and eye-catching.
Title tags that are too long, might lose out on key information. While shorter title tags may miss out on key details
You must write a title tag that is essentially 60 characters or less. These 60 characters include your title, keywords, and the name of your business.
B. Meta Description
Meta-description is the information that Ib crawlers use to identify the relevancy of your Website.
It basically tells the search engines what your page is all about. One additional advantage of writing a meta-description is that helps add more depth and clarity to your title.
This information is certainly helpful in attracting user traffic as well.
Human visitors that read the meta-description are more likely to visit your Webpage if it matches closely with what they are looking for.
Your meta-description must include a few keywords, and describe the content in an enticing manner. The ideal length of a meta-description is between 160-175 characters.
Make use of sub-headings. It not only adds more clarity to your article and makes it more readable but also helps search engines identify your content in a better way.
You can divide your article into a number of subheadings and include tags like H1, H2, H3, etc. This helps differentiate between the main body, the sub-divisions, and the lists, etc.
For example, suppose your article speaks about maintaining a keto diet.
In such an article, the Keto diet becomes your central theme, which you can further divide into vegetarian and non-vegetarian options.
You can add a few dos and don’ts under each subheading such that your article emphasizes on the aspects you want to.
D. Internal Links
Adding hyperlinks, and internal links that direct users to other articles on your Website can help engage users for longer, and thus engage them in a better manner.
The amount of time that users spend on your Website also impacts your SEO ranking in a major way.
When you link your articles to other content on your Website, search engine crawlers get a better idea of the quality of your content.
Let us understand this with an example. If you’re a fashion blog that specializes in women’s fashion, you can write an article on ‘Summer trends for women’ where you can subtly direct users to content.
Example: Summers are all about floral patterns. Here you can add a link on the phrase ‘floral patterns’ to an article on your Website which speaks exclusively about the best floral patterns.
E. Image Name And ALT Tags
One of the lesser discussed sources of traffic is the ‘images’ section on any search engine.
Whenever users perform any search and look it up under ‘images’, your content can show up right there. Achieving this is simple.
Whenever you include any images in your Website or blog, include the keywords and phrases in the image name and alt tag.
Adding an image name and alt tags helps search engine tag your image as relevant and index it.
F. URL Strings
Search engines prefer short, concise and easily readable URL strings. When analyzing the length of URLs, Ahrefs found that shorter URLs tend to rank better.
The study looked at the length of the URL and a number of folders. They counted each root domain as one folder, and each backslash after the root as another folder.
Good URL strings format:http://domain.com/folder-name/article-name OR
The phrase after the backslash, after the domain name, is preferred to be your focus keywords.
If the phrase contains multiple words, use a hyphen (“-“) to separate them rather than underscore (“_”).
Things To Keep In Mind
It is also important to understand that stuffing your article can do more harm than good.
Most search engines including Google penalize a page if the keyword is used too many times.
Using too many keywords also dampens the quality of your articles. Ensure that keywords are used only when required and flow naturally with the article.
Lastly, when it comes to on-page SEO, one must pay keen attention to their site architecture as well.
Lucid designs help crawlers easily scan your pages. You can also create a site map that contains details regarding how the pages are linked and the sections in which you have divided your content.
Improving your site architecture also means one must not neglect mobile users.
Since most functionalities are now available on mobile devices, a large number of users simply use their phones for all the information that they need.
Hence, you must create a Website that is both mobile-friendly and helps navigate easily through content delivering the rich user experience.
2. Off-Page SEO
Off-page SEO activities include the ones which are not directly related to your Website but impact your Webpage ranking.
Although you can not exercise direct control over factors, there are ways in which you can work on some off-page strategies.
Let us look at each of these factors in brief:
A. Links (Backlinks)
Links are nothing but other Websites talking about your Webpage and linking to your content.
Although links are one of the most important factors to build off-page SEO (though not as important as before), spamming your Website with too many links can even lead to your site getting banned from search engines.
Hence, it is important that you are ethical in your approach.
Always invest in building relationships with quality influencers and fans who can promote your Website through their content.
Acquiring the right backlinks can increase the upstream of user traffic as Ill as improve your ranking organically.
In the last few years, trust has become one of the most important factors in improving your rankings.
Using certain algorithms, Google determines the legitimacy of your Website.
If you have a Website that wrongly attracts people into paying for services they don’t need or signing up for mailers without their consent, it will severely impact your trust ratings, and in turn significantly reduce your ranking.
There are multiple Websites that can be considered as having authority.
These Websites have built a reputation over the years with quality content which the users find useful, getting quality backlinks from such Websites can greatly help improve the trust rating of your Website
C. Social Platforms
Use social media platforms to promote your content in a manner that is not too forceful yet convincing.
Crawlers rely on social signals such as the number of likes and shares that your content receives for understanding the level of user engagement.
The higher the number of shares you receive from quality influencers, the better are your chances of landing up at a higher rank on a search engine.
Off-page SEO can be improved simply by creating content that genuinely helps people.
If you create quality content that users find useful, there are good chances that your ranking will improve.
One added advantage of creating relevant content is that if users find it helpful, they are bound to share your content on social media.
As the number of people that trust your content increases, your ranking will witness a steep rise.
Factors That Contribute to Your Ranking
There are over 200 factors that influence the ranking of your Website. Some of these factors play a direct role, while some indirectly push your rankings here.
These are some of the main factors that determine your ranking:
A. An accessible Website that is easy to navigate and contains information like site architecture, goes a long way in improving your ranking.
You can also enhance the security of your Website using an SSL encryption, for an HTTPS Website. Adding a robot.txt file helps crawlers scan your content better.
B. The page speed plays a key role in ranking your Website. If your site is too bloated and doesn’t load up quickly, it may get penalized.
Hence, it is highly important that your Website has a high loading speed.
C. The domain age, URL, and authority is very important for improving your site ranking.
According to a study by Ahrefs, very few sites with age less than one year are able to achieve a top ten ranking.
D. Mobile-friendliness of your Website is one of the major ranking factors as mobile traffic and Webpage views have been consistently increasing over the past few years.
E. An optimized content containing the right keyword is often considered the most essential aspect of determining your SEO ranking.
F. On-page SEO elements like using title tags, headers, and meta-description help crawlers navigate through your content efficiently.
G. The overall user experience consists of factors like clickthrough rate, bounce rate, and the dIll time.
Google’s AI uses a signal called RankBrain which relies on similar factors to determine Webpage rankings.
H. Adding links to your article which direct users to other informative articles on your Webpages as well as other trusted sources greatly improve the overall ranking. You must also aim for inbound links from trusted sources.
I. Your social media presence, that is the number of likes and shares that your content receives help achieve greater organic growth.
J. Your business information such as contact details, business listings, reviews, and local search terms greatly influence your ranking especially when it comes to local SEO.
Step-By-Step SEO Strategies For Beginners
Google changes its search ranking algorithm, which makes it more difficult to rank your site nowadays. But with strategies listed below, I guarantee, you will be able to rank on Google’s front page with minimum work required!
1. Find Opportunistic Keywords
Let’s understand what are opportunistic keywords.
Opportunistic keywords are keywords related to your content. For example, you run a restaurant business, the keywords related would be “Good food”, “Restaurant Near Me”, “Best Restaurant in Chicago” etc.
So the first step here is you have to do some research on keywords related to your business.
There are 3 categories of keywords:
- Head – Short, one-word keyword. Eg. “Restaurant”
- Body – 2-3 words word phrases. Eg. “Best Restaurant”
- Long Tail – Descriptive word phrases. Eg. “Best Restaurant in Chicago”
You would want to focus on either body or long-tail keywords. The reasons are:
- They are easy to rank – Less competition, have more opportunities to modify.
- They are normally what people would type in the search box – You would not type “Restaurant” alone to search for a restaurant right?
Places to do keywords research:
- Wikipedia – Type your business name or focus on a broad category of it. Then filter out the subheadings. Make them your topics.
- Quora – As you know, people come to Quora every day to ask questions. Search for potential questions related to your business.
- Google AutoCorrect – When you search for something, Google suggests remaining phrases for you.
2. Narrow Down Your Keywords
After you have got some keywords, it’s time to choose only those keywords which have optimum search volume per month and high cost per click.
Optimum search volume per month is the number of searches make, roughly for a particular keyword, per month. Now, why we need to focus on “Optimum” volume, not high?
Well, this is because of competitions. You would not want to compete with a keyword which has something like 220,000 searches per month.
The goal is not to rank first in Google but on the first page. Because It would take years for your website to compete with some well-established sites.
Cost per Click (CPC) is the amount of money, an advertiser willing to pay for a particular keyword ( This is used when bidding for keywords in Google AdWord or advertising).
If an advertiser willing to pay a high amount means your keyword is valuable.
Tools to Narrow Down Keywords:
- Keywords Everywhere – Google Chrome extension
- Google Keyword Planner
- Ubersuggest – It can be used for researching keywords also.
Once you have narrowed down the keywords, choose the best keyword, from each topic which has the best search volume per month and CPC, and makes it as your target keyword.
Your chosen keywords will be the centerpieces of your content.
3. Create A Catchy Heading
As you can see above, These are the top 3 search results from “Best restaurants in Chicago”.
A heading is termed as”catchy” if it can hook readers to click. It is the first thing people notice on the search results.
Good headings often start with numbers, current year or trends (here it is 2019) some strong adjectives like “Best”, “Amazing” etc. or headings which create a sense of urgency like “Now”.
For more information on how to create good headings and persuade people, check out my how to influence people in the business.
4. Optimize Your Site For Users And Search Engine
The SEO process is all about continuous optimization and improvement.
After you have created your content and your site is published, make sure these 3 points are covered:
- Your site has Meta Description
- Your site is mobile optimized – adjust to different screen size
- Your site has good mobile test speed – test at google page speed insights
Besides, make sure your content serves proper user intent. User intent is defined as the intention behind search queries.
For example, If I’m looking for ‘How to bake a cake’, my intent is to learn – So blog articles would rank well in this case.
Whereas if I want to buy something, product pages would be an ideal choice.
5. Track The Progress
Your site needs to be constantly monitored and tracked.
The best tool used to keep track of your website is Google Analytics.
I think it’s the best tool to monitor a website (You can comment below if you find any tool better than this).
Due to its simplicity to use and functionalities, You get the in-depth information about your site’s visitors, a source where they found you, location, active users and much more.
To learn how to use Google Analytics, click here.
That’s all for the complete beginners’ guide to SEO.
Search Engine Optimization is now a pre-requisite for any business to survive in a competitive environment.
Before one creates a strategy that suits their business, one must invest some time and effort to build their knowledge regarding SEO.
Since search engines like Google keep updating their algorithm, it is essential that your content stays fresh too.
One must create rich, valuable content for users that help build their online presence.
Search Engine Optimization is not a quick fix but a slow, consistent exercise that helps your business grow organically over time. Means matter as much as the end results.
Despite the fact that some methods may seem like the easy way of instantly improving your ranking, but search engines easily identify such pages and penalize them in a manner that halts their progress completely.
Always create a strategy after consulting multiple sources. As there is no single way in which you can achieve better ranking, invest in a method that is best suited for your line of business.
If you want to discuss anything on SEO or SEO service, check out my SEO agency page.