The Beginner’s Guide to SEO

Some SEO tutorials for beginners use a lot of technical jargon that will go over many people’s heads. Today, we want to keep things simple (this is called “SEO for Dummies” after all). Whether you’re looking for small business SEO tools or simply want to bookmark an SEO cheat sheet for future reference, this is the beginner’s guide to SEO for you!

Before we get started on our beginner’s guide to SEO, let’s get one thing clear: we don’t think you’re a dummy. SEO for dummies is just another way to say “SEO for beginners” or “SEO 101.” So, now that we’ve gotten the awkward part out of the way, let’s see how to learn the basics of SEO and launch your website to the top of Google’s search results!

Online SEO Marketing: SEO and How It Works

So, what is online SEO marketing? First, let’s start with the SEO basics. SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization.” Search engines like Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo are essentially your window to the Internet. For example, if you wanted to learn about starting your own business, you might type something like “how to start a business” into Google.

Within seconds, you’ll be presented with millions of search results related to starting a business. However, the best results will appear first. Not only are the first results usually the best, but they are also more likely to draw your attention. Do you want to spend hours skimming through thousands of websites, or would you prefer to click on the first or second link you see? The answer is simple. You want good results and you want them now!

Understanding SEO for Beginners

So, how does a website or blog post rank high in search results? First and foremost, websites rank based on their ability to provide useful, relevant information. However, content creators also use something else to increase their online visibility: Search Engine Optimization.

If you’re still having trouble wrapping your head around SEO, think of it like getting ready for a first date. You want to impress your date, so there are various things you could do to prepare. You might get a haircut, buy a new outfit, and put on some perfume or cologne. During the date, you will try to be friendly and charming. If you’re lucky, a second date will follow!

SEO works the same way, except instead of trying to impress a person on a date, you’re trying to impress Google (and other search engines, to a lesser extent). More specifically, you’re trying to impress Google’s search engine algorithm. Just like a date, you need to do preparation ahead of time and then use SEO best practices to continually stay in Google’s good graces. If you play your cards right, your website or blog will stay at the top of Google’s search results for the long-term!

Start with the SEO Basics

Ok, now let’s move away from the metaphors and get into the real meat of search engine optimization techniques. Since you want to learn SEO, let’s assume that you fall into one of the following categories:

● You want to create a website and learn SEO to start off on the right foot.
● You’ve recently created a website and want to implement some SEO best practices.
● You’ve had a website for a while and want to make sure you’re using the right SEO techniques.

No matter which category applies to you, we have the information you need. SEO is not as complex as people make it seem. However, it is competitive.

A Step-by-Step Guide

In fact, this is the most difficult aspect of developing a good SEO strategy. While you work to build your business or personal website with solid SEO, millions of other people are doing the exact same thing. So, to help you keep up with the competition, let’s start off with a few simple SEO tips for beginners.

Every website or blog should have a topic. The worst thing you can do (from an SEO analyst’s perspective) is create a website without a clear subject or purpose in mind. Back in the early days of the Internet, it was possible to start a blog where you could post your random thoughts and opinions on various topics and still appear relatively high in the search results. Needless to say, those days are long gone.

1. Find Your Niche

Nowadays, you need to start a website or blog with a purpose. Are you fascinated by model trains and want to share your passion with the world? Great! Start a blog about model trains. Do you have an auto repair shop with limited online visibility? Don’t stress! You can start a business website to draw in more customers in your area.

Whether you’ve already started a website or you’re getting ready to start one now, there’s still time to choose a niche and stick with it. Don’t worry if you’ve already created a lot of content that doesn’t apply to your new niche. You can slowly transition your website so that it focuses on specific keywords.

2. Find the Right Keywords

Once you’ve found your niche, it’s time to start doing keyword research. There are plenty of paid keyword research tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush (you can also start a free account with the latter), but if you’re just getting started, you may not be in a position to invest a lot of money in keyword research tools. So, let’s look at some of the easiest ways to research keywords for free and take advantage of free SEO tools online:

● Google Search Console – Google Search Console is like a one-stop-shop for analyzing your website traffic and finding areas for improvement. It also allows you to find keywords related to your niche.
● Google Trends – For better or worse, Google is the unofficial arbiter of the Internet. So, why not take advice from the master? Google Trends shows you how frequently people search for different keywords.
● Google – Are you starting to see a pattern here? When it comes to SEO, Google can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. Doing a simple Google search for different keywords will show you what you’re competing with, as well as related keywords (*hint: look at the blue links at the bottom of your Google search under the title “Searches related to…”).

We will cover a few more free SEO tools later on. There are dozens (even hundreds) of other free and paid tools for keyword research. That said, using Google is free and is also one of the best ways to boost your SEO and analyze the difficulty of ranking well for different keywords.


3. Build a Good Website

Google rewards websites that are fast, user-friendly, and free of structural errors (pages that return 404 errors, blank or uninformative landing pages, etc). So, you need to make sure that you’re building a website that works. All of the keyword research in the world won’t help a broken website.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert in coding to build a good website. Companies like WordPress, Squarespace, and Wix make it easy for beginners to build great looking websites with virtually no knowledge of web development. However, this doesn’t mean that you should just set it and forget it.

Instead, you should actively work to improve your website on a regular basis. This doesn’t mean you need to reinvent the wheel. But you do need to keep your website fun and exciting for users. First, ensure that your website can load quickly (pages that load slowly get punished by Google), and second, provide value for your audience.

4. Provide Value For Your Audience

To provide value for your audience, you need to figure out who makes up your audience. You don’t have to be a Youtube star, professional photographer, or brilliant writer to provide value. You simply need to identify your audience and create content that fulfills a need for them. Here are a few metrics that you should consider:

● Language – More than half of all web content written or recorded in English. If you’re reading this, you probably intend on creating content for an English-speaking audience. However, if you want to create content for people who speak other languages, you will need to be able to provide content in those target languages.

● Region – Some websites or blogs want to get traffic from all over the world, while others want to get traffic from specific countries, states, or even cities. For example, if you’re running a local business in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, you’ll want to draw in users from Philadelphia and the surrounding area, not Australia or France.

Search Intent – This is by far the most important factor to consider. If you want to rank for a given keyword, you need to consider why someone would search for that keyword. What are they looking for? More importantly, how can you provide them with the information, service, product, advice, etc. that they want and need?

● Demographics – Does your website or blog appeal to a certain age group? Do you want to draw in more male or female users? Try to limit the scope of your audience as much as possible so that you can target the users who are most likely to visit your website.

Once you’ve considered all of these factors and determined how your website or blog can provide value to your target audience, you can start creating high-quality content.

5. Create High-Quality Content

When business owners and bloggers go to create content, they often try to focus on SEO first. This is a huge mistake. When you’re creating a video, building a landing page, or writing a blog post, you need to ensure that it is high-quality. Period. If you produce low-quality content, SEO techniques won’t be able to help you

While videos and images can help bolster your content, the best way to rank for most keywords is written content. Creating well-written content can help you rank well and prove to Google that your website is an authority in your niche. This is why so many business websites develop blogs to accompany their primary landing pages. Blog posts allow you to target keywords and direct users to other parts of your website (service pages, products, etc).

Search Engine Optimization for Beginners

The preceding 5 steps will help you become an authority in your niche, but they won’t guarantee success. It’s easy to say that you provide the best content or value for readers; the hard part is getting Google to agree with you. Fortunately, there is one way to really show Google that you know what you’re talking about: backlinks.

A backlink is a link to your website from another website. For example, if you write a really great post about how to cook the perfect lasagna, another blogger might stumble upon it and include a link to your post on their cooking blog. Accumulating backlinks from legitimate sources shows Google that you are an authority in your niche. This will ultimately help boost your website in search engine rankings.

While there are plenty of legitimate ways to get backlinks (write great content, write guest posts on other blogs, etc), there are also some ways to get backlinks that could backfire. Many website owners choose to pay for backlinks. While this can work, it can also hurt your rankings if you’re not careful about where the links are coming from. In any case, the best way to build a strong backlink profile is to create high-quality content and share it through various avenues (for example: social media).

A lot of bloggers and digital marketing experts argue about SEO best practices and how to properly implement them.

The truth is that Google periodically updates its algorithms, throwing things off and forcing everyone to tweak their website SEO. That said, there are certain SEO best practices, Google SEO tips, and other SEO resources that will consistently help your on-page SEO and put your website high in the rankings.

Content SEO 101: How to Optimize Your Content for Google

Let’s say you’ve written a stellar blog post and you’re getting ready to add it to your website. Before you click the “submit” button, you need to make sure that your content is optimized for search engines. You’ve already optimized your website, done all of the keyword research, and written high-quality content. So, now what?

Now you need to optimize your content for the keyword you’re targeting. You may be targeting more than one, which means you’ll need to implement the following instructions for each keyword:

Download and Use Free SEO Tools

As previously stated, there are a number of free and paid tools to optimize written content. However, one of the best free SEO tools on the market is GDoc SEO Assistant. It is a free plugin for Google Docs that helps optimize your content.

Once you’ve installed GDoc SEO Assistant, simply put your content into a Google Doc, click “Add-ons,” choose “GDoc SEO Assistant,” and click “Show.” This will open up a side panel in which you can put the keyword you want to target.

The plugin then grabs a lot of valuable information to help you optimize your content, including:

● Word count – This shows how many words are in the current document. The plugin will tell you if your current word count is sufficient to rank for the specific keyword.
● Readability – This metric shows how easy your document is to read. Generally, you want to aim for 70% or higher.
● SQ Density – This metric shows what percentage of your document contains the keyword(s) you’re targeting. Ideally, this percentage should be between 2-4%.
● Search Volume – This shows the average number of monthly searches for this keyword.
● Competition – This rates your keyword based on its competition. The lower the number, the harder it will be to rank for this keyword.

Additionally, the plugin provides related keywords that show up in similar content. Finally, GDoc SEO Assistant gives your document a score between 0-100 and provides recommendations to improve the score (80 or above is considered “well-optimized”).

If you’re working with WordPress, the Yoast SEO WordPress Plugin is also a great choice. It provides similar metrics and allows you to improve your content’s SEO score within the WordPress platform.

Proceed with Caution

When it comes to SEO, you should always focus on providing value and quality first. Applications like GDoc SEO Assistant and Yoast SEO will help you improve your content for a given keyword, but they can also do more harm than good if you rely on them too much.

For example, Google is very sensitive to “keyword stuffing.” Keyword stuffing occurs when you try to put your target keyword (and related keywords) in the content to the point that it sounds completely unnatural. In other words, there is such a thing as over-optimization. If you want your content to rank well, you need to strike a balance between optimization and value.

This also brings us to the topic of White Hat SEO vs. Black Hat SEO. The SEO tutorial above provides White Hat SEO techniques. These are techniques that are considered legitimate for ranking your content while maintaining the integrity and authenticity of your website.

Alternatively, Black Hat SEO refers to SEO techniques that aim to artificially increase your rankings in search engines. Keyword stuffing and buying backlinks are just two examples of Black Hat SEO.

We will not go through a full list of poor SEO tactics here, but suffice it to say, tactics that feel like artificial manipulation probably fall within the realm of Black Hat SEO. If Google catches you using these kinds of tactics, your search engine rankings could take a huge hit.

Bottom Line

We hope you found this SEO for dummies guide useful! Website SEO is an ever-changing part of maintaining an online presence and growing your visibility on the Internet. Even if you know some SEO best practices and understand how to increase traffic and conversion rates, there’s always room for improvement. Free SEO training is a great place to start. That said, an SEO consultant can help take your website to the next level.

If you’d like to learn more about this beginner’s guide to SEO or want to hire an SEO consultant for your website, contact Philadelphia SEO Consulting today!