SEO For Beginners (The Complete Guide)

SEO for Beginners

With Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you can significantly boost the amount of traffic that comes to your website.

Many startups and established businesses have successfully used SEO to get more customers without spending a dime on paid advertising. For example, consider the case study of a blogger who saw their web traffic skyrocket following effective SEO initiatives.

As a beginner in the marketing world, you might need to learn what SEO is. After reading this article, you’ll know everything necessary to get started on the right foot. 

We’ll show you:

  • What SEO is and what’s involved
  • Why keyword research is a big part of SEO
  • How to optimize your website and blog posts
  • Why high-quality content is essential if you want your SEO efforts to succeed 
  • How readily available tools can help you build an effective SEO strategy

Let’s get started!

What is SEO and Why Does It Matter?

The term SEO pops up the moment you start looking into getting a business website. It stands for search engine optimization, but what does that really mean?

Here’s a breakdown of SEO that should clear things up.

Why does SEO matter?

First, you have a website, and for it to succeed, you need traffic.

The most effective way to get traffic to your website is through search engines like Google. When people look for something online, they submit a query, and the search engine brings up the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). The SERP is full of links to websites related to the query. These search results are also called organic search results.

People scan the SERP and navigate the sites they feel are most relevant.

Every search engine has an algorithm that decides which links will appear for a specific query. The algorithm makes this decision based on thousands of factors so that users get the correct links returned.

That’s where SEO comes in.

The purpose of SEO is to optimize a website for a few specific queries so that links to that site appear as close to the top of the SERP as possible.

The better optimized your website is, the more prominently it will show up in the SERPs, and the more people will visit it. That means more traffic. 

SEO plays an important role, so companies pay experts big money to optimize their websites. It’s all about ranking higher in search engines, and SEO is how it’s done.

Learn what are keywords and why they are important

How Do Search Engines Rank?

SEO ranking factors are the criteria that search engines use to determine the relevance and ranking of web pages in their results, so we have to include them in our “SEO Basics” article. Many SEO ranking factors can influence a website’s ranking. These include:

  • Content written
  • Backlinks included
  • Website’s speed
  • Website’s usability

The content on the website should be relevant, informative, and well-written. Additionally, the website should have many backlinks from other high-quality websites. The website should also load quickly and be easy to navigate. Finally, optimizing the website for local search can also help improve its SEO ranking. By following these SEO ranking factors, websites can improve their rankings in search engine results pages. This will result in more traffic, higher conversions, and better overall performance over time.

Google is known to have advanced algorithms to rank pages on the search engine results page, and most of these are unknown to marketers. Google’s algorithms are constantly changing and evolving, and the company does provide guidelines and best practices for improving website rankings and visibility, but the exact algorithms used are a closely guarded secret. If you’re well-versed in Google Analytics, Moz, and other SEO tools, you may not think you need a separate SEO reporting dashboard. After all, many of these tools are free and offer the same flexibility.

Google’s algorithms are designed to provide the best possible search results for users and take into account a variety of factors, including the relevance, quality, and freshness of content, the number of other websites linking to the page, the user’s location, and the user’s search query.

SEO Basics (Things You Can Do Right Now)

Getting your website to rank better in search engine results is a basic step. Below are some simple things you can do right away to get your website on the right path. We’ll talk about some of them in detail in the next sections of this article.

Research keywords: Researching relevant keywords related to your website is essential in optimizing your website. Ensure you’re targeting the keywords and phrases your audience will likely use when searching for your products and services.

Optimize existing content: Make sure your content is optimized for the keywords you researched. This includes optimizing titles and meta descriptions and ensuring that your content is relevant to your target audience. In short, this is performing SEO for your content, and we have a separate section below.

Improve page load time: Improving your page load time is essential for SEO, and it can boost your ranking in search engines without much hassle. Make sure your pages are loading quickly, they’re structured well, and they’re easily accessible. Slow-loading pages can hurt your rankings.

Create quality content: This part cannot be overstated enough. Quality content will make users return to your site – and search engines like Google know that. Ensure you’re creating interesting, informative, and engaging content for your readers.

Build backlinks: Building backlinks to your website is another strategy to boost your SEO. Make sure you’re getting backlinks from high-quality, relevant websites by offering to write them a blog post or performing a link exchange.

Monitor website performance: Knowing how your site performs at all times is critical. A slow website will likely get picked up by search engines and hinder your SEO. Ensure you’re keeping an eye on your rankings, traffic, and other metrics to ensure your website performs well.

Keyword Research – Why Is It Such a Big Part of SEO?

At the heart of every SEO strategy lie keywords. Without keywords, your SEO efforts will be aimless, but your strategy will be laser-focused and highly effective with them.

What makes keyword research so crucial for SEO?

You want your website to appear in search engine results for specific queries. People use words and phrases to search for businesses like yours, and finding those keywords is the most crucial part of SEO.

For example, HostPapa is a hosting provider. The ideal keywords for our website would be phrases like:

  • Best hosting provider in Canada
  • Hosting packages for a business website
  • How to choose a web hosting provider
This is how your site will look on google search

It wouldn’t make sense for us to try to rank for keywords about smartphones or games or anything else that’s not directly related to our line of business.

People searching for those things have no interest in hosting services, but people searching for “best hosting provider” do.

How to Find the Right Keywords for Your Website

Finding the right keywords for your business isn’t easy, but here are a couple of tips that will help:

  • Look for commercial intent in your keyword research. If you’re selling shoes, you may think a keyword phrase like “best shoes” would improve your SEO. It’s reasonable to consider, but those aren’t great keywords in this case. A person typing “best shoes” seems more like a casual browser than someone ready to buy.

If you try to rank for “best sports shoes for playing football,” you’ll get visitors who know what they want and are prepared to make a purchase. A consumer’s use of precise keywords has a lot of buying intent behind it. If you find a collection of keywords with high commercial intent, you’ll get the right kind of traffic for your website. 

  • Always target long-tail keywords. The difference between “best shoes” and “best sports shoes for playing football” is that the former is a short-tail keyword while the latter is a long-tail keyword. The benefit of long-tail keywords is that they’re easier to rank for because they have less competition. 

Short-tail keywords like “best shoes” are hard to rank for, plus they don’t have the strong commercial intent that long-tail keywords have.

  • Look inside Google Search suggestions. Enter keywords that you want to rank for in Google Search. At the bottom of the search results page, you’ll find plenty of long-tail keyword suggestions with high commercial intent. You can use the most effective ones in your SEO campaign.
Example of popular searches in google

Ranking for Keywords Takes Time

As you can see, SEO is all about ranking for the right keywords. That won’t happen overnight, and it applies to all other search engines as well.

You won’t be able to simply take the steps covered in this article and immediately start seeing your website on the first page of Google SERPs. SEO moves a little slower than that. 

It’s material to manage your expectations. Even with a highly effective SEO strategy, getting the maximum benefit can take many months or even a year.

Once you start gaining steam, however, you’ll see that the benefits of higher rankings for your website through SEO are big, while the time and resources required to get those rankings are small. Your patience will be rewarded if you give your SEO plan time to work. 

Now, let’s see what to do once you’ve found the right keywords.

Every search engine has an algorithm that decides which links will show up for a specific query.

SEO for Your Website

After identifying your keywords, you’re ready to optimize your website and boost your search engine rankings. This process is also known as on-page SEO in the world of web development. On-page SEO practically means optimizing the web pages on your site to reach maximum visibility and rank higher in search engines.

Here’s how you can do that easily:

  • Buy a good domain name. If you’re using a free domain name, change it to a paid one immediately. A free domain name makes it harder to get your site a high ranking in search results, but if you give it some thought or read our thorough blog post, you’ll be sure to pick a domain name that expresses your business the best.
  • Optimize the titles and meta descriptions of your web pages. The titles and meta descriptions of the pages on your site should include the primary keywords you want to target. This lets search engines know what your website is about. 
  • Improve your site’s navigation structure. Search engines crawl through your website to get to specific pages and analyze them for ranking purposes. Ensure your website’s navigation structure is neat and organized. Search engines understand most of the content, but with a well-thought navigation structure, you help them do their job more efficiently. 

To maximize your chances of ranking for your chosen keywords, you will also need to create high-quality content for your site. We’ll cover that in the next section. 

SEO for Your Content

After optimizing your website, the next thing to do is create content with SEO in mind.

You can target the right set of keywords by publishing the right content and updating them regularly. That will improve your website’s chances of ranking at the top of SERPs.

However, if your content isn’t of high quality and relevant to your business, it won’t rank on Google search. That’s because people are suffering from what’s called information overload. They only read content that genuinely provides valuable advice and information.

Keep reading to learn more SEO tips

That means your site should have:

  • No fluff,
  • No overly long blog posts without any value,
  • No rewritten or unoriginal content

Instead, you want evergreen content and will keep your visitors glued to your website.

That said, here’s how you can optimize your website content:

  • Incorporate keywords in your blog posts. In every article you write, include one or two keywords. Add target keywords to your post’s title tag, meta-description, the “h1” and “‘h2” header tags, the alt-text of images, and the body text, especially in the opening paragraph. 
  • Add a simple URL for each webpage. Here’s what the link to one of our blog posts looks like:

Now, imagine if it was something like this:

You’d prefer the first kind of URL, wouldn’t you? So do search engines! You should ensure every page on your website has a simple, readable URL. In WordPress, you can customize the permalink structure pretty simply, as shown in our Knowledge Base article.

  • Optimize your content for mobile. You want your content to load fast and look great on phones and tablets. It will have a significant impact on your SEO.
  • Add internal links. Internal links are the ones on your website that take visitors from one page of the site to another. Adding internal links increases the chances of visitors exploring more of your website and will help it rank higher in search results.

Everything we’ve discussed so far was on-site SEO, but it can also be called technical SEO because it incorporates changes to things like article and page metadata, which can be challenging to grasp by inexperienced users. Those tips will go a long way to improving your site’s position in search results.

There’s also something called off-site SEO, which we’ll be tackling in the next section.

So far, we’ve only discussed techniques you can use on your website to impact SEO. Now, we’ll look at some SEO tactics you can do outside your website, which can greatly impact its ranking in search engines.

Backlinks are the essence of off-site SEO.

Backlinks are so important that if two competing pages have the same high level of content, the one with more high-quality backlinks will get a better ranking.

So, what are backlinks, and how do you get them for your website?

What are backlinks and why should you care

It’s simple. All you have to do is get another website (that’s relevant to yours) to link to your site. It also has to have a high ranking of its own. You don’t want shady websites linking to you. 

This kind of link is called a backlink, and there are many ways you can get them for your website, including the following:

  • You can create such a fantastic site and content that people will link to without asking. 
  • You can create social media profiles, become active, and get your followers to share your website and its content.
  • You can contact individual influencers and high-authority websites and ask them to link to your website.

Here’s a word of warning. Under no circumstances should you link to your own website on forums and other low-quality websites. Search Engines frown upon this, and your website may get penalized and lose all rankings.

It’s best to create excellent content worthy of links and to build connections with other website owners that share your target audience. Those are the most effective and safest ways to get backlinks for your site.

Check these SEO tips for your content
Image credit: Search Engine Land

Why High-Quality Content Is Essential for SEO

We’ve mentioned repeatedly that high-quality content is necessary if you want your SEO strategy to succeed. In this section, we’ll explain why.

First, you need to know about two important things:

  • Dwell Time: This metric lets search engines know how much time a visitor spends on a webpage.
  • Bounce Rate: This metric tells search engines the percentage of people who leave your website after visiting just one page.

The higher your dwell time is, the better you’ll rank. And the higher your bounce rate is, the lower you’ll rank. 

The reasons for this are fairly obvious. A higher dwell time means that people found your website relevant to their needs. A high bounce rate means people were unimpressed with your website and didn’t explore it.

So, the ideal situation for your website is to have a high dwell time and a low bounce rate. The key to achieving that is high-quality content.

If you have beneficial, engaging, and meaningful content on your website, your visitors will be more motivated to spend time on it. This will indicate to search engines that people find your website relevant, and, as a result, your site will rank higher.

The lesson here is an investment in your website’s content is an investment in your SEO.

Can I Learn SEO By Myself?

The good thing is that you can absolutely learn about SEO yourself. To reach a point of SEO success, you’ll need to read and get ahold of all the best practices and SEO lingo quite fast.

By taking relevant courses, reading prominent website guides like this one, and practicing on your own site, you’ll need time to reach an acceptable knowledge level and be ready to apply it to your projects.

With Tools and Knowledge, Your SEO Strategy Will Take Off!

By now, you know quite a bit about SEO and how it works. However, there are plenty of things regarding SEO, and the good thing is that you can learn SEO by yourself. We’ll end this article with a look at some tools that can help provide the data you need to drive your SEO initiative.

Some of the best SEO tools
Image credit: Cyberchimps
  1. SEMRush: This all-in-one SEO tool will help you do keyword research. It will give you insight into your competition’s SEO strategies and will analyze your site to suggest SEO improvements. 
  2. Google Keyword Planner: Google provides this keyword research tool to give people insight into a keyword’s competition, showing useful information like the number of searches made for a given keyword, its price-per-click in ads, and more. Mind you that this tool is integrated into the Google Ads platform, so you need a Google Ads account to access it.
  3. UberSuggest: If you’re looking for a free SEO tool to give you keyword ideas, this is a good one. Created by the marketing industry guru Neil Patel, it’s a great tool to get started if you’re looking to dip your toes into SEO.
  4. Moz Pro: This is a great tool that gives you live analysis on domains in SERPs, shows you link-building opportunities, audits your site for SEO fixes, and more.
  5. Ahrefs: This tool has a significant presence in the SEO world and is used by top SEO marketers. Like Moz and SEMRush, it is a complete, all-in-one SEO tool that can be used for keyword research, backlink analysis, content research, and more.

We hope this list of tools and all the strategies we covered will help you get started in the challenging but profitable world of SEO.

If you’d like to learn more, visit the BackLinko or Moz blog. They have a lot of in-depth information about SEO that you may find helpful.

What kind of SEO techniques are you implementing for your website?

María is an enthusiast of cinema, literature and digital communication. As Content Coordinator at HostPapa, she focuses on the publication of content for the blog and social networks, organizing the translations, as well as writing and editing articles for the KB.

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