Are you planning to learn SEO but don’t know where to start?
Don’t worry, I’ve prepared a beginner’s SEO guide to help you learn SEO from scratch and proceed on your own.
So without wasting any time, let’s get started.
1 – SEO Basics
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a process of optimizing a website according to the search engine guidelines, thus improving the organic (non-paid) rankings in search results.
There are different SEO techniques, all with the same end goal – to be among the top results in organic search.
SEO is not just about the structure of a website, the website must be filled with high-quality SEO optimized content for a target audience and most importantly the content must be worthy enough to get backlinks from other high authority websites.
Is SEO difficult?
The short answer is NO, but SEO takes time and patience.
Search engines like Google and Bing rank websites based on various ranking factors or algorithms.
Google alone has more than 200 ranking factors.
We know many of them but not all.
Of course, we don’t need to know all the ranking factors in order to rank a website.
Recently Google revealed it’s three most important ranking factors.
- Rank brain
Good SEO techniques improve your rankings, higher rankings mean more traffic.
If you want your website on the first page and in top results in a search engine then you need to do SEO.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to study or practice a lot to learn SEO.
There’s a lot of information available on the web for free like this article you’re reading right now.
White Hat vs Black Hat SEO
White hat vs black hat is like the good guy vs the bad guy.
Black hat SEO is a set of unethical techniques to improve the ranking of a website.
Black hat SEO can get you to the top of rankings in a very short time but sooner or later the search engine will find out and penalize your website.
White hat SEO, on the other hand, is a set of ethical techniques to rank a website it includes high creating high-quality content, overall website structure and optimization, building high-quality backlinks.
White hat SEO is a long-term strategy.
2 – Search Engine
Let’s understand how a search engine works, how people use them and how search works.
How search engine works?
A search engine consists of 3 main components
- Picking the right results
Crawling means scanning a website and it’s content by search engine bots also known as crawlers or spiders.
These bots crawl the whole web regularly to update the data in a search engine.
After crawling comes indexing. You can imagine indexing as a huge library containing all the websites from all over the globe.
Picking the right results
When a user searches or submits a query in a search engine then it digs through its index and displays the best matching results.
As I mentioned before, not all ranking factors are known but here’s a list of 200 Google ranking factors by Brian Dean from Backlinko, and here are some proven factors to land you on the first page of a search engine.
- Highly targeted content
- Easily crawlable website
- Quality of backlinks
- Unique content
- Fresh content
- Website speed
- Responsiveness of the website
As I mentioned before, backlinks are one of the 3 most important factors in order to rank on Google search. Therefore, you need to understand the meaning of the backlink profile.
It is the number and quality of backlinks leading to a website from another website.
Here are Some other important ranking factors:
- Link relevance
- Grammar and spelling
- Domain age
- Page layout
How people use a search engine?
The main point of doing SEO is to make the website both user-friendly and search engine friendly.
The image below depicts how people use the search engine.
3 – On-page and Technical SEO
On-page SEO has a long list of tasks to do.
Search engine algorithms have changed a lot over the years and became more advanced.
Earlier, stuffing the focus keyword in title, description, and content was enough to achieve high rankings but it was a thing of the past.
If you want to learn SEO you can not get stuck in the past.
Meta tags are a part of the HTML code of a website. The most important meta tags from an SEO point of view are the meta title and meta description.
These two tags aren’t as important as they used to be but they still affect your rankings.
There are many tools (Rankmath for WordPress) available to analyze your content in terms of keyword density, image alt tags, meta title and description and other factors.
These tools provide many features but none of them focus on the human factor which is a major part of the latest Google algorithm (RankBrain).
So while writing the meta tags you need to consider both user experience and technical factors.
On-page SEO checklist
Find out what your audience is searching for before writing
Are you planning to write on a topic your target audience is searching for?
Can you offer something new and unique?
These are the type of questions you have to think about before you start writing.
There are many ways to find out what your target audience is searching for, but we’ll discuss them later.
You need to create eye catchy headlines, meta titles, and descriptions.
You need to use your focus keywords in them but do not stuff them with keywords.
You can think meta description as a call to action (CTA), so it should be compelling for the user.
SEO friendly URLs
Never, I repeat never use the auto-generated URLs like this one “www.example.com/2019/post318e7a349f6“
Always use the URL that best describes your content like this “www.example.com/blog/learn-seo“
In WordPress, you can set permalink, keep your URL short.
- The meta title should be up to 70 characters and meta description should be up to 155 characters for the best view in search results.
- Use correct h1, h2, h3 tags for better structure and readability.
Use images, videos, Gifs, charts, infographics in your content.
Content with multimedia receives higher engagement and low bounce rates.
Video marketing is currently one of the hottest digital marketing trends, people will be more likely to share them.
You can use short videos in your content or can create entire videos content separately.
- Always optimize the images by using relevant image names (learn-seo.png), alt image attributes and file size.
- If applicable use embeds interactive multimedia.
Outbound links popularly known as backlinks gives a signal to Google about the relevancy of your content.
Just make sure that the backlinks you get are from relevant and high authority websites.
Internal linking is a great way to promote your own content on your own website.
Internal linking is work wonders when it comes to increasing engagement and average page duration, it also reduces the bounce rate and helps search engine bots to understand the structure of your website.
- Outbound links do not affect your rankings directly, yet it is highly advisable to use them.
- Try to include more internal links, depending on your content length.
- Try to fix broken links.
Technical SEO checklist
These are the most important technical SEO factors to focus on
Google search console
Search console is the most basic part of the SEO.
It helps to monitor the overall health of a website, which means you can check how your website is performing in Google search.
Search console also helps you to analyze your keyword rankings, CTR, Google penalties if there is any, and a whole bunch of other data.
Some of its other important features include mobile usability, choosing what to be indexed, website errors, links, etc.
Website speed is one of the important ranking factors, so try to make your website as fast as the Flash.
A whopping 50% of the internet users expect a website to load in 2 seconds and if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds, they are more likely to abandon the website.
- Test the speed in PageSpeed Insights.
- Optimize images, minify HTML, JS, and CSS.
- Try to decrease server response time.
Mobile optimization is the need of the hour.
The users are shifting from desktops to mobile.
Running a website that is not optimized for mobile will negatively influence your rankings.
Google first rolled out it’s mobile-first indexing in March 2018. It means that Google will use mobile versions of websites for indexing and rankings.
- You can test the responsiveness of your website in the Mobile-Friendly Test.
A sitemap is a file which helps search engine bots to crawl your website with ease.
It’s good to have a sitemap if you have a large website with a very complex structure.
Having a sitemap doesn’t affect your rankings.
According to Google, a sitemap is a benefit but you’ll never be penalized for not having one.
- There are different types of sitemaps.
- A sitemap shouldn’t contain more than 50,000 URLs and cannot exceed 50 MB
4 – Content and SEO
Back in the days, some marketers used to believe that a perfect content doesn’t need SEO but they were wrong.
Imagine a high-quality content with no SEO optimization and zero quality backlinks.
There is a majority of people who think that SEO is for search engines and the content is for humans.
You’ve to Create high quality, unique content and have to optimize it for both a search engine and the user at the same time, the reason is search engines are considering human factors in rankings.
What type of content should I create?
This is the most important question.
And the answer is quite simple, you need to create high-quality original content which should be capable to grab your target audience’s attention.
It’s totally up to you while choosing the type of content you want to create.
Here are some popular types of content
Blogs are quite popular as they are a great source to showcase your expertise and it also helps in increasing engagement on almost any kind of website.
Blogging is how many people earn their living by doing what they love (food bloggers and travel bloggers, etc)
Unique blogs with in-depth content receive higher engagement than other blogs.
Here are the most common type of content based on a survey by GrowthBadgerProduct pages
Every online business must create high-quality product pages as they act as landing pages for various marketing campaigns.
If you what to establish yourself as an authority then start writing reviews.
You can write reviews of products, software, etc. Almost everything can be reviewed.
If you manage to establish yourself as an authority.
Case studies and original research
These are the ways to show the world what you can do and how you do that.
Tell your audience how you helped your clients achieve great heights, show the data you collected in your research, etc.
The thing about case studies is that they are uniques and new for the readers.
Everyone likes infographics, they look appealing and are easy to share.
The main motive behind the infographic is to present the information in a way that is easy to read.
Guides are also a part of the blogs.
The “…Guide” or “How to …” are very strong and attractive keywords when it comes to grabbing the reader’s attention.
There are plenty of other guides already available, so do not copy them try to offer something unique that will add value for your readers.
Getting advice and tips from industry experts always works for your blog.
It helps to build credibility and backlinks. It also boosts traffic.
Videos can generate higher engagement, more social shares, and likes.
In fact, videos can increase the conversion rate by a whopping 80%.
If you’re short on time, then you don’t have to create your own video content every time. You can embed a video in your content from an industry expert.
Ebooks generally have one purpose, lead generation.
Generally, B2B websites use ebooks to generate leads.
What’s the ideal length of a blog post?
Sometime back, a long-form content stuffed with keywords used to ranked on top positions in search results easily.
Those days are long gone.
If you’re writing an article, you need to grab your reader’s attention.
It should have an eye-catching headline, compelling intro and most importantly a good content structure.
According to Medium, posts with a 7 minute reading time are ideal.
According to a study longer posts tend to rank better in search results.
What about duplicate content?
We all have been there where we need to repeat certain words or phrases which we have written previously on our website.
Google’s algorithm can differentiate whether you did it on purpose or as a natural part of your new content.
If you copy the content then Google can penalize and ban your website from its search engine.
Don not copy content from others, try to create your own unique content and optimize it for user and search engine.
5 – Link building
Link building is one of the most important parts of SEO, this is how you get backlinks.
Link building simply means getting links from other websites.
Why is link building so important?
A search engine uses links to explore new content and set the overall ranking of a website in search results.
In layman terms, a backlink (do-follow) transfer its link juice(authority) to your website.
This is the reason why backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors.
In 2019, it’s not about the number of backlinks but about the quality and relevance.
- Do-follow backlinks pass the link juice(or authority) of the linking page to the linked page.
- No-follow backlinks do not get any link juice from the linking page.
From an SEO point of view, no-follow backlinks do not add much value to a website.
Anchor text is the clickable part of a hyperlink. It helps crawler to understand what the linked page is all about.
If there are many(high authority) pages are linked to you with certain key terms used in anchor texts then it’ll help you rank faster for these terms in search results.
The two most important factors in deciding the quality of backlinks are
Higher the value of DA and PA, higher will be the quality of the backlink.
Link referring to your website has to be relevant.
A link from an eCommerce store will be worthless for you if you write about recipes.
Link placed in the main section or part of the body of content works better than those in the footers and sidebars.
Sitewide links are those which appears on almost all the pages of a website generally header, footer and sidebars.
A single better-placed link is better than sitewide links.
Link building strategies
It’s not easy to get a high-quality backlink.
The simple techniques(directory and forum submission) do not work anymore.
Let’s have a look at the latest link building strategies
Guest posting nowadays is the most popular link building technique in 2019.
It’s very simple, you write a post, publish it on the other website. That website got free content and you get a high-quality backlink.
But if you want a high-quality backlink, you need to write a high-quality guest post.
This strategy works pretty well, find out where your competitors are getting backlinks, check those websites and create better content than your competitor and ask that website to link your content instead.
You can use a tool like Ahref to analyze your competitor’s backlinks.
You just have to enter the website URL of a competitor and it will show you all the backlinks they have.
You can also check the backlinks of a specific URL as well.
Now that you have found out your competitors backlinks, you need to ask yourself two things
- Link relevance – is the link relevant to me.
- Link juice – what is the PA of the linking page.
Black Hat techniques
Do you you can also buy backlinks for your website?
Paid backlinks and private blog networks generally referred to as PBNs are a great way to build backlinks but they are considered as black hat techniques.
If Google detects the pattern, your website will be penalized.
These techniques work great but you have to be very careful and ready for the risks.
I hope you guys enjoyed my SEO guide.
There’s a lot to learn about SEO, but considering the results, it’s totally worth your time.
Make sure that your website is fully crawlable, your content is fully optimized and reach out to other websites to link to you.