SEO Basics: Beginners Guide to SEO Success
Many people think SEO is too heavy and not worth the effort. That is not true. The basics of SEO are actually quite simple. And since 57.8% of all web traffic comes from Google, it's definitely worth learning about if you have a website.
If you think the basics aren't enough to get you ranked, think again. Most of the people who run websites have a very limited understanding of SEOSo if you know the basics, you can certainly be successful.
Here's what you will learn in this guide:
First, let's make sure we understand the absolute fundamentals of SEOincluding why it matters and how it compares to other marketing channels.
Why is SEO important?
Most of the web traffic comes from Google's organic results.
In other words: Organic search generates more traffic than all other traffic sources combined.
If you've read our guide to how search engines work, you'll know that Google and other search engines use hundreds of signals to choose which pages to rate. SEO is important as these signals need to be amplified in order to rank higher in organic search results.
What are the benefits of SEO?
A higher ranking is the most touted benefit of SEO, but rankings are really just a means to an end. Many of the real benefits of SEO are traffic related.
1. SEO leads to more traffic
Since most people tend to click on one of the first search results, a higher ranking usually leads to more traffic to your website.
For example, look at the top three results for "Submit website to search engines". Using Ahrefs' Keyword Explorer, we can see that the highest ranked page has the most organic traffic, followed by second, third, and so on.
Our study found that these observations are generally true in general, as the position of the ranking is highly correlated to the total traffic on a page.
2. SEO leads to constant traffic
Search engine ranking usually results in both consistent and passive traffic. This is rarely the case with media like social media and email marketing, which often result in traffic spikes that quickly fade to nothing.
This happens because social media networks are designed to keep fresh content popping up. E-mails are often read, forgotten or ended up in the spam box. Since the number of searches performed on search engines is usually consistent from month to month, traffic after ranking is usually both consistent and passive.
3. SEO leads to "free" traffic
Unlike paying for ads, search traffic is "free".
This is a big deal because search engine ads can be expensive.
According to Ahrefs' Site Explorer, the Ahrefs blog receives an estimated 390,000 monthly visits from search engines each month. If we paid Google for this traffic it would cost us an estimated US dollars1M per month.
Creating content that is ranked in Google isn't free, of course – but it's usually cheap compared to paying for ads.
How do you get your website on Google?
SEO helps you rank higher, but you can't rank higher if google doesn't even know your website exists.
Google may find your website on its own, but submitting your website manually has some key benefits:
- Discovery faster. Most of the new websites don't have backlinks from other websites. Therefore, it may take time for Google to discover it.
- Improve your website. The Google Search Console provides recommendations for improving and optimizing your website.
The first step In order to submit your website to Google, you need to find your sitemap.
Sitemaps are files that list all the important pages on your website. You can usually find yours by typing one of these urls into your browser:
If it's not there, go to website.com/robots.txt, which is where it is usually listed.
If it isn't there either, you probably don't have one. Read our guide to creating a sitemap.
The second step Create a free Google Search Console account and submit your sitemap.
If you have your website indexed by search engines, you are in the running and not likely to win. That's where SEO come in. SEO is an ongoing process that, if done well, increases your chances of winning over time.
It's a lot easier SEO good if your website is set up properly SEO Success.
Let's see how to do that.
Get a good domain
Don't panic if you've already registered a domain. It's probably perfectly fine and won't get in the way of you SEO Efforts. However, if you haven't chosen one yet, these two attributes of a good domain should be considered:
1. Domain name
First of all, don't worry about including your keywords. Your domain doesn't have to be londonitalianrestaurant.com for search engines to understand what it's about.
Here are some attributes of a good domain:
- Is your company name
- Has no hyphens
- Is short and unforgettable
TLD stands for top-level domain. It's the part after the name like .com, .org or .co.uk.
John Mueller from Google tells you TLD makes no difference for SEO. However, for most businesses, .com is usually best when you can get it because it is the most recognizable and trustworthy.
If you are a charity, .org or your country equivalent (e.g. .org.uk) will also work.
If you are only doing business in a country outside of the United States USyour ccTLD (e.g. co.uk) will be fine.
It's probably best to stay away from TLDs like .info and .biz, which are typically associated with low quality websites, but it's not the end of the world if you have one. You can still make a legitimate website that has a ranking.
Use a website platform
Most people don't code their website in from scratch HTML and CSS. You are using a website platform. This is software that allows users with little or no programming knowledge to create a website, easily manage content, and take care of boring technical details.
There are two types of website platforms.
Hosted platforms do everything under one roof. They host your website, offer pre-made themes that you can easily install and edit, and allow you to create and manage content without touching the code.
Self-hosted platforms also let you manage and create content without code. The difference is that you have to host and install them yourself.
WordPress also has a hosted solution on wordpress.com.
What type of platform should you choose?
Most SEO Pros recommend a self-hosted open source platform like WordPress because:
- It's customizable You can edit open source code however you want, and there is a large community of developers who know the platform inside out.
- It's expandable There are millions of pre-built plugins that can expand their functionality, including thousands of SEO Plugins.
If you'd like our recommendation, it's a self-hosted solution like WordPress.
However, if you value ease of use and support, a hosted solution like Wix or Squarespace might be better. The truth is that most popular hosted platforms offer more than enough SEO Skills for most people.
So don't fret about switching to WordPress if you're already using another platform.
Use a good web host
Web hosts store your site on a hard drive that can be accessed by anyone with an Internet connection.
When you use a hosted platform for your website, you have very little control over your hosting. However, if you are using a self-hosted platform like WordPress, it is up to you to find a place to host it.
How to Choose a Good Web Host for SEO?
Most SEO Guides say dedicated hosting is better than shared hosting. That's right, but it doesn't make much of a difference until your website receives a lot of traffic. Cheap hosting from a reputable company is fine for most people. There isn't much of a performance difference between hosts when you're paying a few dollars a month.
However, there are a few things that are important:
- security. Make sure the host gives you a free one SSL/.TLS Certificate or supports LetsEncrypt – a non-profit organization that delivers for free TLS Certificates.
- Server location. It takes some time for data to be transferred between the server and the visitor. So your best bet is to choose a host with servers in the same county as most of your traffic.
- support. 24/7 support is ideal. Test how good their support is by asking the questions above before signing up.
Don't fret too much about the server location. If you find speed is an issue, you can always invest in a CDN (Content Delivery Network). This will create copies of your website on servers around the world, so pages will always be served to visitors from a nearby server. Setting up and using a CDN is outside the scope of this guide, but here's how to do it with WordPress.
Create a positive user experience
Google wants to rate pages that offer visitors a positive experience. They say it in theirs SEO Starter Instructions:
You should build a website that will benefit your users, and any optimization should be aimed at improving the user experience.
Here are some easy ways to do this:
To use HTTPS
Nothing is worse for visitors than their personal information, which is vulnerable to hackers. Always encrypt your site with SSL/.TLS.
Choose an appealing design
Nobody likes a website that looks like it was designed in the 90s. While you don't have to redesign your website every six months, it should at least be visually appealing and reflect your brand.
Make sure it is suitable for cell phones
According to Google, more searches are now performed on mobile devices than on desktops. Therefore, it is important that your website is just as enjoyable to use on mobile devices as it is on desktops.
Use a legible font size
People surf the internet with all kinds of devices these days. Make sure your content is generally readable.
Avoid intrusive popups and ads
Everyone hates ads, but sometimes you need them. If so, the key is to avoid being intrusive. Google has some advice on what's okay and what's not here.
Make sure it loads quickly
Page speed is a confirmed ranking factor on desktop and mobile. However, this doesn't mean your website needs to load in a flash. Faster is better for sure, but Google says this factor only affects sites that "offer the slowest user experience".
Create a logical site structure
Both visitors and search engines must be able to navigate your website easily and intuitively. Therefore, it is important to create a logical hierarchy for your content.
The easiest way to do this is to sketch a mind map.
Each branch on your mind map becomes internal links, which are links from one page of a website to another.
Internal links are critical to UX and SEO for a couple of reasons:
- They help search engines find new pages. Pages without internal links are rarely found and indexed.
- They help to pass on the PageRank on your website. PageRank is the basis of Google's ranking algorithm, which tries to determine the "value" of a page.
- They help search engines understand what your page is about. To do this, Google examines link anchors and surrounding text.
Use a logical one Url structure
URLs are important as they help searchers understand the subject of a page.
Many website platforms allow you to choose how you want your URLs to be structured. These are the five main options for URLs in WordPress:
- Simple: yourwebsite.com/?p=123
- Day and name: yourwebsite.com/2021/03/04/seo-basics/
- Month and name: yourwebsite.com/03/04/seo-basics/
- Numeric: yourwebsite.com/865/
- Address name: yourwebsite.com/seo-basics/
When you're setting up a new website from scratchIt makes sense to choose the clearest and most meaningful structure. that is probably Address name.
Using dates in URLs is also a bad practice as you may want to update the posts in the future.
When optimizing an existing websiteIt's probably best not to change that Url Structure – even if it's not ideal. This can destroy other more important things that are more negative for you SEO.
Install a good one SEO Plugin
Most hosted platforms handle Basic SEO Functionality ready to use right out of the box, but that's not the case with WordPress. It is practically impossible to implement even the simplest of them SEO Best practices without one SEO Plugin.
There are plenty of these plugins. We use Yoast, but Rath Math is good too.
Installation is easy. Just go to:
Plugins> Add New> Run Search> Install> Activate Now
Both plugins add useful additional input fields to your posts and pages. (We'll come back to this later.)
If you're using a hosted platform like Wix or Squarespace, there is no need to install a plugin as these platforms allow you to create basic functionality SEO Adjustments ready for immediate use.
By this point, you should have a decent base for SEO Success. However, this is just the beginning. SEO is an ongoing process that is roughly divided into four facets:
- Keyword research
- On page SEO
- Link building
- Technically SEO
We've published beginner's guides on each of these facets, so won't cover every nook and cranny here. Instead, let's focus on the basics and look at them at a high level to understand why each facet is so important and how it all fits together.
Keyword research determines what your customers are looking for, how much traffic those terms can bring on your path, and how difficult it can be for them to rank. Let's examine the basics of each of these steps.
The first step in the keyword research process is understanding what your potential customers are looking for. If you don't know, there is no way you can start creating pages that rank on search engines and attract valuable traffic.
Brainstorming the words and phrases that define your industry is the best way to start this process. For an online computer store, these things can be:
You can then use this as a "starting key" to find more ideas. Just plug them into a keyword research tool like Ahrefs' Keyword Explorer and check out one of the keyword idea reports.
Look for keyword ideas that are valuable to your business.
Check the traffic potential
Almost every keyword research tool shows the estimated monthly search volume for the keywords found, including Ahrefs' Keyword Explorer.
Search volume is usually a reasonable way to estimate the relative traffic potential of keywords. In general, pages targeting high-volume keywords tend to drive more traffic to your website than pages targeting low-volume keywords.
But The search volume for keywords is not easy. There are cases where Rank 1 for a keyword with 1,000 monthly searches generates more traffic than Rank 1 for a keyword with 2,000 monthly searches.
Example: "Submit website to search engines" or "SEO tips".
Although the former has a higher search volume, the latter's top page receives more organic traffic.
So it's always worth looking at the estimated organic traffic on the top ranking page to get a better feel for a keyword's traffic potential. You can do this in Keyword Explorer.
Check the difficulty of the ranking
Even if a keyword seems relevant to your company and has a high traffic potential, it is not always easy to create a ranking.
Many things affect a keyword's ranking difficulty, but the number of relevant, prominent websites linking to the top ranking pages is arguably the most important. Google talks about this in their guide on how search works:
If there are links to the page from other well-known websites on the subject, it is a good sign that the information is of high quality.
Partly for this reason, we got Ahrefs' keyword difficulty (KD) Score on the number of linked websites with the top ranking pages. It rates each keyword on a scale from 0 to 100 and is a good first stop when trying to evaluate the difficulty of the ranking.
However, since it is impossible to reduce the complexity of the ranking to a 1- to 3-digit number, we recommend not relying on it entirely. In our keyword research guide, we go into more detail on evaluating ranking difficulties.
On page SEO
On page SEO This includes creating the type of content searchers are looking for and tweaking it so search engines better understand what it is about. Most people think this is all about keyword placement. While this is part of it, it is far from the most important aspect.
Let's examine the basics of optimizing a page for search engine rank.
Match search intent
Don't create the kind of content searchers are looking for and your chances of ranking are slim to none. This is known in the industry as targeting your content based on search intent.
Since Google understands what searchers are looking for better than anyone, the best way to gauge search intent is to look for similarities between the top current pages for your target keyword.
For example the results for "SEO Tips "are all list-style blog posts. However, the results for “Speaker” are all category pages from ecommerce websites.
This shows us that people looking for “speakers” are in buy mode and people looking for “speakers”.SEO Tips ”are in learning mode. If we want to rank we need to take this into account and create the type of content that matches the search intent.
Choose a description Url slug
In the chapter on setting up a website for SEO We talked about using a logical and descriptive success Url Structure. Also, for every page or post you post, you'll need to set a descriptive slug – the part at the end of the Url.
How this works best depends on the sub-folders in front of the Url Slug.
For example, let's say your target keyword is "men's black jeans."
If your Url has no sub-folders or generic sub-folders Like / blog /, just put the slug as your target keyword.
yourwebsite.com/black men's jeans /
If there are "contextual" subfolders As with / mens / or / jeans /, it is usually best to exclude repetitive keywords.
Write a compelling title tag
Title tags are the blue clickable links that appear in search results.
This is one of the few weapons you have to use to trick seekers into clicking your page. So it's important to make it as compelling as possible.
The easiest way to do this is to align it with search intent.
For example, if we look at the titles of the top scores for "Best Bluetooth Speaker," there are some similarities:
- They all contain the year. This suggests that freshness is important to seekers.
- There is a lot of talk about it portability. This suggests an important attribute.
If we use that knowledge to our advantage, this seems like a pretty good title tag:
Best Bluetooth Speakers (2021): Top picks for portability
Images can be classified in Google Images and send traffic to your website. In the past three months alone, we've had thousands of visits from Google Images.
How do you optimize your images?
Follow these three steps:
- Call them good. Filenames help Google understand the image, so cat.png is better than IMG_948493.png.
- Use descriptive alternative text. Alt text is code that describes an image in words. It is only visible on the page when the visitor is using a screen reader or the image cannot be loaded. Most website platforms have an alternative text input field when you upload an image.
- Compress them. Install a plugin like Shortpixel to compress your images on the fly and improve page speed.
Links from other websites act like "voices" and show Google that people are vouching for your content.
They are arguably the most important ranking factor, but getting good ones is not always easy.
Most link building tactics involve creating link worthy content and then reaching out to the website owners and editors with a compelling reason to add your link to one of their pages. But there are other ways to get links too.
Let's take a look at some link building tactics.
Guest blogging is when you are blogging for another website. Here's a guest post Ryan Stewart wrote for the Ahrefs blog in 2018.
If you look at the author's bio, you will notice links to Ryan's social profiles and website.
Most websites allow guest authors to add their links here.
One of the easiest ways to find potential guest blogging opportunities is through Content Explorer, our searchable database of over seven billion pages. Here's how:
- Look for a relevant topic.
- Select "In Title" from the drop-down list
- Check the Websites tab
Here you can see the websites that bring up most of the pages on your topic:
Since these websites have already written on this topic, they may be open to guest posting on a similar topic. Just email them and ask.
The skyscraper technique allows you to create links by creating even better content than what is already linked.
Here is the basic process:
- Find relevant content with lots of backlinks
- Do something better
- Ask the people who link to the original content to link to yours instead
Content Explorer is arguably the fastest way to find opportunities for skyscrapers. Just search for a topic and then filter for pages with many referring domains (links to websites).
Find something that you can improve, then post something even better. You can then connect them Url In Ahrefs' Site Explorer you can find all backlinks from the Backlinks get in touch and contact these people.
Keeping track of links from competitors
Understanding how competitors attract backlinks is the best way to create a link building strategy. If you can find patterns in their link profile, you will know which link building tactics are likely to be most effective for your website.
To do this, find the keyword you are targeting in the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer and scroll down to SERP Overview. Look for a page similar to yours with lots of referring domains (links to websites).
If we do that for "SEO Basics “we see many pages with many backlinks.
If we then click through Backlinks Report for one of the pages, we can look for trends among the backlinks.
In this case, there appear to be some links from blogging guides.
So we can easily do a search in the Content Explorer to find further instructions on blogging. Then we can reach out to the authors and suggest this post as an addition to their guidance.
Technically SEO is the process that helps search engines like Google find, understand, and index your pages. It can get pretty complicated, but since we've already covered the basics of setting up a site for yourself SEO Success, we won't go any further here.
For now, we recommend signing up for one free Ahrefs Webmaster Tools account and schedule regular crawls of your website. These crawls check for 100+ SEO Problems, including many general technical problems.
If you find worrying or technical-sounding issues on your website, read our technical information SEO Guide to learn more about repairing.
By this point, you should have a pretty good understanding of it SEO. But how do you measure and track the performance of your efforts? The most obvious answer is to keep track of the traffic your website is getting from organic search.
If you are using Google Analytics, you can quickly view your organic traffic by going to:
Capture> All hits> Channels> Organic search
If you're not using Google Analytics, you can check current and past estimated organic traffic in Ahrefs' Site Explorer.
If that number goes up, you are probably doing something right.
You can also track keyword rankings in the Rank Tracker. If you're number 5 for a keyword one month and number 1 the next, it's another sign that you're doing something right.
While it doesn't hurt to keep an eye on organic traffic and ranking, these two things are known as vanity metrics as they are often unrelated to your overall marketing or business goals.
It's much better to keep track of metrics that are actually having an impact on the business.
Let's examine just some of these metrics.
Monitor the organic speech component (SoV).
Organic SoV is the visibility of your brand in search results compared to the competition. This is important because there is a relationship between SoV and market share.
You can track organic SoV in Ahrefs' Rank Tracker. Just add the keywords that are important to your business and tag them accordingly.
From there go to: Competitors> Overview
If you haven't already, add some competitors. Then check that out Visibility Click the tab to see the percentage of all clicks for your tracked keywords that land on your website compared to your competitors.
Track conversions from organic traffic
Conversions occur when a visitor to your website takes a desired action. It could be anything from clicking a link to buying.
If you use Google Analytics, you can track conversions for purchases and pretty much anything you want. You can then filter on conversions from organic traffic and compare time periods to see how this is affecting you SEO There is an effort on the things that matter.
Lots of professional SEO Tools start at $ 100 a month. Assuming this is a guide for SEO Basically, you may not be ready to invest that kind of money in powerful ones SEO Tools like Ahrefs just barely. But no worry. You can achieve a lot with free SEO Tools.
Here are some popular ones that will help with every facet of SEO covered in Chapter 4.
Keyword research tools
Google Keyword Planner
Find unique keyword ideas.
Generate hundreds of keyword ideas.
Review the top three results to review the estimated search traffic potential for the topic.
Keyword Difficulty Check
Check the Keyword Difficulty (KD) Score of the keyword.
On page SEO Tools
Add title tags and meta descriptions to WordPress posts and pages.
Ahrefs Webmaster Tools
Look for missing title tags, meta descriptions, and alt text anywhere on your website.
Link building tools
Ahrefs backlink checker
Check out the top 100 backlinks to any website or webpage.
Get link opportunities every day. (It's technically more of a service than a tool.)
Send contact emails to connect prospects. No fancy outreach software required.
Technically SEO Tools
Google Search Console
Find index coverage errors, page speed issues, and more.
Ahrefs Webmaster Tools
Find 100+ SEO Problems on your website, including many technical issues.
Let's sum that up
All of the above should serve as a fairly thorough introduction to the basics of SEO. If you'd like to learn more about the four facets covered in Chapter 4, we've got a beginner's guide for each.
Here are the links (we recommend starting your keyword research):