SEO 101: A Beginner’s Guide to SEO 

If you’re new to the world of digital marketing, understanding Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) can be overwhelming. From keywords to backlinks, there are countless factors that can affect your website’s search engine rankings.  

Fear not – this article is here to answer your questions. We’ll break down the basics of keyword research, on-page optimisation, link building and more to help you create a solid foundation for your SEO strategy. Whether you’re a small business owner or a marketer looking to expand your skills, this guide will equip you get up to speed with your SEO practices.   

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Why is Search Engine Optimization Important?

Consumers today rely heavily on search engines to find information on just about anything and if your website is not optimised, it won’t stand out among the millions of other sites out there. Instead, it will be buried deep within the pages of search results where most users never look.

However, SEO isn’t just about ranking higher in search results. Some of the most important factors that Google considers when ranking pages relate to user experience – by optimising for these factors, you are making it easier for customers to engage with your content which means a greater chance of conversion.  

SEO Glossary

Before we go further, it’s important to review some fundamental terminology:   

  • Robots: The crawlers that work their way across the internet checking content. 
  • Crawl: What robots/crawlers do to index and then rank sites. 
  • Metadata: Code that tells robots about your site. 
  • Tags: Pieces of code attached to parts of the page to give signs to robots. 
  • Site map: A simple display of the entirety of your site. 
  • Hierarchy: The structure of your pages on your site. 
  • Alt text: Descriptive text associated with images to tell robots what the image is about. 
  • Index: Each search engine has an index of websites that the robots update. 
  • Backlink: A link pointing back to your site from elsewhere. 
  • Organic/natural links: Links that are not paid for. 
  • Anchor text: The text that is visible when clicking on a link. 

Understanding Search Algorithms

To understand SEO, it’s important to understand how search engines work. Search engines use complex algorithms to determine which websites to display in their search results, which take into account hundreds of factors 

The SEO Triangle

seo triangle

Every ranking factor and every SEO activity you perform can be classified using a principle I call ‘The SEO Triangle’ in my digital marketing books. The three points of the triangle are content, technical SEO, and links.  

Basing your strategy on these three points will set you on the right path – a website that is easy to use and navigate and fast to load, with engaging, relevant, expert and trustworthy content, and a large number of links from reputable sites. 

A few of the many factors that search algorithms look at include:

  • Domain country code (technical) 
  • Title tags and heading tags on the page (technical/content) 
  • Appropriate use of meta tags (technical/content) 
  • Keyword relevance (content/links) 
  • Content length (content) 
  • Page load speed (technical) 
  • Image optimisation (technical) 
  • Internal links (links to other pages on your website) 
  • Backlinks and the quality of those links 
  • Core web vitals (technical) – user-focused metrics designed to measure a page’s quality in terms of providing a smooth and seamless user experience.

Search engine algorithms are constantly changing and evolving, which means that SEO strategies must also adapt to keep up with the changes. For example, in recent years, Google made factors relating to user experience a higher priority.

Regardless, there are some basic principles of SEO that have remained consistent over time which we will review throughout this article.

Fundamental SEO Practises

How to Conduct Keyword Research

Keyword research is the process of identifying the keywords and phrases that people use to search for information related to your business. Keywords/phrases consisting of multiple words are called long-tail keywords; you will also find question-based keywords i.e., “What is the best language learning app?” By understanding which keywords are relevant, you can optimise your website to rank higher in search results for those keywords. 

To conduct keyword research, start by segmenting your audience based on what they are searching for. For example, if you have an e-commerce business selling multiple products, each product (or product category) would be associated with a different set of keywords.   

Next, you will need to have a few keywords to act as a starting point. If you were selling camping equipment, you might start with ‘tents’ for one segment. You would then input that keyword into a keyword research tool which would then generate related keywords and phrases. Some of the most widely used tools include SEMrush and Google Keyword Planner (to use this, you need a Google Ads account but you don’t have to actually spend any money on ads). You can also look at your analytics to see which keywords are already bringing users in. 

Two important pieces of information that you’ll see in the search results include search volume and competition. Search volume refers to the number of people searching for the keyword, while competition indicates how difficult it will be to rank well for it. The ideal combination is therefore a high search volume and low competition.

Once you’ve identified your target keywords, it’s important to strategically place them throughout your website. This includes in your page titles, meta descriptions, headings, body content, and your blogs.  

However, it’s important to avoid keyword stuffing which Google will penalise. Keyword stuffing is when you over-use keywords in order to manipulate your pages to rank higher. Google may detect stuffing when similar keywords appear very close to each other repeatedly as well as if they appear out of context. In the early days of the internet, people could get away with this practise but now, it will hurt your rankings. When optimising content, you can use plugins such as Yoast SEO to ensure optimal keyword use.

Best Website, URL and Page Structure

Make sure your website has a logical structural design for navigation – looking at the camping example again, a page on four-person roof top tents would come under a page on roof top tents, which would come under the main page on tents. 

URL structure is also important. The URL should clearly indicate what the page is about i.e.,

It should not be something like this:

Also make sure your pages have a clear structure, using headings and subheadings to break up your content and make it easier to read, and make sure it’s mobile-friendly and has fast loading times.

How to create content for SEO

Content is king when it comes to SEO. By creating high-quality, engaging content that’s optimised for search engines, you can improve your website’s rankings and attract more traffic. 

When creating SEO content, it’s important to keep your target audience in mind. What are their pain points? What information are they looking for? What benefits will they derive from it? And of course, use your keywords to inform the topics you need to talk about. 

You also want to ensure that your content is shareable. Use social media buttons to make it easy for people to share your content on their own social media accounts. This can lead to increased backlinks and social signals, which will also improve your website’s rankings. Also note that you should avoid posting duplicate content as this will work against you. 

To get the most from your content, you need to develop a content strategy.

Also, use Surfer SEO to write and optimize your content faster than ever.

Backlink Strategy

Off-page optimisation refers to the actions you can take outside of your website to improve its search engine rankings, and includes building high-quality backlinks to your website. 

Backlinks signal to search engines that other websites consider your content to be valuable and relevant – so, the more high-quality backlinks you have, the higher your site is likely to rank.

To build backlinks, start by creating high-quality content that people will want to link to, then reach out to other websites in your industry and ask them to link to your content. You can also use social media to promote your content and build backlinks naturally, as well as doing guest posting so that the host will link back to your site.

Click here for more link building strategies.

Local SEO tips

If you have business with a physical location, it’s important to optimise your website for local search. This includes creating a Google Business Profile listing which will help your business show up in Google Maps and local search results. 

Some other tips:  

  • Complete your Google Business Profile as completely as possible, including images 
  • Respond to Google reviews 
  • Use local keywords in your content 

Wrapping Up

SEO can seem overwhelming at first but by following the principles outlined in this article, you will have a solid foundation. To summarise, we first looked at keyword research – start by creating logical segments based on what people may be searching for, such as different segments for different products. From there, you can create a list of keywords to input into your keyword research tool i.e., ‘tents’, ‘camping gear’, and so on. 

When the tool has generated a list of keywords, you need to consider the search volume and competition – ideally, you will use keywords that have a high search volume but low competition.

We then looked at the importance of your website structure, URL structure, and page structure. The website should be structured in a logical way that is easy to navigate and your URLs should make it clear what the page contains. Your pages should also have a clear structure, with headings and subheadings for readability.

Make sure your content is high-quality and engaging that addresses your audience’s pain points, and is informed by your keyword research. In addition, develop a strategy for earning backlinks to improve your site’s authority.

Finally, to determine whether your SEO efforts are paying off, it’s important to measure your website’s search engine rankings and traffic using tools like Google Analytics.

If you need assistance with your digital marketing strategy, please feel free to get in touch – my team and I would be happy to help.

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