There’s no doubt that search engine optimisation (SEO) can be a difficult and confusing sector to start out in. From confusing jargon to the more technical aspects, it can be difficult to know what to start. In this guide, I’ll share my tips on SEO for Beginners, providing you with actionable insights to kick-start your SEO work.
What is SEO?
Before we start, it’s important to establish what exactly is SEO. Many SEO for Beginners guides will brush over this starting point because if you don’t know what SEO is – and what you’re trying to achieve – the work you do may be in vain.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of optimising your website for search engines like Google.
You’re looking to attract new visitors to your website via search engines – or organic search. But the volume of traffic isn’t enough – you want to attract quality traffic. That is the correct audience for your business – an audience that is going to generate leads, sales or conversions.
To do this, you’ll want to identify opportunities to attract visitors (by pinpointing target keywords), entice them to your site (by creating optimised content) and showing search engines that your website and content is trustworthy and authoritative (by creative quality content and attracting backlinks to your content).
Now that we’ve established what SEO is, we can advance to the first step in SEO for Beginners.
Take the time to understand SEO
The fact that you’re here – looking to understand SEO for beginners – shows that you’re already on the right track with our first step, which is to do your research and take the time to understand SEO.
As I’ve mentioned, SEO can be confusing. There’s a lot to take in and a lot of aspects to consider. It’s also worth noting that you may not necessarily need to understand every single aspect of SEO. You may have multiple people working on your website’s SEO and somebody else is responsible for the technical aspects. That would mean that you only need to understand the content side of SEO.
But here’s the thing:
No matter what type of site you’re working on, or what aspect of SEO you’re responsible for, you need to understand how search engines work.
I think that’s probably the number one mistake that SEO beginners make; they start optimising their website without fully understanding how search engines work.
So how do search engines work?
Search engines such as Google deploy thousands of bots – also known as spiders – to crawl websites across the internet. These bots surf the web by crawling web pages and following links on these pages to discover other available pages on a website.
These bots will then analyse the pages they’ve discovered and determine whether they can be indexed. When a user completes a search, Google then refers to it’s index of pages and tries to decide the best quality result to serve to a user.
According to Google, the factors that determine the best quality results “have many factors, including things such as the user’s location, language, device (desktop or phone), and previous queries”
I would definitely recommend LearningSEO.io, a resource that maps out the process of learning SEO with free guides, tools and resources.
Test what you’ve learned in your own project
It can be extremely difficult – and perhaps foolish – to test what you’ve learned on a client or business’ website. When the results are important – and can impact a business’ bottom line – you don’t necessarily have the time to learn on the job.
That’s why I’d always recommend to have your own project to test and learn when it comes to SEO for beginners. That could be a blog – like this one – or an ecommerce store.
These side projects are invaluable for SEO beginners as they allow you to put ideas into practice and learn as you go. Interested how keyword stuffing could impact rankings? Try it on your own project, rather than on one that matters.
SEO Beginners Should Audit Their Website
Many SEO for Beginners blogs will probably recommend starting with keyword research before looking at your website. While I understand that point of view – and for more experienced SEO professionals, it is possible to do it that way around – I do believe SEO beginners should audit their site before carrying out their research.
Well, content and targeted keywords are no good if your website has major bugs or indexing issues.
So I’d advise carrying out an SEO Audit on your website in order to understand what you’re working with. An audit will help SEO beginners understand any issues on their website, analyse the current content on the site and will provide actionable insights.
I’d recommend using tools like Screaming Frog or SEMRush for this.
I have an SEO Audit template that I’ll be sharing soon. I’ll provide a link here once I do.
Keyword Research Is The Simplest Step For SEO Beginners
I’m sure by now, you understand what a keyword is. But just in case, I’ll summarise below.
To put it simply, SEO keywords are the phrases in your content that allow people to find your site via search engines like Google.
For example, my target keyword for this blog post is ‘SEO for Beginners’. You’ll notice it in my title, url slug and scattered throughout the page.
Did I just pluck this keyword out of thin air?
No – I did my keyword research, understood what people are searching for and identified the keywords that I believe will attract users to my blog.
For SEO beginners, a good place to start is by creating a list of seed ideas. That is the overarching themes you believe your ideal customers will be searching for.
For example, if I was doing the SEO for a book shop. My seed ideas may be ‘thrillers’, ‘crime novel’, ‘romance novels’ and ‘YA novels’.
A website’s menu structure can often be a good indication of seed ideas.
You can then use these seed ideas to build out your topics. I’d recommend using a variety of tools, including Google’s Keyword Planner, an SEO tool like SEMRush, Google and YouTube suggest.
I’d recommend casting a wide net before refining and narrowing your scope.
Analyse your competitors
Once you have your list of target keywords, you want to understand who currently ranks on the first page of Google for the search term. You’ll then want to analyse what Google likes about their content. Are you noticing any themes? For example, do a majority of first page results include a number in the title?
Let’s take our book shop example again. I’m working under the ‘crime novel’ cluster. Say I’ve identified ‘best crime novel for men’ as my target keyword (note this is a long-tail keyword). Let’s do a Google search for that.
One thing I notice straight away is that a number of the first page ranking pages include numbers in the title – they’re listicles. This tells me that search engines love this type of article for this keyword.
Analysing your competitors will give you an understanding of what you need to do to compete on the SERPs (search engine results page).
Avoid this SEO For Beginners mistake – analyse both local and SEPRs competitors
I think one of the mistakes SEO beginners make when analysing competitors are to just focus on the competitors they know of. Every business has competitors they judge themselves against.
Let’s say my bookstore is in Cheltenham, England. I know of four other bookstores in the town – and I would consider them my local competitors. For sure, I should analyse their websites and spot any opportunities or keyword gaps (that is keywords they rank for that you don’t).
But these local competitors may not be my SERPs competitors. And it’s the SERPs competitors that I need to outrank to gain traffic for my target keyword.
Like I said, when it comes to SEO for beginners and competitors research, I think this is a mistake many make.
Map Out Your Content
I think this a really useful exercise for SEO Beginners to help them visualise their keyword, content and map out what they need to do. Heck, I still do it today it’s that useful.
The process involves mapping out your keywords into topic clusters and then identifying which of your site’s current content ticks the boxes for a cluster.
Let’s go back to the bookstore. A content pillar for me – as I mentioned previously – may be ‘YA Novels’. Underneath this content pillar, I would have topic clusters. These may include ‘YA Novels for boys’, ‘YA Novels for girls’ and ‘YA Fantasy Novels’.
Within each of these topic clusters, I would include topic content, i.e. my keyword and long-tail keywords that will define my content. For example, a topic content may be ‘YA Novels To Get Your Son Reading’.
I would then check the content on my site to see if I have any content that fits that topic. If I do, I map it out against my topic content and then look to see if it needs optimising. If not, I know I need to create this content.
I’m going to create a separate blog post on mapping out your content and the topic cluster model, but for now the below image from SEM Rush visualises it well.
SEO For Beginners: Actionable Tips
Thanks so much for reading my guide on SEO for Beginners – I hope you found it useful. To finish off, I thought I’d include a list of actionable tips to help you get started.
- Check out LearningSEO.io and read their free guides on SEO for Beginners
- Set up a blog and test out some of the methods you’ve learned about
- Complete an SEO Audit on your current website – use this to identify any crawling or indexing issues and to take stock of where you’re website is currently at
- Do your keyword research – establish your seed ideas and then use various tools to build out these ideas
- Analyse both your local competitors and SERPs competitors – identify any opportunities or gaps on their websites
- You should also analyse the pages that rank for your keywords – are you noticing any trends?
- Map out your content using the topic cluster model – this will help you visualise your site plan and kick-start your content optimisation for SEO.