SEO 101 for Beginners

Updated on February 14, 2018
Anna C Taylor profile image

I am a 24-year-old digital marketer working in social media and copywriting.

It’s 2018, and the internet is everything.

Okay, it isn’t everything. But whether you’re running a blog, a small business, or a multi-national corporation, you’re going to need a website. And where there’s a website, there’s SEO.

Search engine optimization is the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine—and it can be infinitely complicated.

That said, the basics are, well, basic. And even basic SEO can do wonders for improving traffic to your site—increasing brand awareness and getting more eyes on your products.

Here are a few key things you need to do for your blog posts, web pages, and products to be found on the internet. Consider this SEO 101.

Your Recipe for Successful SEO in 2018 and Beyond

  1. Give every page a purpose
  2. Understand webpage elements
  3. Create quality, keyword-focused content for those pages
  4. Understand metadata
  5. Understand off-site SEO

1. Give Every Page a Purpose

You can do everything technically right and still not see success. Why? It’s probably because you’re trying to stuff too much information in one place.

Think of it this way. You’re looking for a gardener, and you find two websites in Google search. You click the first one and land on a page that talks about roofing services, gutters, fence-building, lemonade stands (for some reason), and buries their gardening services way at the bottom.

Not a great experience.

Now, on the other hand, you click on a second link and find a page rich with information about a local gardening company. You can see in their navigation bar that they offer all the same services as the first site, but every service (or product) has its own page and its own place on the site.

As a random web browser, I’d probably prefer site #2, wouldn’t you? Heck, I might not even realize that site #1 has what I’m looking for!

If people get to your site and don’t find the information they’re looking for, they bounce. That is, they land on a page and then hit the back button or navigate away from your site without clicking anything. A messy page drops traffic—which costs you, potential customers.

Step #1 is to make sure that every web page, landing page, or blog post has a single purpose.

2. Understand Webpage Elements

Every page on your site is made up of elements. They are:

  • an H1 (primary headline)
  • H2, H3, to H6 headlines (these are your subheaders)
  • copy
  • images, videos, and any other kinds of multimedia
  • HTML formatting (bold, italics, etc.)
  • links

Your fabulous, SEO friendly content will have a combination of all the above—and properly using them can make or break your success.

You’re writing for the web, so naturally your headlines and copy matter. But it’s important to keep these key strategies in mind when formatting your content.

  1. In HTML you add a headline using <h1>TITLE</h1> in the code
  2. You should only have one H1 headline
  3. Google values headlines in order of H1 – H6, with H6 being the lowest values
  4. It’s important to make copy easy to read and follow so use your headlines, lists, and formatting strategically

Your content should definitely have multimedia assets—and those assets are valuable for SEO! Include alt tag HTML in image and video content to assign an alt tag to it. This tag will tell those Google bots what the image means.

Example

<img src="smiley.gif" alt="Smiley face">

Last but not least, your details! Include formatting that makes sense (bold key stats and italicize your quotes.) And don’t be afraid to include relevant links to internal and external content. Interlinking builds valuable authority—but beware, if you link every other word Google will flag you as spam!

3. Create Quality, Keyword-Focused Content for Those Pages

Now you have a topic, you understand how your page should look, it’s time to make your content searchable.

Select the main keyword or long-tail keyword (3-4 word keyword phrase) to focus on and research it using the Google keyword planner.

Keywords with high search volume and low competition are the easiest to target, but if you do your SEO right and your site has some authority, you can compete on more competitive terms. As you’re starting out, try to focus on niche keywords with low-medium search volume and low competition or geographic terms.

Source

Once you’ve selected the keywords you want to focus on, work them into your copy. You don’t want to use the same phrasing over and over again so break it out. Try “SEO for Beginners” in the URL and headline, “SEO 101” in the copy, “Learning SEO” in your call to action, and a couple other variations throughout. Google is smart, it’ll know what you’re talking about.

4. Understand Metadata

Remember the alt tags I talked about above? That’s metadata for a specific asset. The metadata we’re talking about here is page-wide.

If you’re using a WordPress site or other website builder, there will often be a way to edit your metadata without having to get into the HTML. If you do have to edit it in the HTML, it’ll end up looking like the example below.

Basically, your meta title and meta description are telling Google what to tell searchers when they come across your page. Below is an example of what it’ll look like in search. Keywords in your description will be bolded, so it’s important to use your keywords!

<callout>

<head>

<title>Example Title</title>

  <meta name="description" content="This is an example of a meta description. This will often show up in search results.">

</head>

Basically, your meta title and meta description are telling Google what to tell searchers when they come across your page. Below is an example of what it’ll look like in search. Keywords in your description will be bolded, so it’s important to use your keywords!

Source

5. Understand Off-site SEO

Great, you wrote awesome content, your readers love it, but it hasn’t really taken off? Why is that?

Well, are you promoting it?

According to Moz, "Off-site SEO" (also called "off-page SEO") refers to actions taken outside of your own website to impact your rankings within search engine results pages (SERPs). Offsite SEO can be complicated, but the key is:

  • Are people linking to your page? (If not, encourage them to!)
  • Are influencers talking about you? (If not, get started on some influencer marketing!)
  • Are you getting links from social media? (If not, start sharing!)

Overall, off-page SEO has a significant positive impact on your new page, as well as your site and brand as a whole. The secret to successful offsite SEO is building real connections in your industry among thought leaders, promoting your content across social channels, and participating in conversations.

So there you have it. SEO 101 at it’s finest—over 1000 words and it barely scratched the surface. If you really want to dive into SEO, I recommend

Good luck, I hope to see you on the front page of Google sometime soon.

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