A Beginner’s Guide to SEO - Search Engine Optimization

Updated: Jul 10

Search Engine Optimization - SEO can feel confusing at first, but with a few tips on knowing where to get started, you can easily learn SEO over time. And once you start, it’s a fantastic way to get consistent traffic to your website.

There are over 40,000 search queries every second

What is SEO?

The first thing to know is search engines like Google don’t rank websites, they rank web pages. And to be sure all of your web pages are ranking for relevant searches; you should focus on 5 key areas. I'll speak about each step in more detail but for now, your should know your strategy should focus on:

  1. Review Your Site Speed: make sure your site loads fast, especially on mobile

  2. Conduct Keyword Research: research relevant keywords for each of your landing pages based on search intent

  3. Create Rich Valuable Content: create strong relevant content that users want to consume

  4. Review Your Site Structure: structure your pages in a way that search engines can easily crawl your site

  5. Focus on Link Building: aim to get links from other web pages and link internally to build authority

Are SEO efforts really worth it?

With over 40,000 search queries conducted every second, and 3.5 billion searches a day, you can see that if you don’t set your web pages up in a way that search engines can read them, you could get lost in the shuffle. The main goal of SEO work is to rank higher for organic search results so you can drive more traffic to your site.

How do search engines work and why is user experience an important part of SEO?

Search engines like Google want to rank relevant and high-quality content for their users. They don’t want just any page ranking at the top, they want to make sure it’s the best. Google uses AI, and has quality evaluators that review sites based on specific guidelines.

What is Google EAT SEO and why is it important?

Google EAT stands for Experience, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. EAT should be critical to everything you do for SEO. Overall be sure you are producing content that your customers find relevant, and trustworthy and show you as an authority by getting relevant links to your site. Ideally, you should focus on what customers are looking for and provide it for them. The more you focus on what your customers need and how you help them solve their problems, the better off your web pages will be.

What other factors are part of search engine algorithms?

There are other numerous factors that come into play in their algorithm. like the “freshness algorithm”. It determines if you’re looking for fresh up-to-date content like today’s weather or the “latest score for a game”. On their blog, Google further notes that “Different searches have different freshness needs.” As their use of AI grows results will continue to be more relevant.

Google also recently launched multi-search which is available in the Google app. It allows you to search camera screenshots, voice, images, and text at the same time. It also helps people find local businesses within their multi searches.

In the future, they’re looking at testing scene exploration as well. What does this mean? The example provided on their site means you could scan a shelf of products at the store with the camera on your phone to get helpful insights on which are the best items to buy.

Why am I telling you all of this? You can see that creating rich relevant content and being sure you optimize for the right keywords, including image alt tags, location details, etc on your web pages is becoming more important than ever.

You’re probably wondering if SEO is easy to learn.

The short answer is, that anyone can start learning SEO and implement some quick wins to get started. SEO does take time, at least 3 months to see real results. It’s not a quick fix and you’ll need to optimize and stay on top of updates to search engine algorithms. This post is meant as a starting framework to give you an idea of where to begin.

Now that you have an understanding of what SEO is and its importance of it for your business, let's get started with key SEO strategies.

1) Review Your Site Speed

Overall you should check the speed of each of your pages.

Make sure your website loads as fast as possible, especially on mobile devices. Easily check your site speed here.

The best thing you can do to increase the speed of your site is to reduce the size of your images. Use an image compression site like Tiny PNG. Just drop the image into the site and it will compress your image for you. Then reload it back to your web page. Increasing the speed of your pages is one way to help reduce bounce rates. A high bounce rate can negatively impact your search ranking.

2) Conduct Keyword Research

The importance of keyword research and SEO for a business is everything. Consider your website your 24-hour storefront. Your website is always open and waiting for business, even when you’re sleeping.

With over 5.6 billion searches daily according to HubSpot, if you don’t include words that people are typing in a search, you might never be found.

Implementing an effective SEO strategy is like providing clear directions to your store that help people navigate your site in a meaningful way. It helps them understand how you solve their problems and why your business should be the one they go to.

Researching keyword search terms is about understanding what type of words your customers use, the question they need help answering, and the type of content they find valuable in the search queries. This is not the place to try to deliver brand taglines or create product names that can be confusing or irrelevant.

Keyword research is the longest part of your SEO strategy but the most valuable. Your research can be broken down into the following 6 steps:

STEP 1: First determine your niche and the topics that would be interesting to your target audience.

STEP 2: Analyze your web pages by checking the keywords your web pages are ranking for. You can use Google Search Console to see what keyword(s) each page is ranking for & their position by country. If you’re not sure how to use Google Search Console, you can also just type the keyword you are ranking for into Google or another search engine. Check the top pages that rank for that keyword – you’ll be able to easily tell the kind of results that are popular.

STEP 3: Analyze your competitors that fall into this niche. Select at least 5 competitors. See what keywords they’re using and the type of pages that are ranking for those keywords.

STEP 4: From here, you should look at the search intent of the keywords. Search intent falls into 4 key categories:

  • Informational – users are looking for information like a blog. or news site- ideally your blog posts should use informational search keywords. For your blog, consider using keywords that have low competition and low volume – also known as long-tail keywords. It’s easier to rank for a keyword with medium to low competition.

  • Navigational – users are looking for information from a specific place– this could be

  • Commercial – users are looking for information on your company or a review. Your homepage should have your business name as the core keyword.

  • Transactional – users are looking to buy something. Ideally use transaction keywords for any product pages.

STEP 5: Next, look at search volume for those keywords as well as related questions, and related search terms. You can use a tool like https://searchvolume.io/ to determine how much volume a keyword has.

BONUS STEP: In addition, you can note the SERP features that are showing up for the keywords you are going to be focusing on. SERP features are anything that is not part of the organic links and could be, people also ask for a section, map to a place, etc.

This isn’t a day one item but will help you understand the types of additional content you can produce in the future that is related to your target web page keywords. Your likelihood of ranking for a SERP feature could be higher than trying to compete for organic ranking alone, especially for highly competitive keywords.

See below for a quick recap of the types of SERP features and possible ways to rank for them: (be sure that you know what SERP features are showing for the keyword you’re trying to rank for). This will help you figure out what to focus on.

  • Featured snippet – this gets a high click rate and can be more valuable than organic search ranking. There are a number of different ways to get a featured snippet. Overall try to answer relevant questions for your target keyword in a short succinct way. Ideally, keep it to 40-60 characters for the answer.

  • Local pack – this is when Google displays the best results when someone searches a keyword + “near me” like “best restaurants near me”. Of course, results will be different for someone searching in Vancouver vs Toronto. Things you can do to rank here are updating your Google my Business Profile, getting reviews on this profile and, securing links from local websites as well.

  • Image pack – be sure you have image alt tags set up for each page.

  • Reviews – having reviews on your site and Google my business is a great way to get this snippet

  • Videos – be sure your videos have a great hook and use the right keywords with an engaging title.

  • People also ask – these are questions people ask that are related to a specific keyboard. Answering these questions succinctly can help you get featured here.

  • Paid ads – are usually shown at the top of a search for a specific keyword and are managed by Google ads. This can also include Google shopping ads.

You can see below some examples when I recently searched for "kids running shoes near me."

A beginners guide to SEO Search Engine Optimization

STEP 6: Select your core keyword or keyword phrase for each web page.

You should select keywords that fit the following criteria:

  • they aren’t too broad

  • they are relevant to your business

  • they match the search intent to the type of content on the page

  • they have a decent search volume

  • they don't have a high rate of competition.

Use an excel spreadsheet to track this. Have the URL for each page in column 1 and the key and related keywords listed in column 2, along with additional columns that include the volume, and search intent.

Once you’ve filled out the excel spreadsheet with a keyword for each web page you can add to your spreadsheet. Include the following column titles: title tag, H1 tag, meta description, image alt text, SERP features and related search terms.

For each of your web pages, you'll then revise or create a URL, Title Tag, H1 Tag, image alt text and meta description that includes the core keyword or keyword phrase. If you’re URL is already created, don’t change it, too many redirects are not looked at favorably.

Be sure each page only has one Title tag, one H1 tag, and an original meta description. If you’re not sure, try my free page audit tool at the end of this post.

for the remaining columns, you can also include related SERP features that show up for that keyword, related search terms or questions people ask. These columns will be useful when you move on to part 3: creating rich valuable content.

One item to note is Meta Descriptions: I’m calling out meta descriptions here because they are important and should be treated in a specific way.

Meta descriptions are what show up with the page title in search results. The goal of the meta description is to get someone to click on your page over your competitors. So, keep the copy succinct and action-driven.

See below for an example: You can see for the keyword phrase "kids running shoes" the meta descriptions include the main keyword but begin with action-driven words "Shop the hottest selection..." OR "Shop the latest..."

If you're wondering how your meta descriptions are working, you can track the click-through rate of each page in Google Search Console. If the click-through rate is low, try revising some of the non-core keywords in the meta description to see if you can increase the click-through rate.

3) Create Rich Valuable Content

The content within the page should then include any relevant related search terms, possibly answer related questions, include valuable video content, etc. and match the similar length of other pages that rank for that keyword. This is a critical step and must be reviewed once live. You can continue to optimize your best-performing pages or update old pages that need a refresh to stay relevant.

4) Review your Site Structure

When mapping things out you should review your site structure. Site structure is the hierarchy of your site and how people navigate from one page to the next.

I won't go into too much detail here but, each page should only be a maximum of 3 clicks deep on average. It should link back to its category page and subcategory page if applicable. if you see a page as very important, it should directly be higher up in the site structure and link to the homepage.

5) Focus on Link Building

There are 2 different types of links - internal and external, also known as backlinks.

  • Internal Links

Once you have all of your pages updated you can start looking for places to include internal links. You should internally link pages across your site where relevant and avoid having any orphan pages. Be sure to link to a page using the keyword that you have selected for that specific page.

For example: If you've chosen "kids running shoe" as a keyword for a product page, be sure to internally link to that page using that exact keyword “kids running shoe”. Do not use the words “click here” to link to that page. Why? Because the word you use to link to a page is another way of telling search engines what that page is about. You don’t want to confuse search engines.

  • Backlinks -Off-Page SEO

For off-page SEO you can focus on backlinks that can help you build authority. Basically, backlinks are links from other sites to your web pages. They are votes for your page authority and can help you rank higher on search engines. There are many tools out there to create backlinks but do know this takes time and work. And not all external links are the same. A link to your site from a reputable news agency is much more valuable than a smaller blog site. But do know, every link counts.

Some final thoughts:

Consider social media in your SEO efforts as well. Social media marketing is vital for increasing your online presence and SEO. Be sure you’re also linking to your site from social media and don’t hesitate to reach out to influencers for collabs or to share samples with them to review your products. Micro-influencers are more important than ever and get you real sales while you’re building authority.

Also, don’t discount a certain platform because it doesn’t get the engagement you expect. It could be driving strong sales for your business. As well, each social channel is dependent on the target audience you're trying to reach and how they interact on the platform. Overall I focus on different channels depending on the client I'm working with. I’ve outlined 3 examples below:

  • Instagram - I love this channel because it's best for reaching new audiences by collaborating with influencers. It's the perfect space to lean into social shopping to drive sales.

  • Facebook - While engagement can be low or non-existent as of late, Facebook still drives strong website visits and sales in e-commerce for my clients

  • LinkedIn - While this seems like just a place to find a new job, this is a fantastic channel to promote courses for people looking to level up their skills or to sell in the B2B space. Financial Advisors, corporate solution companies, etc. can do quite well on LinkedIn.

If you’re running into issues audit each page to ensure you don’t have any of the following: Duplicate title tags and meta descriptions, broken internal links, 404 pages, or temporary 302 redirects that don’t serve a purpose. You can use my free audit tool below to see if your site is running into any issues.

Still, have questions or need help with items in your free audit report? Contact Tenth Man Marketing today for a free 30-minute SEO discovery call.