Your Complete Guide to Search Engine Optimization

When it comes to SEO, many website owners admit to feeling overwhelmed when attempting to optimize their web pages for search engine queries. 

But guess what?… SEO isn’t that complicated. At least, the basics aren’t. And the basics are all you need to get started!

In our Beginners Guide to SEO, we will cover the following:

Part 1: What is SEO & Why is SEO important?

Part 2: Keyword Research & Targeting

Part 3: On-Page Optimization

Part 4: Link Building Process 

Part 5: Common Technical SEO Issues

Let’s jump in!

Part 1: What is SEO & Why is SEO important?

Definition of SEO is: The process of affecting the visibility of a website or web page in a search engine’s unpaid results. In other words (plain english, please?), SEO can be leveraged to help drive more relevant traffic, leads, sales, and ultimately profit and revenue for your business. 

Why should you care about SEO? Why is SEO so important? 

Well, as a business owner or employee, you should realize the incredible and powerful potential for growth and an increase in revenue SEO can provide when done correctly. The traffic derived from SEO efforts is almost always going to be someone who fits into your “target audience”, or a potential customer who’s likely to be interested in your goods or services. This is due to the fact that SEO was made to target specific groups of people, looking for specific things or specific services, when  they come across your business (thanks to all your SEO efforts) and they become a loyal customer of yours. 

How Does Google Rank Sites?

Google’s algorithm is extremely complex, and ever-changing. It seems Google is set on keeping us marketers on our toes by releasing new updates to their algorithm. That said, here is a very brief, high level overview of how Google ranks websites:

  • Google looks for web pages that contain high-quality content that includes very relevant information in regards to the searcher’s query.
  • Relevancy scores are determined by bots “crawling” your website and all of its content and evaluating (algorithmically) how relevant that content is in regards to what the searching is looking for, keywords are incredibly important in determining how relevant your website is ranked according to Google’s search bots.
  • Your website’s backlink profile plays a major factor in the “quality” of your site (in Google’s eyes). There are other aspects of your website that go into the overall quality score your site receives, but to put it simply: the number and quality of other websites that link to your page and your site as a whole is the most prominent determinant of site quality based on Google’s algorithm.
  • How users engage with your site, and whether they’re able to find the information they need and therefore stay on your site, or will they come up empty and bounce back to the search page in order to find another link to check out? On the other hand, do users completely ignore and scroll past your listing in search results all together – resulting in little-to-no click-through? Google’s algorithm reviews your website’s bounce rate, whether your site is trafficked at all, and the click-through rate of your site when deciding where to rank it.
  • Is your website fully responsive across all platforms, including mobile? How mobile friendly is your site? 
  • Your website’s loading speed / site speed
  • The amount of unique content your site has (as opposed to “thin” or low-quality content and/or duplicate content)

Part 2: Keyword Research & Targeting

Keyword research is the first step in any and every successful and well throughout search engine optimization strategy. Identifying the keywords and key terms that people are using when they search for things on Google and other search engines. 

Of course, when you perform keyword research, you’ll likely compile a list of hundreds (if not thousands) of possible keyword contenders. From these, you’ll need to narrow the list down to the keywords and phrases you think your site could rank for, and which are relevant to the content you’re creating. 

There are countless methods used in order to determine the right keywords for a website, some that leverage online SEO tools and others that don’t. It’s entirely up to you and your team to decide what method you will be using. 

That said, there are a few key factors you need to take into consideration when determining which keywords and phrases to target on your site:

  • Search Volume – One of the most important factors to take into account is how many people are actually actively searching for a given keyword. This is important for obvious reasons – if no one is searching for a particular keyword that you’ve decided to try and rank for, there won’t be an audience to present your content to through search. On the other hand, if you decide to rank for a keyword that is highly searched, you stand to reach a much bigger audience.  
  • Relevancy – Although relevance may seem straight forward at first, it can grow to be a bit more complex when it comes to search terms. As we just mentioned, search volume is an incredibly important factor, but what if a frequently searched keyword is sort of relevant to your prospects, but not completely or directly relevant? Can you still use that keyword? Would it even benefit you to use a highly searched keyword if you’re feeling weary as to the level of relevance it may have to potential customers? When it comes to relevancy, the answer is simple: If a term is frequently searched, there’s a good chance it will also be a very competitive term to rank for. This means that your site may have a difficult time making its way to the first page of Google, due to the fact that all the SERPs listed on page 1 of this term are big companies and corporations. Once you consider what chance you may have of actually being able to rank for such a term, you’ll need to analyze the audience that would be searching Google with said term. Would this reach your target audience? Or, would it reach an audience who’s search intent differs from the audience you’re trying to target? Ranking for high search volume keywords will get you in front of an audience (which is important, of course), but that publicity is only beneficial if it is in front of the right audience. Otherwise, your keyword optimization efforts will likely leave you empty handed. 
  • Competition – No matter the industry, you always want to consider both potential costs and likelihood of success when examining a business opportunity. The world of SEO opportunities is no different. This means that prior to finalizing your keywords for a web page and building content around them, you need to review and understand the relative competition (and your site’s likelihood of ranking) for the specific keywords you’ve chosen.  

Targeting Prospective Customers & Search Intent

We’ve gone over the most vital factors in keyword research, so let’s discuss your prospective customers and the important role their ‘search intent’ plays in your targeting strategy. If you haven’t already analyzed who your prospects are, now is the time to do so. Understanding your prospective customers is beneficial for both your SEO and business in general. 

You need to have answers to the following questions about your prospective clients and their search intent, if you want to get the most out of your keyword research and SEO efforts:

  • What types of things (products and/or services, etc.) are they interested in? Particularly things that relate to, or are relevant in one way or another to your business and what you offer. 
  • What problems do they have? What solution(s) could you offer them?
  • Who else are they buying things from? (this could be purchases they’re making from your competitors, or it could mean purchases they’ve made of things that are directly related in some way to your products and/or services.

You’ll have an initial list of possible keywords and keyword content ideas at this point, you’ll want to take advantage of the many keyword tools available in order to review their search volume and competition metrics. In addition, you will need to ensure that your site will be able to conceivably (realistically) rank for the terms you’ll be going for, and identify where the best possible keyword opportunities actually lie. Analyzing your potential keyword list will help you solidify which terms you’ll ultimately use to optimize your site’s SEO. 

Check out the top free SEO tools you can take advantage of today to springboard your website’s SEO!

Part 3: On-Page Optimization

At this point, you should have a solid keyword list. The next step is to implement your targeted keywords into your website’s content, as well as including them in new content and future publications. Each page should have a “main keyword”, as well as a handful of related keywords. There is no exact number of keywords any one given post should have.

Basic On-Page SEO Elements:

Title Tags – The single most effective spot to place your main keyword for optimum readability, is on the page’s title tag. Keep in mind – Google dislikes, and even punishes aggressive and excessive use of keywords on web pages. Although this should be avoided, it is still valuable to include your main keyword and its related keywords in your pages where appropriate.

Meta Descriptions – A meta description is essentially your site’s additional ad copy. Although you are limited in the number of characters you can include, displaying a compelling description of your page is likely to entice users to click – significantly increasing traffic.

Body Content – Obvious as it sounds, your page must have an impressive body of content that is unique, relevant, ‘shareable’, and encourages engagement. When setting up a basic content plan (minimal), aim for one “general guide” to cover all basic content related to your site on a shallow level. From there, create content that branches off of the general guide, diving deeper into the most important aspects of the content mentioned in your general guide.

URL Structure – URL structure is vitally important both from a sharability standpoint and from a tracking perspective. Shorter, more descriptive URLs are easier to copy and paste, plus they give users a basic idea of what main topic is covered on that specific page.

Part 4: Link Building Process

Internal links placed within your own content, connecting pages where appropriate and relevant, helps Google understand what the various pages on your site are about. The anchor text, which refers to the actual text in words, that you use to link from one page to another promotes a smooth content flow throughout your website, in addition to providing users with the opportunity to click on your internal links when they’d like to learn more about a specific piece of information you’ve linked internally to.

External links are created when one site embeds a backlink to your site, which is then interpreted by search engines as a “vote of confidence” from the first site to the second. Bot crawlers are able to better understand both what a page is about, and how important the web pages are, as they gain more external links, or backlinks. 

As a site strengthens their backlink profile, their Google ranking will also grow stronger and the website will move closer towards page one in the SERPs. 

Part 5: Common Technical SEO Issues

It’s a fact that technical SEO for particularly large websites is really a beast of its own, there are a few common issues that a lot of sites face, whether large or small:

Page Speed – It seems that Google is really placing an emphasis on website page speeds these days. That said, having a fast loading time is beneficial for search engines like Google, as well as for site users and your site’s overall conversion rates. So, getting your site speed up-to-par is a win-win situation.

Responsive Across All Platforms (emphasis on Mobile Friendliness) – The importance of a website ranking on mobile devices is growing more and more valuable. In fact, Google released an algorithm update that solely focused on mobile search engine traffic this year. You’d be left behind in the dust if you don’t take this update seriously, and do all you can to ensure your website is as mobile friendly as possible. 

Header Response Codes – This is a particularly complex aspect of technical SEO, but it’s important nonetheless. Verify that all working pages on your site are returning the correct code to search engines (200), and check to make sure any pages that are not found are also returning a code to represent their current state – being that these pages are no longer present (404). This is extremely important, because when these codes are wrong, Google will see your “page not found” pages and assume they are working pages (even though they aren’t, but the pages aren’t returning the right code to search engines) and it will appear as though you have duplicate pages. 


If you’ve reached the end of this article, give yourself a pat on the back. Now, you know all of the SEO basics to get started on your optimization plan, or to improve your current website optimization strategies. Use this information and position your site and business to generate more search traffic within search engines like Google – Mastering the art of SEO can give you the power to increase exposure and traffic for your business, so you can generate more revenue.