OBVIOUSHLY, this is not an advanced SEO path – it’s five steps for complete beginners that want to get the basics fast. It’s also the very route I recommend to my clients and friends and have seen superb progress reports from those, who had followed it step by step.
Go ahead and jump right it to learn the basics of search engine optimisation!
Step 1 – Understand the basics of SEO
The best first step for anyone, who wants to start with SEO, is Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
Moz is a SaaS (software as a service) company based in Seattle that sells inbound marketing and marketing analytics software subscriptions. It was founded by Rand Fishkin and Gillian Muessig in 2004 as a consulting firm and shifted to SEO software development in 2008. Rand has since left the company and even wrote a book about how he founded Moz and many lessons that the process birthed – Lost and Founder: The Mostly Awful, Sometimes Awesome Truth about Building a Tech Startup.
Moz is an absolute authority on SEO. They have a lot of tools (free ones too!) that SEOs use consistently.
Their guide to search engine optimisation is up to date, fuelled by data and experience, and, most importantly, structured in such an easy digestible format that it would be a crime not to start here.
You probably wonder why I am not recommending Google’s resources as the first step. Well, (plot twist!) Google did not invent SEO. Their search engine has the biggest market share globally, but you should still learn the basics of the discipline from unbiased SEO practitioners without becoming focused on optimising solely for Google. After all, there are many other browsers too.
Step 1: Read The Beginner’s Guide to SEO
Step 2 – Understand what “search intent” is
Before you go into creating content and the technical side of SEO, let’s take a step back and ask ourselves:
“Why do people make the searches they do?”
Search intent is the very reason a person decided to use a search engine. When they enter a search query into the search engine’s search bar, they have a very specific goal in mind. They are looking for answers to trivia questions or checking for the title of the song based on one line from a song they heard on the radio. They are looking to buy a classic little black dress or find a Japanese restaurant that delivers locally.
The “WHY?” that drives their search is one of the most valuable insights for any website owner. Answer the why, the search intent, correctly, and you are already one step ahead.
The best resource to find out more about search intent specifically is this article on ahrefs blog, published by Joshua Hardwick, titled “Searcher Intent: The Overlooked ‘Ranking Factor’ You Should Be Optimizing For“.
By the way, ahrefs is another fantastic tool more advanced SEO use.
Step 3 – Understand what “high-quality content” means
Now that you understand how people search, let’s look at what content answers their search queries. In other words, how do you create high-quality SEO content for your website.
You see, when I started getting interested in SEO in 2010, I also thought that there must be a magic trick that makes your website outrank other websites.
Yes, there are plenty of actions you can take to make the website faster. You can invest in link-building, you can redesign your website structure or user experience, you could really do a lot of technical work to improve the loading speed. However, if your content is plain bad, there is nothing you can do except for rewriting it.
Ultimately, SEO cannot fix a website that does not serve its visitors well. SEO is about becoming more user-friendly and reaching your conversion goals rather than ranking #1 on Google but seeing no results.
While Google is not the center of SEO, it does provide a lot of insights on how some of its work is done.
One of the valuable documents is the Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines.
Who are Google Raters? While many actions and processes are automated, Google still hires humans to manually rate the websites. This data is then analysed and used to improve how the algorithm works.
Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines is a document given to the Raters, which beautifully explains what high-quality content looks like. It is extremely detailed so if you REALLY want to go down that path, it’s on you.
Luckily, Dave Davies prepared a guide on the most important parts of the document and published it on Search Engine Jornal. Have fun with Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines: A Guide for SEO Beginners and see you at the next Step!
If you want to stay up to date on SEO news, you should definitely visit Search Engine Jornal once in a while.
Step 4 – Learn how to do keyword research
Yaaaaaa……y? I have to say that the deep sighs I sometimes hear from people when I mention keyword research are a little bit saddening.
The reason so many people are not such big fans of keyword research is that keywords are one of the most misunderstood elements of SEO ever. My clients, co-workers and friends often feel like they have heard so much about keywords but what they took away from all the “gurus” is: “You need keywords. Keywords are great. Keywords. Keywords”.
Nobody knows what they are, but they know they need them.
The reason that you need to understand keyword research is that, while keywords on their own are not a ranking factor, matching page content to questions asked via search engines is indeed what makes your website rank higher.
Keyword research is an exploration. It’s full of thrills, discoveries and combing through data. Yum.
Ok, I am reining myself in, and giving you the best resource you can find on how to perform the keyword research of your life – Keyword Research: The Definitive Guide (2020) by Brian Dean from Backlinko.
Step 5 – Find out how to build links
And we have arrived at the final step in your SEO learning journey! Learning to build backlinks is the last element of this short sprint through learning the basics of SEO.
Backlinks are links that lead to your site and one of the strongest ranking signals. Think of backlinks as thumbs-up for your website – when search engines see a sea of positive reactions, they consider your website as more valuable.
Backlinks can be built organically (this relies on producing high-quality content, see Step 3) and non-organically, aka backlinks that you have built yourself by placing them on a business listings website or guest posting.
Here, I will send you again to visit Backlinko’s website (Brian Dean is one of my favourite SEO professionals out there) and his fantastic and always-up-to-date Link Building for SEO: The Definitive Guide (2020).
You made it!
I hope that you enjoyed this learning journey and consider yourself much smarter when it comes to SEO 🙂
If you feel that you are ready to implement your knowledge and start working on your website, I recommend you read this guide by (who else?!) Brian Dean introducing you to the technical side of on-page SEO. Read the Technical SEO: The Definitive Guide now.