The Super Simple SEO for Beginners Guide
You’re about learn SEO in the simplest, fastest, and most effective way possible. If done right, SEO is the most effective and cheapest way to drive endless targeted traffic to your website. From teenagers to great-grandparents, anyone who reads this tutorial will easily understand how to do SEO.
Out of all the SEO for beginner guides, why should you read this one, and why should you listen to me? That’s a good first question. Let me briefly explain.
I’ve studied Google and other search engines for about 20 years. Before being acquired in 2014, I founded one of the most successful SEO agencies in Chicago where I worked with some of the biggest brands in the world. I also founded MySiteAuditor, one of the most popular SEO software companies, used by 80,000 SEO experts in 20 languages around the world.
I’ve been obsessed with SEO, search engines, and more specifically Google, for quite some time. I consult, read and write about SEO on a daily basis, and my SEO articles have been shared thousands of times by people all over the world.
I hope my experience and success in the SEO industry will provide you with enough trust and reassurance to keep reading.
Now, let’s get started.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of driving organic traffic (non-paid) to your web pages from search engines.
Learning SEO can be simple or complicated, depending on who you ask. It’s kind of like asking how to bake a chocolate cake. A seasoned chef might tell you a detailed, step-by-step process, and someone else might tell you to grab a box of Betty Crocker.
My goal is to make learning SEO super simple by explaining how search engines work. Once you know how search engines work, SEO becomes easy and common sense.
The internet is made up of billions of web pages from all over the world. Search engines organize all those web pages for free, making it easy for people to find what they’re looking for.
For example, imagine looking for the best chocolate cake recipes without search engines. There are literally thousands of different web pages with chocolate cake recipes. How would you find those pages, and which ones are the most popular? Search engines like Google take the headache away by searching and finding the most popular web pages for you.
Every single day, about 3.5 billion searches are performed on Google, making it the most popular search engine in the world.
In fact, Google has an estimated 95% of search engine market share compared to smaller search engines like Bing and DuckDuckGo. Large websites like Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter have their own built in search engines; however, when talking SEO almost everyone is referring to Google. For this guide, 99% of what I discuss will apply specifically to Google.
Google’s mission is “to organize the world’s information”. In other words, they want to help people quickly find the right web pages. Remember, the web is made up of billions of web pages. So that’s a massive job.
But, here’s the cool thing: it’s all automated. Google built a program called “Googlebot” to crawl the web, find and learn about new web pages, then organize and rank them in their search results.
They do all of this for free.
When you do a search in Google, an algorithm (formula or recipe) with about 200 factors determines which web pages are the most relevant and most popular. Often times, a search will produce thousands or millions of results, and the web pages that come up first get all of the traffic.
Why is SEO so important?
As I stated earlier, 3.5 billion searches happen on Google every day. It’s the most popular way for people to find web pages with the most relevant and popular information. Making your content more SEO-friendly can send thousands or even millions of customers to your website every single day… for free.
Of course you can skip the hard work and pay to rank on the top of search engines, but there are two problems with that strategy.
Problem 1: Money
Paying to be listed at the top of Google’s search results costs endless amounts of money. Every click adds up, and when you stop paying, you stop getting traffic. Bummer!
Problem 2: People hate ads
An estimated 80% of users skip and ignore Google ads. Instead they trust and prefer the organic, SEO-friendly search results. Think about that. 80% of 3.5 billion daily searches want the SEO-friendly search results, not the ads. That’s huge!
If done right, SEO is the most effective and cheapest way to drive endless targeted visitors and customers to your website.
My 3-step SEO strategy is a great starting point for beginners. Of course, lots of experienced SEO professionals use more advanced techniques, but most of them always start with the basics I discuss below. How advanced you want to get is up to you.
1. Keyword Research
Keywords (aka search terms) are the words or phrases people type into search engines like Google to find the information they’re looking for. If you want a chocolate cake recipe then you might search Google for something like “how to make chocolate cake”, or “best chocolate cake recipes”. There are probably hundreds of different search terms people use to find chocolate cake recipes. Some are more popular than others. So, ya gotta do a little keyword research. Luckily, it’s easy and free to do.
Free vs Paid Keyword Research Tools
There are multiple free and paid keyword research tools. Some SEO professionals use paid tools, but I personally only use free tools. In my opinion, they’re just as good as the paid tools.
To keep things super simple, let’s review a few of my favorite free keyword research tools, and save the paid tools for another guide.
Google Autocomplete and Google related searches suggests keywords as you search Google. You can see keyword recommendations as you type a keyword into Google, and you can see related searches at the bottom of the Google’s search results. These recommendations are based on your search history and other people’s search history.
They are an excellent source of ideas when brainstorming keywords to target.
Ubersuggest is a free keyword research tool that gives you the estimated search volume for different keywords. This helps you determine which keywords are more popular than others.
Important: don’t target keywords simply because they have more search volume. Try targeting keywords with lower search volume because there’s less competition.
Soovie is a super simple and free keyword research tool. This tool is super ugly to look at but it works. As you type in keyword ideas, new keyword suggestions appear. It’s that simple.
Of course, there are far more advanced methods and strategies for finding keywords. But I wouldn’t say they are better. Good keyword research is just a combination of knowing your target audience and knowing what they’re searching for.
2. Web Page Optimization
Every website is made up of multiple different web pages. So, getting people to the right website isn’t good enough. Google’s goal is to get people to the right web page on your website. That’s why every web page on your site needs to be optimized for one or two different target keywords.
Although Google is very private about their search ranking algorithm we know quite a few things from years and years of trial and error. We know Google reads all the text on your page, the meta data, the image file names, and much more. They do this to understand who your target market is.
In the spirit of keepings things super simple, let’s focus on the six super simple, but also the most important ways to optimize your web page for a target keyword.
The title tag is the name (or title) of a web page. Every web page on your website should have a unique, 60 character max, title tag that begins or uses the target keyword. Search engines show every web page’s title tag in the search results to help describe the page, before anyone clicks on it.
Title tags are a very important part of making your web page SEO-friendly. Using your keyword in the beginning of your title tag typically yields the best results.
The description tag describes a web page. Every web page on your website should have a unique description tag with up to 300 characters, although Google may truncate everything after 160 characters in the search results. Search engines usually show a web page’s description tag in the search results to help describe the page before anyone clicks on it.
Description tags indirectly impact SEO because people can read your description tag in the search results before clicking on your web page.
The URL of your web page is a super simple, and important place for your target keyword. Make sure the URL of your page can be easily read by people and search engines.
For example: mysite.com/chocolate-cake-recipe
Images (File name, alt tags, and captions)
Search engines can’t see what’s on an image, so you need to help them understand your images so they can better understand your web pages. Use the target keyword in the image file name, alt tag, and the caption.
Heading tags are usually the biggest and boldest text on the page; therefore, Google considers this pretty important. It’s a good idea to naturally work your keyword into your heading tags.
The text (or copy) on your page is loaded with information Google uses to understand your web page. The more information you give Google, the more it understands who your target market is. That’s why web pages with longer content tend to rank higher.
Typically, using your keyword 2-3 times in the body of text works the best. Anything more and Google more think you’re overdoing it..
So how does Google find new web pages?
3. Earning Links
You’re going to hear the term “link building” a lot in the world of SEO. Here’s why. Google relies heavily on links to find new web pages, and Google also uses links to determine the popularity of a web page. The more links to a web page the more popular it must be, and more popular web pages get ranked higher in Google’s search results.
Earning links to your web page is the most important part of SEO. Out of all 200 factors Google considers when ranking a web page, the number of unique links from different websites is by far the most important.
For example, let’s say you have a web page with a delicious chocolate cake recipe. Well you’re not alone. There are probably thousands of web pages with cake recipes. If 20 people link to your chocolate cake recipe, and only 5 link to a competitor’s chocolate cake recipe, then you have a much better chance of ranking higher in Google’s search results.
I say “better chance” because there are 200 factors, “links” are just the biggest factor.
How do you earn more links?
There are endless ways to earn links to your web pages, some more advanced than others. Google prefers that you earn links to your site as naturally as possible. In other words, they’d like you to create such awesome content that people just naturally link to it from their website or blog.
SEO experts take it a step further by constantly finding ways to get links to their web pages. This is where the creativity comes in. There are endless ways to earn links to the different pages of your website. I’ve shared a few below.
Ask for links
Reach-out to friends, family, and coworkers and ask them if they will link back to your web page from one of their web pages. This could be in an old article, a new article, or on a relevant page with similar content. Either way, do the homework for them by telling them where and how to link to your site.
- Make sure the link occurs naturally in a paragraph of text
- Make sure the page has similar and relevant content
- Use your target keywords in the anchor text
- If linking an image, use the keyword in the file name, alt tag or caption
Research something and write about it.
People love linking to high quality content. Try testing something for 30 days, and sharing your results in a new blog post. If it’s good enough, people will link to it.
For example, let’s say you’re testing out a few different chocolate cake recipes. Bake each one, take a few photos, and describe how each came out in a new blog post. Longer, detailed, and more visual posts usually attract more links.
Interview someone important or quote people in a new blog post, then watch the links come rolling in. Personally, I always link to articles and podcasts that interviewed me or mentioned me. Just make sure you reach out and let the person know.
Note, it’s actually easier than you think to interview important people. Just reach out. People love talking about themselves. It’s their favorite subject.
People love sharing infographics. So, create an awesome infographic, share it in a new blog post, and let people use the infographic on their site for free as long as they link back to your page.
Here’s an example:
Copy to paste the above infographic on your site
Note: I used this free embed tool to making sharing graphics and linking back easier.
There are thousands of free SEO for beginner’s guides, which means there are thousands of different ideas, opinions, perspectives and methods. Here’s what they don’t tell you: SEO is creative like any other form of marketing. Once you know the rules, the rest is up to you.