SEO Basics: Beginner's Guide to SEO Success (2023)


    SEO Basics: Beginner's Guide to SEO Success (1)

    Part 1

    SEO fundamentals

    What isSEO?

    Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of growing a website’s organic search traffic. It’s where you do things that help you show up and rank higher in a search engine’s organic results.

    Why is SEO important?

    People are likely searching for what you do, and you can attract customers by ranking for those terms. But you’re unlikely to rank without effort, as others are trying to do the same. This is why SEO matters. It helps show Google that you most deserve torank.

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    What are the benefits ofSEO?

    Most people click one of the first few search results, so higher rankings usually lead to more traffic. Unlike other channels, search traffic tends to be consistent and passive. That’s because the number of searches is usually quite consistent month tomonth.

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    Search traffic is also “free.” That’s a big deal because ads can be expensive.

    For example, we get an estimated 1.4M monthly visits from organic search. It would cost us an estimated $1.7M per month to get that same traffic from search ads.

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    How do you doSEO?

    SEO involves five mainsteps:

    1. Keyword research. Find what people search for.
    2. Content creation. Craft content for searchers.
    3. On-page SEO. Make your content as clear as possible.
    4. Link building. Build trust and authority from other websites.
    5. Technical SEO. Help search engines find, crawl, and index your content efficiently.

    These steps are the main focus of our beginner’s guide to SEO.

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    Part 2

    Setting up for SEO success

    Doing SEO is much easier when your website is properly set up for SEO success. Let’s look at a few ways to dothat.

    Get a good domain

    Most domains are fine for SEO, so don’t panic if you already have one. But if you’re still shopping around, keep these two elements of a good domain inmind.

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    Domain name

    Something short and memorable is best here. Don’t try to shoehorn keywords. Your business name without hyphens or special characters is usually a goodbet.

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    Top-level domain (TLD)

    This is the part after the name, like .com. Your choice of TLD makes no difference for SEO.[1] But we think .com is best for most people, as it’s the most recognizable and trusted. For charities, .org or your local equivalent also works. If you only do business in one country outside the U.S., your country code top-level domain (ccTLD), like, is finetoo.

    It’s best to stay clear of TLDs like .info and .biz that people tend to associate with spam. But it’s not the end of the world if you have one. You can still build a legit website thatranks.

    Use a website platform

    Website platforms let you create and manage a website with ease. There are twotypes:

    1. Hosted platforms. Everything’s done for you. They host the site, give you ready-made designs, and let you add and edit content without touching code.
    2. Self-hosted platforms. These also let you add and edit content without code. The difference is that you have to host and install them yourself.
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    Most SEOs recommend a self-hosted, open-source platform like WordPress because:

    • It’s customizable. You can edit the open-source code how you like. There’s also a vast community of developers who know the platform inside out.
    • It’s extensible. There are millions of plugins for extending its functionality, including many SEO plugins.

    That said, if you value ease of use and support, a hosted solution might be a better fit. All the big ones provide enough SEO capabilities for most people.

    Use a good webhost

    If you’re using a hosted solution, you’ll need a web host. These store your site on a hard drive that anyone with an internet connection can access. Consider the three S’s when choosing one:

    1. Security. Make sure you get a free SSL/TLS certificate. Or, at the very least, support for Let’s Encrypt—a nonprofit supplying free certificates.
    2. Server location. It takes time for data to travel between the server and visitor. So it’s best to choose a host with servers in the same country as most of your traffic.
    3. Support. 24/7 support is ideal. Test how good their support is by asking the above before you signup.


    You can optimize server location with a content distribution network (CDN). This creates copies of your site on servers around the world so it’s always served from close to the user. So don’t fret about this too much. If you find that speed is an issue, you can invest in a CDN lateron.

    Create a positive user experience

    Google wants to rank pages that give visitors a positive experience.[2] Let’s look at a few ways to dothis.

    Use HTTPS

    Nothing is worse for visitors than their personal data being susceptible to hackers. Always encrypt your site with SSL/TLS.

    Choose an appealing design

    Nobody wants to visit a website that looks like it’s from the ’90s. So while there’s no need to redesign your website every few months, it should look good and reflect yourbrand.

    Make sure it’s mobile-friendly

    More searches are now done on mobile than desktop.[3] So it’s critical that your website is as pleasant to use on mobile as on desktop.

    Use a readable fontsize

    People browse the web using all kinds of devices. Make sure your content is readable across theboard.

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    Avoid intrusive pop-ups andads

    Everyone hates ads, but sometimes you need them. If that’s the case, avoid intrusive interstitials. Pages with these may not rank as highly.[4]

    Make sure it loadsfast

    Page speed is a ranking factor on desktop and mobile. But this doesn’t mean your site needs to load lightning fast. It only affects pages that deliver the slowest experience to users.[5][6]

    Create a logical site structure

    It should be easy for visitors and search engines to find content on your site. That’s why it’s important to create a logical hierarchy for your content. You can do this by sketching a mindmap.

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    Each branch on the map becomes an internal link, which is a link from one page on a website to another.

    Internal links are crucial for UX and SEO for a few reasons:

    • They help search engines find new pages. Google can’t index pages it can’tfind.
    • They help pass PageRank around your site. PageRank is the foundation of Google search. It judges the quality of a page by analyzing the quantity and quality of links that point to it. It’s still used by Google today.[7]
    • They help search engines understand what your page is about. Google looks at the clickable words in the link for this, otherwise known as anchor text.[8]

    Use a logical URL structure

    URLs are important, as they help searchers understand the content and context of a page. Many website platforms let you choose how to structure your URLs. These are the five main options for URLs in WordPress:

    • Plain:
    • Day and name:
    • Month and name:
    • Numeric:
    • Post name:

    If you’re setting up a new site, go with the clearest and most descriptive structure. That’s post name. If you’re working with an existing website, it’s rarely a good idea to change the URL structure; it may break things.

    Install an SEO plugin

    Most website platforms handle basic SEO functionality out of the box. But if you’re using WordPress, install an SEO plugin. It’s hard to put even basic SEO best practices in place without one. Both Yoast and Rank Math are good options.

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    Part 3

    Getting on Google

    Having a website set up for SEO success will help Google crawl and index your pages. But submitting your site to Google can speed up this process further. That’s because this helps Google find your website even if it has no backlinks.

    SEO Basics: Beginner's Guide to SEO Success (9)

    Finding or creating a sitemap

    Sitemaps list the important pages on your website that you want search engines to index. If you already have a sitemap, it’ll likely be at one of theseURLs:

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    If you can’t find it there, check where it’s usually listed.

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    If you still can’t find it, you likely don’t have one and need to create one.

    Submitting your sitemap

    You do this via Google Search Console (GSC). It takes about two seconds.

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    SEO Basics: Beginner's Guide to SEO Success (12)

    Part 4

    How to track SEO success

    Before we dive into how to do SEO, it’s worth taking a minute to understand how to track and measure SEO performance. This is never easy, and what we’ll cover here is a very high-level overview.

    Organic traffic

    Let’s start with the obvious one. If organic traffic is going up, you’re doing something right. You can track this in GSC for free. If you don’t have access to GSC, sign up for a free Ahrefs Webmaster Tools (AWT) account. Then plug your domain into Site Explorer for an estimate.

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    Keyword rankings

    If rankings are on the rise for your target keywords, that’s another sign that you’re doing something right. You can track average keyword rankings for free in GSC. If you want more accurate tracking, you’ll need a rank tracking tool like Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker.

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    Did youknow?

    Organic traffic and keyword rankings are “vanity metrics.” There’s no harm in keeping an eye on them, but they often bear no relationship with marketing or business goals. It’s much better to track metrics that have actual business impact. We cover two of thesebelow.


    This metric in Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker shows what percentage of all clicks for the tracked keywords land on your website.

    (Video) SEO Fundamentals | Beginner's Guide to SEO Success

    SEO Basics: Beginner's Guide to SEO Success (15)

    For example, let’s say you track one keyword, and all the top positions in Google are occupied by pages on your website. Because your website gets all possible traffic from that keyword, your Visibility is100%.

    Now let’s say your website only occupies one spot in Google, with the rest occupied by competitors. Because some clicks go to other websites, your Visibility is lower than100%.

    If your Visibility is increasing, this is yet another good sign your SEO is on the righttrack.

    Key takeaways

    • SEO is the process of growing a website’s organic search traffic.
    • You do this by ranking in organic search results.
    • SEO is important because you’re unlikely to rank well without it.
    • Ranking high gets you free, passive, and consistent traffic month aftermonth.
    • SEO involves keyword research, content creation, on-page SEO, link building, and technical SEO.
    • Doing SEO is much easier when your website is properly set up for SEO success.
    • Google will usually find and index your website on its own, but you can sometimes speed the process up by submitting your sitemap.


    1. SEO Benefits of New Top Level Domains (nTLDs)?”. Search Engine Journal. 5th December 2020. Retrieved 17th August 2022
    2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide”. Google. Retrieved 17th August 2022
    3. How Mobile Search Connects Consumers to Stores”. Google. May 24th 2016. Retrieved 17th August 2022
    4. Helping users easily access content on mobile”. Google. August 23rd 2016. Retrieved 17th August 2022
    5. Using site speed in web search ranking”. Google. Retrieved 16th August 2022
    6. Using page speed in mobile search ranking”. Google. Retrieved 16th August 2022
    7. Search Through Time”. Google. Retrieved 17th August 2022
    8. Importance of link architecture”. Google. October 7th 2008. Retrieved 17th August 2022


    What should I learn first in SEO? ›

    Keyword research should be the very first step on your SEO journey. It is especially important in two common scenarios: Getting to know your niche – when starting a new website, keyword research can provide a great overview of what sub-topics are interesting for people in your niche or industry.

    What is SEO explained for beginners? ›

    SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the practice of growing a website's traffic from organic search results. It involves things like keyword research, content creation, link building, and technical audits. Businesses pay Google to be here.

    Can SEO be self taught? ›

    It is a fact of learning that all education is self-education. Although others can facilitate learning, nobody can teach you anything--they can only inspire you to teach yourself. That means if you want to learn search engine optimization (SEO), you'll have to take matters into your own hands.

    How do I get into SEO with no experience? ›

    Here are the most common ways that people become SEO specialists:
    1. Take an SEO course (or several SEO courses)
    2. Learn SEO by optimizing their own website.
    3. Work at a marketing agency.
    4. Take on SEO clients.
    5. Get an online SEO certification or degree.
    6. Work as an “in house” SEO professional.

    What are the 3 C's of SEO? ›

    Simply put, the fundamentals of SEO can be boiled down to The 3 Cs: content, code and credibility.

    What are the 3 pillars of SEO? ›

    The Three Pillars Of SEO: Authority, Relevance, And Experience.

    What 4 pillars are important in SEO? ›

    The four pillars of SEO
    • technical SEO: How well your content can be crawled and indexed.
    • content: Having the most relevant and best answers to a prospect's question.
    • on-site SEO: The optimization of your content and HTML.
    • off-site SEO: Building authority to ensure Google stacks the deck in your favor.
    Nov 1, 2017

    How can I practice my SEO skills? ›

    Then that's why SEO is so important.
    Here are the steps of teaching yourself SEO in 6 steps:
    1. STEP 1 – Find a resource for beginners. ...
    2. STEP 2 – Practice! ...
    3. STEP 3- Find a Mentor. ...
    4. STEP 4 – Join an SEO Group. ...
    5. STEP 5 – Know what's going on in the SEO world. ...
    6. STEP 6 – Rinse & Repeat.

    What is the most difficult part of SEO? ›

    Keyword Cannibalization

    One of the serious SEO challenges is keyword cannibalization, where you're using the same keyword on several pages.

    Where can I learn SEO from scratch? ›

    Websites to Learn SEO Online
    • Web-Savvy-Marketing.
    • SEO 101.
    • Google.
    • Search Engine Watch.
    • Webmaster World.
    • Search Engine Journal.
    • Search Engine Land.
    Aug 19, 2021

    What are the 4 types of SEO? ›

    Explore the four types of SEO and learn how to optimize your site.
    • On-page SEO. Our Beginners Guide to SEO outlines the basics of search engine optimization, and on-page SEO is one of the easiest and most common ways to boost site visibility. ...
    • Off-page SEO. ...
    • Local SEO. ...
    • Technical SEO.
    Jan 5, 2023

    What is SEO checklist? ›

    The checklist also covers information about best practices for title tags, meta descriptions, header tags, and more for on-page SEO. We explain how to do keyword research and incorporate keywords into your content. We cover off-page SEO strategies as well, including the importance of building backlinks.

    How do you write SEO in 4 easy steps? ›

    Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your article
    1. Create a search engine friendly title. Include 1-2 keywords related to your topic. ...
    2. Optimize your abstract. Place essential findings and keywords in the first two sentences of your abstract. ...
    3. Use keywords throughout your article. ...
    4. Be consistent. ...
    5. Build links.

    Do I need coding skills for SEO? ›

    The short answer is: no, SEO typically doesn't require much (or any) hands-on coding. You can absolutely do a fine job of SEO without touching code. But the longer answer is that yes, a good sense of how programming works, or even an ability to do a bit of coding yourself, is always a useful skill to have.

    Can I make a living doing SEO? ›

    The simple answer is that SEO can be a great way to make a decent living, and provided you have the skills to scale an SEO practice, the sky's the limit. Nowadays, there are a lot of ways to make money online: from building an ecommerce website to creating a blog to promote products and services.

    How long does it take to learn basic SEO? ›

    Experts say it usually takes one to three months to learn the foundations of SEO and a year or more to master the practice fully. The length of time it takes to learn the basics of SEO depends upon several factors.

    How much does a beginner SEO make? ›

    Average starting Salary for SEO in India is around ₹0.2 Lakh per year (₹1.7k per month).

    Is SEO still in demand? ›

    SEO professionals are in high demand, as companies need search optimization in order to compete in most niches.

    What is the salary of an SEO engineer? ›

    SEO Engineer salary in India ranges between ₹ 1.5 Lakhs to ₹ 8.7 Lakhs with an average annual salary of ₹ 4.0 Lakhs. Salary estimates are based on 32 latest salaries received from SEO Engineers.

    What is the golden rule of SEO? ›

    Well-written content engages the reader, increases search engine rankings and traffic, and increases the likelihood of quality links from other sites.

    What is the Golden Triangle in SEO? ›

    The Golden Triangle is a distinct area of intense eye scan activity that is shown in the diagram below. It's important to understand that the Golden Triangle pattern is seen in first time visits to a results page. I find it easiest to think of it as a storm map. The darker the area (Red) the higher the eye traffic.

    What are the 12 things to know about SEO? ›

    12 SEO Tips to Boost Your Organic Rankings & Traffic
    • Target Relevant Primary and Secondary Keywords. ...
    • Write Quality Original Content. ...
    • Format Your Content for Search Engines & Target Featured Snippets. ...
    • Optimize Your Page Title and Meta Description. ...
    • Use Short, Descriptive URLs.
    Feb 4, 2022

    What is the most common strategy for SEO? ›

    SEO best practices are tasks designed to help improve a website's rankings. Common search engine optimization best practices include on-site optimization, researching keywords, and building backlinks to a site. In fact, only 63% of Google searchers ever click on something from the second page of search results.

    What are the SEO KPIs? ›

    Search Engine Optimization (SEO) KPIs are values used by marketing teams to measure the performance of their website for organic search results. Search engine optimization is a core function for any marketing team.

    What are the two main parts of SEO? ›

    SEO is divided in two parts: On-page SEO and off-page SEO. On-page SEO refers to all techniques that can be implemented on your website to improve your ranking in SERP (search engine results pages), whereas off-page SEO refers to everything that can be done outside of your website to improve its visibility on the web.

    What are the three 3 most important SEO and website metrics? ›

    These SEO metrics help measure whether your current strategies are working, how effective they are, and where there's room for improvement. Some of the most common SEO KPIs include rankings, organic traffic, backlinks, and pages indexed.

    Can I learn SEO in one month? ›

    While it's a career-long journey, you can indeed learn SEO in about a month — enough to make a huge impact on your website and thus your business as a whole.

    Where can I learn SEO for free? ›

    • Free Neil Patel Unlock SEO Courses.
    • Free SEO Training: SEO for beginners(Yoast)
    • SEO Training Course by Moz (Udemy)
    • SEO Training Course: Building Sustainable Traffic for Business Growth (Hubspot)
    • On-Page and Technical SEO Course (SEMRUSH)
    • Become an SEO Expert (LinkedIn Learning)
    Dec 30, 2020

    How hard is it to learn SEO? ›

    SEO is not that hard to learn, but it can be confusing and overwhelming to get started. Learning SEO means learning about a long list of individual digital marketing strategies, which can feel a bit like adding new weapons to your arsenal as you learn how to wield them.

    What should you not do in SEO? ›

    Common SEO Mistakes
    • Slow Site Speed. ...
    • Bad Reviews on Google. ...
    • Faulty Google My Business Verification Code. ...
    • Lack of Location-Specific Pages. ...
    • Duplicate Content. ...
    • Broken Images and Missing Alternative Texts. ...
    • Outdated Content and Information on Site. ...
    • Not Optimizing Your Website for Mobile.
    Feb 23, 2023

    Do and don'ts of SEO? ›

    Do's and Don'ts of SEO
    • #1 DO. Analyze your website traffic. ...
    • #2 Don't. Get spammy. ...
    • #3 DO. Have fresh, relevant content. ...
    • #4 Don't. Copy someone else's content and pawn it off as your own. ...
    • #5 DO. Make sure your business info on your website is correct, and located in several places. ...
    • #6 Don't. Wait any longer.
    Jul 22, 2019

    What is not good for SEO? ›

    Here are 7 bad SEO tactics you should stop using in your SEO strategy:
    • Overemphasizing Keywords in Your Content Strategy. ...
    • Creating Content Inconsistently. ...
    • Focusing Too Much on One Topic. ...
    • Not Referencing Your Own Content (Through Internal Linking) ...
    • Failing to Build Relationships (and Facilitate External Linking)
    Nov 14, 2019

    Can I learn SEO without coding? ›

    The short answer is: no, SEO typically doesn't require much (or any) hands-on coding. You can absolutely do a fine job of SEO without touching code.

    How can I start SEO at home? ›

    How do you become an SEO freelancer?
    1. ‍Become an SEO expert. It's a good idea to learn everything you can about best SEO practices. ...
    2. Create a portfolio of your work. ...
    3. Earn references and reviews. ...
    4. Create a website. ...
    5. Use social media. ...
    6. Obtain the right SEO tools for your toolkit. ...
    7. Use job boards.

    What is SEO learn How do you do it in 5 minutes? ›

    SEO is the process of tuning your site with the goal of ranking pages on your site as high as possible in the organic search results on engines such as Google and Bing. When someone uses a search engine, the results of their search query show up on the 'results page'.

    How much should a beginner SEO cost? ›

    Hourly rates. 34.8% of respondents price some or all of their work by the hour. We found that $75–$100 per hour is the most popular hourly rate for SEOs, with 24% of respondents charging this rate. 47% of respondents charge between $75 and $200 per hour.

    Is SEO a hard skill? ›

    At the top of the list of important hard skills is search engine optimization. Data from the study is based on a LinkedIn poll conducted by Microsoft with 600 global senior marketer participants.

    Is learning SEO difficult? ›

    SEO is not that hard to learn, but it can be confusing and overwhelming to get started. Learning SEO means learning about a long list of individual digital marketing strategies, which can feel a bit like adding new weapons to your arsenal as you learn how to wield them.

    Are SEO certifications worth it? ›

    SEO certifications can be valuable if you're new to the industry or expanding your skillset into different disciplines. But do you need a specific certification to be successful? Probably not. Certifications and courses are great for building your base skills and familiarity with industry tools.


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