Are you a website owner who feels like running for the hills every time you hear SEO being mentioned?
Does the term ‘Search Engine Optimisation‘ make you break out in a sweat?
Well, we’ve got good news for you.
We can help.
SEO doesn’t need to be scary or confusing. When broken down into meaningful chunks of information and explained in plain English, SEO can be easy and accessible.
That’s how we like to see it anyway. This is why we’ve created this SEO Tips for Beginners Guide to help you optimise your own website for search.
So if you’re just getting started with SEO and don’t have loads of technical knowledge, this beginners’ guide to SEO is perfect for you. We’ve kept things simple and avoided including over-technical points that might just overwhelm you and make you want to scream. We’re nice like that.
The article is broken down into easy-to-consume sections to help you get going with optimising your website. We recommend you focus on each aspect at a time before moving on to the next, and we promise it’ll be easy enough. And worth it!
We’ve split this blog post into a few handy sections for you:
- Tracking your website traffic.
- Basic keyword research.
- Main SEO considerations for your website
- Technical SEO (don’t worry – technical doesn’t mean complicated! Not in our book anyway!)
- Website pages.
- Blog articles.
- Website images.
So, are you ready to go?
1. Tracking your website traffic
How do you know if you’re doing well if you have no idea where you are right now?
Before you get going with your website SEO, you need to figure out what your starting point is. Let’s call this tracking your website traffic. And all it is is a way of monitoring the number of visitors to your website.
Why does it matter?
Because it helps you understand your existing and prospective customers and how they interact with your website. For example, what pages or blog posts are the most read on your website? Where do your visitors spend most of their time when on your website?
This is invaluable information for you because it tells you what works and what doesn’t. And once you know this, you can do more of what serves you well and tweak and change what doesn’t.
So, before you start your SEO efforts, track your traffic. Create some sort of starting point view or baseline that you can refer back to once you’ve gone through each of the sections in this beginners’ guide to SEO. By measuring your traffic before you get started and then after implementing the strategies in this blog post, you’ll be able to measure how effective your efforts have been.
So how do you measure your website traffic?
Google Analytics is a fantastic free web analytics tool that helps you analyse your website traffic. It lets you see who visits your website, how they found you, what content they tend to consume the most, and how they behave when they’re on your site.
Pretty handy, right?
Without getting too technical, let’s just say that the tool works by placing several lines of tracking code into your website. But there’s some good news here.
You don’t need to worry about any of that!
Once you create an account and link it to your website, you’ll be able to access easy-to-read reports that will give you great insight into how your users interact with your website.
If you want to find out more about the tool, Google has a great free course on how to get started with Google Analytics.
Google Search Console
Another similar tool is Google Search Console. It’s a free service that gives you access to information about your website performance and your users.
Compared to Google Analytics, Google Search Console gives you more internal information. For example, things like who is linking to your website, or which queries your website is appearing in the search results for. It also flags any problems with your website that might be holding you back from ranking better.
Signing up is free and easy, and you can read more information on getting started with the Google Search Console here.
Google page speed
Google page speed is another great tool to help you check how quickly your website loads, or your website load time.
This is an important metric when it comes to SEO – the quicker your website loads, the better. The recommendation is a page load time of under 2 seconds, but the faster the better.
Why does it matter?
Because as you know by being one yourself, internet users have little patience. And if a page takes around 3 or more seconds to load, chances are your visitors may start doubting the trustworthiness of your website.
And when they lose trust, they click the back button and go looking for something else.
You can easily test your page speed with a free tool called GTmetrix. It gives you a performance report for your website and highlights any issues you might have, so you know what to look into and improve.
If you want to know more about checking your rankings, you can always check out our blog post – 5 ways to check your search rankings.
So now that you have a baseline and know exactly where you stand, it’s time to pull your sleeves up and get your teeth into the first meaty bit of SEO for beginners – keyword research.
2. Basic keyword research
Okay, we’ll admit this doesn’t sound very exciting. But actually, it’s not as bad as you think!
So what is keyword research, and why does it matter?
Keyword research is the process by which you look for terms and phrases that people search for on the internet. This exercise is an important step for SEO because once you have those terms and phrases at hand, you can strategically include them in your content.
In other words, this exercise allows you to create content around topics that interest your ideal clients. If you sell holiday packages to Iceland, you wouldn’t dream of writing about ‘how to fill in your tax return’, would you?
Hopefully not. Because that wouldn’t help your business at all.
But keyword research would tell you that people actually look for terms such as:
- Iceland holidays 2021.
- Iceland holidays Northern lights.
- Cheap holidays to Iceland.
- Best Iceland package deals.
You get the gist.
Once you know exactly what terms and phrases people search for, you can produce content around these topics and increase your chances of ranking higher in the search engine results.
Notice that although this process is called keyword research, I talked about terms and phrases. This is because when we run a search on Google we don’t just look for the word ‘Iceland’. That wouldn’t give us what we want at all! The term is too broad and generic, and the results would be useless.
Instead, we type or ask actual questions. These chunks of words are known as longtail keywords, and they help us narrow down our search results.
So how can you use this to your advantage? Where do you find the longtail keywords to include in your website content?
Here are a few tools that might come in handy…
Keywords Everywhere is a free Chrome extension that helps you with keyword research, and it’s a great tool to start with. Once you install it, it shows you:
- Trend data and search volumes for that keyword.
- Related keywords to the search term you selected.
- ‘People also search for’ suggestions.
A paid-for version is also available if you want more information on monthly searches and competitor analysis, for example. But if you’re just getting started with SEO and want to keep things simple, the free version will do the trick for you.
Answer the public
Answer the public is another awesome keyword tool that helps you visualise search questions through an image called search cloud. Simply enter your topic, and the tool produces a visual diagram full of real questions that people have asked when searching for that term.
Once you decide on a topic for a blog post, for example, you can use the information from the search cloud to decide what to cover in each individual sub-sections. It’s free, easy to use, and a fantastic way to keep things super simple when it comes to SEO. Answer the public is free with an option to upgrade for businesses who need to run multiple keyword searches per month.
KWFinder is a paid-for tool that allows you to find the best longtail keywords to include in your content.
You can even see how competitive and profitable keywords are. What you want is to find keywords that lots of people search for but that not many other content creators are already using.
More competition means fewer chances for you to be found online. But if you do your homework and pick keywords that aren’t overused but still searched for on a regular basis, then you’re winning.
KWFinder offers affordable plans depending on the number of keyword searches per month you need and also has a FREE 10-day trial.
3. Optimising your website for SEO
Okay, so you’ve got your keywords. Now how do you go about optimising your website? Whether you’re planning or re-designing your website, here are 3 activities I’d recommend:
- Plan your website structure.
- Focus on niche topics.
- Limit the content on your Homepage.
So what does it all mean?
Plan your site structure
Have you thought about the way you plan to organise information on your website? For example, what will your users see from the main menu? Will you have sub-pages dropping down from under your main pages?
Making sure that your overall site structure is user-friendly and easy to navigate is important.
First of all, it tells your readers how and where to find information. But it also tells Google where your most important content is. Because Google isn’t a person – it crawls websites through bots, following links between various pieces of content. This is how it determines the relationship between different elements of your website.
So the way you structure your content (in pages and blog posts) can influence which content will rank highest in the search engines. If you don’t plan this through, your visitors might struggle to find what they’re looking for and leave your website too soon for your liking. This indirectly tells Google that your website isn’t user-friendly, and you don’t want that!
I recommend you take some time to plan it all out. And if you need more information on how to organise your site structure, check out our article: The Ultimate Guide to a Perfect Website.
Focus on niche topics
And no, this doesn’t mean you have to write about obscure topics no one knows anything about! Phew!
It’s quite the opposite, actually.
You want to write content that people search for.
So when researching keywords and planning content for your web pages or blog posts, narrow your topics down. Instead of being broad and generic, be specific and niche.
So in the example of our Iceland holiday provider, if you cater for family holidays, you might want to create content around:
- ‘Best family hotels in Iceland’.
- ‘How to make the most of Iceland with kids’.
- ‘Self-drive itineraries for Iceland with kids’.
People want specific answers to specific questions. And when you create specific content, you’re helping your ideal clients understand exactly what you do and how you help. This puts you in a better position to capture all those specific searches with longtail keywords.
Limit content on your Homepage
Writing content for your Homepage is a big job. And one that a lot of website owners get a bit wrong.
Because they tend to cram way too much information onto it. And that’s not what your Homepage needs to do for you.
Your Homepage isn’t the place to tell your visitors everything there is to know about you and your products or services.
Instead, think of it as the reception area of your website. Its job is to direct users where they need to go, quickly and efficiently. So don’t overload it. And don’t overwhelm your visitors with content.
You should then have dedicated pages set up for your products and services. And if you’re a service-based business – a page for each service where you go into detail.
If you want more tips on what to include in your Homepage, head over to our blog post: What You Should Put on Your Homepage to Increase Conversion.
4. Technical SEO tips for optimising your website
Although I promised this beginners’ guide to SEO didn’t need to be technical or complicated, there are a few key technical considerations that impact SEO.
And the ones I’d like to talk you through are:
- Improve your page speed.
- Ensure your website is responsive.
- Install an SSL certificate.
Improve your page speed
Did you know that your page speed affects your SEO efforts too?
But first thing first, what even is that?
Page speed is a measurement of how fast the content on your website takes to load. So when someone lands on your website, how long does it take for the information to appear on their screen?
You probably guessed that you want that number to be as small as possible. If the page takes too long to load, your visitors might hit the back button and leave. You don’t want that.
Plus, if your website is slow, you have less chance of ranking well in the search results.
So what can you do to improve your page speed?
- Only use plugins that are absolutely necessary. Too many plugins will slow your website down.
- Compress and optimise your images (more on that later).
- Keep redirects to a minimum. Every time you redirect your users to another page, you add to the overall waiting time.
Ensure your website is responsive
Does your website look good on mobile and tablet?
With more and more users accessing content on their smartphones or tablets, your website needs to look good no matter what device your visitors are using. And that’s exactly what a responsive website is. One where the layout is easy for your visitors to read and navigate.
This gives your readers a better user experience, and when someone finds your website easy and enjoyable to be on, naturally, they’ll want to spend more time on it. And without getting into too many details, that’s a great indicator for Google too.
So if you want to boost your chances of ranking well in the search results, think about design and user experience too.
Install an SSL certificate
Before you run for the hills at the use of yet another acronym, let us explain.
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. But you don’t need to get bogged down into all that.
All you need to know is that SSL protects your website data. It turns your website into a secure environment – for you and for your prospective clients. Because without one, there’s a risk your visitors’ personal data might get stolen. Plus, an SSL certificate protects your website too – from phishing scams, data breaches, etc.
And what’s that got to do with SEO, I hear you ask?
Well, Google and other search engines tend to favour websites that they perceive as secure. And without an SSL certificate, your website will be flagged as ‘non-secure’.
If you’re not sure whether you have an SSL certificate or not, finding out is super easy. Simply check whether your website URL shows as http (no SSL) or https (that means you’ve got SSL!).
To get an SSL certificate for your website (in case you don’t have one) simply contact your host. Most reputable WordPress hosting companies offer one for free and can show you what to do to turn yours on.
5. Your website pages
So now that we’ve looked at some of the work you need to do around the structure and layout of your website, it’s time to look at your website pages.
By these I mean, your About page, your Service or Product pages, your Contact Us page, etc. So what kind of things do you need to pay attention to when it comes to optimising your website pages for search?
A title tag (or page title or HTML title) specifies the title of your website page.
But where does that go?
When you do a search on Google, the title tag is the clickable headline that tells you what the page is all about. They help us make that initial decision as to whether we want to click on a link or not.
Unfortunately, I see a lot of business owners who forget to attach meaningful title tags for their web pages.
Please don’t be one of them!
Use the title tag to say what the page is all about and include the keywords you found during your research. Make them relevant to your niche and business, and, if applicable, to your location.
For example, if you’re an accountant in Manchester, the title tag for one of your Service pages might read, ‘Tax return for small business owners in Manchester’. Or something along those lines. It’s niche and specific. And says what it does on the tin.
The meta description is the text that displays underneath the clickable headline when you get results through Google.
Why does it matter?
Now, think about your own behaviour as a user. When you do a search, you quickly scan through the results, and if something looks interesting and relevant, you might go and read the 3-4 lines of text that sit underneath. Just to make sure you want to click on that.
That’s the meta description.
Just like with title tags, a lot of website owners forget to fill that in. So don’t make that mistake.
Use those 3-4 lines of text to tell the reader exactly what the page is about. You want to entice them to read.
If you want more detail, check out our blog post on how to optimise your blog posts.
Hopefully, your web pages aren’t just a great wall of text, right?
They have lovely sections and sub-sections that guide your readers through the content of the page.
Those sections have headings. And you probably know the drill by now – make sure you pick meaningful headings.
The headings on your pages tell your readers what each section is all about. But they help with SEO too, so make sure you include your keywords in there.
Just a quick word of advice. When you do include keywords in your headings, try and make them look organic and natural. Don’t force it. If a keyword doesn’t fit that section, it doesn’t. The last thing you want is for your page content to read a bit odd and put your prospective clients off.
For more information on how to create an awesome service page for your website, head over to our article, The 9 Essentials of a High-converting Service page.
6. Your blog articles
Everything we talked about in the context of web pages and including relevant keywords applies to blog posts too.
So, for example, if you want to optimise a blog post for ‘portrait photographer in greater Manchester’, include that long-tail keyword in:
- The blog title.
- The Alt Text of your images (more on that later).
- Your sub-headings.
- The main text of your blog article.
But when it comes to blog posts, a few other things are worth thinking about, including:
- Word count.
- Internal links.
Now, this might not sound like great news. But it’s the truth, so here it goes.
Short 200-word articles don’t cut it with Google anymore.
This used to be the case 10-15 years ago, but not anymore.
Because Google’s job is to serve its users. When you do a search on Google, you want to see great and relevant content. You don’t want to sift through links and links just to find that none of them answer your questions. Because that’s frustrating, right?
But longer and more in-depth pieces (just like this one) probably have the answers you’re looking for.
And let’s face it – competition on the internet is huge. Lots of companies and business owners just like you produce loads of content on a daily basis. And if you want your business and your content to stand out, in-depth and detailed pieces of content are the way to do it.
HubSpot did some research around this too. Finding that 50 of their most-read blog posts in 2019…yielded an average word count of 2,330.
So when writing blog articles, we recommend at least 1,200 words or more. This might sound hard to do, especially if you’re not too keen on writing.
So pick topics you know about and that your prospective customers want to read about. Show off your knowledge and expertise, and you’ll start to build trust with your readers while encouraging them to spend more time on your website. This tells Google that your website is worth visiting and gives you better chances of ranking higher in the search results.
If you need some inspiration around what content to create, head over to our article, How to Plan 50 Pieces of Content in 30 Minutes.
Internal links are links that you include in your own blog post that send your users to other pages or articles on your own website.
Why do they matter?
Because they tell both Google and your readers how your content links together. Remember that Google isn’t a person! Google reads your content through bots – they don’t see your website the way we do. They read lines and lines of code. And internal links help search engines understand how various bits of information on your website relate to each other.
Plus, internal links are great for user experience. By linking to existing content you’re giving your readers more information. But you’re also inviting them to spend more time on your website. This is called dwell time, and the higher it is, the more Google sees your website as trustworthy and interesting.
So as you write your content, think about ways to organically include links to other relevant pages or articles you created before. You’ll notice that we’ve done this in this article too!
When writing blog posts (and especially longer pieces), it’s always a good idea to break the information down into sections and paragraphs.
A sub-heading is the bit of text that introduces a new section of your blog post. In WordPress, you can format your sub-headings as Heading 2, Heading 3, Heading 4, etc, depending on how many sections and sub-sections you have.
Each of your sub-headings gives you a chance to include your relevant keywords, which (you guessed!) helps your SEO efforts.
So once again, look at the list of longtail keywords you found while doing your research and include them organically in your sub-headings. Be creative but don’t force it! If you use the same exact keyword in each of your sub-headings, that might look a bit odd to your readers!
For more information on how to write killer blog posts, head over to our article, How to Write a Blog Post that People Will Actually Read.
7. Website images
And last but not least, a few words on images. Your website visitors don’t expect to come to your website and just read text. Imagine how boring that would be! Images play an important part in your website user experience and SEO efforts.
You’ll use a few on your website pages and possibly even more in your blog posts. Because remember – your readers don’t want to see walls and walls of text with no interruptions! Think about their visual experience too by leaving plenty of white space on the page (to let the text ‘breathe’) and by adding relevant pictures.
I always recommend you use plenty of photographs of yourself and your team if you have one. But if you need more images and pictures for your web pages or your blog posts, you can find plenty of free or paid-for stock pics on websites like Pixabay, Unsplash, or Pexels.
Re-sizing your images
Before adding images to your website, you should always re-size them. If your images are too big, they might slow down your website and impact your page speed.
For example, images on this blog post are no bigger than 1200px wide. There’s no reason for them to be huge (like 4000px).
You’ll also need to compress your images so they load quicker. To do that, you can use a free online tool called tinypng. This will help you compress your images without losing any quality.
Optimising your images
Whether you add images to your Homepage, your Service or Product pages, or your blog posts, don’t miss the chance to optimise them. You can do this by accessing the file properties and including your keywords in the image title and the Alt-Text of the image.
The Alt-Text is a bit of copy that’s used to improve the accessibility of your images. You can think of it as a chance to describe to someone who can’t see what’s in the image.
But this bit of text also helps Google bots ‘see’ that image. Because the only way they can do that is through text, it’s important you include your relevant keywords in there too. Doing this gives tells Google that a particular piece of content is relevant for someone searching for that term.
What Now? Grab the SEO Starter Pack!
And there you have it – the Ultimate SEO Tips for Beginners Guide.
We hope you enjoyed our SEO for beginners tips, but if you want to really invest in SEO, then check out our SEO Starter Pack. Perfect for non-techie business owners, it’s a practical, easy-to-understand bundle of resources to help you get higher search rankings and more website traffic.
The SEO Starter Pack includes:
- a video library that walks you through how to do SEO step-by-step,
- a comprehensive SEO checklist for every web page or blog post you create,
- keyword research training,
- an interactive SEO planner,
- and lots of added bonuses too!
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