You want to learn about search engine optimization (SEO), but where do you start? You’ve probably heard of a few basic terms, like keyword research, but what else do you need to know?
I this post, I’ll walk you through the basic vocabulary you need to know and tips for learning SEO on your own. Then, we’ll review a step-by-step SEO tutorial to help you get your SEO strategy off the ground.
Table of Contents
Having an understanding of foundational SEO vocabulary is important. Let’s dive into a few key words to know:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): The tactics you use to optimize your website to ensure you provide the high-quality information searchers look for and rank higher in search results for specific keywords so people can find your content.
On-page SEO: Any optimizations you’d make within your website to improve search rankings, like the keywords used in your content or back-end elements like site structure.
Off-page SEO: Any actions you take to improve your search engine rankings outside your website, like backlinks from other websites or guest blogging.
Link building: Getting links to your website from other high-quality websites to build authority and credibility.
SERPs: SERPs stands for Search Engine Result Pages, and it’s the results page after someone conducts a search.
White-hat SEO: Optimization tactics that align with accepted and recognized best practices.
Black-hat SEO: Optimization tactics that manipulate search engine algorithms to rank websites higher in SERPs. These tactics are often unethical.
E-E-A-T: E-E-A-T stands for experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trust. It’s part of Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines and one of the factors Google uses to determine a page’s relevance and authority.
Keyword: Words or phrases users type into a search engine to find content related to their search. As an SEO, you include relevant keywords in your content that align with search intent so your site appears in related searches.
Keyword Research: The process of finding keywords people enter into search results related to your business to help you inform the words to use in your website pages and content.
Organic/Organic results: Any results in SERP that are unpaid and that appear because of a page’s relevance to the search query.
Organic traffic: Organic traffic is traffic that comes from organic results.
Rank/page ranking: Where your site falls in SERPs for a specific keyword.
Ranking factor: A ranking factor is an element that impacts where your site may fall in search results, like your page authority.
>Search intent:Search intent is why a user conducts a search.
How to Learn SEO
We’ve just reviewed some basic terms, but now you want to dive deeper.
Learning SEO on your own is possible, but it’ll take a bit of time because there is a lot to learn. Thankfully, there’s so much helpful information out there to support you in your learning process.
I know everyone has a different learning style, so I’ll include resources that appeal to different needs.
1. Read and watch reliable resources.
There are a lot of educational resources out there to read and watch that will help you build your knowledge of SEO. Here are some of my recommendations.
There are other search engines out there, but I’m going to assume you’re mainly optimizing your website to meet Google’s quality standards. Therefore, the best and most reliable resource to learn to optimize for Google is, well, Google. The Search Central Blog and Search Quality Rater Guidelines are great places to start.
2. Take free courses.
If you benefit from structured and guided learning, an SEO course is another option to build on your SEO skills. A bonus is that many courses offer certificates upon completion. These are some high-quality options:
3. Stay on top of the trends.
SEO is always evolving, algorithms are always updated, and new trends are always coming about. For example, Google only recently added an E for Experience to the existing E-E-A-T guidelines to ensure that content is helpful, relevant, and created by someone with experience in the subject at hand.
This change is even more important as AI-generated content becomes more popular as the lived experience of a writer is a key differentiator between computers and humans.
Therefore, one of the most important factors in becoming an SEO expert is staying on top of the trends so you can pivot when major industry shifts happen. We cover changes in the SEO landscape on the HubSpot Blog, and Google also maintains a running list of major updates that can impact your SEO success.
4. Study your competitors.
Learning from your competitors is a great way to understand what’s helping other sites succeed.
You can conduct a competitor analysis to uncover things like new keywords to leverage, where competitors get backlinks from, and new opportunities to capitalize on.
Once you feel confident, you can take a hands-on approach with what you’ve learned and enact some SEO strategies.
If you already have a website, you can practice by doing something like a competitor analysis
and updating your current strategy based on your findings. If you don’t have a website, consider starting one, implementing some of your learnings, and monitoring metrics to see how you get on.
One of the best things about SEO is that a wide variety of tools are available to help you along every step of the way.
6. Use SEO tools.
Considering the breadth and depth of the internet, it would be a nightmare to do some of the essential SEO functions by hand — this is where SEO tools come in to save the day. They’ve saved me significant time and energy and quickly brought me the results I’m looking for.
Ahrefs: helps you conduct keyword research and stats their important stats like search volume and CTR
Seobility: analyzes the technical aspects of your site to help you resolve on-page SEO issues
Jasper: AI writing assistant that can help you write SEO-optimized blog posts with target keywords.
Once you’ve embarked on your learning journey and feel ready to jump in, here’s an easy step-by-step SEO tutorial to follow.
SEO Step-by-Step Tutorial
Step 1: Find keywords.
Step 2: Put keywords in the page title.
Step 3: Put keywords in the page URL.
Step 4: Put keywords in your meta description.
Step 5: Put keywords in your H1 text.
Step 6: Use keywords in the page’s content.
Step 7: Build links to your website.
Step 8: Monitor your rank.
1. Find keywords.
Keyword research is as simple as picking a list of words and phrases relevant to your business. Think about which words are most likely to get people to do what you want them to do (visit your website and submit a form) and focus on those words.
I’ve found that a dedicated keyword research tool, can be extremely helpful but, as a beginner, you can also intuitively choose your keywords first. For instance, if you sell roasted coffee, you might opt for “roasted coffee,” “Colombian coffee,” and “local coffee roaster.”
List these keywords out in a spreadsheet or document for you to keep track of. Then, pick one word or phrase to use on one page of your site. In other words, you don’t want to target different keywords on one page. You want to target one keyword, as well as any keywords it’s semantically related to.
Continuing with the example from above, I might create a page for “local coffee roaster.” That would be my main keyword, but I can also target semantically related terms such as “local coffee,” “coffee roaster near me,” “coffee roaster [city name],” and “locally roasted coffee.”
You can see a few keyword variants: “CRM software,” ”CRM solution,” and “free CRM.”
2. Put keywords in the page title.
Once you’ve chosen a keyword, it’s time to put it into action. First up, you want to put in your web page’s title.
The page title is one of the most important things that Google and other search engines evaluate to determine what is on a web page. It appears on top of your web page’s result in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Notice how the following brand put its keyword, “Atlanta Coffee Roaster,” on its page title:
Don’t forget to keep it short. I recommend 65 characters or fewer to ensure that search engines don’t trim your title, like in this search result:
Keep in mind that your brand name is part of the character count of your website’s title.
3. Put keywords in the page URL.
Google and other search engines also use the text of the URL of the page to determine the web page’s content. You should use your keyword or phrase specifically in the slug.
Your page’s meta description can further tell search engines and users what your page is about. I recommend taking advantage of the opportunity to place your target keywords or phrases in the description. Don’t make it long — less is often more.
While metadata is not nearly as important as it used to be, it still counts. Take advantage by putting your keyword or phrase there. The description should be readable by a person and make sense, and the keyword metadata should focus on your keyword or phrase. Don’t make it long — less is often more.
5. Put keywords in your H1 text.
Your H1 text is usually the title of an article or some larger bold text at the top of your page. Google and other search engines can see this, and they put extra importance on the words in the H1 text, so you want to ensure your target keyword or phrase is there.
Here’s an example from a local coffee roaster company:
Why? It signals to search engines that the page is about the keyword and should appear in related search results. In the same vein, you need to be mindful of the number of times you use it in your site content. Using it too often is a black-hat practice called keyword stuffing , and it should be carefully avoided.
I have heard from “experts” that you should use your keyword anywhere from 4-6 times to 10-12 times. My advice is to just write naturally, but to carefully avoid black-hat practices such as keyword stuffing.
In other words, don’t write something like this:
“We are Atlanta Coffee Roasters, the best coffee roasting company in Atlanta, GA, where you can find Atlanta locally roasted coffee roasted by hand in our coffee shop serving the greater Atlanta area.”
That’s simply unreadable. Compare that with the content from the local coffee roaster company:
“At Peach Coffee Roasters, we’re passionate about single-origin coffees and carefully crafted blends. We have three licensed Coffee Q-Graders who select the best coffees from around the world and roast them to perfection. This obsession with quality extends to every step of the process, from green coffee sourcing to small-batch roasting and using only the best brewing methods every time. “
One of my best tips is to read what you’ve written aloud. If you’ve repeated your keyword too many times, you’ll probably be able to hear it as you speak. You can also use the keyword density formula, dividing the number of times a keyword is used on your page by the total number of words. Here’s an easy example:
Your page has 1,000 words, and your keyword is used ten times. This gives:
10 / 1000 = .001
Multiply this by 100 to get a percentage, which is 1%. Google and other search engines respond well to a keyword density of around 0.5%, but many SEOs recommend 1-2 keywords for every 100 words, which is between 1-2% keyword density.
7. Build links to your website.
Once you signal relevancy to search engines via your keywords, it’s time for the hard work to start: building inbound links to your website from authoritative sites in your industry or niche.
This is arguably one of the most important SEO steps you have to take, especially considering Google’s Search Quality Rating E-E-A-T guidelines, where A stands for Authority. Backlinks to your site signal that other pages view your site as offering authoritative information on your topic area.
Last but not least, it’s time to check on the results of your efforts. Give the search engines some time to do their thing (from a couple of weeks to a few months), then keep checking your rank to see what happened and track your progress.
If you’re just getting started with SEO, you can check this rank manually by searching for your target keyword in Google. As mentioned above, I also recommend using an analytics tool like Google Search Console to see your rankings for free. Since GSC can be limited in some respects, you can upgrade to an official SEO monitoring tool to track the most relevant keywords and consistently come up with strategies to improve your performance.
On that same vein, you should also monitor your Google PageRank. Google uses your Page Rank to measure how “important” your website is on the web. Having a higher Page Rank means you have a better shot at being one of the top results for search terms.
I mentioned Check Page Rank above, and it’s a great way to get an estimate.
You can also grade your website with a tool like Website Grader, also mentioned above, to evaluate the SEO effectiveness of your site.
This SEO Step-by-Step Tutorial is Just the Beginning
Your learning doesn’t have to stop here. With the SEO 101 vocabulary I mentioned above and the step-by-step tutorial, you can easily start creating an effective search engine optimization strategy.
Our starter pack, linked below, will help you ramp up your SEO plans and boost the likelihood of your website ranking on the first page of SERPs.