How to get started with SEO – A simplified guide to SEO for absolute beginners
Written by Nadin Thomson
You want to build a house, a really nice home for you and your family, a home that’s super comfortable, looks great and welcomes you. What would be the first thing you do to achieve that dream?
- You’d look for a building plot.
- You’d look for an architect.
- You’d look for a builder.
- The project would get started with the foundations, the walls, the roof and so on.
- You then decorate the house, you buy furniture and eventually you buy the scatter cushions for your couch.
Let’s look at this again in the reverse order: You want to build an amazing home and here’s what you do first:
- You buy scatter cushions.
- You buy furniture.
- You look for a builder.
- You look for an architect.
- You look for a building plot.
Doesn’t make sense, right?
Unfortunately, this is how most websites are built… Scatter cushions first, building plot and foundations last.
In website terms this could mean that you spend a lot of time working on your design and adding lovely photos to your website, or you spend time trying to rank for certain keywords and you get frustrated when other (outdated) websites outrank your amazing new website in Google.
In order to have a chance to rank in Google, you need to have a solid website foundation. Without it, Google might ignore or – worse even – penalise your website!
What are the steps for getting started with SEO – Search Engine Optimisation
Google has a document published which is called the Google Webmaster Guidelines. This document explains the elements a website needs to have for Google to consider it “rank-worthy”!
Without them, it will be hard to move past your online competition!
I have provided a simplified graphical guide to these guidelines below!
So what are these building blocks?
In summary they are:
- Technology basics (the foundation)
- Structure & Optimisation (the architect)
- Content Relevancy (the scatter cushions)
- Backlinks – (the icing on the cake)
Let’s look at them step by step.
1. Technology basics for SEO – The foundation for good Search Engine Optimisation
Try not to skip this – it’s like not having a foundation for your (online) home. It’s less geeky than you think!
Why SSL is important for SEO
Your website must be secure. Make sure you use an SSL certificate for your website. If it’s already installed, you will see a little padlock in the address bar beside your domain. Check out this article about Why you need an SSL certificate on your website.
What happens if your website doesn’t have SSL? Google might display your website as not secure. They sometimes add a line to the search results indicating the website is not secure. Would you click on a link to a website that says “Insecure – are you sure you want to continue?”
Why your Website Speed is important for Search Engine Optimisation
We’ve all visited websites where we had to wait for AGES for something to load. The reason behind a slow website can sometimes be hard to figure out, but the first things to check is the size of your images on your website.
- Remove any slideshows from the homepage (they are no longer a thing – read this article here – the Top 5 reasons why you shouldn’t have a slideshow on your website).
- Check the file size of your main header images across the different pages on your website
- Make sure the file size of any image on your website is smaller than 250 KB. If they’re bigger, resize and re-upload!
If all this didn’t make a difference, have a good look at your hosting setup. You may need to contact your hosting provider and ask them why your website is slow. Have a look at this article – How to find a good web hosting provider.
Your website MUST be mobile friendly (iPads, tablet computers and mobile phones!)
Google uses software that lets them see what your website looks like to a user on different mobile devices. If your website is not mobile friendly – Google knows!
Google penalises websites that are not mobile friendly. This means even if your website has lots of amazing information, if it’s not mobile friendly, Google will not show it high up in the search results.
You may think that your website visitors look use a PC or laptop to look at your website and it looks fine there, right?
It’s always better to check the actual data. Worldwide, over 58% of people access websites and blogs on their phone (you can check the actual stats here).
Have you ever been on a really outdated website and you had to scroll left and right (eeek!!) in order to read text? It’s not a nice experience.
Check that headlines are not too big, images are displayed properly and the layout of your website still makes sense on mobile devices.
2. Structure & Optimisation (the architect) – building on your foundation for good SEO
Be an architect: Plan your website on paper before you start building anything online! Website builders are so “intuitive” and want you to just start building your website, suggesting it’s all so easy!
A good website (and one that’s well optimised) starts with a plan.
Structure the pages in a logical manner which can be understood by humans. Make sure you include links to other pages within each page. Avoid any of your web pages being a dead end – always provide one or several links to other pages on your website.
Avoid people having to click the browser’s “Back” button. If they have to do that, it’s a bad user experience.
Always think – what would they want to know next? Where should they click next? What would help them now?
Optimise your content in a logical way, using headlines in a logical order rather than because they’re pretty. Use bullet points, make use of the title of each page and add ALT tags to images.
You can also read the ultimate guide to photos on your website on my blog.
3. Content, Relevancy, Keywords (the scatter cushions)
What makes good content? Good content is not content that’s about you, your business and what you offer, but it’s content that actively helps your website visitor solve their problem. They do not visit your website to look at pretty pictures or read what you’ve done last week.
This is what website visitors want:
- How to
- Price information
- Best of or Top of lists
- Info about common problems
All the other stuff is fluff! Make your website about your visitors and you’ll be off to a flying start!
Remove the fluff, keep the good stuff.
4. Backlinks – the icing on the cake
The simplest way to understand this:
- The more relevant (external) websites link to your website, the better.
- The more backlinks you have, the better your chances of ranking higher are.
Backlinks seem to be the holy grail of SEO and there are many businesses who specialise in acquiring backlinks for their customers.
You can start acquiring backlinks naturally and organically by providing great content people want to link to!
Contacting other websites and writing guest blog posts is a great way of acquiring backlinks too, but your best bet is writing blog posts and provide info on your website other people WANT to link to!
Here’s a list of things people want to link to:
- How to guides
- Best of guides
- Top 10 guides (or any other number) / Listicles
- Ultimate Guides
- Case studies
- Research results
- Long-form blog articles that provide a ton of information
How can you do all that when it’s just yourself in the business?
I hear you – running your own business can be super stressful! Adding SEO to your task list seems like another huge thing to tackle in your endless admin things to do!
SEO is like a savings account. Even regular contributions will make a difference to the bottom line. Don’t think of SEO as one big elephant you need to “eat”, but it can be split into tiny tasks.
The SEO Club does exactly that: It allows you to learn (and implement) a tiny bit of SEO every week for a full year!! No more overwhelm and not knowing what to do next!
Imagine where your website and business will be in a year after you’ve followed 50 tiny lessons and made the changes that will have an impact on your website’s ranking?
SEO is like a savings account. Even smaller regular contributions will make a difference to the bottom line.
A visual guide to the Google Webmaster Guidelines
The Google Webmaster Guidelines are not secret. Google publishes them here. But reading through long pages of text can be tiring, so I have provided a simplified version of the guidelines here.