Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

For new websites, search engine optimization (SEO) can seem like an insurmountable task, especially with the seemingly overwhelming amount of information on SEO available online. In most cases, online business owners may not do much without the assistance of an SEO consultant or in-house SEO experts.

In this guide, we outline a few basic techniques for getting your website’s SEO started the right way, even if you lack the budget to hire consultants or full-time SEO experts.

SEO 101 — Basics for on-site SEO

Interestingly, a number of highly essential SEO elements are already available on your website. So while you may come across terms such as “link building”, keep in mind that proper on-site SEO forms the foundation for effective link building. The following are the most basic elements of SEO that you should implement on all the main pages of your website, especially your homepage.

Before we outline these basic elements, however, it is important to bear in mind that these SEO elements are effective provided you do not overdo them. That means that you should avoid overuse of keywords in your website’s pages, lest Google slaps you with a penalty for over-optimization. Simplicity is the key, so try and use no more than five keywords or keyword phrases per page. For ideas on the most suitable keywords, the Google AdWords Keyword Tool is highly useful.

Now, on to the essential search engine optimization elements…

Title tag

The title tag on your webpage helps to guide Google and other search engines on the nature of the content on the page—i.e., what it’s about. In 70 or less characters, it should include your brand or business name and keywords specific to only that page. The text for the page title tags is positioned inside the <HEAD> </HEAD> tags near the top of the webpage’s HTML code.

Meta description

The meta description on your webpage gives search engines further information on the nature of the content on the page. There is still no consensus in the SEO community regarding whether or not the meta description has an impact on your keyword ranking. Nonetheless, your meta description should be written for a human audience and should include the primary page-specific keywords, because themeta description is displayed in search results.

On Google’s search engine result pages (SERPs), the keywords that a user searches for appearing in bold both in the meta description and page title tag. It is for this reason that you should include your brand or business name in both the meta description and title tag. They stand out to users who search for those keywords.

If your website runs on WordPress, you are at an advantage because you can easily add meta descriptions and title tags using free plugins, including SEO by Yoast, Platinum SEO, and All in One SEO, as well as Scribe SEO and other premium plugins.

Additional elements for on-site SEO

Essential as they may be, title tags and meta description is not the only search engine optimization elements you need to include on your web pages. The following are other elements that are useful for considerably improving the search ranking of your web pages.

Internal links. Link building is applicable for both external web pages and pages in your own domain. Linking pages inside your website to other pages on your website makes it easier for search engines to understand the content on your site. Interconnected content inside your own domain is a signal for high quality, even if you’re a beginner.

Header tags. You can further optimize your site by breaking your content into sections that are set off by header tags at three levels. The first level, which should only appear once per page, is the <H1></H1> tag used for headings of posts. The other two levels are <H2></H2> for subheadings and <H3></H3> for lower-level subheadings. These can appear multiple times.

ALT tags and image names. Choosing the right keyword for image name and alt tag will help in further optimizing your webpage. The alt tag and image name are especially useful for helping search engines identify the right images for image searches.

Bolded text. As a beginner, you should exercise caution when using this SEO element. It can be used for calling something important to a reader’s attention. It also helps search engines identify the most important pieces of content on your webpage. By default, the text placed inside header tags is bolded.