A complete newbie introduction to SEO

John Morton

  | Published on  

May 26, 2021

What if I told you that there was something that could drive traffic 24/7 to your website, bring high quality leads to landing pages, and make you a thought leader in your industry.

No I'm not about to sell you on some fancy guru, magic marketing pill, or expensive email course that you'll never finish.

In fact you can achieve this all for free with a bit of work, and knowledge of some best practices.

I'm talking about SEO. What is SEO though?

Maybe you read about SEO recently. Or saw an ad for a shiny new tool or an online course on Facebook.

Or maybe you're a bit more advanced and have tried setting up some tools like Google Search Console (we'll get to that later) but aren't seeing any traffic flow in.

Whoever you are, I'm glad you're here because if you want to get a base understanding of SEO this post is for you.

Here, we will define SEO as well as introduce you to some basic concepts of why SEO is important and how you can become an SEO master for your business. At the end of the day it's all about results, and that result is more traffic so we'll show you simple things you can start doing today to rank higher and get more traffic from Google.

What is SEO?

SEO is an acronym that stands for search engine optimization.

What does that mean though? SEO is pretty broad but at its core it is the art of ranking highly on a search engine for a keyword essential to your business.

Put another way, SEO is a process of optimizing your online content so that search engines position your content as the top result when searching for a specific keyword.

That's the goal right? It's been estimated that there are around 5 million searches on Google per day. That's a lot of searches, and appearing towards the top means free traffic for your business.

Your next customer is looking for a solution to their problems and if they find your business that's free advertising for you, so you can see why SEO is pretty darn important.

In order to attain that lofty goal, you must think strategically. Ranking on Google doesn't happen overnight, in fact a study by Ahrefs shows \

When those results come in though you'll see a major difference in your business.

How do you do SEO though? Simple: SEO can be broken into three main concepts:

  • Onsite optimization (technical SEO)
  • Content strategy
  • Offsite SEO (link building)

We'll cover these in depth in the rest of this post.

If things start to get technical take a step back and think about it this way: Google's goals as a business are the exact same as yours - to get more customers. Google's success as a search engine depends entirely on the quality of the search results it returns.

Think about it, when was the last time you used Bing over Google?

(Sorry Bing)

To get your content to rank higher, you need to think like Google does, and partner with them through your content.

Why is SEO so Important?

It may seem obvious why SEO is important, but humor us a bit here.

Ranking near the top of search engine results means that more people are likely to click on your website and explore the products and services you have to offer.

In fact, the first 5 results returned account for 67% of the clicks. That's right, results 1-5 account for 67% of the clicks for any given search and the remaining 33% account for the rest.

If you're not ranking in the top 10, you're at a pretty serious disadvantage as compared to your competition.

By neglecting to focus on SEO and optimize your content, you risk losing out on potential customers to competitors who rank higher in search engine results compared to yours.

SEO matters because it's the difference between being seen and not being found. So let's unpack some basic SEO principles to set you up for success and get you ranking on Google.

We'll start with the easy one, onsite SSEO.

Onsite SEO (technical SEO)

A term thrown around a lot on the internet is onsite SEO or technical SEO.

While it may sound intimidating trust me, it's not.

All onsite SEO means is putting your website in the best position possible to be understood by Google, and create a great experience for people who visit your website.

At its core, onsite SEO is everything you can do to improve your rank right on your website. There are a few aspects to it, so we'll break them down in detail.

Optimize your content

The first thing you need to do is optimize your website according to the primary ranking factors identified by Google.

We'll unpack the main ones here, if you're interested though check out this list of 200 identified ranking factors from Google (yep... 200 of them).

Give every page a title

Every page on your website must have a unique and engaging title.

Most SEOs agree that the title tag is one of the most influential ranking factors as Google uses it to understand your content and it's the first thing people notice when browsing search results.

An unengaging title means people will be less likely to click on your content. Make sure your title is under 60 characters though as that is the max character count that shows on Google, otherwise it will get cut off.

Give every page a meta description

Next to the title, the meta description you give your page is extremely important. Like the title it is used by Google to understand your content and also can engage  and entice visitors to click through to your website.

It's important to use a keyword as well, Google tends to bold the keyword in the description which can signal to visitors that your content is what they are looking for. Make sure your meta description is under 155 characters as that is the max amount that gets shown by Google before getting cut off.

Give every page one h1 - and no more!

Not all headings are created equal.

Headings are the larger text sizes that you see on web pages, and they range from H1 to H6. H1 is the largest and H6 is the smallest (ironic I know).

Each page should have one H1 heading as this signals to your website visitors what the content is about (and Google). Multiple H1 headers can appear confusing, so use H2 headings or H3 headings to break up your text or label sections.

Keep your content fresh

In addition to optimizing your content you need to keep your content fresh.

Remember Google's job is to return the best results for every query, a big part of that means keeping your content up to date.

If new information comes out in your field of expertise, give the posts a review and update them as needed. Google favors content that is maintained over content that gets stale. I even like to go through all our posts once a year or so to see which ones could use some tuning and even update the publish date so it's more recent.

This ensures every piece of content on our site is high-quality and informative, both are things Google looks favorably upon.

Keyword research

Keyword research is what most people jump to when they think about SEO.

It's the fun part, and what grabs our imagination the most - the concept of finding the perfect keyword and ranking for it is exciting! Let's dive into a process to turn that dream into reality.

First, know your personas

Before you begin researching keywords it's crucial to know your buyer personas and understand the problems they face and the terms they use.

If you don't have a buyer persona in mind you'll go into keyword research at a serious disadvantage. You might think your business has broad appeal, but remember that marketing to everyone is marketing to no one.

Courtesy of marketoonist

At a high level buyer personas are mini-biographies of your ideal customers. They could be college grads who work in finance, stay at home moms in the mid west, or retirees who enjoy taking hikes.

The more defined your personas are, the easier the next steps get.

How to find keywords

With your personas in hand, start with a brainstorm session and think about the common questions your customers have.

What topics do they really care about that your business solves for?

For us, it might be 'search engine optimization' or to go a bit broader, 'organic traffic'. Well, finding keywords for those topics can be done in a matter of minutes, and all for free.

We've written before on how Google pays close attention to searches, they've got a ton of data stored behind the questions people ask them and other related questions that pop up. You can leverage this information by watching what Google suggests in their auto-complete, as well as at the bottom of the search results page:

Suddenly one keyword can turn into 20, and if you go a level deeper that could turn into 50, 100, and so on.

In as little as 10 minutes you can build a list of 100 keywords that your personas might be searching for. I like to set up a Google Sheet to store them in a list (hint, hint you can also do this in the Centori app) and whittle my list down from there.

Why are we doing this? Well not all keywords are equal. Some might not be searched for and aren't worth the investment, others might have some high-quality content already ranking for them and be extremely difficult to rank for out of the gate.

Fortunately you can assess these keywords for free as well, and end up with a list of impactful keywords that your business can start ranking for.

How to choose keywords to target

The goal should be to end up with a list of keywords that you can realistically rank for, and will have an impact on your traffic.

Doing that is a lot easier than you might think, it just requires knowing how often the keyword is searched for and how likely it is you can rank in the top 10 results for it.

How to find keyword search volume

The first tool I go to for this is Google Trends.

Google Trends is a free tool by Google that shows you the search volume of a keyword over time (for a given country and worldwide) as well as more suggested keywords to target:

Run through your list and note the average monthly search volume for the year. Don't worry if a keyword has a lower search volume (say 30, or 10). If you rank, that's still free promotion for your company.

Next we'll see how many of these keywords you can actually rank for.

How to determine ease to rank for a keyword

SEO is a zero sum game.

By that I mean in order for you to rank #1 or in the top 10, someone else has to be bumped lower. Two pages cannot be first, so in order to get there you need to take a good hard look at top ranking content for your keywords and ask yourself "Can I create something better than these?"

To evaluate your keywords run a simple Google search and see who ranks in the top 10. Of those results, how many are impossible to outrank (say a government organization, a very well-known and strong competitor... etc). If all or nearly all seem impossible to outrank then this is not a keyword going after.

If, say, 5 could be overtaken then you've got a keyword going after. What you'll want to do next is save this keyword as one to target and continue on through your list until you can eliminate any keywords you don't have much of a chance at ranking for right now.

Create quality content for your keywords - lots of it

It's simple math - the more pages you have on your website the more content Google has from you to show in search engines.

Less content means fewer opportunities to rank, so the best way you can start ranking on Google and getting more organic traffic is by creating lots of high quality content.

A term we often use is remarkable - meaning something that causes a reaction. That should be your goal: to cause a reaction with every piece of content you create.

Don't half-ass your blog posts or landing pages. Go deep into topics you are knowledgable about, research them thoroughly, and try to teach your visitors something. People can spot bad content a mile away, but good content can be a real diamond in the rough.

That can be intimidating though - especially for newbie writers. We have a few tips for you though.

Read a ton

The best way to improve as a writer is to read other people's writing.

Really, that's it.

The more you read the more you will develop a writing style and the ability to tell a story. That's what people remember after all - stories. They won't remember your CTAs, your ad copy, or your offer but they'll remember how you made them feel.

The more you read, the better you'll get at telling stories and that leads to better content.

Write, even when you don't feel like it

The next best way to improve as a writer is to practice it - and to not stop.

You'll have good days and bad days, we all do but it is important to keep at it and practice constantly.

Famed composer John Williams composes every day with the occasional Sunday off. If you want to master a craft, you need to do it regularly otherwise you will stagnate and stop. seeing results.

Offsite SEO

Offsite, or off-page, SEO covers all activities you can do to improve the website SEO authority through getting backlinks from other websites.

Backlinks are links from other websites to your website, and getting them is one of the quickest ways to improving your own rank.


That's because Google sees backlinks as 'votes' for your website. The more sites linking to you, the more likely you'll be seen as someone who knows what they're talking about. A link to your website signals to Google that someone thinks your content is valuable, so the more links you get the stronger that signal will be.

In order to boost your offsite SEO, think about how to incorporate email outreach, guest blogging, social media interactions, cooperation with influencers and writing content that others will share on their website.

This is external stuff, how successful you are will come down to how comfortable you are at reaching out to folks.

If the thought of pitching makes you nervous, take a deep breath and focus on building relationships and adding value - that's how you can succeed. Something as simple as linking to another source, and reaching out to let them know opens the door to a partnership down the road.

Next Steps

Asyou can see, SEO is a complicated topic. Hopefully this short introductionprovides a few helpful insights into how you can get started improving the SEOrank on your website.

Inthe end, SEO is about creating good content that answers questions, andcreating it in a way that Google understands that will enable your website toappear near the top page in Google results.

Throughout the year and beyond, we will be focusing on many topics outlined here in greater depth but if you would like to explore more information on SEO, consider checking out our other posts for more information on SEO.

Take some time to think about how you can incorporate these tips into your digital marketing strategy.

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