Back to basics: The Beginner’s Guide to SEO From SEO Experts

Understand and master the basics of SEO with our beginner’s guide, exploring the importance of SEO, how search engines function, and practical steps to kick-start your SEO journey.

Key Takeaways

Written by
Wayne Middleton
Published on
June 17, 2024

Welcome to search engine optimization 101, your beginner’s guide to SEO basics! Here, you’ll learn:

  • What is SEO?
  • How do search engines and SEO work?
  • How do I get started with SEO?

Keep reading SEO 101 to begin your SEO learning journey!

Chapter 1: The basics of SEO

Lets get started with the basics of SEO, including:

  • What is SEO?
  • How do search engines work?
  • How does SEO work?
  • Why is SEO important?

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is optimizing a website to improve its visibility in organic search results, like on Google. Typically, SEO takes three to six months to show results. Common optimizations for SEO include improving page speed, researching keywords, and creating content.

Is this information too basic? Skip over to our On-Page SEO Guide or the SEO Blog to learn more about the inner workings of SEO for your website.

How do search engines work?

When it comes to SEO 101, it's crucial to have a firm understanding of how search engines actually work. That’s because search engines fuel search engine optimization, setting the standards that define the strategies, best practices, and tips that SEO experts like us use.

You can break how search engines work into the following steps:

  1. Crawling
  2. Indexing
  3. Ranking

Learn more about these individual processes below:

How do search engines work?
How search engines work

Why is SEO important?

Search engine optimization is important for a few reasons, including the following:


SEO helps websites like yours improve their online visibility — without the cost of pay-per-click (PPC) or social media advertising. With that kind of visibility, you can reach your target audience at the perfect moment, as they search for products or services you offer.


Search engine optimization is also helpful because of its targeting capabilities. Whether you’re looking to reach people in a specific town (like Allentonw) or people in the awareness vs. decision stage, you can do so with SEO.


Year-round SEO will work for your business and its website. Whether inside or outside your working hours, people can find your business online and start their journeys to become clients.


People from across industries, from business-to-business (B2B) to business-to-consumer (B2C), have seen consistent (and impressive) results from search engine optimization through traffic, leads, and sales.

Long story short, SEO is important because it helps website owners drive qualified traffic and sales.

Chapter 2: On-page SEO basics

Learn the search engine optimization basics of on-page SEO, including its:

·      Definition

·      Importance

·      Optimization

Or, skip to the next chapter on off-page SEO basics!

What is on-page SEO?

On-page SEO is the optimization of on-site elements for search engine optimization, like:

·      Keyword research

·      Title tags

·      Meta descriptions

·      Header tags

·      Images

·      Internal links

·      URL

As a cornerstone to the basics of search engine optimization, learning on-page SEO is critical, especially if you’ll be doing SEO yourself vs. with the help of an SEO agency.

Why is on-page SEO important?

On-pageSEO is important because it helps search engines and users:

·      Discover your content

·      Understand your content

When it comes to SEO, you need on-site SEO to rank — and rank well — in search results.

How to do on-page SEO

Try these basic best practices to get started with on-page SEO:

Keyword research

Use Keywords EverywhereAhrefsSemrush, or Google Search to research high-volume, low-competition search queries relevant to your business and target audience. Focus on long-tail keywords (queries with three to four words) for a more targeted reach.

Keyword research tools
Keyword research tools

Title tags

Compelling title Tags that uses Focus Keyword
Write compelling title tags 

Write compelling title tags for your content by following key best practices in SEO 101. For example, use your target keyword’s search results to determine the optimal format and phrasing. Then, include your target keyword while maintaining a length of 60 characters or less.

Meta descriptions

Informational Meta Descriptions
Create informational meta descriptions

Create compelling informational meta descriptions for your content by following similar best practices. For example, answer your target keyword’s search intent and incorporate your target keyword. Maintain a meta description length of 150 characters or less.

Header tags

Header Tag Structure
Develop SEO-friendly header tags

Develop SEO-friendly header tags, like your H1, H2s, H3s, and so on, by reviewing the top-ranking URLs for your target keyword to better understand its search intent. Some of the best rank tracking tools out there can help you identify the pages ranking well for your specific keyword, like Ahrefs. Then, use your header tags to target your keyword, plus help users find the information they need.


Use images, from screenshots to graphics to stock photos, to meet search intent and optimize the user experience. Optimize your images with short, descriptive filenames and alt text. Then, compress them before uploading them to your site with a free tool like Pixelied. Use new image  formats like Webp to create smaller, richer images that make your website faster.

Internal links

Help search engines and users navigate your site with a solid internal link strategy. Add your most important URLs to your navigation and footer, and ensure every page on your website receives at least three internal links (with descriptive anchor text) from other internal pages.


Organize your website with a logical site architecture
Organize your website with a logical site architecture

Organize your website with a logical site architecture, for example placing informational content in a /blog/ folder and product pages in a /products/ folder. Use hyphens to separate words and brief, concise URL slugs, like /google-pixel-case/ vs./123456-google-pixel-case/. Always add your focus keyword to your slug.

Improve your on-site SEO with our on-page SEO services! You can also conduct a FREE SEO audit how your site is doing

Chapter 3: SEO content

Learn the search engine optimization basics of SEO content, including its:

  • Definition
  • Importance
  • Optimization

What is SEO content?

SEO content is online content optimized for search engine optimization. Types of SEO content include:

  • Blog posts
  • Long form guides
  • Interactive content
  • Videos

Common optimizations for SEO content include:

  • Using targeted keywords
  • Optimizing content structure
  • Improving readability
  • And more

Why is SEO content important?

So, why is content important for SEO? SEO content is important for a few reasons, including the following:

  • Helps search engines evaluate a URL’s usefulness
  • Attracts qualified, targeted traffic to a website
  • Builds a website’s authority and trust in its online sphere
  • Establishes (and nurtures) relationships with readers

Lack of compelling content is a common reason why a website doesn’t drive leads. In search engine optimization, content is non-negotiable — you need it to attract, nurture, and convert leads.

How to do SEO content

Get started with SEO content with these SEO basics:

Topic research

Speak with client- or customer-facing team members (you can also browse online forums) to understand your target audience’s needs and then use keyword research tools to find the best keywords to target for these topics.


E-E-A-T is a confirmed Google ranking factor. So ensure your brand and website demonstrate good user experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, by writing content that shares your experience and opinion, plus highlights your brand’s years of experience, certifications, and other trust factors.

Content organization

Optimize your content’s structure by referencing the top-ranking URLs for your targeted search term. You can determine which questions to answer first, second, third, and so on based on the search intent, you can even learn how many words your competitors have on similar topics and use that as an advantage in creating a more in-depth article.

Content skimmability

Help users easily navigate your content by optimizing its skimmability. Use header tags, three-line paragraphs, ordered and unordered lists, and text formatting features (like bold, underline, or italics) to help people find what they need faster, remember your visitors don't want to read everything they're looking for specific answers to their problems.

Content readability

Use free tools like GrammarlyReadability Test, and Hemingway Editor to proof your content. These tools can help you find grammar and spelling errors, plus opportunities for improving your content’s readability, which you should tailor to your audience.

Chapter 4: Off-page SEO basics

Learn the search engine optimization basics of off-page SEO, including its:

  • Definition
  • Importance
  • Optimization

What is off-page SEO?

Off-page SEO is the optimization of a website’s off-site SEO. Off-site optimizations include acquiring reputable backlinks, claiming and optimizing local listings, managing online reviews, and engaging in online communities.

Why is off-page SEO important?

Off-page SEO is important for a few reasons, including:

  • Helps search engines understand your site’s online authority and reputation
  • Gives users background on your site through online reviews and local listings
  • Serves as one of the most influential SEO ranking factors

As one of the most important ranking factors in SEO, off-page optimization is critical to include in your SEO checklist.

How to do off-page SEO

Get started with off-page SEO with these SEO basics and tips from our SEO checklist:


Produce original content, from research-based blog posts to interactive tools, to generate interest and attract authoritative backlinks. You will struggle to acquire backlinks without original content (or content that does it better than anything else).


Practice outreach to connect with publishers in your industry, from news sites to bloggers to industry influencers. Offer value by providing an alternative to a broken link on their site or suggesting a compelling content idea (that you’re willing to write). Expect to get rejected.

Local listings

Claim and optimize local listings like Google Business Profile and Bing Places. Besides linking to your website, these listings will help demonstrate to search engines (and users) that your business is genuine.

Online engagement

Engage with your user base through local listings and relevant online forums, like Reddit or Quora, to build your reputation as a trustworthy information source.Avoid selling or over-promotion on online forums, which can backfire by creating distrust.

Chapter 5: Technical SEO basics

Learn the search engine optimization basics of technical SEO, including its:

  • Definition
  • Importance
  • Optimization

What is technical SEO?

Technical SEO is the optimization of on-site technical elements. These elements include:

  • Pagespeed
  • Page experience
  • Responsiveness
  • Site security
  • Robots.txt file
  • Sitemap files
  • Structured data (Schema)
  • And more

This area of SEO often requires collaboration with web developers and web designers. Just check out our web design services to learn how we can help you optimize your site for the above elements and more.

Why is technical SEO important?

Technical SEO is important for SEO beginners for a few reasons, including the following:

  • Allows search engines to crawl a URL
  • Helps search engines better understand a URL and its context
  • Shapes a URL’s usability and accessibility

Optimize for technical SEO or turn to technical SEO services to help your site rank and convert better.

How to do technical SEO

Learn how to get started with technical SEO below:


Use your robots.txt file to direct search engine web crawlers on what to crawl. A robots.txt file can prevent your site from getting crawled and indexed, so check your setup with Google’s free robots.txt tester tool.


User-agent: *



XML sitemap

Generate an XML sitemap to provide web crawlers with a map of your site. Use a free third-party tool like Yoast SEO to speed up (and even automate the process). Submit your sitemap to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.

XML sitemap to provide web crawlers with a map of your site

Site security

Create a secure, trusted website by purchasing an SSL certificate (which stands for Secure Sockets Layer) and moving your site from HTTP to HTTPS. Follow Google’s HTTP to HTTPS guidelines for your migration to minimize risks to your search engine optimization efforts.

Page speed

Build a fast-loading, fast-to-respond website by following best practices like compressing images, minifying code, enabling browser caching, and using aContent Delivery Network (CDN). Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to get URL-specific recommendations.

Page experience

Create a better page experience by optimizing your site’s accessibility and usability. For example, use text and background colors with optimal contrast and have a responsive design that adapts to the device, like desktop vs. tablet.

Structured data (Schema)

Add structured data to relevant URLs to provide search engines greater context. Use Google’s free Structured Data Markup Helper tool, plus its Rich Results Test tool, to create and verify your markup before installation.

Why is Schema Markup So Important to SEO

Learn more about this basic of SEO in our technical SEO guide!

Chapter 6: SEO analytics basics

Learn the search engine optimization basics of SEO analytics, including its:

  • Definition
  • Importance
  • Optimization

Or, skip to the next chapter on getting started with search engine optimization!

What is SEO analytics?

SEO analytics tracks, measures, and evaluates your SEO performance. Google Search Console and Google Analytics 4 offer a free solution for tracking rankings, traffic, conversions, and other valuable SEO metrics and are popular SEO analytics tools.

Why is SEO analytics important?

SEO analytics are important for a few reasons, including the following:

  • Support a goals-driven SEO program by tracking and measuring your performance
  • Understand on-page, off-page, and technical SEO performance
  • Measure return on investment (ROI) from search engine optimization
  • Make data-driven decisions about your SEO strategy

SEO analytics lets you find what’s working, what isn’t, and what to do next. It also helps you prove the value of SEO to leadership.

How to do SEO analytics

Learn how to get started with SEO analytics in this SEO beginners’ breakdown:


Use free platforms like Google Search Console and Google Analytics 4 to track your SEO efforts. You’ll receive position, impressions, and clicks data with GoogleSearch Console. Google Analytics 4 will provide traffic and user metrics, like bounce rate, time on page, and more.

Google Analytics 4 to track your SEO efforts


Choose your most relevant metrics for measuring your SEO success. Avoid using too many vanity metrics and include data points that affect your business more broadly, like the number of leads or sales from organic traffic.


Outline SEO goals based on your tools and metrics. Understand what your company’s stakeholders want from search engine optimization and use those as a baseline for creating specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely goals.

SEO goals based on your tools and metrics


Set regular intervals for evaluating your SEO performance (keep in mind SEO can take three to six months to work). Look for trends and outliers while considering seasonal factors to brainstorm what’s working and where to improve.

How to get started with SEO basics

If you’re ready to bring all the above together, check out these brief SEO basics:

  1. Read Google’s guide on how to start appearing in Google search results
  2. Register your website with Google Search Console and Google Analytics 4
  3. Build your knowledge with reputable guides, videos, and blogs (like ours!)

Then, put your knowledge to use on your website and measure your performance with the above tools! If you’re looking for more guidance, check out our SEO podcasts and SEO FAQs for answers to the most common SEO questions.

Start practicing the basics of SEO on your site

Congrats, you’ve learned the basics of SEO! Now, you’re ready to start practicing SEO on your site — and your trusted partner YTG can help when you come unstuck.

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