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SEO 101 (Beginner’s Guide to SEO)


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Are you new to SEO and feeling overwhelmed?

This guide is for small businesses or people who have very little SEO knowledge.

It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to SEO as there’s a million resources out there. The aim of this guide is to help you understand where your time is best spent.

1) Keyword research

Understanding what search terms your customers are using is vital to any successful SEO strategy. The search terms will help you structure your website and online presence.

In most cases this is quite straight forward, for example if you’re a Gardener based in Leeds you might come up with Keywords such as:

  • Landscape Gardener
  • Landscape Gardener Leeds
  • Landscape Gardener West Yorkshire
  • Garden Maintenance
  • Garden Design
  • Garden Services

There’s plenty of tools to help you find what people search for, such as:

You can also take advantage of Google’s Autocomplete and Related Searches sections if you’re struggling.

TIP: use Keywords Everywhere to find out how many people are searching for a query when doing a Google search.

2) Optimise Website Structure

Once you have settled on some keywords you should group them accordingly and structure your website pages around them. For example to optimise around the first 3 keywords above you might do something such as:


3) Optimise Headings

Every page should contain a page relevant heading at the top of each page, for example:

The page /services/landscape-gardener/leeds-west-yorkshire/ could have a H1 of <h1>Landscape Gardening Services in Leeds, West Yorkshire</h1>

4) Optimise Page Titles and Descriptions

Many websites have generic and unattractive Page Titles. You should put a lot of consideration in to writing a Page Title, as it’s the first thing users will see on the Search Results.

Here’s a poor example of a Page Title for a Homepage:

Home – Gardening Company

Here’s an example of an optimised Page Title for a Homepage:

Landscape Gardening Services in Leeds – Gardening Company

Meta Descriptions follow similar guidelines, they should be relevant, enticing and act as a short summary of the page content.

5) Create a sitemap

Sitemaps let Google’s robots understand the structure of your website and how it all links together. If you’re using a platform like WordPress, install a plugin such as Yoast SEO and it will generate a sitemap for you.

6) Setup Google Search Console

Google Search Console allows you to track (estimates) of where your web pages appear for search queries and their Click through Rate (CTR). You can also submit your sitemap once you’ve claimed your domain, and track the health of your website. It will also alert you if there’s any issues with your website.

7) Make sure it’s fast!

Make sure your website loads in under 5 seconds, people are impatient and Google uses Page Speed as a ranking factor. Use a website such as GTMetrix or Pingdom to run a speed test. This will allow you to find out what you need to improve to make your website load faster.

TIP: Usually most websites have images that are too large in size, compressing these down will take a chunk of your loading times.

8) Make sure it’s mobile friendly

More people use mobile phones to browse the web than ever before! If your website is poorly optimised they will leave and go elsewhere. Make sure your website looks good across Desktops, Tablets and Mobiles. This can be done by testing the website on the devices yourself or by using Googles Dev Tools (Press F12 if you’re using Google Chrome) and clicking the Device Toolbar (CTRL + Shift + M).

9) Write excellent content

Although this may sound easy, it’s possibly the hardest section to do properly. A good method to try is Google searching a relevant topic. For example a Gardening company could create an article explaining how to maintain your grass. So you could Google search “How to Maintain grass” and look at what the top 3 articles do well, and use them as inspiration and improve upon what they’ve done.

Make sure it is very readable, break content up by using images, bullet points and formatting. The content should answer a users query better than anyone else. Don’t worry about quantity, focus on quality. 5 high quality pages are superior to 500 pages that are shallow and poor quality.

So to put it simply, look at the top three search results and make your content better.

TIP: Use a tool such as the Hemingway Editor to make your content easily readable.

10) Competitor Analysis

Do some research into your industry, for example Google search for [Your service] + [Your location] and analyse the top 3 competitors. Use a tool such as aHrefs or Semrush to analyse what other websites link to the competition and try emulate and surpass what they’ve done. Analyse their website structure and check how everything links together and how much depth each page has in terms of content.

11) Create a Google My Business Listing

Google My Business is vitally important for local businesses, Google now puts Google map listings above organic results if the query includes a location. Make sure the information you publish is consistent across all your other profiles and your website.

If you want to take things one step further we put together a guide for Ranking high in Google Maps

12) Build citations

This is very important for local businesses that rely on local customers. our guide above contains a list of citation websites, common ones include Yell, Thompson Local & Yelp.

Google uses citations to measure how trustworthy your business is. If there’s a new business in town that has no history, Google doesn’t know how accurate the information is, if that business suddenly appears across lots of high quality directories it’s going to gain a little more trust if the information is consistent. Your name address phone number and website has to be exactly the same for all of them.

11) Set up Google Analytics

Google Analytics is invaluable for answering important business questions such as finding out what your ideal customer looks like and how they behave. You can also use it to see what pages need an important based on how long users spend on that page and whether a piece of content is the culprit for making users leave your website.

12) Be Social

Once you publish excellent content, contact websites that link to similar pages that already rank for your desired query and make them aware of your higher quality and more up to date content.

Share the content on social media and make it easy for anyone reading the content to share too.

13) Be Patient

Be patient. It can take months for a page to “mature” and rank for search queries depending on how competitive your industry is.

Ahrefs blog and Youtube channel is full of excellent content when it comes to SEO, if you want a recap of the above or prefer watching videos then this one gives a great overview of how to rank highly in Google:

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