As vital tools for anyone beginning SEO, beginners’ guides to SEO tend to have reached a consensus about what constitutes SEO basics. The guides cover best practices for keyword research, link building, content, and code, which their host blogs hopefully exemplify already. Because different blogs have different concerns, though, they all approach the topics somewhat differently.
This post evaluates SEO beginners’ guides from four different sources, two of them multi-chaptered and the other two standalone posts. Every source has a vested interest in SEO, whether they sell analytics software or share market news. Therefore, we’re discussing the variety of advice found in these guides and what to keep in mind about each.
One “Beginner’s Guide to SEO” comes from Moz.com, a Seattle-based company whose blog gives marketing advice to small businesses. They provide analytics tools of their own, and their blog frequently emphasizes user experience alongside SEO. Consequently, their guide informs us of user-centered marketing strategies in each of the following categories:
- Search engine operation: besides crawling and indexing, they respond to user queries.
- User-search engine interactions: people search to learn or find something, more so now than ever before.
- Necessity of SEO: it makes one’s site compatible with the limits search engines face with crawling, indexing, and determining relevancy.
- Search engine-friendliness: making your site indexable and crawlable, plus carefully using keywords, impacts its search ranking greatly.
- Keyword research: prioritize relevancy. Narrow keywords from the “long tail” of searches lead to the most conversions.
- Content usability: user engagement, a component of SEO, requires quality design and writing.
- Link building: this establishes trust and relies on user engagement.
- Search engine tools/services: these provide vital analytics on your site’s operation and performance.
- Misconceptions: today’s search engines dislike spammers and keyword stuffers just as much as users do. If they penalize you for being that guy, Moz has advice for discovering and possibly fixing this.
- Success tracking: frequently evaluating site traffic by search engine will reveal areas for improvement. MozPro provides analytics for this.
This guide benefits most from its use of sleek, straightforward visuals and reminders to always demonstrate empathy to your audience. The multi-chaptered length makes it comprehensive, if a bit “tl;dr”. Because each chapter covers a vital step, though, we second their recommendation to read the entire guide.
Kissmetrics, another provider of analytics tools, provided a one-post guide to SEO basics divided into the following categories:
- SEO: your site must hone in on what searchers seek.
- Keyword research: SEO keywords should have a high search volume and low competition, except for your many “long tail” ones.
- Content: you can appeal to users and search engines with titles, keywords, links, quality, and freshness.
- Code: title and meta tags, headings, sitemaps, domain names, URL and site structure, and alt tags must all be optimized.
- Link building: links should come from relevant and trustworthy websites for the best results.
As the shortest guide on this list, it makes the basics easily accessible. This makes it enough on its own, but we recommend reading others for more perspective on each of its points.
Search Engine Journal, a source of digital marketing news and best practices, provided a 19-chapter guide on SEO. As the only guide on this list that covers advanced topics, they have divided it into three major sections:
- SEO basics: SEJ describes content and link building as the primary components of SEO. Google algorithms Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, and RankBrain cooperate most when you do these components well and legitimately. PPC and local SEO benefit from the niche keywords and backlinks that you liked before they were cool.
- SEO tactics: Essentially a guide on How to Win Audiences and Influence Influencers to link to you, this section emphasizes the content that matters more to users than search engines. Specific prescriptions include optimizing your Meta descriptions, calls to action, appealing visuals, and social media content.
- SEO campaigns: Specific tools can help you recover from penalties or evaluate your conversion rates, social media, links, and content. Newsletters and online communities will prepare you for the future of SEO, where new technologies will augment your reality and substitute their own. Always have high conversion rates as the end goal.
As the longest guide on this list, the SEJ guide provides more information and links than the others. It covers some topics that the others do not, such as Google algorithms and keeping up with future developments in SEO. However, some chapters may be inessential to beginners because they go beyond the basics.
WordStream, a Boston-based PPC provider with a blog on various online marketing topics, created their own guide to SEO per user requests. It reminds you to consider how searchers think in each of the following sections:
- SEO: it ought to target users’ commercial intent, meaning their desire to buy what you offer in particular.
- Keyword research: you can gage relevancy using analytics tools and considering commercial intent.
- On-Page optimization: SEO applies to title tags, meta descriptions, body content, alt attributes, URLs, and schema markup. Users and search engines favor usability alongside it.
- Information architecture: prioritizing your pages with the most backlinks helps boost the others.
- Link building: starting points for this include good content, keyword research, and audience planning tools.
- Technical issues: some tools fix speed, mobile-friendliness, and crawl errors.
- Success tracking: website rankings and organic traffic indicate success.
- Additional tips: international and local SEO have specialized best practices.
The single-page guide cuts to the chase with regards to how SEO and websites work. This allows it to focus on marketers’ immediate concerns at the expense of answering less-pressing questions in detail. It also describes site design and identifying competitors in great detail, and links to many analytics tools.
We recommend reading all of these guides to get multiple perspectives on SEO basics and some idea of advanced steps. If you lack the time, however, reading multiple chapters on the same topics still helps.
Ultimately, you want to optimize your site and social media for humans and search engines alike. When you’ve appealed to both of these influences on traffic, good SEO can turn your site into Something Everyone Opens.