Summary: In case you have decided to start optimizing your website in order to rank better on Google but you don’t know where to start – then this article is for you. Here you will find directives (based on my 5 years experience) where to go and what to read. It is essential to know this because you don’t want to waste time doing wrong stuff.
There is a lot of material / articles / guides on the internet about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Anyone can educate itself on how to improve rankings and visibility only by typing “learn SEO”. Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) will return millions of results. And that’s all there is to it. It’s not rocket science. Yes, it is a sophisticated technique but it can be learned. You just have to devote some time to learn. As you can already see – the time is a critical component here.
However, bear in mind that not all the resources you manage to find are equally qualified to talk about SEO. There is also a lot of rubbish content as well. There are two reasons for this: (1) people want to get attention, that is, website traffic and clicks and (2) not all SEO concepts are confirmed as a proven set of rules i.e. people only assuming stuff. There are quite a few things that no one knows for sure about search engines (we’re only guessing).
This is understandable as no search engine (be it Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask, Baidu etc.) wants people to know how it actually works. Why? The answer is simple: many people would use this knowledge to gimmick these results for selfish interests, therefore ruining the quality of results and destroying the idea of having a search engine. One thing we know for sure – in order to rank on Google, you have to have:
These two things are the foundation of the internet. If there were no content and if there were no links that are creating connections between different kinds of content – then world wide web wouldn’t have much sense, that is, it wouldn’t exist in a form it currently exists.
Content Means Keywords
When I say “Content” I mean on good, quality content. It is not enough just to throw any kind of content on your website and expect a high position in SERPs. As a matter of act, you can harm your website if you try to do that. So – don’t spam. But what makes content a good content? Well it has to be on topic (corresponding to your website’s theme) it has to provide some value to the reader, it has to be unique, it has to be interesting to consume, it has to be remarkable… You get the point.
Now, content consists of text, images and videos. For good SEO all three parts are important but the textual content is especially important. From textual content search engines can understand the theme of your website and based on text you publish – they will start ranking your website in SERPs based on different keywords (search queries) that people type to find certain kind of information. That is why is important to know which keywords you want to target, that is, which keywords to pick in order to help people find you.
Backlinks Mean Votes
If content is king (as Bill Gates said in 1996) – I can freely say that link is queen. Without links (AKA backlinks) from other websites pointing towards your website, you cannot rank. Period. You can look at backlinks as votes from other websites for your website. The more you have, the better you rank. Of course, the quality of those links are even more important.
Yeah, I know that some people say that Google is all mighty machine capable of figuring out your website and serving this content to users that search for that content… But let’s just stop here for a second and analyze this thought real quick.
If you think about the web as a huge network of websites that are connected to each other via links – it is simply not possible to be found on the internet (Google) if there are no links coming to your website. You can imagine links as threads between websites like rails between metro stations. If there were no links, search engine spiders would not be able to find and visit other websites (metro stations).
Which inevitably leads to a conclusion that the more backlinks a website has, the higher the possibility to rank better in Google search. Of course, one must not overdo it. Not all links are created equal. There are strong ones, there are weak ones. There are quality ones, there are toxic ones. So, ranking without links is hard, if not impossible.
Link Building sounds like a simple concept. All you have to do is to “persuade” other (relevant) websites to put your link on their pages. But it only sounds simple. Here you must be creative and use various techniques and approaches to accomplish this. DISCLAIMER: I am only talking about white hat SEO (keyword analysis, backlinking, writing content for human readers) that is:
“…the usage of optimization strategies, techniques and tactics that focus on a human audience opposed to search engines and completely follows search engine rules and policies.”
It’s easy to conclude that all other activities are considered as black hat SEO – keyword stuffing, invisible text, doorway pages, adding unrelated keywords to the page content – which I wouldn’t recommend! Sooner or later you will get caught by Google and penalized. Which will make all your efforts completely irrelevant. Don’t waste time, and put a white hat on your head! Got it? 🙂 OK, bad joke.
Best Resources to Start Learning SEO
As I already mentioned, there are a lot of online resources about SEO. That is why I am not going to start with explanations about keywords, title tag, meta description, canonical URLs and so forth. There’s no point doing this because other people already created amazing educational hubs and knowledge bases.
However, bear in mind that there are also quite a few websites which are low quality and even suggesting wrong stuff. It is hard for the beginners to distinguish whom to trust. That’s why I decided to assemble (based on my several years long experience) a list of recommended sites to look at.
Below you can see my top picks. These are the websites that are authorities in SEO world. I highly recommend starting there if you’re at the beginning of your learning path.
- MOZ SEO Learning Center
Moz was a consulting firm founded in 2004 but in 2008 they started developing SEO software and now they are a software as a service (SaaS) company offering many interesting SEO tools.
- SEMRush Courses and Blog
SEMrush is an online SEO tool which can show all kinds of metrics about any website you put in the search box. However, even more important thing for beginners is their blog and Academy where you can learn a lot of useful data-driven things.
Backlinko is the popular marketing blog owned by Brian Dean – one of the well-known SEO experts. He writes great tutorials and articles about SEO. Highly recommended.
- Neil Patel
Neil Patel is one more blogger you should definitely follow if you want to learn SEO (and marketing as a whole). His blog is very popular because he offers actionable tips on how to learn and practice SEO.
- Search Engine Land
If you want to get latest news and updates in SEO world, then visit this website on regular basis. Of course, besides that, they have nicely-crafted tutorials, infographics, and videos from which you can learn a lot about SEO.
- Ahrefs Blog
Ahrefs is another popular SEO tool for onpage and offpage search engine optimization. But they also have a blog where you can learn about all aspects of SEO such as keyword research, link building, outreach and so forth.
Wordstream is a company that develops software for online advertising and has a great blog about marketing. You’re probably asking yourself why I added them to this list? Well, if you want to really understand what SEO is, you also have to learn about paid advertising – as known as PPC advertising. I suggest you start here.
These are only several sources to start with. There are many more blogs, discussion groups, and Twitter users that talk about SEO but I believe this list is enough for starters. You don’t want to overload yourself with too much content. Take it easy, one step at a time. Start with basics, learn terminology and then you will figure out by yourself what to read and who to follow.
In the sea of information sometimes is hard to distinguish which are useful and which are not. There’s a lot of noise on the internet. That makes it hard to make good decisions. Hopefully, my tips are going to help you to start good and on solid ground.