What is SEO? The Best Resources To Learn SEO For Beginners

- Posted by Seb Atkinson in

What is SEO? Chances are that if you run a small business, you’ve heard of SEO, also known as Search Engine Optimisation, but you may not be entirely sure what it is. In this article, we’ve compiled some of the best online resources explaining how SEO works, suitable for for beginners to discover how their website can be optimised for the search engines, which in turn can be used to dramatically increase the amount of leads and sales you get online.

The Basics

Chances are, you will already have some knowledge of SEO, or at least some idea of what it entails. But be careful! Not everything you might have heard about SEO is necessarily true. A great way to begin would be to dispel some SEO myths. Ammon Johns’ article is a great resource for learning the difference between SEO fact and fiction.

Next, Mark Walters has created a great two minute guide to SEO for small business owners which explains the SEO process in a nutshell:

How Does Google Work?

Understanding how Google works is essential for effective SEO. Courtney Seiter has published a great post at the Buffer blog explaining how Google can take apart a wide range of different Google searches and automatically analyse what the searcher’s intent is, understand what they want to see from the search results, and then work out what pages to offer to the user in the search results, all in a split second.

Aaron Gunderson also has a helpful post on how Google ranks your website, as well as explaining some jargon such as ‘Panda’ and ‘Manual Actions’.

To be successful with SEO, even as a beginner, it is also important to get to know Google as a company, as their company culture and value reflects in their search algorithm. This insightful post by Clay Adams explains five things beginners to SEO should know about Google, and is well worth a read.

Key in your understanding of Google is that the company is constantly evolving, with the aim to never stagnate, as well as constantly seeking the best possible user experience. This is reflected through all their products and services, from Gmail, to Android, and importantly in the Google search itself.

Despite branching out into a wide range of different industries, a massive 91% of Google’s revenue comes from advertising, which is largely generated through the Adwords ads you see on the top and sides of your Google search. And as with their other products, the best possible user experience is essential for Google search, meaning if the quality of the results displayed in search results dropped, users would stop using the service.

In light of this, it’s no surprise that Google has been encouraging webmasters to create ‘great content’, and has aggressively pursued companies gaming the system, resulting in a number of high profile bans from the search results.

Creating Great Content

To rank highly in Google, you’ll need great content that matches the intent of the user searching for that keyword. Elisa Gabbert has shared a helpful post to help beginners create content for SEO, noting that if search engine traffic is the only goal, your results will suffer. Do not forget that while the Googlebot will be visiting your site from time to time, your visitors are the ones who will need to have a great user experience, and ultimately, will be the ones that can turn your SEO efforts into an income stream.

Victoria Edwards also has a helpful post covering 8 essential things to consider when optimising your site and how to align your search engine optimisation strategy with your business goals.

White Hat Versus Black Hat

If you’ve heard of SEO before you may have come across the terms ‘white hat’ and ‘black hat’, but what do they mean? In a nutshell, white hat is SEO that is done in accordance with Google’s best practices, and the best way to steer clear of any Google penalties. On the other hand, Black Hat techniques are SEO practices that are not in accordance with Google, and can range from techniques which used to be safe to use like submitting your website to lots of online directories or buying backlinks, to more unethical techniques including hiding content, redirecting links and even hacking sites.

Meanwhile, some techniques lie in the middle, which are neither best practices but not explicitly banned by Google and possible to be clamped down on in the future. Such techniques are commonly known as ‘grey hat’.

In his SEO tutorial for beginners, Shaun Anderson shares a complete white hat SEO strategy for beginners, and notes that since Google is constantly evolving, white hat is the safest path, as anything bordering on grey hat may work today but could result in a penalty later on down the line.

Measuring Success

When you’re embarking on an SEO campaign it’s important to track your progress without breaking the bank. Brett Langlois has published a great roundup of the top ten free SEO tools for beginners, including Google Analytics, a free tool that all sites should have installed to track their web traffic.

fps overview

Google Analytics allows you to track your visitors, including how they get to your site, where they are from, what device they’re using, how much time they spend on the site, and even their demographics. This is not only useful information for SEO, but also can provide valuable insights for your wider market research. Read the rest of Brett’s post to find nine other useful tools to assist with the other aspects of search engine optimisation.

Wrapping Up

A final useful resource for beginners to learn SEO is Steven Bradley’s series of articles, starting with part one here at Hongkiat, explaining the five major aspects of SEO: keyword research, search engine friendly site development, on page SEO, link building and analytics. KoMarketing Associates also has a great list of SEO tutorials and reference material at their site, which is another useful resource for further reading.

Another next step would be to get stuck in with SEO for your website. Fortunately there are a lot of tools that make it easy to manage SEO, but one of the best starting points is Google Webmaster Tools. Perry Bernard’s extensive resource on this powerful software is a great way to begin working on your site and getting it to rank in Google’s results.

What resources have you found useful for beginners to learn SEO? Share them below in the comments and I will add the best ones to this article!

Seb Atkinson
Seb Atkinson

Seb is the head of Social Search at Square Social. Seb has a wealth of experience across social media marketing, content marketing and search engine optimisation. Seb has helped SMEs, startups and large corporate clients achieve their online marketing goals.

  • http://www.forge.co.nz/ Perry Bernard

    Hi Seb, thanks for including my content. I hope your readers find it helpful. Just a quick note: they may want to keep an eye on it in the future as I update and extend the resource. The Google Webmaster Tools page is not complete. I am also writing a 20,000 (approx) word e-book called the Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics in the coming months. Most will get published on my site, and will be downloadable free in PDF.

    • http://www.srchblg.com/ Seb Atkinson

      Thanks for the heads up Perry!