SEO for Beginners: 8 Simple Steps to Optimize Your Website
You freak out when you hear experts speaking technical jargon. You get intimidated by discussions about search algorithm and the changes Google made today. Don’t let that stuff distract you. Your ONLY goal for ranking a web page or a blog post is this:
Help search engines answer user’s questions. That’s it.
- The goal of the search engine is for people to use it.
- People will only use it if it is useful.
- For a search engine to be useful it must produce the best possible answer to a user’s question.
- If your page or post helps the search engine answer the question, it gives you a higher ranking.
So, figure out what questions you can answer, and answer them.
Welcome to SEO for Beginners where we will walk through 8 simple steps to optimize your website using free / inexpensive tools. Follow this step-by-step guide to boost your search engine ranking and make your website more visible to the rest of the world.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is the process of refining the pages on your website to make them easier to find for search engines like Google and Bing. Not all of it is complicated. You can break it into 3 categories:
- Technical SEO – Coding and data structure on the backend of a website.
- On-Page SEO – Written words and images on each page of a website.
- Off-Page SEO – Gaining links from other sites, social engagement, and other strategies away from the website.
This article will look at On-Page with a few technical strategies. I promise not to get too technical. This is SEO for beginners not SEO for nerds. First, let’s look at the tools you can use to help make this process simpler.
Screaming Frog SEO Spider – This tool will analyze up to 500 pages in a domain for free. It compiles all the data from the website like:
- Page titles and their length
- Image sizes
- Meta information
- Headings and their length
Keywords Everywhere – This Google Chrome extension is a powerful tool for doing keyword research to find which keywords you should be targeting. It uses credits, and you can buy 100,000 credits for $10, which will allow you to do keyword research and page analysis for more pages than you can create.
Check My Links – A free Google Chrome extension to check your website for broken links.
Canva – Canva is a web-based graphic design software with a free account option. You can use Canva to reduce your image file sizes to speed up your page loading time. You can sign up for a free Canva account here.
Once you’ve downloaded the tools, install the extensions into Google Chrome and Screaming Frog on your computer.
Step 1: Keyword Research
It sounds daunting, but keyword research can be done easily and your new tools will help you stay organized. Your keywords are the main words that describe what the web page is about. Follow this process to find the most relevant ones.
- Think of the main words you would use to describe what your page is about and write them down (or use a spreadsheet).
- Begin typing the first few words into Google search bar, but don’t click search.
- Note the auto-suggest phrases from Google. Add these to your spreadsheet.
- Execute 1 or 2 searches that you think people would type to find your page and export the “additional keywords” and “long tail keywords” from the Keywords Everywhere widgets that show up in the righthand column of your search.
- Enter your search in the form of a question, like “How do I find keywords for my website?” and scroll down to the “people also ask” section. Add these questions to your spreadsheet.
Congratulations! Now you have a list of keywords and phrases that you will use on your web page or blog article.
Step 2: Page Titles
Page titles are important for search engines to know what your page is about. They need to be concise and contain your main keywords / key phrase. For example, the title of your homepage is not “home”. It needs descriptive text to help Google figure out who to show your page to. Here’s what the title looks like in Google search results:
Notice that my homepage is titled “JT Creative: Marketing and web services for small businesses”.
Page titles should:
- Be 35-70 characters long
- Include your main keywords
- Use one emotional or powerful word if possible
You can optimize your existing pages by running a scan in Screaming Frog.
- Open Screaming Frog on your computer
- Type your domain in the bar at the top and click the start button
- When it reaches 100%, click on the “page titles” tab
- Look at the “Title 1” column to make sure your keywords are in the title
- Look at the “Title 1 Length” column to see if there are long or short titles that can be optimized.
- Go to your website building platform and make the necessary changes
Step 3: Meta Description
Meta descriptions are text entries that go a little deeper than a short title will allow. It’s basically a two sentence summary of the page using the same keywords from the title and additional keywords you couldn’t fit in the title. While this is far from the most important piece of the SEO puzzle, it’s better to have meta descriptions than not. AI writing tools like ChatGPT are great for helping with these.
Meta Descriptions should:
- Be 75-160 characters long
- Include all keywords from the page title plus additional keywords
- Be unique to each page
Step 4: Section Headings
Section headings create a hierarchy to your content. They are helpful because they break your page text into easy to read sections. The main heading, or H1, will usually be at the top of the page in a larger font to clearly label the main theme of the page content.
If you’re using WordPress, it’s important to know whether your theme automatically uses the page title as H1. You do not want more than one H1 per page.
Subheadings are H2-H6 decreasing in importance. Having more than one H2-H6 is ok, but it needs to make sense. Remember back when we did keyword research and I told you write down the questions in “people also ask” section? Those are often good subheadings and can possibly win you the featured snippet at the top of Google.
For example here’s the structure for this article:
H1 – “SEO for Beginners: 8 Simple Steps to Optimize Your Website”
H2 – “What is SEO?” (This was a question in the “people also ask” section.)
H3 – “SEO TOOLS” (This phrase was found when I exported the additional keywords)
H3 – “Step 1 – Step 8”
Go back to that scan you ran in Screaming Frog to optimize your existing H1 and H2 tags.
If you go back to the scan that you ran earlier, you can click on the H1 tab and H2 tab at the top of the screen.
Just like with the titles, you can look at the “H1-1” and “H2-1” column to see all of your H1 and H2 headings. You can see their length in the “H1-1 Length” and “H2-1 Length” column to find short and long headings. Then, go to your website platform and make the changes.
Step 5: Image Optimization
Heavy image files will slow down your website. Search engines like pages that load fast.
Your header or “hero” images should be less than 400kb.
Your regular on-page images should be less than 150kb.
You can reduce image sizes in Canva.
- Login to Canva.
- Upload your photo into a blank canvas. I use 1200×800 canvas size.
- Click Share > Download
- Check the box that says “Compress file”
- Click download
If this isn’t your style, you can also use Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, or an online compression tool like tinypng.com. If your site is on WordPress, there are plugins that can optimize your images for you.
Step 6: Main Content
The text in the body of your web page is your chance to use your knowledge combined with the keyword research we did earlier. Search engines will read all the text on your page to determine: the main subject matter of the page, how knowledgable you are on the subject, and how experienced you are.
You want to talk about the topic naturally. Use your keywords and long tail keywords in your writing. Use as many words as it takes to completely explain the point you are making.
If you’re auditing an existing page, read every word and find opportunities to make your writing more concise. Eliminate fluff and use simple words.
Make sure your paragraphs are short and there is plenty of white space on the page to make skimming easier for your readers.
Don’t overuse your keywords. Search engines disqualify pages that “stuff” unnecessary keywords. While there’s no hard and fast rule, a good guideline to follow is keeping your keywords to 2-3% of the total word count. But remember, natural language wins.
Use experiences, stories, examples, and any illustrations that will help explain your point.
Step 7: Links
Internal links help your site visitors find additional information that is explained in more depth on another page. Anchor text is the clickable word or phrase you use to link to something else. Anchor text should be descriptive and not simply “click here”.
For example, I have an in-depth guide on how to do keyword research which is linked above. The anchor text is “keyword research”, and when someone clicks that link it takes them to the page where they can find more information.
External links send your site visitors somewhere other than your site. Having external links is a good thing, however you want to be careful.
- Don’t send someone away from your site to get information that you can give them.
- Don’t send people to irrelevant sites.
Looking through this step-by-step guide, you’ll notice that I have no links to other sites to help explain any of the steps. All of the external links are sending people to download tools that are mentioned throughout this guide.
Backlinks are links to your site from other websites. These are tougher to get, but can really boost your domain authority. In your quest for backlinks, you will undoubtedly come across someone who wants to sell you backlinks from “quality sites”. Don’t do it. Buying links is not the way to go because search engines are constantly evolving to seek and remove pages with bogus links, and even the sites that are selling them.
The “Check My Links” Chrome extension you downloaded earlier will search your site and identify any broken links you have. Fix broken links to improve your SEO.
Step 8: Format
That’s right, the format of your page makes a big difference. Google is looking for a good overall user experience. When your page flows well, has helpful images, and is nice to look at, you get bonus points. This is evident by the amount of time someone spends clicking around your website. The longer they are on, the better their experience.
Using images just to fill space won’t help. Your images should be unique, and they need to support your text.
Using numbers and statistics where possible is good for improving your format. It’s also a great way to get another image. Any time I use a statistic, I create a simple graphic in Canva that shows that statistic in a visual way like a chart or a graph. It supports the text and provides a break from reading.
According to HubSpot, 40% of website visitors appreciate photos and images the most.
Again, short paragraphs and white space make your pages easier to read. This is helpful because people don’t like to read large blocks of text. Making it easier for people to digest your page information will be appreciated and boost the user experience.
SEO doesn’t have to be extremely complicated. Following these steps will get you started on the right path, but it’s important to keep checking on your web traffic and note the patterns. See what’s working and use those strategies to drive traffic to underperforming pages.
When you’re ready, we can help you get the most from your website! Book a 23-minute call to see how.