Understanding SEO Basics, Part 1: A Beginner's Guide to Search Engine Optimization

Published 26. 4. 2023

Are you a novice to blogging or a website owner curious to understand the hype surrounding SEO?

Join us in this 5-part series to demystify SEO, explain its importance, and guide you through practical steps to optimize your website and improve its search engine rankings.

This series aims to remove the fluff and provide you with actionable tips you can apply to your website to start seeing results as soon as Search Engine algorithms allow.

Let's begin with a concise yet practical SEO definition before diving into the nitty-gritty.


SEO Explained and Why It Should Matter to Website Owners?

Website owners and bloggers use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies and techniques to improve their website's discoverability and position on search engine results pages (SERPs). This is crucial because billions of searches are conducted daily, with the majority done on Google, which has an 91.9% global market share and processes 8.5 billion searches daily as of 2022.


Did you know?
Google leads the desktop search market with a global share of 91.9% and processes 8.5 billion daily searches.


Given these statistics, website owners must develop strategies to ensure their website ranks high in Google search results. This set of actions and techniques is known as SEO.

Why is SEO important for website owners and bloggers?

To illustrate, if a website appears on top in just 0.001% of the 8.5 billion search queries and is clicked on 100% of the time (hypothetically), it would receive 85,000 daily visits.

Simply put, SEO is to a website what air is to your lungs. With this in mind, let's examine the relationship between search engines and your website.


How Search Engines Crawl and Index Your Site

As a blogger or website owner, you can benefit hugely by engaging in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) activities and strategies. However, to ensure the effectiveness of these efforts, site owners must understand how search engines like Google and Bing obtain information from their website.

Search engines employ crawling and indexing to gather information from your site. Their crawlers or spiders crawl your website to retrieve relevant information, including pages and links between them.

After collecting this information, search engines process and store it on their servers through indexing. Indexed information enables search engines to provide search results quickly and accurately to users searching for information related to your website.

By understanding how crawling and indexing work, you can structure your website to make it easier for search engines to find and categorize your content, improving its visibility and ranking in search results.


Website owners and bloggers need to structure their websites for efficient crawling and indexing to improve chances of their sites appearing on top of SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).


Preparing your site for efficient search engine crawling and indexing is crucial for boosting its visibility and ranking on search engine results pages.

Firstly, structure your website for search engine optimization by following a simple hierarchy of homepage, categories, and sub-categories. Check out Semrush’s article on website architecture for an example.

Next, configure your site's Robots.txt file to allow crawling by legitimate bots like Googlebot and Bingbot as it's crucial not to block them.

In addition, provide a sitemap in XML format that acts as a roadmap for search engine bots to navigate your website and locate all of its pages quickly.

Lastly, set proper canonical URLs and redirects. Canonical URLs help search engines understand your preferred page version, while redirects ensure that search engines and users are directed to the correct page.

By implementing these steps, you can ensure that search engine bots can efficiently crawl and index your site, improving its visibility and ranking in search results.


Pro Tips
A few tips to improve your site’s chances of being crawled efficiently by search engines: review the site architecture, robots.txt, sitemap.xml, canonical URLs and redirects.



Understanding Keywords, On-page Optimization, and their Relationships with SEO

Search Engine Optimization has different elements. What we discussed in the last section falls under what SEO pros call “technical SEO.”

As one would rightly expect, Technical SEO deals with a website's “technical” side like a sitemap, robots.txt, canonical, and redirects.

Once you’ve fixed the technical side of your website, your next step in your SEO journey is to get to the bread and butter of SEO - content. In the world of SEO, content is king.

This phrase is often overused, but it is true, as content is the currency of the internet. So, if you’re going to get your site to rank higher in search engine result pages, you must write high-quality, unique, and valuable content.

Understanding user intent is the first step to developing SEO and user-centric content. An easy way to understand user intent is to engage in keyword research.

Keyword (more like “keyphrase”) research is the process of finding what people type into search engines like Google and Bing. The purpose of keyword research is to determine what searchers want to read so you can craft content that meets their needs.

With this information, you can develop content that answers the reader’s questions.


Crafting high-quality content is crucial for SEO success, but it starts with understanding user search intent through keyword research.


Developing content to target a keyword or set of keywords that meet user intent so the page ranks higher in search engine result pages (SERPs) is known as on-page optimization (or on-page SEO).

On-page optimization involves certain practices like placing the target keywords, keyword synonyms, and word forms (naturally) in parts of the content. Also, it consists in using proper title and heading tags to structure your content and including relevant internal linking to your content.

In part two of this series, we will dive deeper into keyword research and how to determine user intent to write your content for both users and search engines.


Off-page Optimization

In the last two sections of this article, we have discussed two elements of SEO - technical SEO and On-page Optimization. The third element is off-page optimization.

While on-page optimization covers actions you can take within a website, off-page optimization is a set of activities a web owner takes outside a website to improve its rankings.

The most popular off-page optimization technique is backlink building. Backlinks are other sites that link to your site, and the quality of your site’s backlink profile contributes to its ability to rank higher in search engines.

Essentially, if your website has other quality websites linking to it, it tells search engines that the referring (linking) sites “approve” of your site. High-quality backlinks improves the “authority” of your website on the internet and, in turn, help it rank higher in search results.

So, if backlinks from high-authority sites can improve your site’s authority, spammy or low-quality backlinks may potentially harm its authority.


Acquiring backlinks from high-authority websites can significantly enhance the authority of your site. Conversely, links from spammy sites may cause harm to your site. Therefore, it is advisable to actively pursue high-authority backlinks and remove any links from spammy websites.


Ideally, search engines should manage your site’s backlinks (accept great ones and disregard crappy ones), but it does not work that way. I discovered this the hard way recently when I realized the traffic to my technology blog was dropping rapidly.

Aside from performing other tasks to improve the site’s technical SEO, I reviewed its backlink profile and discovered a lot of spammy backlinks. To get rid of these spammy backlinks, I had to disavow them as a last resort.

Apart from “cleaning up” toxic backlinks, you can also improve your site’s backlink profile by building white-hat links.

Look out for part four of this series to learn more about backlinks and other off-page optimization techniques.


Conclusion and Future Topics

We hope that this beginner's guide to SEO has equipped you with the fundamental concepts of search engine optimization. We covered SEO basics, how search engines crawl and index websites, and the importance of keywords and on-page and off-page optimization.

Now that you have a solid foundation, you can dive deep into the specific areas of SEO to improve your website. In the upcoming articles in this series, we will explore keyword research and creating quality content using on-page optimization techniques.

Also, we will include off-page optimization techniques and measuring and tracking SEO performance in the future articles of this series.

Stay tuned for our future articles in this series, where we will explore these topics in-depth and provide you with actionable tips to help you optimize your website and improve its search engine rankings.