1. Introduction
Article #1.5

What is SEO? Search Engine Optimization for Beginners

SEO is a carefully paved and a continually developing pathway to ensure that the search engines understand the contents of a page with utmost accuracy and position it in the SERPs accordingly.

However, before learning about the basics of SEO, we must comprehend and uncover how search engines work and determine the part where SEO comes into play.

How do search engines work?

The internet is a hub of limitless information that grows with each passing day. But due to the same reason, sorting through it to extract the information we need becomes complicated and extensively time-consuming. People use search engines to sort through the clutter of unwanted information and find the information they want.

Here’s an example for better understanding. Consider search engines as a librarian and limitless information as books while the searchers can be readers. Whenever a reader approaches a librarian and asks for a book, the librarian knows where it is and provides it to the reader. Similarly, when searchers ask the search engine about the required information, the search engine offers them the most relevant information.

Working of a search engine can be broken down into three steps:

  • Step I: Crawling: Search engine bots crawl through the various pieces of information or web pages on the internet.
  • Step II: Indexing: After the crawl, those web pages are analyzed for ranking signals and categorized.
  • Step III: Ranking: When the indexing is done, the search engine determines each page's position in the SERPs based on their carefully developed algorithm.

Speaking of Google (since it is the most-used search engine), it has a very advanced algorithm about which none of us have a clear idea apart from some clues.

Google explains the process of ranking in “How Search Works” briefly:

“These ranking systems are made up of not one, but a whole series of algorithms. To give you the most useful information, Search algorithms look at many factors, including the words of your query, relevance and usability of pages, expertise of sources and your location and settings. The weight applied to each factor varies depending on the nature of your query – for example, the freshness of the content plays a bigger role in answering queries about current news topics than it does about dictionary definitions.”

You can learn more about how search engines work in our detailed guide on how search engines rank web pages.

While going through the guide, you must've come across terms like on-page, off-page, etc. These are core SEO terms that include multiple factors. So, let's move on to learning more about SEO and different types of SEO.

What does SEO mean?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is a process of optimizing your web page and its content to acquire the top organic position in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).

Simply put, SEO means tweaking your website's content and UX & UI so that search engine bots can understand and index it conveniently.

How does SEO work?

The working of SEO is pretty straightforward: Optimizing your website in such a manner that makes search engines distinguish your content as the best possible result for the searched query.

This is the driving force behind the success of search engines like Google and the reason it dominates 91% of the search market. That's also why webmasters focus more on optimizing for Google than Bing, Yahoo, AOL, etc.

Every search engine has a different set of ranking algorithms, and addressing them all in this guide is nearly impossible; therefore, we will focus entirely on Google.

As mentioned above, we only have clues about how Google ranks web pages, but several strategies have proven effective, including keyword research, title tags, heading tags, meta descriptions, link building, etc. All of these are subcategories of the two types of SEO: On page and Off page.

What is On Page SEO?

Search engine optimization practices that are limited to the boundaries of your website is called on-page SEO. Sometimes it is referred to as on-site SEO, and keyword research is an essential part of it. Some of these strategies include:

  • SEO meta data (title tags, alt tags, meta descriptions, URL, etc.)

  • Internal linking

  • Page loading speed

  • Mobile-friendliness

  • Website design

You can learn more about on-page SEO in our detailed on-page SEO guide.

What is Off Page SEO?

Search engine optimization practices that work outside the boundaries of your website is called Off Page SEO. It is about building links and developing a relationship with other websites of the same niche. Some of the off-page strategies include:

  • Link building

  • Social media

  • Forum/blog commenting

You can learn more about Off Page SEO in our detailed Off Page SEO guide.

What is Technical SEO?

The purpose of technical SEO is to make sure that your website is optimized for humans and websites alike. Technical SEO is a part of on-page SEO; however, it only covers its technical aspects. This includes:

  • Page speed optimization

  • UX & UI

  • Sitemaps

  • Robots.txt

You can learn more about Technical SEO in our detailed Technical SEO guide.

What is Local SEO?

Optimizing your online presence and content to rank for relevant local searches and generate more sales is called local SEO. It is not a similar entity to on page, off page, or technical SEO. Don't get me wrong, local SEO includes all three of these; however, the approach is contrasting. While on page, off page, and technical SEO are done keeping the global audience in mind (or in some cases country-wise), local SEO focuses majorly on the local audience. Based on it, the optimization approach changes. This includes:

  • Local keyword research

  • Google My Business optimization

  • Local citations

To learn more about Local SEO, you can refer to our beginner's guide to local SEO.

The Right & the Wrong way of doing SEO

There are several SEO techniques, and SEO professionals are trying to discover new ways to improve their website's search ranking. Also, with Google's constant algorithm updates, the approach of SEO strategies are changing and developing.

But why does Google keep rolling-out algorithm updates?

Two main reasons:

  1. Improve the search results to provide the most accurate solution to every searcher's query.

  2. Put a stop to malicious SEO practices to acquire higher rankings.

Some SEOs wish to rank higher quickly, and to do that, they opt for unethical and inapt practices to deceive Google's algorithm. Therefore, the SEO community has determined two types of SEO techniques: White Hat and Black Hat.

What is White Hat SEO? - the Right way

White Hat SEO refers to the techniques that follow the ranking guidelines of major search engines (like Google). These are ethical SEO strategies that improve your website’s organic rankings and traffic without getting penalized by Google.

Some of the most popular White Hat SEO techniques are:

  • Guest posting

  • Meta tag optimization

  • Internal linking

What is Black Hat SEO? - the Wrong way

Black Hat SEO techniques are complete opposite of White Hat. They don’t abide by the ranking guidelines of Google. Black Hat SEO techniques are unethical and can harm the integrity of a website that follows them. When Google discovers that a web page is using black hat methods to rank higher, the search engine deindexes it.

Here’s a list of black hat SEO techniques that you must avoid:

  • Cloaking

  • Keyword Stuffing

  • Duplicate Content

  • Doorway and Gateway Pages

  • Clickbait

  • Link Buying

You can follow this guide to learn about black hat SEO techniques and make sure that you are not implementing them on your website.

How do you create an SEO friendly website?

After understanding what SEO is and learning about its various types along with the SEO techniques that you must and mustn’t follow, it’s time to implement them. Let’s move on to the checklist of creating an SEO friendly website.

1. Keyword Research

Keywords are the backbone of SEO. To do SEO of your website, you must start with keyword research. You have to target the right keywords based on topic relevancy and optimize the SEO meta tags of your website along with the content accordingly. However, remember to maintain the keyword density.

The optimum keyword density should be around 1 to 2%. If it exceeds the specified bracket, it would be regarded as keyword stuffing, a black hat SEO technique. Now, how can you check your keyword density? You can use the Keyword Density Checker tool by RankWatch.

Apart from this, you can browse through the entire collection of free SEO tools by RankWatch to find the Keyword Suggestion tool, Long Tail Keyword Finder, Keyword Competition tool, etc.

One of the crucial aspects of keyword research is understanding user intent and based on it, conducting the keyword research and optimizing your content accordingly.

2. Meta Tags Optimization

After preparing your keyword database, it’s time to map them across your entire website, organically. You must keep in mind the relevancy when doing so; targeting and optimizing for irrelevant keywords will hamper the optimization, and your page will start ranking for wrong keywords.

  • Title Tag

The title tag summarizes the content of a page in a single line worth 60 characters (optimum limit). It is the first thing visible to the searchers in the SERPs.

Recommended reading: How to Create an SEO optimized Title Tag

  • Meta Description Tag

The meta description tag is used to give the searcher a little more understanding of the ranked page's content. The optimum character limit for the meta description tag is 155 to 160. The meta description appears just below the title tag in the SERPs.


3. Heading Tags

While the title and the meta description tags compel searchers to click on a result, the heading tags provide a structure to its followed content. Structuring your content improves the user experience and also enables the crawlers to understand the content conveniently.

When structuring your content, remember to cap the heading tags to H6 and use only one H1 tag (you can use more than one, but using one is considered the best practice). You must maintain such hierarchy (H1 is the most important, and H6 is least):

<H1> What is SEO? Search Engine Optimization for Beginners</H1>
<p>Content related to what is SEO and types of SEO</p>

<H2>How do you create an SEO friendly website?</H2>
<p>Steps to create an SEO friendly website</p>

<H3>Title Tag</H3>
<H3>Meta Description Tag</H3>
<H3>Header Tags (H1, H2, H3…)</H3>

Recommended reading: Are your Headings optimized for Search Engines and the users?

4. URL Structure

A poorly-structured and confusing URL can force the visitor to look for a substitute. You must create short yet descriptive URLs that are easily understandable by both humans and crawlers. Also, it helps bump up your site's SEO if you optimize it with keywords.

Recommended reading: A quick go through for URL optimization tactics

5. Image Optimization

Adding images to your website or a piece of content keeps the user engaged by breaking the monotony of textual information. However, the images must be relevant to the content and have some value to offer. Also, based on how their alt tags are optimized, images can help improve your site’s SEO.

  • Alt tags

Googlebot cannot understand the contents of an image. It has to be conveyed to them; therefore, we use alt tags. Alt tags briefly describe the image to Googlebot and help the search engine determine its content.

Recommended reading: Are you Optimizing your alt Images correctly?

6. Technical Factors

There are several technical factors to consider when making your website SEO friendly. Here are the essential ones you should never avoid optimizing:

  • Page Loading Speed

Page loading speed is one of the most crucial Google ranking factors. If your page takes too much time to load, then your bounce rate increases at a tremendous rate. It is advised to keep your page loading speed between 1 to 3 seconds. 


You can use the PageSpeed Insights tool by Google to check your page loading speed. Also, after the analysis, the tool provides you with optimizing tactics.

  • Mobile-friendly Website

After Google rolled-out the Mobile-first Indexing update, it became necessary for websites to have a mobile version. It is also considered a Google ranking factor now. You can use Mobile-friendly Checker by RankWatch to check whether your website is mobile friendly or not.

  • Schema Markup

Schema markup is a set of micro data or semantic vocabularies that you can implement on your web pages for better online visibility. By implementing schemas, Googlebot can understand the contents of your website better and present it in more creative ways.

Here’s an example of how schema optimized results appear in the SERPs as compared to other results.

  • Robots.txt

Google gives every website a specific crawl budget, and the robots.txt file makes sure that it is utilized effectively so that every page of your site gets indexed. For better SEO, your website must have a robots.txt file. It tells Googlebot whether to crawl a page or not.

  • XML Sitemaps

A sitemap is a file that consists of a comprehensive list of links to every page on your website. It works as a map to your entire site that search engine bots use to crawl and index every page associated with your domain. It is implemented on your website’s root folder or in the robots.txt file.

7. Link Building

Link building is an age-old SEO technique with promising results - given if it is followed correctly. It helps in growing your website’s reach, reputation, and domain authority. It develops trust, traffic, and engagement as well. Also, link building is a core off-page SEO strategy.

Recommended reading: An all-inclusive guide on link building

8. Tracking Results

After creating an SEO friendly website, how to make sure that your SEO efforts are working correctly and generating the desired results? You need to link your website to Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

Google Analytics will provide you with information about where your traffic is coming from. On the other hand, Google Search Console helps you check the crawling and indexing status of your website along with the issues that Googlebot discovered while crawling it.

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