I’m offering here a digest of everything that’s important to know about SEO, whether it’s for your website, your blog, social networks, advertising campaigns, etc. SEO is an essential part of attracting visitors and driving traffic to your site. This beginner’s guide will help you understand the basic concepts of SEO, how search engines work, and how to optimize your site to rank high on Google and Bing. Whatever your reason for using SEO, this guide is a great place to start to quickly learn the basics.
- Here's the program
- What is SEO and why is it so important?
- What are the differences between Search Engine Optimization and Paid Search?
- What is “On-Page” and “Off-Page” SEO?
- What are the techniques to apply “On-Page” SEO on my website?
- What are the techniques to apply “Off-Page” SEO on my website?
- How to use SEO for your social networks?
- How to use SEO for your advertising campaigns?
- SEO Tools and Resources
- A few tips on best practices, to finish
- Some definitions
What is SEO and why is it so important?
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a set of techniques that will help you to improve the ranking of your website in search results on Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, etc. SEO is therefore important because it allows you to attract more traffic to your site and therefore potentially increase your sales.
When a user performs a search on a search engine such as Google, the results are ranked according to their relevance to the keywords they entered. This means that the websites and blogs that have the best placement of these keywords in their pages and articles will appear at the top of the results displayed.
Let’s take a concrete case: Let’s say you launch a search like “recipe for spaghetti with mustard and chocolate”. First, let me tell you that you have funny tastes, then, the search engines (or SE) will examine their databases to find the sites and blogs that contain this sequence of words, and will display first the ones that contain this exact wording, then the ones that contain all the words but in a different order, etc.
So you can see why SEO is very important, especially for businesses of all sizes and in all sectors. It can help increase their brand visibility, attract quality traffic, and make more money—in short, SEO is kind of the holy grail for them. With the techniques you’ll learn here, your website or blog can also rank higher in search results, increasing the chances that users will click on your site rather than your competitors’.
Just so you know, I’ve added a glossary at the end of the article to explain some of the technical terms used here.
What are the differences between Search Engine Optimization and Paid Search?
While Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a process that aims to improve your website’s ranking over the long term, Search Engine Advertising (SEA) is the process of paying for your website to appear at the top of search results using paid advertisements. You have probably already noticed that the word “sponsored” appears right next to the first lines of results on Google.
Natural referencing requires more work to set up, but it can also offer more durable and therefore more profitable results in the long term, while paid referencing only offers immediate and short-term results. It is a choice that is mostly made by companies that can afford to allocate an annual budget to this end, but it can quickly become very expensive on a small-scale project, especially since long-term effectiveness is not guaranteed.
SEO and SEA are two different online marketing strategies, but the objective is the same. It’s up to you to decide which one is best suited to your project and your goals. I won’t go into more detail about SEA here, as there is already so much to say about SEO, but I will certainly do so in a future article.
What is “On-Page” and “Off-Page” SEO?
Search engine optimization is divided into two main categories: “On-Page” and “Off-Page”. As their name indicates, the first one concerns the optimizations you can make to your website by working directly on its content while the second one concerns the factors outside your website.
- On-Page SEO includes elements such as titles, descriptions, URLs, headings, and keywords. If you’ve never heard of these terms, don’t worry. We’ll get into them later. On-Page SEO may seem a bit technical, but with a little motivation and practice, you’ll see that you too will quickly become an SEO pro.
- Off-Page SEO, on the other hand, includes elements such as backlinks, mentions on social networks, customer reviews on specialized websites… In other words, everything that can influence the reputation of your site, brand, or product outside your own website. Off-Page SEO may seem a bit more difficult to control than On-Page SEO, but by creating quality content and building relationships with other quality websites, you should get backlinks and positive mentions on social networks.
To sum up, both On-Page and Off-Page SEO are essential to improve your ranking in search results, so it’s important to take them into account.
And if all of this sounds too complicated or doesn’t interest you at all, don’t worry. You can always turn to SEO professionals to help you optimize your website and maximize your online visibility. You’ll find highly skilled SEO, marketing, web design, copywriting, etc. specialists on microservice platforms like Fiverr or upwork, for example.
Search engines like Google are smart enough to detect sites that use artificial SEO techniques, called “black hat”, to improve their ranking. Among the most famous are the purchase of “backlinks”, duplicate content, hidden text, keyword abuse, etc.
Be aware that Google does not like this at all, and your search engine ranking will be instantly and seriously penalized as soon as you are discovered. Be patient and work steadily, and you’ll finally see some real results in your search rankings].
What are the techniques to apply “On-Page” SEO on my website?
Let’s get to the heart of the matter. It’s time to focus and start the hard drive that serves as your brain because we will see, point by point, all the elements on which you must work to attract the attention of Google and thus, increase your chances of appearing on the first search results.
1Use relevant headings and subheadings
In HTML, the language used to code and create Web pages, we use tags, a kind of marker to wrap the various contents to indicate the nature of the elements they contain. I’m not going to give you a complete course in HTML, but it is important to understand what it is for the next step, so here are 3 examples:
Most of the website builders you use, such as Wix, Squarespace or even WordPress, offer tools that allow you to build your content in a visual way, without having to know all these tags, but that’s how they are finally transcribed in all the pages of the Web.
One tag that is of particular interest to us here is the “headings” tag. Each heading, whether it’s the main title of the page or article, a section title, or a paragraph title, is usually wrapped in a “headings” tag that takes the form of hx, where the x is replaced by a number between 1 and 6. And the larger this number is, the smaller the text is. So the main title tag will be h1, while a subsection title could be h2 to h6.
These tags are hierarchical, which means you will need to place them in ascending order (h1, h2, h3…). For example, an h3 tag should not be placed inside content whose title tag is h4. Here is a small illustration so that you can better understand:
So, try to structure all your web content following these rules because Google and other search engines take them into account. This allows them to quickly scan and understand what your pages and blog posts contain.
2Use relevant keywords
The use of keywords is probably one of the most impactful elements of your SEO. Keywords are the terms and phrases that people type into search engines to find the information they need. Search engines use these keywords to understand the content of your website and to rank it according to its relevance to the user’s query.
For this reason, it is crucial to choose the right keywords to use on your website and blog posts. You need to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and think about what terms they might use to search for information related to your company, your products or services, and more generally the content of your pages/articles. Be careful. These keywords are not only isolated words but also and especially a sequence of words as typed during a search on Google, Bing, etc.
Once you have chosen your keywords, you must use them strategically on your website. The keywords must be placed in the key elements of your page, such as the title tags (headings I mentioned above), the body text and the URLs.
Be careful not to abuse the use of keywords as this could be considered as “keyword stuffing” by the search engines and penalize your ranking. The use of keywords should be natural and not alter the quality of the content of your website. So, use keywords while preserving optimal reading fluidity.
That’s it! Looks simple, doesn’t it? Well, it used to be (yes, sorry). Because today there is a lot of competition on certain keywords. Some companies whose income depends mainly on their website traffic, and whose competition is both high and fierce, have to fight endlessly to keep their good place in the SERP rankings.
And for you who are just starting out, it might not be easy, especially if you are a newcomer in an already saturated environment, as I am. I must admit that I sometimes feel like a Chihuahua entering a kennel filled with pit bulls and rottweilers that haven’t noticed my presence yet. Yes well, I’m exaggerating a bit, but I find this image so funny… and scary. 😁
So if your business, project, or website is about a highly competitive niche such as weight loss, cooking recipes, or web hosting, the trick here is to look for long-tail keywords, which are more specific and detailed phrases. These generate less traffic but offer the great advantage of being less competitive.
Finally, you should know that there are a multitude of tools available on the Web to determine which keywords are the most relevant to your site and have the highest SEO potential. Among the most popular are Ahrefs, SEMrush or Ubersuggest. These tools provide statistics on the popularity and competition of each keyword. They can also help you understand what your competitors are targeting, which can give you a clear advantage on your SEO strategy.
Note that it is also essential to regularly monitor your keywords and adjust them according to the results obtained, in order to maintain your good positioning in the search results.
3Optimize the loading speed of your website
Nobody likes to wait for a web page to load. You have probably already experienced this: You click on a link, arrive on a loading page, which loads… and still loads… and finally gives up. This phenomenon has already been widely studied, and we know that after 3 seconds, 32% of Internet users give up. This figure even increases to 90% after 5 seconds!
Optimizing the loading speed of your website is therefore a key element of SEO, which is taken into account by search engines. A site that loads quickly can offer a better user experience, and that’s something search engines like. If you want to improve your SEO, it is important to make sure that your site loads quickly, meaning in max 3 or 4 seconds.
There are several web tools that allow you to check the loading speed of your site. Some of the best-known are Pingdom, PageSpeed Insight, and GTmetrix. These free tools will give you detailed information about the loading speed of your site, as well as recommendations to improve its performance.
Here are some tips to improve the loading speed of your site:
Optimize images: Images are often the main cause of slow websites. The first thing to do is to resize them so that they have an adequate size. It is useless to put an image whose dimensions are 3000px X 2000px, when the place where it is displayed does not allow to go beyond 960px X 640px, for example.
The second thing to do is to compress the images. This can be done by reducing the number of colors in the gradients (JPG compression), by reducing the resolution (max 72ppi for web display), and the number of bits (8bits/channel).
There are also tools to do this. You can for example use Adobe Photoshop, in my opinion (and the pros’) the best image processing tool, but it requires a little time to learn (there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube). Otherwise, there are online tools, often free, such as img2go, iloveimg or resizeimages.
If you use WordPress, there are some very good plugins for this. Among these are ShortPixel Image Optimizer, Smush, Imagify or EWWW Image Optimizer. These offer you the possibility to automate the optimization/compression of the images you will add in your pages and blog posts. Once the plugin is well set up, you won’t have to worry about it anymore.
Finally, you should know that most website builders offer an option called “lazy load”. This option allows to not load images, videos, or other heavy resources at the same time as the rest of the page, but only when they become visible on the user’s screen. I recommend you activate this option if it is not already done (as it is the case with WordPress since v5.5).
Use caching: caching consists in temporarily storing data to speed up loading times on a browser. If you are using WordPress, a caching plugin such as WP Rocket will significantly reduce server response time and page loading. WP Rocket is a real Swiss army knife that contains several very efficient tools (image compression, lazy load, caching, CDN, etc.) to optimize your site and its loading time. It is the best plugin in its category, but it is not free. If you’re looking for a free one, but with fewer options and tools, LiteSpeed Cache et WP Fastest Cache are very good.
4Use short URLs
URLs are the web addresses of your pages and articles. The first part is the domain name, and the last part, called “slug”, is the name of the page or article. The goal here is to use clear keywords that reflect the content of each page, and not too many so as not to overload the URL. This will help users understand what the page or article is about, but also help search engines to better index it.
If for example, at random, the title of your article is “The beginner’s guide to learning everything you need to know about SEO, for your blog, website and social media”, the slug could ideally be “example.com/seo-beginners-guide”. As you can see, I removed all the unimportant stuff to keep only the keywords that really indicate what this article is about (and I took the opportunity to improve my SEO 😋).
5Adapt the display of your site to mobile screens
Here is another crucial point. More than 60% of the people who visit a website do it from a smartphone or a tablet. When you know this, you understand why it is important to make your website or blog adaptable to all types of screens. Search engines also take into account mobile compatibility when ranking search results.
Most “Website Builders” take care of this for you, as well as the main WordPress themes. However, check if this is the case on PageSpeed Insight, a free tool offered by Google that I’ve already mentioned, to test your site’s loading speeds. And if you notice display problems, you have the choice between learning the basics of CSS, which is the language dedicated to the design of the site and which goes hand in hand with HTML, or calling on a friend or finding a freelancer on or , who can take care of it.
6Use meta description and title tags
Meta description tags briefly describe the content of the page while title tags give the page a title. Choose relevant keywords for these tags, as this too can help index your pages better.
Most website creation tools allow you to add or modify these tags quite easily. If you are using WordPress, you will find it in my article here, otherwise it depends on the tool and a little Google search can help you.
7Create a sitemap of your site
So what is a sitemap, why is it important for SEO, and how do you create it? First of all, a sitemap is a small file (of XML type) which lists all the pages of your website, blog, forum, etc. It allows search engines to understand the content of your website. It allows search engines to understand how your site is organized, and thus to correctly index your pages. This file also contains various information such as all the URLs of your site, the date of the last modifications, the frequency of updates, etc.
To create a well-structured sitemap, you have the choice between several online tools, free or paid, which can automatically generate your XML file. The most popular is certainly “Sitemap Generator“. You just have to indicate the URL of your site and the file will be generated in a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on the number of pages it contains. And if you’re on WordPress, you should know that most SEO plugins such as Yoast SEO, SEOPress ou Rank Math SEO can handle it.
So, what to do with this XML file? Once generated, you will have to submit it to search engines like Google via “Google Search Console” and Bing via “Bing Webmaster Tools“. They will then take care of the rest.
What are the techniques to apply “Off-Page” SEO on my website?
Off-Page SEO refers to all SEO techniques that are applied outside your website. The main Off-Page SEO techniques are backlinks and reviews left on social networks or review sites such as Trustpilot, Capterra or G2.
What is a backlink, why is it important for your SEO, and how to get some ? Backlinks are links that lead to your website from other websites. They are considered by search engines as “positive votes” for your website and can therefore help improve your ranking in the SERPs. The more quality backlinks you have pointing to your website, the more relevant and reliable it will be considered by search engines.
However, not all backlinks are created equal. Those coming from high quality websites and relevant to the topic(s) you are talking about have more value than those coming from low quality websites or unrelated to your preferred topics. So focus on getting quality backlinks rather than just trying to get as many as possible.
Here are some ways to get quality backlinks:
- Create quality content: If you produce quality content, other sites will be more likely to cite and reference you. This can be blog posts, infographics, statistics, rankings, videos, etc.
- Ask for backlinks: You can also contact other sites to ask them to cite and reference you. This is a very common practice, and you can do this by email or via social networks. Send a short polite message and be specific in your request.
- Use social networks: Share your content on social networks using the right hashtags (#) to attract the attention of other sites and increase the chances of getting backlinks.
- Participate in forums and blogs: By posting topics on forums and relevant comments on high-authority blogs (which are ranked high on search engines), you can link to other site/blog owners and increase your chances of getting backlinks.
- Guest-blogging: If you write an article for another blog or website, you can include a link to your own site in the text. This can benefit both sites, increasing their visibility and credibility.
2Reviews left by readers/users
Reviews left on social networks or on review sites such as Trustpilot, Capterra, or G2 can also have an impact on your Off-Page referencing. Positive reviews can reinforce the credibility of your company and encourage Internet users to visit your website while negative reviews will certainly have the opposite effect.
That’s why it’s best to regularly monitor the reviews left on social networks and review sites and to always respond quickly and cordially to all comments, whether positive or negative. This will show users that you are attentive to what is going on outside your site/blog and that their opinion matters to you.
How to use SEO for your social networks?
Social networks are an important part of any online marketing strategy, and they can also be used to improve the SEO of your website or blog. So here are some techniques to apply SEO on your social networks:
- Optimize your profile: Use keywords related to your business or your favorite topics in your profile name, description (bio), and posts.
- Link to your website: Links from social networks are not considered backlinks, but they are still useful for your SEO. Add links to your website in your bio and to your blog posts or pages in your publications.
- Use hashtags: Hashtags are very useful on Social Media, but they also make your content more easily accessible to users interested in the topics you cover. Using relevant hashtags in your posts can therefore improve their visibility.
- Post quality content regularly: There are two very important notions here, regularity and quality. Quality will encourage users to read and share your posts. Regularity will help you gain subscribers/followers.
- Encourage interactions: Interactions such as “likes”, comments, and shares are signals to search engines that your content is appreciated by users. Encourage interactions by asking questions and responding to comments.
How to use SEO for your advertising campaigns?
Yes, SEO can also improve the performance of your advertising campaigns. And since these campaigns cost money, you might as well do everything you can to optimize their effectiveness. Here are some SEO techniques you can apply to improve the results of your advertising campaigns:
- Use relevant keywords: Yes, keywords again! As you’ve now realized, they are essential for SEO, but they are also essential for advertising campaigns. Use relevant keywords in your ads to reach your target and increase the click rate.
- Use attractive titles: Carefully choose the titles you will display on your ads. They should be both attractive and persuasive, and above all contain relevant keywords. A well optimized title can increase the click-through rate of your ads, sometimes significantly.
- Make sure your landing pages are well optimized: Pages that take a long time to load can hinder the performance of your ads. Make sure your landing pages load quickly, but also that they are optimized for mobile device screens, as seen above.
- Track and analyze data: Tracking and analyzing data is key to measuring the performance of your ad campaigns. Use analytics tools to measure traffic, click-through rate, conversion rate, and other key metrics to improve your results. Most ad platforms such as Facebook Ads and Google Ads offer comprehensive ones.
Creating ad campaigns can be a laborious and exhausting task, especially for those who are not in the advertising business at all. In addition, a lot of money can be wasted by creating poorly optimized ads. That’s why it’s best to take a little training in order to quickly learn the useful basics needed to create effective advertising campaigns. You will find some very good ones on sites such as SkillShare or Udemy. Otherwise, again, professionals can do it for you on Fiverr or UpWork.
SEO Tools and Resources
Of course, given the importance of SEO for businesses around the world, all sorts of tools and services, some free and some paid, have been developed to help marketers, webmasters, and SEO specialists measure their progress and find the best keywords. Here is a list of useful tools and resources to improve your SEO:
- Google Analytics : This free tool from Google allows you to track your website traffic, traffic sources, user behaviors, and a host of other very useful features that allow you to measure the effectiveness of your SEO efforts. This one is to be classified as a must-have tool, and to install it, go here.
- Google Search Console : Another free tool from Google that allows you to monitor your website’s performance in Google’s search results. You can use Google Search Console to track your website’s impressions, clicks, click-through rate and search positions. You can also use it to submit your sitemaps, as I explained above, and even individual URLs that you want to index.
- SEMrush : This is a tool that offers various services such as keyword research and competition analysis. You can use SEMrush to find relevant and low-competition keywords, track search rankings, analyze competitive performance and monitor backlinks. SEMrush also offers tools for content optimization, social media tracking, and online advertising. This tool is paid, but the services offered will really help you improve your SEO. My favorite among the others.
- Ahrefs : Another keyword research and competition analysis tool. Ahrefs offers similar services to SEMrush (finding relevant keywords, tracking search rankings, monitoring backlinks, analyzing competition, etc.). This one is also paid but just as useful and efficient as SEMrush.
- Moz : Moz offers a range of SEO tools, including a keyword research tool, a backlink monitoring tool, and a search performance monitoring tool. Moz also offers features for social media monitoring and competitive analysis. This tool is paid, but also very good, and also offers some free services.
- Ubersuggest : A tool similar to SEMrush, Ahref and MOZ, which I have already mentioned in this article but which I have not yet been able to analyze in depth. And since I’ve heard great things about it, I’m adding it to this list.
- Yoast SEO : If you use WordPress, Yoast SEO is a free and easy to use plugin that will help you optimize your pages and posts for SEO. It’s a real Swiss Army knife for SEO in WordPress. Otherwise, SEOPress or Rank Math SEO are similar tools, and all are top rated in their category.
- Google Trends : Another free tool from Google (how generous). This one allows you to follow trends, search for effective keywords, find popular topics and therefore content to write about, etc.
- Answer The Public : Search engines are often very reactive, and when a topic suddenly appears in trend, they rush to display the most relevant new content at the top of the search results. This is why it is so useful to stay informed of the current trending topics. Answer The Public will allow you to find out what questions people are asking about a particular topic or keyword that you use. This will allow you to easily find topics for blog posts or other articles to write that will answer these questions.
A few tips on best practices, to finish
Now that you have a better understanding of what SEO and content optimization is, I would like to offer you some useful tips that will help you in your ultimate quest: to appear on the first page of Google.
1Focus on keyword research: They are the starting point of any SEO strategy, whatever your project and your ambitions, so make sure you understand them and use them wisely.
2Create quality content: Search engines place great importance on the quality of the content they index, so take the time to create original and useful content for your readers/users.
3Keep your website up to date: Search engines prefer fresh and regularly updated content. Try to publish new articles, pages, or other content as frequently as possible, but also update content that is more than 6 months to 1 year old.
4Track your progress: There is, as I said, a very big competition on some keywords. If you have some budget, learn to use tools such as SEMrush, Moz or Ahrefs, as they will help you boost your SEO more efficiently and quickly.
5Keep an eye on SEO developments: Search engine algorithms are constantly evolving. Stay up to date with the latest SEO trends and best practices to ensure that your website stays ranked high in search results.
6Don’t be obsessed with SEO either: SEO is not an exact “science”, and sometimes, for some reason, you can see your website plummet or on the contrary climb in the web ranking. You don’t want your SEO to become an obsession. So do what you love (no, not Netflixing), and work on your content.
7Be patient: SEO results are not instantaneous, well, not always. It takes time for search engines to find and rank your website, and it can take anywhere from 6 months to a year to see tangible results. Be patient and keep publishing and working on your SEO. Consistency is also one of the keys to your future success.
It is important to understand some of the SEO terms used in this article, whose meaning may be obscure to the non-initiated. You don’t have to learn them by heart, but it will help you understand what we are talking about.
- SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) : SEO means, as its name indicates, any action and modification made to a site or a blog, in order to improve its ranking on search engines.
- SERP (Search Engine Result Page) : This is the page that displays the results of your searches on Google, Bing, etc.
- Organic : In SEO, it is a synonym of “natural” (referencing), therefore unpaid and handled by algorithms, used by professionals.
- URL (Uniform Resource Locator) : It is the address of a site or a specific web page, the one that appears in the address bar at the top of your browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari …). A URL usually starts with “https://”.
- Backlinks : A “backlink” is a hyperlink that points to your website from another website. These are very important for your SEO, as explained above.
We have arrived at the end of this journey in the meanderings, sometimes obscure, of SEO. If you have read the whole article, I congratulate you because you now have all the basic knowledge to act effectively to improve your ranking on search engines.
If you follow the recommendations of this article, your content could be propelled quickly to the top of the search engine rankings. It’s all a matter of work, method, and tenacity.
And for those who jumped straight to the conclusion, first of all, I don’t blame you (it happens to me sometimes too), but I still encourage you to read at least part of it if you really want to boost your positioning in search results and therefore earn more money (because let’s face it, that’s kind of the point too).
By understanding how search algorithms work and optimizing your site’s content, you’ll get more traffic, and that’s an essential element that will motivate you to keep working hard to offer quality content to your readers/visitors. Many people start a website or a blog, work like crazy on it for months, and end up giving up because of lack of visitors.
This happens very often, for various reasons, but mainly because they don’t know how to properly apply the rules of SEO to their project. Some have barely a vague idea of what SEO is while others don’t even know it exists. Now that you know, which is a huge advantage over others, it’s up to you.
So, I hope I’ve enlightened you? I’ve just skimmed over some points that would have deserved a few more paragraphs, but this article is already quite long, and I think I’ve put in the essentials of what you need to know about SEO.
And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments. I’ll be happy to answer you as best as I can. And feel free to tell me what you thought of this article. I spent hours writing it so any positive (or negative because it takes some) message is more than welcome. 😊