The ‘How To’ of Search Engine Optimization – a helpful guide

 The How To of Search Engine Optimization - a helpful guide

updated from an earlier post published in 2016.

Is your new website search engine friendly? In today’s post, The ‘How To’ of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), we will discuss some basic things you can do to improve the visibility of your new website in the unpaid results of the major search engines –  Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

Search engines are the primary navigation tool employed by the vast majority of Internet users. They drive traffic to your site, or not, based on assessments of the relevance and worthiness of your site. Ignore SEO at your peril!

What Are the Major Functions of Search Engines?

In a nutshell, search engines provide answers to some 3 billion recurring users of the World Wide Web. It all starts with a query typed into a search box. Searchers are looking to find useful information on topics of interest (maybe SEO 🙂 ), find stuff like maps, solve problems like too many weeds in their garden, purchase products and so on.

People trust search engines to instantly serve up relevant websites that will meet their needs.

Search engines meet the needs of users by performing 3 tasks:

  • crawling;
  • building an index; and
  • providing a ranked list of sites deemed most relevant to users.

Let’s expand on these tasks a bit.


Crawling is accomplished with software applications that perform automated tasks and repetitive routines at spider

exceptionally high speeds. These applications may be alternately referred to as web robots, bots or spiders.

Googlebot is undoubtedly the best known of these applications based on Google’s search engine dominance.

Spiders crawl web pages that are publicly available and follow links from page to page in an effort to explore an ever-broadening number of the trillions of existing web pages. Data from these web pages are retrieved and sent to search engine servers.

Building an Index

Search engines keep track of web pages in databases that are keyword-based indexes much like a textbook index. Millions of small databases stored around the world are each centered on keyword terms or phrases. These databases allow for retrieval of data in the fraction of a second that Internet users have come to expect.

Providing a Ranked List of Sites

Search engines use mathematical equations (algorithms) to sort out the most relevant and popular sites. These sites are then presented to users on search engine results pages (SERPs) in response to keyword queries.

Appearance on page 1, preferably within the top 5 positions, is a coveted achievement by all website owners. Studies will show that these websites garner the lion’s share of traffic.

Watch the Google video below for an overview of these search engine tasks.


Search Engine Ranking Factors

Numerous factors (perhaps as many as 200) can influence search engine ranking. No one truly knows the exact specifics of all of these factors nor the relative weight assigned to various factors.

In fact, ranking factors evolve and change over time. That said, there are fundamental ranking factors that are well-known best practices and should be employed by every website owner.

We all know, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your Page 1 ranking website won’t be either :). And yet, focusing on the SEO action items detailed below absolutely can, and will, make a difference in your success!

7 SEO Tips for the Beginning Blogger

1.  Craft Content that Fulfills the Needs of Users Who Arrive at Your Site

Many things can help with this objective of fulfilling user needs and providing your readers with a good experience. Here are just a few factors to consider.

Every page and post should:

  • Revolve around a topic that is highly relevant to your target market.
  • Include a captivating headline that gets attention.
  • Be well-written in your own words with attention to readability factors like short sentences and paragraphs,
  • Make use of examples.
  • Include related images and video because most of us are visual creatures.
  • Relay personal experiences and opinions.

Search engines will reward indications of a positive user experience (UX) with higher rankings.

Please keep in mind, robots can’t read and directly assess whether your site provides legitimate and credible content. But they can, and do, make assumptions based on the reaction and engagement of your readers.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do people remain on your site for a while to read the contents or do they promptly hit the back button and move on?
  • Are they sharing the contents with friends and colleagues?
  • Do they make return visits to your site?

These are measurable behaviors that search engines use in making assumptions about valuable content. Are they making positive assumptions about your content or is something lacking? Understandably, new bloggers can be anxious to publish and miss things. I’m guilty as charged:).

Action Item: Go back and evaluate each page or post on your site and consider a fresh makeover. It’s your site, and you can always make changes. Quality control rests solely with you!

2.  Organize Your Site with a Clear, Coherent Navigational Structure

Readers will have a better experience if they can reach each page with at least one text link. Static text links are also a critical SEO step.

Great pages will not help you at all if Googlebot cannot navigate to those pages! For example, robots cannot complete online forms.

If you have pages buried behind login forms, you must ensure they are accessible from another text link, or they will not be seen or indexed. If some of your pages are not visible, the balance of your site may be judged to be insubstantial. Clearly not a good outcome.

Search engines are looking for useful, information-rich, unique content.

Action Item: Navigate your site with the mindset of a first-time reader that doesn’t yet know everything the site has to offer. Make changes to your menu structure and add internal links as needed to make all the good stuff clearly visible.

3.  Every Page and Post Should Focus on a Keyword.

I really can’t emphasize this enough. Internet accessibility is all about keywords! It all starts with keyword search queries typed by internet users.

Googlebot discovers data and indexes that data around keywords. People have to be searching for the content your site has to offer. You can have a beautiful website, but if your content does not match keyword searches, it will remain invisible. Enough said :)?

Be sure to use keywords appropriately and strategically. Keyword “stuffing” is a definite no-no!

Your targeted keyword should appear in the following locations:

  • In the title (and the meta title tag);
  • Once within the first 140 characters (it should then appear in the meta description tag or snippet of text describing your site);
  • In the alt text attribute for an image; and
  • One more time near the end of your article.

As a new website owner, are you taking advantage of the “long tail” of search? If you’re not yet using a good keyword research tool, your success hinges on changing that. I use a great tool called Jaaxy which you can try today for free.

Action Item: Make a list of each page and post on your website and identify your targeted keyword. Check the placement of your keyword and revise as necessary.

4.  Visual and MultiMedia Content Must Be Easily Accessible to Googlebot.

By that I mean, describe this content in HTML text format. Robots do not see images, watch videos or listen to audio data.

If your site contains great photos, videos or other multimedia files, be sure to add ALT text descriptions that Google can use to assess the quality of your content. Include keywords in the ALT text descriptions if that’s appropriate.

Action Item: Check the ALT text attribute of every image or multi-media file on your website and revise as needed to provide accurate descriptions of the content.

5.  Include Relevant Links Throughout Your Website.

Link relevancy is an important metric for web page ranking. Your anchor text, the visible words that are clickable text in a hyperlink, should be succinct and relevant to the content of the target page.

Avoid using links like “click here.” These links may be fine for human readers, but they’re too obscure for the friendly robots crawling your site. Googlebot wants to know the subject matter of the document to which you are linking. So, why not make him happy?

Your content should include at least one external link to an authority site whenever possible. It is also good practice to embed internal links, in each new post, to any related posts previously published on your site.

This practice of embedding internal links has a two-fold benefit. It encourages visitors to view everything your site has to offer. It also tells the search engines that you place value on all of the content on your website. What is Googlebot trying to assess? User value!

Action Item:  Review all clickable links on your website. Change any links resembling “click here” to anchor text that reflects the subject matter of the page to which you are linking. You should add at least one external and one internal link to each page or post you have published.

6.  Your URLs Should Be Easily Human-Readable.

Easily readable URLs not only contribute to a better UX (always an SEO Plus) but can also encourage increased sharing of your site and more traffic. No one wants to click on a URL link that includes a string of numbers or special characters.

Separating words in the URL with dashes is an excellent practice to increase readability and trust. Editing your post URLs or permalinks is simple with an SEO plugin like Yoast SEO.

Action Item: Check each of your page and post URLs today for readability.

7.  Submit a Sitemap to Google.

Especially for a brand new website that is not well interconnected; this is imperative. Remember, spiders crawl the web by traveling over links between websites.

Your brand new site may remain below the radar screen for some time. Submitting a sitemap increases your visibility along with making it easier for Googlebot to crawl your site.

You will want to create two free Google accounts if you haven’t already done so. You want both a Google Analytics Google Analytics Logo 2015 (original)

account and a Google Console account (formerly Google Webmaster Tools).

Be sure to interconnect these two accounts. You will submit your sitemap to Google Console. It’s a pretty painless process. Additionally, you can use the “Fetch as Google” command in Search Console to let Google know you’ve published new content and request indexing.

These Google accounts will tell you some fascinating stuff about your site. Things like, has Google indexed your site? What keywords is your site indexed under? How many users visited your site today? And so much more!

Action Item: Create your free Google Analytics and Google Console accounts today. Submit your sitemap.

In Summary

Paying attention to the 7 tips and action items detailed above can enhance your website success. Will they put your site on Google Page 1? Sorry, but nothing and no one can guarantee that! If any website tries to tell you differently, hit the back button quickly :). Major scam alert!

My best advice is to fill your website with information-rich articles that inquiring minds are searching for and enhance your content with the SEO basics outlined in this post, The ‘How To’ of Search Engine Optimization.

Then relax and keep posting.  This approach will serve you well and get you in the game!

Supplemental Resources

For any readers who want to dive more deeply into SEO, here are two excellent and free resources you should definitely check out.

Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide

The Beginners Guide to SEO – Moz

If you feel like some additional hands-on training in SEO principles would benefit your blog, you might want to investigate the online facility where I received my training. You can read my review or just click the banner at the bottom of this page.

One Last Request If I May

Please comment below and tell us all your best SEO tip. Many thanks and happy blogging!


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26 thoughts on “The ‘How To’ of Search Engine Optimization – a helpful guide”

  1. Hi, very good text and useful suggestions indeed. In the step 6 you suggest checking URLs for readability. I wonder what the point is? If they are in a bad state this cannot be corrected. URL is not to be touched.

    About Google Analytics and Webmaster, they show different numbers for traffic in my site. Any idea what this is so? Thank you.

    • Hi Jovo,

      Thanks for visiting my site and for your comments. My tip regarding URLs refers to the last portion of the URL called the slug. The slug is dynamically created as you add new pages. By default, slugs are often not pretty. I use WordPress which allows you to configure semantic slugs using the Permalink feature. I may need to clarify this in my post.

      I have also noted slight discrepancies in my site data between Analytics and Webmaster. Google acknowledges this may happen primarily due to timing differences. Data is continually being gathered but updates are posted periodically at slightly different intervals.

      I hope this helps!

  2. Thanks for the great tips, Linda! I’m a fairly recent blogger myself and I’m always looking for good advice to keep things growing.
    I really like your tip about always going back and rereading your own material for changes. I think that’s a super idea. Very practical.
    Do you have any good tips for staying motivated in the long haul?
    Thanks again, Stella

    • Hi Stella,

      I’m glad you found the tips practical. That’s my goal 🙂 Staying motivated hasn’t been too tough for me. It’s become something of a hobby and fun learning experience. As a retiree, it helps that I can work around my own schedule. Then too, once you begin to see the first small successes, that can become quite exciting also! I think my best tip would be to choose one or more niches that really interest you.

  3. Nice guide. Very thorough and extremely insightful, especially to those who are not so experienced when it comes to SEO matters. One thing I think you have left out that I feel is important to SEO is explaining the importance of meta data. A great meta title and description on each page/post will go a long way in helping with a website’s SEO efforts.

    • Hi Tony,

      You make an excellent point here and I agree my post could do a better job of specifically addressing meta data. I’m somewhat spoiled by using WordPress. WP has an All-In-One SEO plug-in that will complete the meta title and meta description tags based on the title of the post and introductory paragraphs. This is why I have stressed the importance of including your keyword in both the title and first 140 words. But I agree that a revision would help to clarify that. Thanks very much for your comments!

  4. Hi,

    Thanks for the 7 tips for better SEO, I have been struggling to rank how quick does page speed need to be is that even a factor?

    I also heard just write naturally and not stuff your over do it on key words is this correct?

    I know from this post theres bits I need to do

    • Hi Steven,

      Yes, page speed is definitely a factor. We all tend to be pretty impatient when searching for information, do we not? Using a good hosting provider like the SiteRubix platform that I use through Wealthy Affiliate is very helpful. Page speed is also something you can monitor through your Google Console account.

      You are also correct regarding keyword stuffing. Writing naturally and including your keyword strategically in the title, first paragraph or two and towards the end of your post is best practice. This creates visibility for your article and also contributes to a high quality assessment for your content. Over use of keywords has the opposite effect and can lead to an assessment of poor quality or even spam.

      Thanks for your comments and for visiting my site 🙂

  5. You gave some great search engine optimization tips in this blog post. This industry has changed immensely in the past 15 years.

    I remember when I had first gotten into web design there were many low quality sites on the internet that seemed to rank well in the search engines as a result of low quality backlinks.

    However the introduction of google Penguin and Panda a few years ago has changed the search engine optimization industry for the better. All the low quality sites that were ranking well as a result of spammy backlinks were penalized.

    Now you have to create great content with the most relevant keywords for your website / blog and get high quality links in order to rank well.

    • Hi WMP,

      Thank you for the kind words. I appreciate your comments on the evolution and improvements in SEO also. It’s true that the emphasis on backlinks has changed and you will be penalized today for the inclusion of low quality links. A link from a high-quality authority site can certainly help with rankings but that can be difficult for a new blogger to receive. My recommendation is to focus solely on building out your site with information-rich content (something you can control) and not worry about backlinks.

  6. Hi Linda,
    I liked reading your clear info on SEO. This is very useful info. I am new to blogging and this will help me get ranked.

    I have another question regarding keywords for you. Does the keyword have to be in order? Like longtail keywords?

    For example,
    Is milk good for you? This is the whole keyword. Can it be arranged but still be the same keyword? I hope this makes sense.

    • Hi Billy,

      I’m pleased to hear you found my post on SEO useful. With regard to your question on keywords, the arrangement of words within your keyword phrase is very important. You can easily check that out using a keyword research tool. I just did that with your sample keyword, is milk good for you. The competition for this keyword is 171 sites. Rearrange the phrase slightly to “milk is good for you” and your competition dramatically climbs to 344 sites.

      If you don’t yet have a good keyword research tool, getting access to one is really essential. Jaaxy is a great choice. Fortunately, you can create a free Jaaxy account that will give you 30 keyword searches. See my post, What is Long Tail Keyword Research?, to create an account.

      I hope this was helpful!

  7. Hey Linda,

    Your site is very informative. You described everything explicitly. No detail was left out.

    Your site is very clean and easy to navigate.

    I have never heard of “spiders” so I learnt something new 🙂 Thank you.

    What I didn’t really like is that there aren’t many images and everything is written very closely. In my eyes it’s too cramped especially the title “how to of seo”

    I hope you are not mad at me for criticizing your site, but at least I’m being honest 🙂

    In my opinion every site has a downside, but some people are just being too nice, which is also not good.

    • Hi Winny,

      Thanks very much for your honest feedback. I appreciate it and will definitely look at adding more images. I have to agree that being too nice is not always helpful when it comes to feedback 🙂

  8. a very helpful post. I am trying to learn how to optimize my site and there can be so many information and it can get confusing. But the way how you presented is much easier to understand. I will follow your recommendation- that is I will go back and read my previous posts. You also gave a very specific instruction where to place the keywords. It is here where I am currently struggling the most.

    Thank you for your very helpful post!

  9. This is a wonderful article about search engine optimization.Thank you for stating the major points that search engines need the users to perform and the tips for the beginning blogger as you really helped the first time users on how to perform these steps.

    Thank you for providing the relevant information

    best wishes


    • Hi Jose,

      I’m so glad you found the article helpful. Search engine optimization can be a very challenging topic for new bloggers to grasp. I know I appreciated all of the guidance I could find on this all important subject. Thanks for your comments!

  10. Hello there,
    I have a topic that I don’t think you touched in your post. A topic that is kind of debatable right now. I’ve heard a lot of talk about backlinks to your website and how important they were in the past, but they are not as important nowadays. Is that true and what do you think I should do, try to put backlinks to my website on other websites or not ?
    Thanks for your time.

    • Hi Dejan,

      This is an excellent question. You are certainly correct that this is a highly debated topic. I can’t claim to be an expert on this subject but I will give you my thoughts. If you are able to get legitimate backlinks from reputable, authoritative websites, I believe this has to be highly beneficial for your website. I do not focus on this because it’s difficult to achieve. I suspect this difficulty is what drove website owners in the past to purchase backlinks. This is a highly unethical practice in which I would never engage.

      That said, I have two suggestions for getting a few legitimate backlinks. One is to find a forum that discusses topics related to your niche and participate in the discussions by providing thoughtful responses to forum questions and including relevant links to blog posts on your site that provide additional, useful information on the topic at hand. I participate in Quora. The second possibility is to read blog posts published by authoritative sites in your niche and provide great comments that are approved. My comment does not include links but I do provide the name of my website when I submit my comment.

      I think it might be important to note that my primary purpose in taking the actions above is not to get backlinks. I enjoy responding to questions on Quora when I feel I have something of value to contribute. I also get ideas for blog posts by observing the questions that are asked in the forum. I read posts on authoritative sites because I always pick up knowledge and tips from this practice. The backlinks I’ve received are just a nice bonus.

      I hope this answer helps. Thanks for the great comment and for visiting my site!

  11. Thanks, your article has been a great help. I’ve already implemented some of the things that you have mentioned. I never put much thought into the alt attribute of images, I always rush over it and write anything really. But what you have said makes total sense. My site is about 7 months old and I get very little organic traffic. I keep wanting to give up…but I’m holding in there still hoping!

    • Hi Hollie,

      I’m glad I was able to help. The alt text attribute is very important because Googlebot is not able to see images. Your images should be highly relevant to your article and the alt text attribute should include keywords. Remember, images are indexed in addition to your text. You can always go back to earlier posts, update them, and resubmit them using the Fetch as Google command in your Google Console account.

      Most importantly, please don’t give up. Keep publishing, follow the steps in this guide, and your results will improve. It can be hard but you’re worth it! Good luck!

    • Hi Latricia,
      Organic traffic from the search engines is a fabulous source of free traffic for your website. It makes sense, right? Readers find you because they’re searching for specific topics or answers to questions. In general, traffic supplied by search engines tends to be far more targeted than social media traffic. Improving your rankings in Google won’t happen overnight but these tips will definitely help if you apply these practices consistently.

      Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

  12. Fantastic post, Linda. This really breaks things down and simplifies the whole concept. I think people are still scared of “SEO” and choose to ignore it, or they read silly reports and tutorials that won’t benefit their sites in the long-term. This should help!

    • Hi Max,
      Thanks for adding your insights. SEO can seem like a daunting task for new website owners. But there are some basic principles that can’t be ignored. Following the steps in this tutorial with each post is an excellent long-term strategy that will get your site noticed. Best wishes to you!


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