SEO Basics: The Complete Guide to SEO for Beginners

SEO basics written on sticky notes behind a computer that says SEO

    In Brief:

  • SEO is a crucial component of digital marketing these days.

  • Understanding SEO basics can help give your business a strong competitive edge.

  • We examine the SEO basics in detail below to help you better understand this digital marketing discipline!

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a term that’s often thrown around but little understood by those new to digital marketing. Like many types of digital marketing, it sounds quite complex, almost like a whole other language at times!

Fortunately, SEO is much easier to understand than most people realize. This SEO basics guide offers a detailed look at SEO for beginners in a way that makes it simple to understand. We break down SEO into three types – onpage, offpage, and technical – to make it easy to grasp as well as explore some SEO tips for beginners. 

Ready to get started? Check out our complete SEO basics guide below!

What is SEO?

First off: just what is SEO? Why is it so important in the world of digital marketing?

SEO is the practice of increasing both the quantity and quality of website traffic to a website through organic search. Unlike paid advertising, in which companies place paid ads for prime placement atop the search results page for Google and other search engines, SEO focuses on boosting traffic without having to pay through a number of methods.

These methods are broken down into three areas of focus: onpage SEO, offpage SEO, and technical SEO. 

Onpage SEO deals with optimizing a website’s content for both search engines and users, while offpage SEO is concerned with promoting a website via link building and social media. Technical SEO, meanwhile, is focused on ensuring that a website is well-optimized from a technical perspective to increase its traffic from organic search. 

SEO is crucial in digital marketing because it allows companies to drive qualified traffic and leads to their website without having to pay for it with paid advertising. Overall, this makes SEO a very cost-effective way to increase website traffic, grow brand exposure, and boost sales. 

We explore all the SEO basics behind all of these three areas below in detail!

Chart with SEO terms

Onpage SEO

Understanding onpage SEO is a key factor in mastering SEO basics. Onpage SEO deals with optimizing a website’s content for search engines like Google and users alike. 

So, let’s break down the elements of onpage SEO basics further!

Keyword Research and Optimization 

Keyword research and optimization forms the crux of onpage SEO. Try using tools like the Google Ads Keyword Planner to discover relevant, useful keywords to work into your meta tags, HTML header tags, and content using SEO best practices. 

Confused? Don’t worry. We explore all of these terms in detail below! 

Meta Tags

A critical element of SEO basics is understanding what meta tags are and how they work. Also known as metadata, these are short snippets of text that consist of title tags and meta descriptions. They don’t appear on your site itself, but rather in the search engine results page as a way to describe your website to users. 

Title tags act as headlines for your site, while meta descriptions serve as quick blurbs that describe it further. Use SEO best practices when writing your meta tags by front-loading them with relevant keywords and keeping them within the suggested character limit. 

HTML Header Tags

Short for Hyper Text Markup Language, HTML is a form of coding that serves as the building blocks of a website. 

When creating a site, or a blog post or article in particular, be sure to include keywords in your H1 tag, which functions as a headline for both your users and for search engines. Put your content subheaders as H2 tags and try to include keywords in them for SEO best practices. 

Content Optimization

As Bill Gates famously said, “content is king.” 

True still today, something else to take into account for SEO for beginners is making sure your website content itself is well-optimized and crafted with SEO best practices. 

This means including keywords within the content itself, though at a percentage of roughly 1-2% per 100 words to avoid any keyword stuffing penalties from Google. It’s also a good idea to drop your primary keyword within the first 100 words of your content, break your content into clearly-defined subsections and brief paragraphs, use bullet points and numbered lists, and write more long-form content to drive traffic and increase in search engine rankings. 

Alt Attributes

Another component of SEO basics is understanding image optimization, an often-overlooked but important source of traffic. As Google and other search engines can determine what images are visually, they need text to describe it to them, often known as alt text.

This represents a prime opportunity to drive traffic to your site by optimizing any image alt text with relevant keywords and making each image’s file-name keyword-rich too, though it’s important not to “overstuff” them with too many keywords. 

URL Optimization 

No one likes to remember those sloppy, mind-boggling URLs that consist of seemingly-random characters. 

Something else to keep in mind when it comes to onpage SEO basics is URL optimization. Be sure that your website’s URLs are short and descriptive to adhere to SEO best practices, and avoid URLs that are too long, complicated, or have random letters, numbers, or symbols in them. 

Internal Linking 

Understanding internal linking is also crucial for SEO for beginners. 

Internal linking simply means linking from one of your site’s web pages to another one. Sometimes overlooked, it’s a great way to help users navigate your site effectively, pass authority from more established pages to newer ones, and to organize your content in an intuitive way. 

User Experience (UX)

Having a strong grasp of SEO basics also means understanding UX these days.

Let’s say you wrote great content and have acquired relevant backlinks for your site, but the design is messy and confusing. Guess what? All that great content and backlink building goes right out the door!

Optimize your website’s UX by making sure it’s clean and simple visually, has clear calls-to-action (CTAs), minimizes distractions, has a clear and intuitive navigation structure, and is well-tailored to your target audience. 

Offpage SEO

Offpage SEO basics are also something that every digital marketer should strive to understand well. Offpage SEO plays a crucial factor in search engine optimization overall, as it helps websites build traffic and gain rankings through various strategies that promote them online. 

Interested? Learn more below!

Link Building

Link building, the process of getting other websites to link to your own, is crucial for SEO success. Having high-quality, relevant sites link to your own site is, in the eyes of search engines like Google, an endorsement of sorts that can ultimately help boost your traffic and keyword rankings. 

You can build links through strategies such as guest posting on other websites, finding broken links and asking webmasters to fix them, commenting on forums and blogs, and submitting your website to online directories and other resource pages. 

Social Media 

Social media can play a key role in promoting your website. Be sure to create social media profiles on channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to promote your website content, grow your brand, reach new audiences, and reach out to social media influencers you can leverage to bring more attention to your website. 

Social media marketing terms

Technical SEO

Technical SEO is a sometimes overlooked yet critical area of search engine optimization. While onpage SEO deals with how a website’s content looks and offpage SEO focuses on attracting attention to a website, technical SEO, as its name suggests, deals with a website’s technical structure and how well-optimized it is for search engines like Google to crawl, index, and rank. 

Sound confusing? Don’t worry – it’s easier than you think! Find out more about technical SEO for beginners below. 


Ensuring that Google can crawl and index your website is very important if you’re looking to rank for keywords and gain traffic. Always perform technical audits of your website to ensure that there’s no coding, such as robots.txt or noindex tags, that prevent Google from crawling and indexing your site, and that your website itself has no errors and runs well technically. 

Looking at data from Google Search Console and using internal linking best practices can help you ensure that your website’s crawlability is sound. 

XML Sitemaps

XML sitemaps act as roadmaps for search engines like Google, helping them find your website pages efficiently. Creating one and submitting it to Google Search Console, especially after a major update or full website relaunch, can help Google find and index your web pages faster and more effectively. 

Page Speed

Page speed is actually an important factor in Google’s ranking algorithms these days, giving a boost to faster sites. You can see how fast your website is with tools like Google PageSpeed Insights and take steps to make it faster by minifying your HTML, CSS, and Javascript coding, optimizing images, reducing redirects, and removing any unnecessary plugins or coding that can slow your site down. 


Understanding SEO basics also means understanding the importance of optimizing for mobile!

As mobile traffic makes up the bulk of web traffic in this day and age, having a mobile-friendly website is crucial. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly using the Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool and take steps to optimize for mobile search, such as using a mobile-friendly website theme, improving your site’s loading times, and creating an app. 


Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates are data files that establish an encrypted link between a web server and a browser, ensuring that all data passed between them is private. Always get SSL for your site, especially if you plan on conducting eCommerce, to ensure that all data is protected and secure. 

Duplicate Content 

Duplicate content arises when your website has several pages that are very similar in terms of content, which can hurt your SEO efforts by confusing search engines like Google. Try to remove any duplicate content if possible, or at least use canonical tags to tell Google which version of the page should be crawled and indexed. 


Simply put, schema, also known as structured data or rich snippets, is a type of special code added to a web page that helps search engines understand it better. Implementing schema can be done using the Google Structured Data Markup Helper tool and can help drive traffic to your site from Google’s search results pages.

Understand the SEO Basics to Succeed in Digital Marketing! 

Now that you understand SEO basics, you can better succeed in digital marketing! Having a strong grasp of SEO for beginners is crucial for laying the groundwork for a successful website. The best way to understand SEO even better is to get out there and start doing it yourself. 

Best of luck in the wide world of SEO!