SEO 101: Getting Started

In 2011, my friend and I launched our first blog about vintage cars. Despite engaging posts and stunning photos, our site remained deserted, while similar blogs flourished. Fast forward to today, our once-forgotten blog has transformed into a thriving hub for vintage car enthusiasts, thanks to search engine optimisation (SEO).

Initially, I was puzzled by our content’s lack of visibility. Then I discovered that writing quality content is only half the battle; ensuring the right people find it is equally crucial. SEO seems daunting initially, with algorithms, keywords, and meta tags seeming like a foreign language. However, it’s a language you can learn.

This guide aims to demystify SEO for beginners and share lessons from my journey. From comprehending search engine workings to unravelling keyword research mysteries, I’ll provide a crash course in the art and science of SEO. So, buckle up and prepare to dive into the world of SEO – the secret weapon for unlocking your content’s full potential.

What is SEO?

SEO is a strategy for increasing your website’s visibility in search engine results.

When I was trying to understand SEO, I imagined myself in the world’s most expansive library. That’s what comes to mind when I think about the internet. Search engines, acting as omniscient librarians, are the guides through this endless maze of information.

You ask a question, and they lead you to the most relevant books – or in this case, websites. But how do they decide which ‘book’ answers your question best? They use hints or ‘signals,’ like your website’s content, its popularity with other sites, and how user-friendly it is.

So, why should you care to be one of the librarian’s top recommendations? Here’s why: Studies reveal that the first five organic results on Google’s search engine page results (SERPs) snatch a whopping 67% of all clicks – over two-thirds of the audience. That’s the power of visibility.

But it’s not just about drawing a crowd; it’s about pulling in the right people. Effective SEO practices ensure that your website speaks directly to those genuinely interested in what you offer. If you run a bakery in Melbourne, good SEO makes you the star when someone searches for ‘good bakery Melbourne.’

That, in a nutshell, is SEO. It’s a strategy to improve both the quantity and quality of your website traffic by making your site more visible and appealing to search engines.

How does SEO work?

Google and Bing use digital explorers (crawlers) to trawl the internet. They start at one web page, then hop from link to link, gathering information and understanding each page’s unique story. The digital map they create is called an index. When you drop a question into the search box, search engines scramble to find the most useful and precise answers in their vast index. Here’s where SEO steps in.

SEO seeks to improve your website’s ranking on SERPs so that it appears higher in organic (non-paid) search results when users search for keywords related to your business or industry. To achieve this, two main aspects of SEO are vital: on-page SEO and off-page SEO.

  1. On-page SEO

    This refers to all the measures that can be taken directly within your website to improve its position in search rankings, like the following:

    • Keyword research: The first step in on-page SEO is keyword research. Keywords are words or phrases users type into search engines when looking for something. They’re the digital clues that lead users to your website.
    • Title tags: The next piece of the puzzle is title tags. Title tags are HTML elements that specify the title of a web page and are displayed on search engine results pages as the clickable headline.
    • Meta descriptions: Meta descriptions are like little billboards for your web page. They’re short summaries that appear below the title on a search engine results page. They help users decide whether or not to click on your site.
    • Content optimisation: Finally, there’s content optimisation. This means creating high-quality content with your audience and search engines in mind. The goal is to provide valuable information that also incorporates your targeted keywords.

    In essence, on-page SEO is about making your website as user-friendly and relevant as possible, which in turn makes it more appealing to search engines. With careful attention to keyword research, title tags, meta descriptions, and content optimisation, you’ll be well on your way to enhancing your site’s visibility and ranking.

  2. Off-page SEO

    While on-page SEO involves elements on your website that you can control, off-page SEO focuses on increasing the authority of your domain through the following:

    • Link building: First up is link building, which is, quite literally, the process of getting other websites to link back to your site. Consider backlinks as votes of confidence – when a site cites yours and directs users to your content, it signals to search engines that your content is reliable and valuable. However, not all backlinks are created equal. For instance, a link from a well-respected, authoritative site in your industry will have a lot more weight than a link from a small, relatively unknown blog. It’s about quality, not just quantity.
    • Social media: Next up is social media. While social media doesn’t directly impact SEO, it can help boost brand visibility. Sharing links across platforms enhances exposure and attracts a larger audience, leading to more views and interactions with your content. As more people share your content across social media, it can drive traffic to your site, encourage more engagement, and increase the chances of earning natural backlinks. It’s more of an indirect benefit, but it’s still an important part of an off-page SEO strategy.
    • Guest blogging: Finally, there’s guest blogging. This is when you write an article for another website in your industry. Not only does it get your brand in front of a larger audience, but it can also help you earn valuable backlinks.

    In essence, off-page SEO is about building relationships and reputation. It’s about demonstrating to search engines that you’re a trusted authority in your field and that other websites recognise and appreciate the value you provide.

    Thus, managing your link-building, social media, and guest blogging efforts is crucial. Doing these can significantly improve your off-page SEO and, in turn, your search ranking.

SEO tools

There are numerous SEO tools available to help you analyse and optimise your website. These tools can provide invaluable insights into your website’s performance, identify opportunities for improvement, and uncover any issues hindering your site’s visibility in search engine results.

Here are some of these tools:

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console
  • SEMrush
  • Moz Pro
  • Yoast SEO
  • Ahrefs

Remember, while all these tools can provide valuable insights, they don’t do the SEO work for you. They should be used as part of a larger strategy to understand your website’s SEO performance and identify areas for improvement. Each of these tools offers different functionalities, so it’s worth taking the time to explore each one and decide which tools best suit your needs.

SEO tips

When I started my SEO journey, there were a few missteps that I realised later could have been avoided. What can I say? I was impatient. But I sought out SEO experts, read their works, and talked with some of them.

They had a lot to say about how I handled our site’s SEO. And in the end, their tips, which I’m sharing below, helped guide me towards understanding SEO.

Here’s what I learned from them:

  • Understand your audience. Understand your audience and what they’re searching for. What questions do they have? What problems can you help them solve? Your SEO efforts should always start with understanding and empathising with your audience.
  • Prioritise quality over quantity. Quality is more important than quantity. A well-researched, comprehensive article that fully covers a topic is much more valuable to both your users and search engines than several shorter, less detailed posts.
  • Learn the basics of keyword research. Keywords are the foundation of SEO. Understand what keywords your audience uses and how competitive they are. There are various tools you can use to help with this.
  • Keep your website mobile-friendly. As of the first quarter of 2023, more than 58% of all web traffic is from mobile devices. Google also follows a mobile-first indexing approach, meaning it predominantly uses the mobile version of your site for indexing and ranking. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, it can severely impact your SEO.
  • Use SEO tools to your advantage. Tools can provide invaluable insights. Use these tools to guide your SEO strategy, but remember, they can’t replace a strong understanding of SEO principles.
  • Keep learning and adapting. SEO constantly changes as search engines update their algorithms and user behaviour evolves. Stay updated with the latest SEO news and trends and be ready to adapt. Remember, it’s a long-term game.

Don’t let SEO intimidate you. With patience, persistence, and a lot of learning, SEO can yield significant benefits for your website and your business.

SEO case studies

SEO case studies are real-life scenarios demonstrating how businesses enhance their website rankings and traffic through SEO. They are gold mines for companies wanting to boost their SEO performance.

A standard SEO case study includes the business’s SEO objectives, the implemented SEO strategies, the campaign’s results, and the insights gained from the campaign. With these, you get a better understanding of available SEO strategies, their potential outcomes, and the challenges experienced during SEO implementation.

In particular, the key benefits of exploring SEO case studies include:

  • Knowledge about various SEO strategies and their outcomes
  • Insights into successful and unsuccessful SEO strategies
  • Inspiration for your own SEO campaigns
  • Ways to avoid prevalent SEO errors

If enhancing your website’s ranking and traffic is the goal, delving into SEO case studies is an excellent first step. You can find comprehensive case studies at SEO agency websites, regularly updated SEO blogs, SEO conferences, and SEO-focused books.

When choosing SEO case studies to read, consider their relevance to your business and industry, their quality and informativeness, and the credibility of the source. By adhering to these guidelines, SEO case studies can guide you in elevating your website’s search engine ranking and traffic.

SEO resources

Resources are essential for anyone looking to dive deeper into SEO. Here are some I highly recommend:

  1. Google’s SEO Starter Guide: This is a detailed guide from Google, perfect for beginners, that encompasses everything from search engine functioning to performance tracking.
  2. Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO: A well-regarded SEO industry source, Moz’s guide covers all SEO fundamentals in an easy-to-understand manner.
  3. Yoast SEO Blog: Beyond their popular WordPress SEO plugin, Yoast’s blog offers valuable insights on technical SEO, content SEO, and analytics.
  4. SEMrush Blog: If you’re ready to delve deeper into SEO, SEMrush’s blog offers articles on advanced topics.
  5. Search Engine Journal: This is a comprehensive SEO resource with deep-dive articles, guides, webinars, and podcasts.
  6. SEO podcasts: Continual SEO learning is made easy with podcasts featuring industry experts discussing varied SEO topics.
  7. Online SEO courses: Several top-notch (often free) online SEO courses exist. Don’t miss Moz’s Free SEO Learning Center, SEMrush’s SEO Toolkit Course, and Coursera’s SEO Specialization.

Remember, SEO is a vast and ever-evolving field, and the best way to stay on top of it is to keep learning and experimenting. These resources should give you a solid foundation to build upon and keep you up to date with the latest SEO best practices and trends.


Mastering SEO is essential for improving your website’s visibility and attracting the right audience. By understanding search engine algorithms, conducting keyword research, optimising on-page elements, building quality backlinks, and staying updated with SEO trends, you can enhance your website’s ranking and traffic.

Remember to prioritise quality content, embrace mobile-friendliness, utilise SEO tools wisely, and avoid common SEO myths. With persistence, adaptability, and continuous learning, SEO can yield significant long-term benefits for your online presence and business success.