SEO For Beginners: A Practical Guide (2022)

This is the practical guide to SEO for beginners this year.

In this guide, you will learn

  • What is SEO
  • How SEO works
  • How to tell if SEO is a good fit for your business
  • What it costs
  • How to measure results

In fact, if you are starting your career in SEO, this guide will clear your vision about search engine optimization.

Without further ado,

Let’s get started.

SEO For Beginners
SEO For Beginners: A Practical Guide

SEO For Beginners: A Practical Guide (2022)

What Is SEO?

The primary function of SEO is to make targeted pages of your website rank highly in Google’s search results when people are searching for what you sell. 

Google processes billions of searches every day and is a popular starting point for consumers and business buyers looking for almost any product or service imaginable. 

Given the unmatched size and breadth of the Google marketplace, many businesses see SEO as a potentially enormous source of sales leads or new e-commerce revenue. 

Although other search engines can be targeted in an SEO campaign, this article focuses exclusively on Google because it holds more than 90% market share of mobile and desktop search in the U.S. Thus, if your SEO campaign works on Google, it will work!

What Is the Goal of SEO?

The goal of SEO varies slightly depending on whether you are looking for sales leads or have an e-commerce website and are looking for online orders. 

In both cases, the first objective of SEO is to drive traffic to your website by having Google users click on the link to your website page that appears in a SERP (search engine results page). 

This is referred to as organic search traffic. (The other type of search engine traffic is paid search traffic, which occurs when people click on a company’s ad that displays in a SERP.)

If the only goal is to generate greater and greater amounts of organic traffic, SEO would not be a very good investment. Far more important is converting that organic traffic into either a sales lead or a new e-commerce customer. 

(For SEO purposes, a conversion is defined as a phone inquiry or submission of a website inquiry form resulting from an organic search.)

To illustrate, which would you prefer as an outcome to your SEO campaign?

  1. 10,000 organic visitors to your website and 10 conversions.
  2. 1,000 organic visitors to your website and 30 conversions.

Clearly, 30 new sales leads/30 new online orders produce more ROI than 10, all other things being equal. 

The importance of conversion as the goal of SEO must be kept in mind, as it will shape strategic and tactical decisions about the structure and execution of your SEO campaign.

How Does SEO Work?

When people conduct a search on Google, they enter a search term, such as “green automatic widgets.” These terms are called keywords

After the user enters the search term, Google reviews its index of hundreds of billions of web pages to identify the ones that best match the user’s search query. 

The match Google considers best is ranked #1, the next best is ranked #2, and so forth. 

Rankings are determined by Google’s algorithm, a complex and continually changing formula consisting of hundreds of ranking factors of varying importance. 

With all this in mind, an SEO campaign proceeds along these lines (presented in simplified form):

  1. Keywords are selected for optimization. The best keywords are extremely relevant to what you sell, offer you the potential to rank highly, and have enough search volume to generate a critical mass of sales leads or online revenue.
  2. Clusters of keywords usually revolve around various products or services. For each keyword cluster, a target website page is selected to be optimized. Thus, for all Google searches relating to “green automatic widgets,” a specific page of a website is optimized. That page should be completely dedicated to green automatic widgets. 
  3. Google crawlers, called Googlebots, visit websites regularly to discover, interpret, and help Google update its massive index of web pages. SEO work is done on the company website to make sure the content of target pages and the website as a whole are easy for Google Bots to find and understand. This work is referred to as on-site SEO
  4. The heavy lifting of optimization involves improving overall website and target web page performance as measured by Google’s algorithm. For instance, the most important element of the algorithm is inbound links — that is, links from other high-authority websites pointing to your website. Thus, a great deal of work in an SEO campaign is link building, which primarily consists of off-site SEO work. 
  5. Data from the SEO campaign, often collected from Google Analytics, is analyzed regularly to identify problems that arise and to continually improve the campaign. For instance, target page A may be producing 20 leads, while target page B is producing 5. Efforts would then be made to put more emphasis on A and develop new tactics for B. 

Will SEO Work for Your Company?

With an adequate budget and good execution, SEO works for a vast number of companies. 

Here are important areas to evaluate when deciding whether to launch an SEO campaign.

1) The SEO-readiness of your website:

If your website has issues that prevent Google from crawling and indexing your site, they must be fixed before the campaign begins. Some fixes are simple and inexpensive, but others are costly and time-consuming. 

For instance, content quality is critically important for high rankings. If a great deal of new content must be created and/or existing content extensively rewritten, the cost may be considerable. 

Other issues relating to technical SEO, such as a website residing on an SEO-unfriendly CMS, poor URL structure, or slow-loading pages, may require extensive site redevelopment or even the creation of a completely new website. 

2) The competitive environment:

Are you up against large competitors with deep pockets? If so, you may not have the budget to improve your rankings to achieve a critical mass of conversions. 

However, strategies do exist to overcome this problem, such as focusing on long tail keywords — that is, niche search terms that are less competitive but have high conversion potential.

3) Search volume:

If you’re in a business where search volume is low, you are again faced with the problem of too little conversion potential. 

This obstacle explains why SEO is usually not a good fit for products or services that are radically new and/or have a very small and specific target audience. 

4) Budget:

Effective SEO campaigns are highly customized, because every company has a different starting point relative to the three issues just mentioned. 

Customization requires extensive keyword research, technical expertise, and SEO campaign management experience. And these do not come cheap! 

Furthermore, some SEO work is very labor-intensive. For instance, a common and highly effective link building technique is publishing original off-site articles with links pointing back to the company website. This work requires creative skill and content marketing expertise. 

Don’t expect SEO results on a budget of a few hundred dollars a month — and don’t expect results to come within a few weeks. Most SEO campaigns take several months or even a year to really get rolling. 

Measuring SEO Results

While monitoring the progress of rankings and traffic is useful, evaluating an SEO campaign depends more on measuring conversions, because those sales leads or online orders produce SEO ROI

A competent SEO company sets up proper lead tracking or order tracking to enable it to see, as clearly as possible, how many leads or orders originated from organic search traffic. 

For e-commerce companies, order tracking is more straightforward, in that the value of an order, in terms of revenue and profit, can be specifically measured. 

For lead generation SEO campaigns, tracking must be taken a step further. The SEO campaign can identify the lead, but what happens to the lead is beyond the scope of an SEO campaign. 

Be sure your sales team is well trained and effective in turning those SEO leads into customers.  

Beyond producing conversions, an SEO campaign has other benefits of great importance to many companies. 

High organic rankings give a company credibility, whereas invisibility in organic searches leads potential customers to be skeptical. 

High rankings also extend brand awareness and as a result generate traffic and conversions indirectly. 

Finally, off-site link building efforts that involve article writing (discussed earlier) expose your business to large, new, and relevant audiences, further improving brand awareness and brand image. 

If every dollar of your marketing budget matters, considering the overall value of SEO is extremely important. 


I hope the SEO for beginners guide will solve your problems.

Now, I want to hear from you

What would you like to start first?

Is it On- Page SEO or Off Page SEO?

Please, let me know in the comment.

Brad Shorr

Brad Shorr is Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, a Chicago-based Internet marketing company that specializes in SEO. With decades of marketing, sales, and management experience.

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