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SEO basics for beginners

Whether you’re new to search engine optimization or just need a little refresher, this beginner’s guide will quickly get you back up to speed on the SEO basics.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) comprises all measures necessary to increase the visibility of a website in the organic search results of search engines such as Google or Bing. The goal of SEO is to grow the number of qualified visitors to a website. To this end, search engine optimization tactics aim to create the technically best website with the best content within the competition.

After all, search engine optimization is primarily focused on meeting a user need. In short, search engine optimization means: What is good for your users is also good for search engines.

You can measure the success of SEO activities using indicators such as visibility, visitor numbers, and return on investment (ROI).

SEO as part of search engine marketing

SEO is one of two disciplines of search engine marketing (SEM). Search engine marketing is part of online marketing and aims to increase the visibility of a website in the SERPs. The other part of SEM is search engine advertising (SEA).

The basic difference between SEO and SEA is that advertisers have to pay directly for visibility via SEA, i.e. clicks on search ads, while clicks on organic search are free and good organic rankings depend on algorithms.

With that said, SEO is not necessarily “free.” Even if you don’t invest a budget in SEO services or tools, you’ll need time and resources for search engine optimization.

SEO is a process

Newcomers often assume that SEO is a one-time affair. Once optimized, the website should then achieve permanently good rankings. But in fact, search engine optimization means continuous work on the website. And there are two central reasons for this:

#1 Search behavior and search engines are constantly changing

Search engines use user behavior to evaluate website quality, determine rankings, and present search results. For example, search engines take into account whether a user quickly returns to the search results after clicking on a website (return-to-SERP rate) and use bounce rates and dwell times to check how user-friendly a website is. This is one of the reasons why it’s important to focus on optimizing for users and not for the search engine themselves.

The changing search behavior of users affects how search engines evaluate websites and rank them. One example: In recent years, the ratio of mobile users to desktop users has reversed. More than half of Internet users do so on mobile. For this reason, Google has introduced mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor and checks whether your website is “mobile-friendly”.

#2: Your competitors also do SEO

When you start with SEO, you should always keep in mind that you are not the only one doing SEO. If you stay at a certain optimization level and don’t regularly adapt the content or the technology of your website to the user needs, you will lose out in the long term.

To motivate you, here is another big plus of search engine optimization: it is a very cost-efficient part of online marketing. For example, you don’t pay per click or conversion as you do with search engine advertising (SEA), but in the best case, you can take care of SEO yourself. SEO is not magic, but a craft that requires experience and continuity.

How do search engines work?

Search engines aim to provide users with the exact information that satisfies their search query. A search engine requires two steps for this: First, web pages are crawled and indexed, then the search engine delivers relevant answers based on its index in the form of so-called “snippets” in the search results. By the way, these results are called “organic” search results. They stand out from the paid search ads.

Indexing and Crawling

Crawling is the process by which search engines discover and capture new and updated content on websites. A crawler also called a bot or spider, “crawls” the continuously WWW, for example by following links in the source code of websites.

As soon as the crawler reaches a website, it looks for the robots.txt file. This file tells the crawler which parts of the website may be crawled and which may not. Subsequently, only the areas that have been specified in robots.txt are crawled. As a rule, the crawler then saves the content of the page if it does not find any duplicate content in the process and assumes that the website will improve the search results. This saving process is also called indexing. The result of crawling and indexing is a huge collection of data that search engines use to deliver relevant search results to users.

Provide relevant results and answers

When a user types in a search query, the search engine immediately queries its index for matching information. The results are displayed on the search engine result pages (SERPs) in descending relevance. Relevance and rankings of the individual results are determined by the search engine used and its algorithms (=ranking algorithms).

Search engines keep the algorithms secret so that no one can manipulate their rankings. However, some of these ranking factors have been clearly named by search engine providers. These include loading speed, incoming links, website quality, and page experience with its Core Web Vitals.

Why is SEO important?

In the simplest sense, SEO helps qualified users find your website. “Qualified” means that your visitors are really looking for what you offer. Without search engine optimization, websites might not be found at all or might be found by the wrong target group. SEO targets websites to user need and makes them a fundamental part of any digital marketing mix.

In addition, SEO has other positive side effects. If you’re not quite convinced yet, here are some additional reasons why you should start with search engine optimization:

  • Credibility – Users trust search engines to provide them with authoritative answers. Ranking high signals to users that your website is a credible source.

  • Traffic – The general rule of thumb is that the higher your website ranks, the more clicks and traffic your website will receive.

  • ROI – SEO is a cost-effective way to generate leads. SEA, like pay-per-click in general, provides short-term, costly solutions to drive traffic to your site. SEO, on the other hand, can be an inexpensive and long-term way to drive qualified traffic to your webpage.

  • Customer Insights – SEO activities, such as keyword research, can provide valuable insights into your customer. It can help define your target audience, determine their interests and understand their needs.

  • Branding – Not only does SEO help build a stronger brand presence online, but it also improves the user experience, and therefore, brand image.

SEO techniques and methods

Within search engine optimization there are two main directions: White Hat and Black Hat SEO. Likewise, there are two basic types of SEO: OnPage and OffPage optimization. If you are a prudent marketer, you will naturally rely on White Hat SEO while using both OnPage and OffPage tactics. Because this variant agrees with the quality guidelines of the search engines (e.g. Google Webmaster Guidelines) and puts the user need in the center. White Hat is thus the “standard” of search engine optimization. This is because, due to the ever-improving algorithms of search engines such as Google, there is no longer any way for black hat tactics to succeed in the search results in the long term.

For example, Google quickly uncovers keyword stuffing, hidden texts or links, backlinks from link farms, comment spam, or doorway pages, and supposed quick successes in the SERPs will quickly be gone.

Best practices in search engine optimization, therefore, include the following:

  • Conduct keyword research to determine the keywords that align with your users’ needs.

  • Create unique content that meets the search queries of your users.

  • Include the central keyword in the title tag, body text, URL, ALT tags, and anchor texts of internal links.

  • Use relevant keywords in the body text.

  • Make sure that the meta description and title are clear and precise and encourage the user to click on the search result.

  • Make sure that your URL structure is built in such a way that users can easily navigate your site.

OnPage SEO

OnPage SEO focuses on the optimization possibilities of your own website. By improving various components of your site, search engines can find, index, and rank your content more easily.

Done correctly, OnPage SEO can significantly improve the user experience and ultimately lead to better rankings in the SERPs.

You should consider the following basics when doing OnPage optimization:

  • Page Architecture and Internal Linking
    – Ensure that anchor texts are the same if they have the same link
    – Try to avoid more than 100-200 internal links on your website

  • Indexing and Cache
    – Make sure your robots.txt file and XML sitemap are in the root directory
    – Think mobile first! Ensure that your website experience is optimized for mobile devices

  • Loading Time
    – Make sure your pages are fully loaded in three seconds or less. The loading time is very important for the user experience and for mobile search.

  • OnPage Check
    – Create unique and meaningful page titles with a maximum of 75 characters.
    – Add a meta description to each URL.
    – Use only one h1 tag per page.
    – Add relevant ALT tags to images.

  • Status Codes and Redirects
    – Ensure that your website does not show 4xx or 5xx status codes.
    – Check to see if your website has 302 redirects if so it is advisable to use 301 redirects instead, as 301 redirects transfer the search engine value and ranking to the new page.

  • Content
    – Ensure your content is unique, especially above the fold
    – Avoid duplicate content

OffPage SEO

OffPage optimization aims to increase the reputation of a website. Backlinks are mainly used for this purpose. These are links from other websites to your own pages. For search engines, backlinks are similar to recommendations, which can indicate high-quality content. For this reason, high-quality backlinks can ensure better rankings.

Basically, two different types of backlinks can be distinguished: Organic backlinks and links generated through link building. Link building refers to measures with which you can build backlinks.

Whether an incoming link is “good” can be determined by many different factors. One quality characteristic is the so-called link juice, which a link passes on to its target page. A synonym for this is also Pagerank or Link Equity.

The quality of a backlink is influenced by, among other things:

  • The domain authority of the linking page (How well is the page itself linked?)

  • The domain popularity of the linking page (How many outbound links from different domains does the page have?)

  • The IP popularity of the linking page (How many incoming links from unique IPs does the page receive?)
    The age of the link

  • The anchor text of the link

  • The topic relevance of the target page to the linking page

Besides backlinks, there are other aspects to OffPage SEO. These are for example guest blogs, influencer marketing or social media marketing. In fact, you can consider all mentions of your brand outside your own website as OffPage SEO.

Your SEO Mantra:

  • Use a content management system.

  • Make sure that your website contains a security certificate (HTTPS).

  • Provide an XML sitemap.

  • Make sure that your server supports the If-Modified-Since HTTP header.

  • Optimize the crawl budget of the Googlebot by providing a robots.txt file.

  • Create web pages for users, not for search engines.

  • Create a clear and logical page hierarchy.

  • Monitor your website for user spam and hacking.

  • Invest in good web design.

  • Create comprehensive and high quality content.

  • Create comprehensive content that optimally fulfills the user needs in relation to the selected keywords.
    Apply OnPage measures.

  • Make sure that all links lead to valid HTML.

  • Use text as text and not in images so that Google can read the content.

  • Make sure your website is optimized for mobile devices, tablets and desktops.

Don’ts of search engine optimization

These are the techniques you should avoid at all costs if you want your website to rank well in search engines and meet the user needs of your target audience:

  • Black Hat SEO methods

  • Links to inaccessible web pages (404 pages)

  • Automatically generated content

  • Stolen content

  • Unnatural links

  • Irrelevant keywords

  • Hidden content

Free SEO Tools

In addition to the usual measures, regular analysis and control of your website is an important prerequisite for long-term success. Because only in this way you can best understand errors and optimize all areas perfectly.

Here you will find practical tools from Ryte that will help you in your daily SEO work.

  • RYTE Website Checker
    The Website Checker from Ryte provides an overview of outstanding optimization opportunities on your website.

  • Robots.txt Checker
    With the Robots.txt generator, you can easily create a robots.txt file. The tool also shows you whether the bot can crawl different directories.

  • Duplicate Content Checker
    This tool helps you to determine whether content is already used on another URL of your website. This way you avoid duplicate content.

  • Google Snippet Optimizer
    Google snippets are often users’ first impression of your website. Use this Google Snippet Optimizer to optimize the title and meta description of your snippet on different devices.

  • Website Check
    With Ryte Free Account you can check if your website is “healthy.” The free version checks up to 100 URLs, shows critical errors, and includes 5 TF*IDF analyses per month so you can optimize your content.


Through the higher rankings, you will receive more qualified visitors, who in turn will provide for purchases or inquiries. Therefore, SEO should always be an elementary part of a digital marketing strategy.

This little guide should only give you a first insight into the world of SEO. To learn more about the specific characteristics of search engine optimization, you should also keep an eye on the following terms. They are among the top topics in the SEO scene:

  • Local SEO
    Local SEO includes measures to bring retail stores and local businesses to the front, especially in local Google searches.

  • Images SEO
    This SEO discipline deals with the optimization of images for Google image search and organic search hits.

  • Video SEO
    In this area, marketers and SEOs try to achieve particularly good rankings with videos on YouTube as well as in the video search on Google.

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Published on Jul 14, 2021 by Philipp Roos