There are many nuances and technical approaches to optimization, but SEO fundamentals are surprisingly simple.

If you spend your days teasing apart the SEO impact of each Google update and algorithm, you might find this material very helpful for training new staff since it strips away the nuance and stresses just the basics.

8 SEO fundamentals for newbies

If you’re new to the subject, this quick-start guide will give you all the SEO fundamentals you need to begin.

1. Perform keyword research

A single word or phrase, like “real estate,” is not only highly competitive but too vague to be meaningful. You can attract a much more specific target market with less competition using long-tail keywords like “buy your first home” or “evaluate investment property.”

It’s crucial to choose keyword phrases that are:

  • Relevant to your business
  • Popular; there’s no point ranking for phrases no one is using
  • Achievable for your business to rank against your competition
  • Specific to your target market

The most critical skill in choosing keywords is to understand how people search — the language your customers use to describe what they’re looking for could be very different from the language you would use as an insider.

For instance, a florist needs to know whether people are more likely to search for:

  • Florist
  • Floral arrangements
  • Flower delivery
  • Deliver flowers
  • One dozen roses

There are many free keyword tools available to help you find the perfect keywords and phrases. Google Trends is a simple tool that lets you compare options side-by-side to see which terms are more popular. Google Ads Keyword Planner is a more powerful tool that will suggest long-tail keywords based on your entries. It also tells you how popular and competitive each phrase is.

There are many other low-cost keyword tools, like RankTracker and Keywords Everywhere, that you can use to discover and research keyword ideas.

2. Make the title count

The first place you want to use your keyword is in the headline of your content — preferably near the beginning.

The headline will appear in search results and social media shares, so it should be vibrant, concise, and firmly focused on your keyword or phrase. However, the title needs to represent the content accurately. Make sure your headline doesn’t overpromise or mislead the reader.

3. Use your keyword early

One of the most basic but essential SEO fundamentals that, surprisingly, often gets overlooked is having your keyword in the introduction to your content — ideally in the first sentence. You want to let people (and search engines) know what your post is about as early as possible. Internet readers don’t have the attention span for meandering introductions.

If you choose to open with a strong quote or statistic and can’t get your keyword in the first sentence, try to get it into the beginning of the second sentence.

4. Headings are important for SEO

Search engines and readers alike will skim your heading structure to understand what information is included. Use H2 headers to separate the key elements of your post and H3 and smaller headers to subdivide your content as needed.

Your keyword phrase should appear in at least one heading if you can make it feel natural. (Are you sensing a theme here? Search engines are constantly being refined to think more like humans, so you can’t go wrong if you write for humans first and robots second.)

5. Sprinkle keywords throughout the text

When it comes to SEO fundamentals, using your keyword naturally is crucial to maintaining content quality and readability. Your keywords should be included in the body of your piece multiple times but without keyword stuffing. Cramming the content with awkward repetition is a big turnoff for search engines as well as potential customers.

If you stay focused on creating useful copy that delivers on the promise in your headline, your keyword phrase should flow through the text effortlessly.

6. Internal links create SEO structure

The way you link your pages internally tells search engines which pages you value and what information those pages contain. You’re also helping the search engines understand the full scope of your site and determine which pages are your cornerstone content.

For that reason, you want to make sure you’re linking often to the pages you consider most valuable, using anchor text that reflects that page’s target keyword phrase.

7. Readability matters

Search engines have gotten very good at reading content like a human and knowing which answers will be most appealing to search traffic. In addition, voice search tools are now reading content aloud, so simple language that reads aloud well will be even more highly prized in the future.

To create readable content follow these SEO fundamentals:

  • Keep paragraphs to 100 words or less
  • Break up your copy with subheadings
  • Structure your content thoughtfully
  • Use simple language
  • Keep sentences short
  • Use bulleted lists

8. Extra credit: Tags

If you’re creating content in a format that lets you add tags, you can boost your SEO even further by tagging your images and content. Web designers created alt image tags to display text when an image doesn’t load properly — but they also give clues to search engines. So it’s a good idea to include your keywords in your alt image tags.

Meta description tags let you specify the content description that will appear in search results and other settings — but more importantly, they offer an opportunity to tell search engines exactly what content your page delivers. So summarize your content succinctly, and use your keyword as early in the description as possible.

SEO fundamentals set a strong foundation

SEO is more complex than what we’ve covered here. Google and other search engines are constantly evolving, and keyword strategies evolve along with them. Every time Google updates its algorithm, a flood of new techniques emerge to maximize SEO results. Over the years, the field has developed a great deal of nuance.

However, researching long-tail keywords and using them in vital spots in your content, like your title, introduction, headings, and tags, remains the foundation of on-page SEO optimization.

If you — or your content-creator-in-training — can master these skills and create readable, actionable content that delivers what readers are looking for, you’ll have the skills you need to attract search traffic.

Ready to level up your SEO efforts? Talk to a content specialist about getting high-quality, optimized content for your brand today.