Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a crucial component to digital marketing. The higher a page appears on Google’s results, the more users will visit that website. Put simply, SEO is the way to do that.
For some, SEO is scary and confusing. I should know—when I first started working in SEO, I was overwhelmed with the available information and thought that becoming an expert in the field was impossible.
But you can become a SEO expert. It is possible. Anyone can teach themselves how to use SEO tactics, to drive real results for their websites and for their business.
The key to understanding SEO is to not get bogged down by the various subsets within the field. Many SEO articles talk a lot about how to optimize your content for “RankBrain” (a part of Google’s thinking process) or how to properly distribute “link juice” (which, yes, is an actual thing).
And while these advanced tactics do have their purpose, most of SEO’s value comes from mastering the basics. Once you’re familiar with the basics, you’ll see that SEO isn’t incomprehensible and scary. It’s actually quite instinctive (…and fun!).
In this article, we will discuss:
- What SEO actually is, what are some terms you should be aware of.
- Three main “buckets” of SEO (Technical SEO, On-Page SEO, and Off-Page SEO)
- What the SEO process looks like from start to finish and
- Some additional resources to continue your SEO education
Hopefully you’ll come away with a better understanding of what Search Engine Optimization is, why it’s important, and how you can use it to benefit your site.
What Is SEO?
If you asked 500 SEO specialists the simple question of, “What is SEO,” you would get 500 different answers. And most of them would be right.
Just like “marketing,” “SEO” has one general definition, but can mean something different to anyone who uses it. My personal definition of SEO, for example, is: “The internet is a big place. SEO makes it smaller.”
And Megan Wenzl, Clique Studios Content Marketing Strategist, describes it as, “A long-term process. It mostly involves creating good content.”
In simple terms, Search Engine Optimization is the practice of using organic search results to increase website traffic. SEO is made up of three different “buckets,” and when used correctly, they can bring high-quality traffic to your site. This traffic can result in conversions or sales. When all three buckets work together, you’ve developed a world-class SEO strategy.
The buckets of SEO are:
- Technical SEO
- On-Page SEO
- Off-Page SEO
We’ll get into those buckets in more detail shortly, but first we want to get you to speak like an SEO.
A Glossary of SEO Terms
At Clique Studios, we work with clients whose knowledge of SEO terms and tactics range from very little to relative expertise. But no matter what your level of SEO confidence is, we find that being familiar with some of the essential terms helps everyone speak the same SEO “language,” and therefore, collaborate better on the overall digital strategy.
To help you become more fluent in SEO, I’ve included a glossary of some important SEO terms. This doesn’t include every single SEO term, but it’s a great starting point for anyone looking to learn about the overall process.
Everyday SEO Terms
Terms that an SEO strategist cannot go more than a few hours without hearing referenced:
- Backlink: An incoming hyperlink from one website to your own site. This has incredible value. When a high-authority website links to another page, they are announcing that the other page is an authority on that same topic. Earning backlinks is the ultimate goal of Off-Page SEO.
- Organic Traffic: Traffic achieved through search engine results. This differs from Paid Search, which is search engine traffic driven by paid ads placed on the results page. The purpose of SEO is to drive an increase of organic traffic.
- SERP: Search Engine Results Page. SERP is simply what you see after you make a search on Google or any other search engine.
An example of a SERP (omg look it’s us, such a weird coincidence)
- Domain Rating/DR: Determines the strength of a website’s backlink profile on a logarithmic scale from 0 to 100. It’s determined by ahrefs.com, a tool used for backlink and SEO analysis. It is exponentially easier to raise your DR from 10 to 20 as it is to raise from 50 to 60.
- Domain Authority/DA: The same metric as DR, only determined by Moz.com, a similar tool to ahrefs.
- Anchor Text: the text that appears highlighted in a hypertext link. So when we link to Clique University, the words “Clique University” are the anchor text in this sentence.
Technical SEO Terms
These terms apply to more technical aspects of the SEO process, including many terms that are more familiar to web developers. While they’re not necessarily everyday topics, they’re important to know.
- Dofollow Links: An HTML attribute that allows search bots to follow links from one page to another. Essentially it serves as “credit” for a backlink. If you don’t have a dofollow attribute in place, you won’t be given the same authority recognition.
- Nofollow Links: An HTML attribute that tells search engines to ignore the link (the opposite of dofollow links). These appear frequently in author bios, social media, and message boards. Historically, the nofollow was created as a way to say that a backlink was not to be trusted. However, as of November of 2019, nofollow links are viewed as a sort of “hint” that could provide value as a backlink. On your page source, it would appear as rel=“nofollow.”
- Indexing: When a page has been “indexed” it will appear on a SERP. This happens automatically on all search engines, though submitting a site map through a tool such as Google Search Console can expedite the process.
- XML Sitemap: While sites don’t specifically require a sitemap, the creation of an XML sitemap (which normally can be found by simply adding /sitemap.xml to any homepage) helps search engines index a page faster and more efficiently.
- Robots.txt: A simple text file saved to a server that dictates how search engines crawl a site (a.k.a. robots exclusion standard). It is created by adding a sitemap, along with directives for search engine crawlers or “robots” that include, but are not limited to, sites that robots are allowed to crawl, not allowed to crawl, and what specific search engines are allowed to crawl a site. This helps search engines “crawl” your site faster and more effectively.
A sample segment of a Robots.txt from a very good, cool website (…ours)
- 301 Redirect: Automatically redirects a user to the current, live site of your choosing. Usually is placed on a broken or no-longer-existing page.
- SSL Certificate: Provides a website with the secure https://, as opposed to the less-secure http://. This is important for SEO: currently, secure sites are more likely to rank, and starting in 2021, a lack of an SSL Certificate will be actively penalized.
On-Page SEO Terms
These terms are more likely to come up when performing On-Page SEO tasks. On-Page SEO involves the content on your page, but also some of the behind-the-scenes data present on your page.
- Title Tags: This refers to an HTML element that determines the actual title of the page, or what you will see as the clickable headline on your SERP.
- Meta Descriptions: The same as title tags, only instead of appearing as the clickable headline, the meta data appears as the article description you will see under the headline on your SERP.
- Broken Links: As sites change and are restructured, sometimes an article might link to a page that no longer exists. This is considered a broken link, and ideally you’d want to replace it with a link to a live site or apply a 301 redirect.
- Long-Tail Keywords: Long keyword strings that tend to be seen in voice searches and inquisitive searches. While a standard keyword might be “Pandas” a long-tail keyword would be “Where do Pandas live” or “Why are pandas amazing.”
Off-Page SEO Terms
Off-Page SEO has its own terms as well. These describe practices used to generate site authority without touching the content on your own site.
- Link Building: A key part of Off-Page SEO involves link building campaigns. This involves earning links on other sites to build site authority for your website, involving many different strategies with various levels of difficulty.
- Outreach: A link building strategy that involves personally reaching out to bloggers, publishers, and businesses to begin long-term content partnerships. You can use this tactic to earn links to your website through guest blogging and contributing content to your partner’s blogs or publications. Outreach is one of the primary strategies used for link building.
- Black Hat SEO: The “Dark Side” of SEO, or “the bad guys.” Black Hat SEO users employ various sets of practices to improve rank that go against search engine rules. This can include flooding a competitor’s website with bad, spammy links, or paying other sites to place backlinks on other high value sites. Most changes made to the search algorithms of Google are meant to punish SEO specialists who employ black hat tactics, though that doesn’t stop them from trying to find ways around Google’s restrictions and penalties.
- White Hat SEO: “Ethical SEO” or “the Good Guys.” White Hat practices focus on a human audience instead of “tricking Google.” (This is what we do at Clique Studios!)
Technical SEO: The Behind-the-Scenes Work that Helps Websites Rank
The first bucket of SEO is Technical SEO. Technical SEO refers to the website and server optimizations that help search engines crawl and index your page more efficiently. Technical SEO involves improving the technical aspects of a website in order to increase the ranking of a page.
Optimizing and maintaining technical aspects is an important ranking factor for your website, but it’s largely behind-the-scenes work. The SEO efforts that are more noticeable to users start with the page itself (On-Page SEO, which we’ll talk about in the next section).
Technical SEO focuses on several factors:
- Page Experience
- Page Speed
- Site Security
- XML Sitemaps
- Dead Links, Soft 404s and 5012
On May 28th, 2020, Google announced that page experience will become an increasingly important factor in ranking in 2021. While quality content is still the best way to rank a page, if two pages have similar content, the site with the better user experience will be given a higher rank.
“Page experience” may sound like a vague term, but it echoes Google’s aim to encourage a positive experience for their user: it rewards sites that are mobile friendly, fast, and uncluttered. Many of the factors in Technical SEO already ensure a positive page experience, but in this case, page experience focuses on Google’s core web vitals.
The three core web vitals are:
Largest Content Paint (LCP)
Large Content Paint measures the amount of time it takes for a page’s main content to load. Anything slower than 2.5 seconds is considered to “need improvement” while slower than four seconds is deemed “poor.”
First Input Delay (FID)
First Input Delay measures how long it takes for a site to become interactive (a.k.a. when you click on something, how long does it take to process and give back a result). Time requirements here are much quicker than LCP. Anything faster than 100 milliseconds is “good” and anything slower than 300 milliseconds is “poor.”
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Cumulative Layout Shift measures the visual stability of a website. Google will penalize a site for having content or displays that shift unexpectedly—which usually occurs when content is displaced by an intrusive pop-up. The “needs improvement” range between good and bad performance is .1 and .25. These numbers represent the sum total of every individual layout shift for every unexpected layoff shift occurring during the entire lifespan of the page.
Here is an example of poor CLS from nitropack.io.
The user was looking to click an item, only to have an ad appear and push that item further down the page. They clicked something they did not want to click. That makes for a poor page experience—one that Google actively penalizes and will do so more thoroughly starting in 2021.
As more users access websites remotely, a good mobile page experience is essential for a website’s SEO health. If a page is optimized for desktop browsing, but offers a poor mobile experience, that can result in a loss of page rank. In fact, Google is set to roll out mobile-first indexing for all websites in March 2021.
A page needs to load quickly and be responsive in order to maximize their technical SEO potential. Search engines are very particular—if you make it harder for them to find and index your page, they will likely punish you for making them work harder and drop your page in rank.
A fast page makes Google happy, and it also makes the user happy. And making the user happy is the most important consideration for all SEO tactics.
There’s an old saying in SEO that Google loves “old, big, popular sites.” That remains true. But individual pages that grow too large also tend to be slow. So page size is always a consideration.
This doesn’t refer to content—a long article (like this one) doesn’t mean that the page is large. But if this article was filled with videos, large images, and other high-data content, the page speed would be affected. There are a variety of ways to condense these pages and improve your page speed without even touching the content on the page.
Websites with SSL certificates have long been essential, and soon will be just about mandatory. Https:// sites are more secure, and a more secure site is more likely to crack the top page of your SERPs.
Yes, crawlability is a word. It’s the ability to be crawled by Google’s robots relatively easily. Better crawlability means a faster index time, which is important for SEO.
This goes hand-in-hand with crawlability. Creating an XML sitemap for your site, and submitting it to Google Search Console (we at Clique also submit to Bing Webmaster Tools) tells search engines that a site is available to crawl. It gives a clear path for them to do so, making it easier to index your site. While it doesn’t explicitly affect your page rank, it is an important task for Technical SEO.
Dead Links, Soft 404s and 501s
Dead Links, Soft 404s and 501s can negatively impact your SEO performance, so it’s essential to use 301 redirects to fix dead links and 404s. Similarly, SEO specialists should be aware of soft 404s (a page that is technically a 200 success code, but brings up a page that does not exist) and 501s (which shows up when the server does not support the facility required). Both can be fixed by making changes to your robots.txt file (your instruction guide for search bots).
On-Page SEO: How Content and SEO Go Hand-in-Hand
When you optimize your page—in terms of content, title tags, and meta descriptions—you are performing On-Page SEO. Your page’s content and the HTML source code impact On-Page SEO. Here is where the idea that “content is king” resides.
Whenever you are creating a site, or adding a page to a site, you should be mindful of On-Page SEO. It influences both Technical SEO (mostly through page size) and Off-Page SEO (by attracting backlinks).
We’ve already covered a few aspects of On-Page SEO that are essential in our glossary section. Title tags and meta descriptions help determine how your page appears in SERPs, and are one of the essential elements of On-Page SEO.
Proper On-Page SEO, however, also takes the following into consideration:
- Search Intent
- URL Structure
- Header Tags
- Internal Links
- Alt Text and Image Size
As always, high-quality content is the most important aspect of all SEO. Before you focus on any other aspect of On-Page SEO, you need to write a high-quality piece of content that your users would want to read. Because you’re not just writing for an algorithm, or a search engine—you’re writing for the people using that search engine.
When working on your content, be mindful of common mistakes in content creation that you will want to avoid:
“Thin content” has little or no value to a user. It can manifest itself in a variety of ways—duplicate content, short, incomplete posts, or unnecessarily simple pages that only briefly address one specific keyword.
In general, larger articles tend to rank on Google more frequently than brief posts. SEMRush has found that articles longer than 3,000 words receive three times the traffic and 3.5 times the backlinks of an article between 900 and 1,200 words. And shorter articles, between 300 and 900 words, are 4.5 times more likely to receive zero shares than longer posts.
With that said, short, to-the-point articles have their place, but more often than not you should focus on longer content that truly dives into a topic.
Posting just to post is never a recommended tactic and using any sort of software that automatically generates content will do nothing to improve your site’s SEO performance. The key to good content is quality over quantity.
Ten years ago, you might have seen SEO specialists trying to stuff keywords into their articles in order to rank. A plumbing business in Chicago might write something along the lines of
“For the best plumbers in Chicago, go to our business where the best plumbers in Chicago work and where you can easily find the best plumbers in Chicago.”
Not only is this terrible writing (no offense made up plumbing company), it’s annoying to read and does nothing to really tell a story.
This tactic has—thankfully—long been retired. When creating content for your site, the goal should be to write it for the human beings reading it, and not for Google’s algorithm. Mostly because Google’s algorithm rewards you when you write content that people would actually want to read. So, while keywords still have great SEO value, you can’t unlock that value by merely repeating the same keyword time and time again.
While keyword stuffing is a no-no, keyword research is an important aspect of SEO. With tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush, you can discover what keywords your customer base regularly searches and that can inform your writing.
What are keywords? Keywords are the words your audience uses to search. You’ll want to include a keyword in your content if you want to rank for searches using that keyword. And, keywords make the most impact in titles, H2 and H3 tags, and in your url structure.
Keywords come in two varieties— branded and non-branded.
Branded keywords are terms that someone would use to specifically find your website. If someone found this article searching “Clique Studios ” (in which case, hello, thanks for making it this far), they would have been searching for a branded keyword. Branded keywords are a great way to track brand awareness.
Non-branded keywords are the terms that aren’t specific to the brand in question. If you found this article searching for “SEO Beginner’s Guide” (thank you as well, and hi we’re Clique) then you would have performed a non-branded search, with non-branded keywords.
Both have importance in SEO, though branded keywords impact the bottom of the sales funnel, while non-branded keywords impact the middle and the top.
Proper keyword research should tell the SEO specialist what keywords people are searching for and how difficult it would be to create content that ranks for that keyword. And while that is important, SEO specialists need to go even deeper.
But knowing keywords isn’t enough—content should also be created with search intent in mind. Also known as “keyword intent,” search intent is the “why” behind a search.
This usually falls into one of four categories of searches.
- Transactional searches are looking to buy a specific product.
- Navigational searches are typically branded and are searching for a specific site instead of typing the url directly into the browser.
- Informational searches are just that—individuals looking for information.
- Commercial investigation searches come when someone has an idea of what type of product or service they need, but have yet to decide on any specific one.
Your URL structure, or basic web address, should not be too long—think three to five words for blog articles, and even shorter for main pages.
The URL should also contain crucial keywords relevant to your article and should serve as a clear,concise summary of what the article is about. If we were to write an article about pandas (because who doesn’t love pandas), we would probably go with cliquestudios.com/we-love-pandas or /pandas-at-clique.
But if we gave that article the web address of cliquestudios.com/animals-and-dogs-and-cats-and-others, we’ve created a URL structure that is overly long, and not relevant, all of which will hurt our page’s rank on search engines (no one will find our pandas 💔).
Header tags are an HTML element that tells search engines where headings and subheadings exist. Your title tag is going to be your H1, but header tags such as H2 through H6 help structure a page and tell search engines that certain content is speaking directly to the sub-section it is under.
“Header Tags” just above this paragraph, for example, is an H3. All the content here is part of the H3 header tag, which itself is under the H2 header tag of “On-Page SEO.”
Why are headers important? 36% of pages with H2 and H3 tags outperforms pages without them. And it serves as a great way to structure longer content. So while not all content requires an H2 or H3, you’ll at least want a title tag and sub-headers on all articles when possible.
Your content should link to other content on your site. This serves several purposes—it encourages your readers to stay on your site and read other content that you have posted. It also helps pass link equity to other articles, while helping search engine robots better process your site.
While it’s not going to hurt your SEO value to fail to use internal links in your content, it is often a missed On-Page SEO opportunity.
Image Size and Alt Text
It’s important to be mindful of images. Images that are too large can slow down your page and have a negative impact on your technical SEO. Make sure that the image doesn’t take up too much space before using it, and if the image is too large (try to avoid anything larger than 100 KB) there are a variety of tools online that you can use to compress them.
Additionally, alt text is essential for On-Page SEO. Alt text is a description of the image that screen readers can read out loud to the user. Not only does alt text help make your site more accessible, but it has the added benefit of describing your images to search engines, which helps with both indexing and ranking.
Off-Page SEO: How the Content on Other Websites Can Improve Your Ranking
The third and final bucket requires the most work, but can also provide the greatest dividends. Technical SEO and On-Page SEO all take place on your website and can do a great deal in increasing your ranking.
Off-Page or Off-Site SEO describes actions taken beyond the walls of your own site to increase SERP rankings. The ultimate goal is to build up high-authority backlinks to your site. There are several methods to achieve this goal:
- Blogger Outreach
- Building Relationships
- Guest Posts
- Broken LInk Campaigns
- Directors and Registries
- Blog Commenting/Quora
One of the most valuable approaches to Off-Page SEO is blogger outreach. Outreach platforms such as Pitchbox can be used to streamline this process. Blogger outreach involves establishing a list of sites related to the field or industry of your site. This list is usually built by searching for sites with content that matches terms and phrases that you have deemed to be valuable target keywords.
From this list, the SEO specialist reaches out to the blogs individually, writing a personalized email offering to write for their site. If this offer is accepted, the guest post will contain a link to a piece of content on your site that is a natural source in the article.
When you include your link, make sure the anchor text fits within the article, while also accurately describing the content that you are linking to. Forced and unnatural internal links will be ignored by Google at best and penalized at worst.
An extension (and arguably the ultimate goal) of blogger outreach is building relationships with other sites so that you can post to their sites with regularity. This should be a mutually beneficial service—if you have a strong relationship with a high authority site, you are able to provide them with high quality content, while your website gets a steady stream of backlinks that further establish their authority.
That’s why it’s key to treat blogger outreach as a human, personal interaction. If your outreach campaign is only focused on getting a certain number of links, you’re likely not going to connect with the person on the other side of that email pitch, and they’re unlikely to want to respond. But if you focus on building a relationship, your pitch will be less transactional, and ultimately more likely to succeed.
Reaching out to websites that welcome guest posts is a great way to get links to your site, while building positive relationships. It also can help establish yourself as an authority in the field you are discussing.
Guest posts give you complete control of link placement to your page, since typically you are allowed to link back to your site on your author bio. However, blogger outreach has more value, because it has fewer limitations—depending on your field, some industries simply aren’t particularly conducive to guest blogging.
Contacting various media outlets on behalf of an outreach client, possibly regarding new content, has potential to result in backlinks. For example, at Clique Studios, when our clients release timely and relevant content, we will reach out to news outlets to see if they would be interested in writing about the article, or using the client’s content as a resource.
While most media backlinks are nofollow, nofollow links are increasingly valuable, and nofollow from very high authority sites, such as media sites, can have a positive impact on a page’s ranking. And in addition to building backlinks, media outreach can improve brand awareness by helping your content reach a larger, more diverse audience.
Help a Reporter Out (or HARO) is a tool for reporters and sources looking for experts in their field. Depending on your client’s industry, HARO could serve as a useful Off-Page SEO tool—when you see a question from a reporter looking for an expert in your client’s field, you can help answer it. You might be quoted in the article or be contacted by the reporter or writer for an interview. Your client l then might be linked in an article relevant to their business.
Broken Link Campaigns
Broken link campaigns involve finding broken backlinks (backlinks that are currently going to pages that are no longer live) on competitor sites, and reaching out to the websites linking to the broken page.
If you have an article that covers the same topic as your competitor’s the now-broken backlink that originally went to your competitor, many sites (who don’t want broken links) will gladly replace the bad link of your competitor’s with the new linkone you offer.
Ahrefs, one of the tools we use frequently, has a feature that tells you what site has broken backlinks, or backlinks that currently are going to pages that are no longer live. This gives you all the information you need to run a broken link campaign.
Directories and Registries
An occasionally overlooked Off-Page tactic simply involves reaching out to local directories and registries that list businesses in your industry and asking to include your page on their lists. Depending on your industry, there are many websites like these that will gladly place a link to your site.
If you are an expert in your industry, commenting on blogs or Quora, while mentioning your site, can lead to easy backlinks. Be careful, however, as irrelevant comments or aggressive comment spamming is a black hat tactic that can actually harm your site.
The SEO Process, From Start to Finish
Now that you have an idea of what Technical, On-Page, and Off-Page SEO entail, let’s see what the process looks like from start to finish.
Let’s say that Clique Studios is hired by the Panda Shirt Company to build their new site. Panda Shirt specifically wants SEO to be a focus, since they are in the very competitive industry of panda t-shirts. They ask our team to perform ongoing, monthly, Off-Page SEO outreach.
Step 1: Audit the Client’s Current Website
We like to look at the original site to see how they perform in keywords, backlinks, and domain rating. We’ll analyze their organic traffic performance and most visited pages.
The audit will also compare their performance to their competitors, while examining Technical SEO elements such as page speed, image size, and missing (or duplicate) header or title tags. We’ll offer some suggestions that our strategists and developers will take into consideration while building the site.
After examining the site’s backlinks and high-performance pages, we make 301 recommendations if necessary and work with our Content Strategy team to ensure that new pages are optimized for On-Page SEO performance.
Step 2: Proper Setup
Once the site has been finished, we ensure that there are proper title tags and meta descriptions in place. We also create a sitemap and submit it to Google and Bing so they can crawl the new website as quickly as possible.
Step 3: Ongoing Outreach Campaign
Now the outreach begins. Our Content Marketing Strategists begin an ongoing outreach campaign, where we will reach out to dozens—if not hundreds—of high-authority sites in the same field (in this case, websites about pandas and other animals, as well as T-shirt sellers), for whom we write high-quality, optimized content that links to the Panda Shirt Company in a way that is relevant to the article. The website gets a free article, and our client gets a backlink.
Our strategists develop relationships with some of these sites, and begin writing for them on an ongoing basis, while continuing to drive backlinks and traffic to Panda Shirt Company’s site. Throughout this process, we are performing keyword research and making content suggestions so that their site continues to grow and expand as more users find it.
Step 4: Technical Audits and Monthly Reporting
Twice a month we perform technical audits to make sure there are no On-Page or Technical SEO issues. When we discover unwanted or “toxic” backlinks directed towards Panda Shirt’s website, we will make sure to disavow those bad links to maintain the technical SEO health of the site.
Additionally, at the beginning of each month we send an analytics report to the Panda Shirt Company tracking our monthly and yearly progress and discussing the tactics we’re using.
By leveraging On-Page and Technical SEO, and being consistent with an ongoing Off-Page strategy, we can help increase traffic, improve their keyword rankings, and ultimately drive conversions and sales.
This Guide Can Be The Start On Your SEO Journey
While there’s no simple checklist to make SEO work, once you find yourself comfortable with the basics, you’ll be surprised how quickly you can start instinctively implementing best practices for SEO.
A Few Quick Reminders
- A slow page can hurt your SEO performance.
- Large images are a common reason for slow pages.
- Meta descriptions, title tags, and H2s are important, especially with keywords in mind.
- Building backlinks for your content is integral to a full SEO strategy.
SEO is complex: it’s impossible to learn it overnight. We’ve included a few additional resources that can serve as further learning materials in your SEO education.
Resources for You to Continue Your SEO Education Journey
- Ahrefs.com: If you’re a professional SEO, you’ll benefit most from the paid version of Ahrefs. However, if you’re just dipping your toes in the water, Ahrefs also provides a vast library of free articles and videos that teach you the basics (and some more advanced tactics) of SEO.
- Moz.com: Moz, like Ahrefs, is a great tool that charges a monthly subscription. We also recommend downloading the MozBar extension. It’s free with an account (that’s also free), and it’s a great way for those new to SEO to really dig into page data. You can use it to look up how many “toxic” backlinks a site has (or how many disreputable, low-authority sites are linking to it), run a basic SEO page analysis that breaks down H1s, H2s, meta description, and other useful SEO data.
- Screaming Frog: Screaming Frog is a downloadable program that crawls through websites and gives you all the technical and on-page SEO data you could dream about. It’s great for finding images that are too large, pages with missing meta descriptions, and so much more. The free version will show up to 500 pages per URL, while you can purchase a license to analyze even larger sites.
- SEMRush: Another tool like Ahfrefs and Moz, it usually works best in conjunction with one of those two. It’s a great tool for site health, keyword performance, and search intent research. However, if you don’t want to pay for the service, their blog also has some of the best advice in the field, and it’s accessible for SEOs at any level.
- Answer the Public: When performing keyword research or just trying to think of good content for an article, Answer the Public takes any keyword or term and maps out all conceivable long-tail searches on that topic. You can use it two times a day for free, or you can pay for a premium version.
- Google Trends: A great tool that shows how many people are searching for a particular topic over time. Also a fun way to kill some time, if you want to see how many people are searching “Pandas” at any given point in a year.
- Hubspot’s Website Grader: One of several tools that can quickly audit your site on technical aspects such as page speed.
- Google’s Pagespeed Insights: Grades your site on a scale of 0-100 on its mobile and desktop speed.
- Think With Google: Measures how long it takes your site to load on mobile devices.
- GTMetrix: Another free tool to analyze page speed and performance.
- SEMRush’s Technical SEO guide: If you want to get nerdy with Technical SEO (*raises hand*) here’s a great place to start.
- Technical SEO Checklist: And here’s where you’ll go if you want to go further down the rabbit hole.
- Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to On-Page SEO: If you’re more likely to get excited about the content side of SEO, here’s where you’ll want to go to learn more.
- 63 SEO Statistics for 2020: A lot of surprising numbers that help drive the importance of SEO.
- 4 Ways to Diagnose SEO Problems: This article is a bit more advanced, but provides a framework of how many different factors can affect your search engine performance.
- Google’s 2021 Page Experience Update: What to expect when Google rolls out major changes to their ranking factors next year. Remember, SEO is never static! It’s always changing.
- And finally, SEO Challenges of Everyday Marketers and How to Solve Them: We figured we might as well end this list with an article from one of the members of our marketing team on the subject.