SEO is one of the most important marketing tools you can leverage to generate free traffic to your website, but it can be very frustrating if you haven’t done it before. In this post I’ll help you learn SEO basics in just a few minutes.

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

There are lots of opinions and lots of false information about what constitutes good SEO practice, and plenty of individuals and companies looking to sell you their “perfect” solution.

Somehow, it seems, these marketers have ‘cracked the code’ to Google’s algorithm, and are looking to sell it to you.

The reason is simple: they’re all lying and are trying to sell you something. No one outside of Google knows exactly how Google ranks pages, and even if they did, Google is constantly updating the algorithm. As the web evolves and learning algorithms get smarter, a lot of “proven” methods that worked in the past are no longer effective.

Listen to Google

Google accounts for two-thirds of all web search traffic worldwide. Yahoo and Bing together make up the lion’s share of the rest, and while the ranking algorithms of each company differ slightly, the basic patterns are clear, and Google is the undeniable leader.

That means that anything you know about SEO, you should know because Google tells it to you. Matt Cutts, a lead engineer on the Google search team, consistently produces up-to-date, informative videos about what Google looks for when ranking pages.

Content, Content, Content

The number 1 consideration is original, high quality content.

Yes backlinks, keywords, and on-site techniques play a role, but Google is getting better and better at thinking like your reader. They can easily sniff out duplicate or spun articles, and can tell when a page just doesn’t feel right (from a human perspective, that is).

Rather than spending a ton of time focusing on how many pages you’re linking to, or how many pages link to you, focus instead of driving readable, user-friendly content. If you make free blog content stand out, you’ll naturally start to generate readers, earn shares, and get noticed.

On-site Optimization

The number 2 consideration is optimizing your on-site page.

On-site optimization does not mean you should stuff your articles with “perfect keywords.” There was a time when marketers talked about metrics like keyword density, and tried to come up with exact formulas for where the keywords should appear: in navigation, article titles, high-ranked html structure, etc. The end result is a site that feels awkward to a reader, and Google knows this.

Today, on-site optimization is more about making sure your site can be easily accessed by the search engines. Title, description, and meta tags play a role because Google is trying to understand what your page is about. Also making sure you’ve enabled crawling and inter-linking your pages help Google navigate around your site and index each page of content you have to offer.

The Backlink Myth

A lot of people obsess needlessly about backlinking, and this is where many new marketers fall prey to those trying to sell false solutions. The truth is that the search engines can tell which backlinks are natural and which are manually or automatically manipulated.

While it is valuable to list content in a few article directories, this technique is more about getting the page indexed quickly than beefing up backlinks.

It’s foolish to think that someone has discovered a great new site to list articles without Google knowing that people are listing articles. I mean, the whole point of backlinking is that Google finds the backlinks.

Instead, you should think like a human. Market your site in places you think your audience will find it: related blogs, social media, etc, and the reputable backlinks will soon come.

SEO is a Long-Term Investment

There are no quick and easy solutions to SEO. No matter what techniques you use, it takes time for the search engines to index and rank your sites. It’s normal to rank low when your site is new, with only a few pages of content. As you build your site however, those rankings will improve as long as you follow these SEO Basics.

Slow, natural growth is always better than quick, short-term options. After all, the last thing you want to do is piss off Google.