The Basics of Search Engine Optimization: A Quick Guide to Google SEO

What Is SEO?

Search engine optimization, or SEO, makes your website more appealing to search engines like Google. It’s as much an art as it is a science and remains a pillar of any successful marketing strategy in the digital age.

Most people will start searching online, whether looking for a four-tier wedding cake or a rapid oil change. When you consider your own search habits, chances are you almost always select one of the top results, and it becomes clear just how valuable high rankings can be. If you want more traffic, your site must appear in one of the top organic positions.

This is where SEO comes into play. SEO drives more people to your site, leading to more leads, customers, and revenue. If you’re new to SEO, organic isn’t just a health food fad. Regarding rankings, organic refers to interactions through non-paid search engines. These interactions are fueled by quality interest from real people who readily seek to consume your content or services. Getting people to your site through organic search usually means higher conversion rates. But it doesn’t just happen.

Google’s algorithm consists of hundreds of main ranking signals (and thousands of sub-ranking signals). Pretty much all of them fall into one of the following categories:

  • On-page SEO
  • Off-page SEO
  • The technical health of the website
  • The overall usability of the website
  • Social media marketing and social signals
  • Content marketing

This is not an exhaustive Google SEO guide, but it’s an excellent start for our purposes. In this quick search engine optimization guide, we’ll take a closer look at three categories—on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical health—so you can ensure your site appeals to Google.

How Do Search Engines Work?

Search engines like Google operate through two primary processes: crawling and indexing.


Search engines use automated bots called crawlers to scour the web for content. These bots follow links from one page to another, gathering information about each page they encounter.


Once a bot crawls a page, its contents are analyzed and stored in the search engine’s index. This index is essentially a massive database of web pages that the search engine can quickly query when a user enters a search.

How Is SEO Different from SEM and PPC?

While SEO focuses on organic methods to improve a website’s visibility in search engine results, SEM (search engine marketing) and PPC (pay-per-click) involve paid advertising. SEM and PPC can yield immediate results but can be costly and require ongoing investment. Conversely, SEO is a long-term strategy that can provide sustainable growth without continual spending.

How Does SEO Work?

The Goal: Better Visibility and More Organic Traffic

SEO aims to increase your site’s visibility on the search engine results pages (SERPs). This helps attract more organic traffic, comprised of potential customers who find your site through unpaid search results.

The Target: Ranking Factors

Google considers hundreds of factors when organizing sites on the SERPs. These include domain authority, page speed, site architecture, user experience, relevance, content quality, keyword optimization, engagement rate, bounce rate, and more.

The Method: Establishing E-E-A-T

Content published by real people who demonstrate Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T) are more likely to rank higher in search results. Consequently, building a solid online reputation is a core component of SEO.

What Is an SEO Strategy?

A comprehensive SEO strategy aims to enhance your website’s content and structure to align with Google’s guidelines while ensuring a positive user experience. It should address both on-page and off-page elements and overall technical health.

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO encompasses tactics on your site’s front or back end. Examples include:

  • Keyword Research: Identify the words and phrases your target audience is searching for online. Consider factors like search volume, keyword difficulty, and overall intent. Tools like SE Ranking can assist in this process.
  • High-Quality Content: Create compelling content that provides value and naturally incorporates relevant keywords. Use elements that make the content easily digestible, such as headings, bullet points, and numbered lists.
  • Front-Facing Elements: Optimize header tags, meta titles, meta descriptions, URL structure, images, and internal links to improve visibility and relevance.

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO refers to tactics that occur elsewhere instead of on your website. Examples include:

  • Link Building: Earn backlinks from reputable websites to demonstrate authority and credibility in your industry.
  • Social Media Marketing: Leverage social media platforms to engage with your audience and promote your content, driving traffic and visibility.
  • Google Business Profile: Ensure your business information is accurate and optimized for local search results.
  • NAP Citations and Business Listings: Maintain consistent Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) information across online directories and business listings.
  • Influencer Marketing: Collaborate with influencers to expand your reach and attract new audiences.
  • Guest Posting: Contribute guest posts to relevant websites to build backlinks and increase your website’s visibility.

Pro Tip: Develop a comprehensive link-building strategy encompassing guest blogging, creating shareable content, building relationships within your industry, submitting your site to quality directories, and leveraging services like HARO (Help a Reporter Out) to earn press mentions and backlinks.

Technical SEO: The Nuts and Bolts

No Google search engine optimization guide would be complete without diving into technical SEO. This refers to your site’s performance, which significantly impacts rankings. Here are some of the most important technical elements that influence SEO:

  • Mobile Friendliness: Considering most internet users access content on mobile devices, ensuring your site is mobile-friendly is paramount. Google prioritizes mobile-friendly websites in its rankings, making it essential for optimal SEO performance.
  • Core Web Vitals: Core Web Vitals refer to metrics related to responsiveness, speed, and visual stability that Google considers crucial for user experience. Focusing on these metrics can significantly impact your website’s search results performance.
  • XML Sitemap: An XML sitemap is a file that lists all the pages on your website. It helps search engines understand your website’s structure and index its content more efficiently.
  • Site Security: Secure websites (HTTPS) are favored by search engines and inspire trust among users. Ensure your site is secure to maintain credibility and improve rankings.
  • Schema Markup: Schema markup is structured data that provides search engines additional context about your content. Implementing schema markup can enhance your website’s appearance in search results and increase click-through rates.
  • Hierarchy: Organizing your website’s content in a clear hierarchy makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index. Proper hierarchy improves user experience and can positively impact your SEO efforts.
  • 404: A 404 error occurs when a page is not found. Properly managing 404 errors by redirecting or removing them helps maintain site integrity and prevents negative impacts on SEO.

Pro Tip: Link Equity and Site Architecture: Pay attention to your site’s internal linking structure and ensure link equity flows efficiently throughout your website. A well-organized site architecture improves crawlability and enhances user experience, contributing to higher rankings.

Ready to optimize your website’s technical performance? Read our guide, Understanding Your Website’s Health: A Quick Guide to SEO Audits, and use our complimentary website audit tool to assess your website’s technical health.

How to Monitor and Track SEO Results

Keeping track of your SEO efforts is essential for ongoing optimization and improvement. Here are some tools and techniques to monitor and track your SEO performance:

SEO Statistics & Google Stats:

  • Google Search Console: This tool allows you to monitor your site’s performance on the SERPs, identify indexing issues, and gain valuable insights into search queries and user behavior.
  • Google Analytics: Track website traffic, user engagement, and conversions to measure your SEO efforts’ effectiveness and identify areas for improvement.

Pro Tip: Ensure Search Engine Accessibility: Make it easy for search engines to crawl and understand your website by following best practices in technical optimization.

This search engine optimization guide is by no means complete, but I hope it gets you started on the right foot. If you want to advance your online marketing knowledge, I invite you to learn more about our upcoming SEO training course.

Conclusion and Next Steps

SEO is a complex and ever-evolving field. But with dedication and guidance, you can significantly improve your website’s search engine rankings and drive more organic traffic. This guide has equipped you with the foundational knowledge to start your SEO journey.

Remember, SEO is a continual process that requires patience and persistence. It is also a long-term investment. By consistently applying the principles you’ve learned and staying informed, you will reap the rewards of increased visibility, traffic, and leads for your business.

We offer highly effective and affordable search engine optimization packages for businesses of all sizes. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if I can answer any questions!

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