Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the art of getting your website to rank on 'page one' in Google (and other search engine) organic search engine results (Serps) for specific keywords. It consists of 'on page SEO' and 'off page SEO'. Organic means regular ranking results, not Google paid ads that show in search results. (If you want to explore Google Ads, you can, but some people find it expensive and of limited value, while others base their marketing program off of it and find it works well for them. It can be used effectively, or you can just throw a lot of money at it very quickly, and hope for the best.) If you know nothing about SEO, then this page is written for you, and it will help you to learn about the topic, and perhaps get you started with SEO. If you think that you know a lot about SEO, this page just might help you learn a little bit more. Either way, we hope you find it to be both educational and helpful. At the very least perhaps it can help you to avoid making some common mistakes.
SEO can be extremely expensive. Spending money is always easy to do. Making money is very hard. If you are new to SEO, start with free tools and free trials. Save your money. As you gain a better understanding of SEO itself, and of SEO tool capabilities, then you can start to make more informed decisions before spending any of your hard earned money. As part of that process you will need to figure out what keywords you wish to try to rank your website for, as well as which keywords it does currently rank for.
SEO efforts often do not work, and might even hurt your website, if done wrong. Many people who think that they know SEO, may not know it as well as they think that they do. SEO work can take a long time to show good results, but if done badly may show negative results rather quickly! They may even cause your website to disappear from Google rankings and never recover — think of it like a mini-mushroom cloud on the SEO landscape!
You can do your own SEO work, or you can pay someone else to do it for you. At the very least you should do 'on page' SEO work (or have someone do it for you). If you are planning a new website, you may wish to do your 'on page' SEO work (on paper) before you actually build your website, that way you can base the design of your website off of that 'on page SEO' work. Few people do that, but they may well get better end results had they done things that way!
The first step in on page SEO work, might be 'keyword research', so that you can try to figure out what are the best keywords under your topic to try to rank for, and these might also include the keywords with the highest search volume. (Caution, various SEO tools can give you conflicting keyword search volumes.) The keywords that you decide on may well be reflected in the H1 and H2 headers of your website, as well as in the meta title, meta description, and if you have them the meta keywords. They should also show up in the content text under the various heading in logical places, and appropriate number of times. That said, make sure the content of your website is written for humans, and not for Google bot (Google will know). Ensure that the website content is 100% human written and as close to being 100% unique as you can manage (not re-used from some place else, as Google will know.
Some people subdivide 'off page SEO' into three types, 'Black Hat', 'Grey Hat, and 'White Hat'. 'White Hat' is the safest and most Google friendly type to use. (Use the other two types at your own risk, or perhaps do not use the other two at all!) People might sell you off page SEO work claiming it is white hat, but it might not be, buyer beware. Google frowns on anyone 'buying' links, so ideally any links to your website should be very natural and very genuine, not paid for. If you are building your website using WordPress, then it is highly recommended that you use the free Yoast SEO WordPress plugin to help you with your website onpage SEO.
It is said, jokingly (or not) that Google does not speak to 'mere mortals'. One exception to that is a free SEO tool that Google offers called 'Google Search Console Tools.' (It used to be called Google Webmaster Tools). It is completely free. This tool allows you and Google some degree of technical communication regarding the indexing of the web pages of your website(s). It is highly recommended that you use it. You can also submit a 'sitemap' to it, if you have one. Sitemaps are not necessary, but might be helpful to Google in finding all your web pages of your website.
It will show you up to the top one thousand keywords that your website ranks for (if it ranks for any). It will show you the number of impressions and the number of clicks for each keyword, but not search volumes. It is a very useful tool, but you may need more than one tool in your SEO tracking to get a better picture. Some people supplement this with the free Aherfs Tool and also the free 14 day trial (no credit card required) of the SE Ranking tool. Other people may sign up with Semrush or other SEO tools. We will cover them all in a little more depth below.
Yoast is in the business of providing SEO tools, the most well know of which is its free WordPress SEO plugin tool. It works well, and it is highly recommended. It is free, and simple and easy to use. They do sell other tools, but start with the free one, if you have a WordPress website. You can find the Yoast plugin from within WordPress or from the Yoast website by doing a Google search on: yoast.
Ahrefs has both free and paid SEO tools. They have a number of very helpful free ones, do a Google search on: Aherfs free SEO tools, and you will find them quickly enough. We should make one special mention. In order to help you figure out what keywords you may want to try to have your website rank for (and thus design & build it with those keywords in mind), they have the Free Keyword Generator, and the Keyword Difficulty Checker, plus other free tools.
A couple of key things to note about the free version of Afres Webmaster Tools, is that you can create a 'Project' for each website that you own. Inside that project Ahrefs will gradually show you all of the keywords that your website ranks for in Google, and it will show you its estimation of the search volume in Google for each keyword. It will also show you what it refers to as 'Keyword Difficulty' (KD), basically how hard it thinks it will be for you to rank for that keyword in Google, i.e. how many 'backlinks' you might need to your site, with that keyword (phrase) as the 'anchor text' (the words that show in the link that people click on) in each backlink.Plus they have a paid one with various plan levels for those who need something more, and can afford to pay for something more. There are some serious paid capabilities in there! If you have the money, they have the tools.
As a note, SE Ranking has an affiliate program. This website participates in that affiliate program. If you click on any links on this page to SE Ranking, or any image links (like the one below), and if you subscribe to them, then we might earn a little money (or not). Their affiliate program is free to belong to, if you wish to join it. That said, we are a paid subscriber to SE Ranking, so we pay to use it for this website (and our other websites), that should give you some indication of how much we find it to be of value. It is available in a few languages.
The free 14 day trial of SE Ranking (no credit card required) is strongly recommend. Please note however, that to make best use of the trial, you should first have a list of the keywords that you want to track, as SE Ranking does not tell you which keywords that your website ranks for, rather you tell it whcih one syou wish to track. Then it gives you daily rank changes, etc. It has a very nice graph that shows you visually how your website(s) are ranking on a daily basis over time, which is extremely helpful! It has a variety of tools within it, including one that allows you to 'change your location' in Google, so you can see search results rankings as if you were in a different place of your choosing. We found that one very handy!
Semrush does have a limited free tool, that can help you rank some of your keywords, against your competitors. It can give you reports by email, etc. We use the free tool. We recommend using the free aspects of it to start with. You may wish to do a Google search on: 12 Things You Can Do With a Free Semrush Account.
Moz also offer a free 30 day trial on its SEO tool. See their website for details. Do a Google search on: moz.
BrightLocal seems to offer an SEO tool of some sort. We have never used it, and we do not know anything much about it yet. If you wish, do a Google search on BrightLocal.