I knew almost nothing about SEO before starting this website.
I still know very little about SEO, but I finally have a couple pages that are bringing in traffic from Google. Additionally, I've helped a friend get started with SEO and they're seeing some traffic from Google too.
This post is about how to go from zero to one with SEO.
First, I'll discuss SEO at a conceptual level. Then, I'll discuss some technical gotchas that took me a long time to learn. Finally, I share a list of tools and tips that have gotten me started.
In this section, I'll cover 3 topics that will give you a conceptual understanding of SEO:
Search Engines are trying to answer a user's query as quickly as possible. They do this by detecting if a search result "ends the user's journey".
This means that your content should be so relevant that the user doesn't hit the back button and go to another result.
Backlinks are links from other websites that link to you. These are viewed as endorsements for quality. They are some of the most important signals that search engines use in their rankings.
Backlinks come in two flavors:
Regular backlinks are strong signals. No follow backlinks are weak signals.
Websites with user generated content like Reddit and Twitter generally mark all links as "no follow" because a user could spam those platforms with links to create more backlinks for their content.
Because backlinks can be gamed, Search Engines have heuristics to detect manipulation and have gotten quite good at this. If you have millions of regular backlinks but zero "no follow" backlinks - that's suspicious because good content will likely get shared on social media from time to time.
As a website does better and better over time, it will start gaining backlinks across its various pages. All of these backlinks vouch not just for that page, but also the entire domain.
Basically, this means that if you rank well for one page, you build up equity across all of your pages. All of your future content will start off with a small boost. This is like developing a reputation for good content, which Google will reward in the future.
I built this website with vanilla Next.js and ran into a few technical gotchas that limited my initial SEO success. Next.js is very fast, which helps SEO, but here's what I learned the hard way:
Use these free tools:
Pro tip: if you use the free Ahrefs Webmaster Tools, and then try to use their free Keyword Generator while you're logged in, you'll get redirected to sign up for a paid tier. To get around this, open the Keyword Generator in another browser, and scroll to the bottom and click on the term "Keyword Generator" again.
I don't have a ton of tips, but here are some of my lessons:
There are millions of articles that will be able to take it from here, but I hope this one helps you get started.
Getting your first page to rank in the top 10 on Google can take a while, and it can be frustrating if you're not getting any results (assuming that you're somewhat trying).
But if you write articles that can help end someone's search journey, and keep in mind all of the technical gotchas outlined above, then you're actually on your way to ranking.
Best of luck!