an Introduction to Search Engine Optimization

Whether you’re looking for tips on how to optimize your website to rank in Google’s search engine results or you’re ready to create your search engine optimization strategy from start to finish, we have the resources to help you achieve your goals. 

Read on to learn more about exactly what search engine optimization is, how you can start using it for your business, and where you can find additional resources to help you along the way. 

What is SEO? 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to the strategy, techniques, and tactics necessary to get your website content to the top of Google and other search engine results pages (SERPs).

This work is essential because Google will only show users useful websites that match their intent. 

SEO isn’t about creating your website for Google; it’s about making your website useful for your users.  

Learn more about the foundations of SEO: What is SEO? The 2022 Guide to Search Engine Optimization 

How Do I Start Learning SEO? 

There are virtually endless great resources available to begin learning SEO. There’s no need to feel intimidated, though, as we have plenty of beginner-friendly resources. Our Semrush Academy offers several free courses that are a great place to start: 

Types of SEO 

There are four common types of SEO that you may encounter in the industry. Each type requires a different skillset but does not work in isolation. The four common types of SEO are: 

  • On-Page SEO
  • Technical SEO
  • Off-Page SEO
  • Local SEO

We’ll get into a description of each of these types of SEO next. 

On-page SEO 

On-page SEO is all about the content on your web pages, including text, keywords, and images. You’ll need to optimize your web content for keywords people are searching for. 

However, it’s not just about targeting keywords. You’ll also focus on the search intent of your target audience.

Learn more about on-page SEO:  

On-page tools to help you optimize your content: 

  • On Page SEO Checker: Compare your web content with the top 10 competitors in the SERPs down to a local level. Learn where you can improve and gain visibility over your competition. 
  • Content Template: Get recommendations for your content based on your targeted keywords. The Content Template tool gives recommendations based on real competitor content ranking in the top 10 positions on Google (for your targeted keywords). 

Off-page SEO 

Off-page SEO refers to occurrences outside of your website that impact your SEO. It can include tactics such as: 

  • Link building 
  • Social media marketing/management 
  • Guest writing for other blogs 
  • Managing customer reviews and testimonials
  • Influencer marketing 

Having solid off-page SEO practices and a great online reputation shows search engines that your site is trustworthy and reliable. 

While some of these tactics don’t necessarily directly impact website rankings in the SERPs, these are still essential practices that signal your business or client’s business is an authoritative presence. 

Learn more about off-page SEO: 

Tools to help you build off-page trust and authority: 

  • Link Building tool: Easily research and explore potential backlink sources to build trust and authority for your site across the web
  • Backlink Analytics: Get an accurate authority score for backlinks, be the first to know when your competitors launch a campaign, and evaluate your backlink performance
  • Backlink Gap tool: Compare your site to your competitors to see new backlink opportunities you can target before your competition does
  • Post Tracking tool: Analyze the performance of your guest blog posts with metrics like reach, social media engagement, backlinks, and referral traffic 
  • Social Media Analytics: Keep tabs on how your Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn posts are performing (including metrics like engagement, new followers, and post reach)

Technical SEO 

If websites are theaters, every site has a “backstage” where lots of complex tasks are being completed all the time without the site user even knowing. 

This is unlike on-page SEO, which users will interact with and see every time they visit your site. Technical SEO works to improve how your website functions “backstage” so that search engines can not crawl (browse) your site and index it easily, but users can also use the site without difficulty. 

These behind-the-scenes technical SEO aspects include improving the amount of time it takes for pages on your site to load (page speed) and ensuring the HTML code that creates your site is without error. 

You’ll also want to consider things like internal linking (that is—linking from one of your webpages to another), site structure (making it easier for users to navigate your site), mobile device responsiveness, and the security of your site. 

Learn more about how technical SEO can boost your website performance: 

Technical SEO tools to help refine and polish your site behind the scenes

  • Site Audit: Check your website and content for 130 + technical SEO mistakes. 
  • Log File Analyzer: Get insight into how Googlebots interact with your site on a technical level. 

Local SEO 

Local SEO focuses on getting your website to rank for location-specific terms. Local SEO can involve a mix of on-page, off-page, and technical SEO strategies, as well as optimizations in external directories and maps.

Learn more about local SEO: 

Local SEO tools to help customers find your business:

  • Listing Management: Add or update your business data to high-visibility directories within and outside the United States.
  • Position Tracking: Track your website’s ranking position for a custom set of keywords. 

Top 10 SEO Experts 

  1. John Mueller: John Mueller is a search advocate at Google. He gives actionable tips and insights on Twitter and regularly engages with the SEO community. 
  2. Barry Schwartz: Barry is a self-confessed search geek and seasoned SEO. He’s also the founder of Search Engine Roundtable and tweets about industry news.
  3. Aleyda Solis: Aleyda Solis is an international, award-winning SEO consultant. She writes for reputable SEO blogs, including Search Engine Land, and gives lots of free advice and resources in her tweets.
  4. Orit Mutznik: Orit is at the center of the SEO community. She is the SEO Director at Forbes and regularly tweets helpful studies, news, tools, and upcoming experts to follow.
  5. Danny Sullivan: Danny is Google’s public search liaison, listening to the SEO community and helping people to understand search. He regularly tweets Google updates you should know about.
  6. Areej AbuAli: Areej is the founder of Women In Tech SEO and an SEO expert in her own right. She regularly speaks worldwide and tweets resources, tips, and events. 
  7. Suganthan Mohanadasan: Suganthan is co-founder of Snippet Digital. He tweets about technical SEO, structured data, and sometimes free SEO tools!
  8. Mordy Oberstein: Mordy Oberstein is the Head of Communication at Semrush. He interacts with the SEO community and tweets helpful insights about SEO strategy and implementation.
  9. Maret Reutelingsperger: Maret Reutelingsperger is a Marketing Consultant at Mobe Digital. She speaks at big SEO events and tweets tips, tricks, and ideas about SEO strategy. 
  10. Ruth Everett: Ruth Everett is the technical SEO at Deepcrawl and instructor at Code First Girls. She is an advocate of women in more technical roles and has created a beginners SEO guide told by dogs

Best 5 SEO Blogs

  1. Search Engine Journal: As one of the most popular SEO blogs, Search engine Journal (SEJ) gives you the latest search news, guides, webinars, and how-tos in SEO. 
  2. Search Engine Land: Search Engine Land also provides how-to guides on different aspects of SEO, PPC, and SEM. Their newsletters are also useful snapshots of the latest industry developments.
  3. Search Engine Roundtable: Publishing news and information for all SEM, Search Engine Roundtable is one of the best SEO blogs. They write about the latest search engine algorithm updates, technology, and industry developments.
  4. The Keyword: Google’s Blog is the place for all of Google’s news and updates. There are lots of great resources on SEO here. 
  5. Semrush: The Semrush blog also keeps you up-to-date with the latest news, industry developments, and strategy tricks for SEO, PPC, and SEM. Follow along for more information about the Semrush tools and how to incorporate them into your SEO strategy.


Here are a few of the most common questions we get about beginner SEO: 

Can I Learn SEO on My Own? 

Yes, you can absolutely learn the basics of SEO on your own! You can earn formal qualifications in SEO from some universities. 

Universities will often offer a module or course as part of a marketing degree plan. Other universities do offer a degree in SEO, including:

If formal education isn’t for you or isn’t affordable, there are plenty of free and low-cost online courses in SEO. Most are in-depth, written by experts, and offer some form of recognition or certification at the end. 

Is SEO Hard to Learn?

The simple answer is: no. The fundamentals of SEO are not inherently difficult to learn. 

That said, technical SEO and in-depth keyword research knowledge take time to learn, and you will likely need to rely on resources like the ones listed above to achieve the kind of results you want for your business.

There’s no need to let that discourage you, though — the fun part about SEO is that there are always new things to learn and new things to incorporate into your strategy.

How Can I Learn SEO for Free? 

There are hundreds (if not thousands) of free SEO learning resources available. Our Academy offers dozens of free courses and even free certifications in SEO. 

Another great resource is our podcast hosted by Laura Morelli, “ The Marketing Scoop.” Laura offers great advice that you can listen to in the car or when you have a few free moments.  

Is SEO a Good Investment? 

SEO is not only a good investment for your business, but it’s also an essential part of any comprehensive marketing strategy these days.
It’s important for users to find your site and get acquainted with your brand. Achieving organic results is one of the best ways to accomplish this.

What is the Job Description for SEO? 

Interested in pursuing SEO as a career path? There are many different types of SEO job descriptions—SEO strategist, SEO analyst, and SEO director to name a few. 

But the most important thing to know is that SEOs are often multi-faceted experts in search engines, keyword-targeted content, and tech trends that impact the organic and paid search landscapes.

While titles can vary by company, here are some typical responsibilities for SEO professionals to encounter in their day-to-day work for an agency/brand: 

  • Auditing and developing a strategy that works with the brand or client’s larger digital marketing strategy
  • Interpreting ranking data, on-site metrics, CTR (click-through-rate), and more across multiple clients or websites
  • Writing keyword-targeted content or outlining content for a client’s website 
  • Managing communications with clients or other departments (if you’re working in-house for a brand)

Final Thoughts 

Learning about SEO doesn’t need to be an anxiety-inducing process. It can also be enjoyable to learn the ins and outs of how search engines view your content. Helping customers find exactly what they’re looking for on your site can be a rewarding experience. 
Our tools make setting up an SEO strategy that much easier. Get a free, 7-day trial of Semrush today.

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