SEO Basics for (Absolute) Beginners

SEO best practices can make a great difference particularly to businesses that rely on being found through search engines. Problem is, understanding even the basics is tough, especially for non-techies such as myself. So to keep things simple, let me tell you a story about Clarissa and the tools she used to get started...

Clarissa runs a very niche business, combining her two great passions: knitting and Doctor Who.

Every Christmas and birthday she graces friends and family with hand-knitted goods.

They often told her she should try to make some money out of her skill, but she never acted on their kind words.Until now.

Clarissa’s online business is up and running. She advertises on forums and she networks at events. After a slow start, her business is becoming a nice little side earner for her.

SEO Troubles

But one day, bored at her day job, she types ‘Doctor Who knitted goods’ into Google search. To her dismay, her site doesn’t show up on the first page or even the second.

It is relegated to third page behind tons of websites dedicated to the scarf Tom Baker (an actor from the TV show) wore.

They’re not even relevant! Her page deserves to be ahead of them. ‘That’s not fair!’ she says aloud, attracting concerned looks from her co-workers. She rushes home at the end of the day. Sitting at her desk, she starts pumping query after query into Google. She can think of plenty of words that she should be ranking for but she’s not on the first page for any. Why?

Perhaps her adversary, Google, holds the answer. ‘Why isn’t my site on the first page?’ she types. It seems when she made her site she neglected something called ‘SEO’.

Google’s Robots

Search Engine Optimisation is a way of designing and maintaining your website that lets search engine robots understand what your website is about, and help them decide if your site is authoritative and popular. 

Clarissa stumbles upon a comprehensive beginner’s guide to SEO which helps her form a plan. She does some research to find out which keywords she should try to rank for and how difficult it will be to defeat her competitors on the first page. She’s pleased to find out that there’s countless tools that help her to do this and many of them are free

She puts her chosen keywords in all the right places, using an On-Page SEO checklist. Now, when ‘crawling’ through her site, the robots can understand this is a website dedicated to Doctor Who themed knitted goods.

Proving You’re Worth it

The first bout of her battle with the bots is over. Now Clarissa must convince them her site is authoritative. 

She found out this can be achieved through the weirdly named ‘link juice’. If other websites link to her, the robots know that her site is considered worthwhile by others. This gives her some link juice.

She asks all her other small business friends to give her a link. But she knows this won’t be enough. The robots consider links from authoritative sites as much more worthwhile, so she decides to try to get a link from, the premier site for Doctor Who fans.

She contacts them to see if they’ll publish an article she’s written about her passion for knitting. ‘Sure!’ they say, ‘this is some nice, original content our readers will have an interest in!’

Seeing the benefits of SEO takes some time, as does link-building. But Clarissa’s good SEO practices lead to more links and soon she’s seen as an authority on Doctor Who themed knitted goods. Good for you, Clarissa!

‘But there’s still another site above me!’ Clarissa wails. Well Clarissa, that’s a paid advertisement. They gave money to Google to beat all the organic search rankings.

‘That’s cheating!’ That’s life Clarissa. Money can get you anywhere. But remember, they’ll have to keep paying forever to stay there. If you have your SEO game together, you can relax. Until Google changes their algorithms again…

 Doctor Who
Beginner’s Guide to SEO
Many of them are free
On-Page SEO Checklist