3.5 billion searches are performed
on Google every single day.
Seriously, no matter what you do, people are
looking for your products and services on Google;
cell phone repair shop: 1,700 monthly searches.
iphone charger: 34,000 monthly searches.
best smartphone: 41,000 monthly searches.
And these search volumes are
only for US based searches.
But here’s the thing:
Even though there are billions of searches
every single day, our recent study shows that
91% of content gets no traffic from Google.
So how do you join the other 9% of web pages
and start getting free, consistent, and passive
traffic from Google?
If you’re a beginner to SEO, then you’re
going to want to watch this whole tutorial
because I’m going to show you how to
start attracting customers from the
What’s up everyone, Sam Oh here with Ahrefs,
the SEO tool that helps you grow your search
traffic, research your competitors,
and dominate your niche.
This tutorial is called “SEO for beginners”
because even if you haven’t got the slightest
clue what SEO is, you’ll have very clear
and easy action items that you can implement
into your website right away.
So we’ll be covering the most important
things that you should know to ensure that
your website is optimized for search.
Let’s get started.
So what is SEO?
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization.
It’s the process of optimizing your website
and webpages to get free organic traffic from
search engines like Google.
Think of Google like a filing system in a library.
The library has billions of books with hundreds
of trillions of pages.
So let’s say that you want to find something
on, “global warming.”
Then Google would search through these books
and extract pages that contain your keywords
or closely related words.
But as I’m sure you know, search results
aren't returned in any random order.
Google tries to return the most relevant results
first by using sophisticated algorithms.
And they're so good at this, that most of
us never have to click through to page 2 of
the search results.
Nobody knows exactly how these algorithms
work or the exact factors it looks at to rank
a webpage, but we do know a lot of the so-called
"Google ranking factors," so we are able to
make some optimizations.
So your job is going to be two-fold:
Number 1, we need to make sure that it's easy
for search engines to understand what your
page is about and create that content that
matches what we call, “the searcher’s intent," right?
And number 2, we need to show Google and
other search engines that it’s ‘worthy’ of ranking.
So throughout this tutorial, let’s say that
I’m a new and budding photographer and I
live in Toronto, Canada.
I’m starting my new wedding photography
business called “Sam PhOHtography.”
Yup, I’m pretty awesome...
but I don’t have any friends, so referrals
are out of the question.
Find keywords that are relevant to your niche.
Step 1 is to find relevant keywords that people
are searching for and see how these search
queries fit into your business.
The easiest way to start finding relevant
keywords is to put yourself in the shoes of
a potential customer.
So I would think that a bride or groom looking
for some magical wedding photos would search
for “wedding photographer in Toronto.”
Makes sense, right?
So I’ll go to Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer
tool, which is one of our SEO tools that provides
rich data on Google searches, and I’ll enter
in that search query here.
I’ll also change the country to Canada since
people in other countries, they probably
aren’t looking for a Toronto
based photographer as often.
Now, I’ll run the search.
And you can see that there are only around
60 or so monthly searches for this keyword
phrase, which is far from exciting.
But looking below, you’ll see that the parent
topic for our query is different.
The parent topic determines if you can rank
for your target keyword, so the one that we
originally entered here, while targeting a
more general topic on your page instead.
In this case, the parent topic is showing
that more people search for, “toronto wedding
photographer,” over “wedding photographer in toronto.”
Now, if we scroll to the bottom of the page,
you can see the top 10 Google rankings for
your target keyword and a bunch of keyword metrics.
I’ll just touch on two of them for this video:
traffic and keywords.
Take a look at these two ranking pages.
You can see that they generate well over a
thousand search visitors every single month
and next to that, you’ll see that each page
individually ranks for hundreds of keywords.
If we click on the number of keyword rankings
here, you can see all of the different keywords
and the ranking positions in Google search.
This is a good thing to do because you already
know that Google is ranking this single page
for all of the keywords, so why wouldn’t
you be able to rank for these keywords and
maybe even more?
Try and remember this part, because we will
be exploring things like keyword usage multiple
times throughout this tutorial.
Alright, now that we have a list of keywords,
it’s time to optimize your pages.
In the world of search engine optimization,
this is called “on-page SEO.”
Since we know the keywords that people are
searching for in Google, it gives us clues
on the language we should use to let both
Google and potential customers know what your
page is about.
For example, knowing that “toronto wedding
photographer” is a more popular search query
than “wedding photographer in Toronto”,
that will help us make smarter copywriting
So for your homepage content, you might want
to say, “Hi I’m Sam, a Toronto wedding
photographer. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” instead
of “Howdy, I’m Sam and I do wedding photos
for couples in Toronto.”
But I do need to make two things very clear:
First, you don’t have to use your exact
match keyword since Google has gotten pretty
smart at understanding what your page is about.
And second, it’s very important to note
that you shouldn’t try to trick Google by
using keywords where they don’t belong.
Your first priority should be to optimize
for people because the last time I checked,
robots aren’t going to pay you for your services.
Here’s an example of what you shouldn’t do:
"I’m a Toronto wedding photographer that
does Toronto wedding photography for your
This is known as keyword stuffing and long
story short, it does more harm than good.
So key takeaway?
Don’t do it.
So for on-page SEO, I want to pass on 4 very
basic, but important tips that you can use
on every page you optimize.
First is to optimize your title
tags and meta descriptions.
When you look at the Google’s search results,
you’ll see this part in blue and the text
The top part is called your title tag and
the other part is the meta description.
The purpose of these is to entice someone
to click through to your page.
And if people are actually clicking through
to your page, then that’s telling Google
that your page is likely relevant to the reason
why they had searched for the query in the
first place, right?
And you can see that Google actually even
bolds these keywords and similar keywords
within the search results making them stand out.
With that in mind, I might create a title
like, “Award-Winning Toronto Wedding Photographer,”
and then my brand name.
But of course, if you’re going to do something
like this, it should be true.
Then for the meta description, you can explain
in a couple brief sentences what the page
But rather than putting a generic description
that everyone else is doing and calling yourself
the best, you can put something like:
“Sam Oh was rated the Star’s Best Toronto
He combines creativity with science to capture
life’s happiest day in a million pixels.”
Awww...how sweet is that?
Now this would make me as a consumer want
to find out who this awesome photographer is.
The last part of on-page optimization is the
most important and that’s the actual content
on the page.
For a typical wedding photography home page,
I might have some images, a short “about
us” or “about me” section, possibly
the services that I provide, and some testimonials
from happy brides and grooms.
Without over complicating things, you’ll
likely want to use your primary keyword phrase
in the main headline, often referred to as an H1 tag.
And looking at one of the top ranking pages,
you’ll see that they did this right here.
An example of what you probably shouldn’t
be doing is something like this:
The H1 or heading tag here says, “hello
there” which doesn’t help anyone understand
what the page is about.
And remember, your job is to help Google best
identify your page as being relevant to the
user’s search query.
I’ll go back to the organic keywords report
in Ahrefs to see one of my competitor’s
keyword rankings and see if there are any
other ideas that might help Google better
understand what my page is about.
You can see some other relevant keywords in
here like bridal, photos, and GTA, which stands
for the Greater Toronto Area.
So as you’re writing the copy for your page,
you might want to keep these in mind and sprinkle
them in where it makes sense
and reads naturally to visitors.
Alright, so let’s take this Sam PhOHtography
example one step further.
Let’s say that my business was growing,
I got a lot more experience under my belt
and I found out that I have some mad skills
in areas like landscape, portrait, travel,
So I decided, heck, I’m going to offer those services too!
Rather than trying to rank my homepage for
keywords that aren’t exactly related, I
could easily create new services pages.
So I’d do the same thing by first going
to Ahrefs Keywords Explorer.
Then I’d type in something like “toronto
product photographer," and I’ll quickly
look at the search volume and see it has 100
or so monthly searches in Canada.
Then I’ll take a look at the parent topic
that has around 200 searches.
And here’s a quick but super interesting side note.
With wedding photographers, people seem to
be searching for “Toronto wedding photographer”
While people looking for product photographers
in Toronto are searching for “product photography
So this step is vital to ensure you’re targeting
keywords that will provide you with the most
exposure for your pages.
So for our services page, we would do the
same thing as we did before with the title
tag, meta description, and the content on the page.
The last thing you should do is to include your
primary keyword phrase in the URL of the page.
So for a product photography services page,
your final URL might look like this:
If you’re a Wordpress user, you can just
click here and edit it using hyphens to separate
So in this case, I would change it to product-photography-toronto.
A really quick hack you can do is to look
at the top 10 rankings and see how they’ve
optimized those pages to rank there.
So if we look at the Google search results
for, “Toronto product photography,” you
can see that some of the pages are keyword
stuffing in the title tags and that the meta
descriptions are all kind of cheesy or they're truncated.
Clicking through to this result, you can see
that it’s just a classifieds site, similar
to Craigslist, so it’s clearly not optimized.
Clicking through to this one, you can see
that they included their keyword phrase in
the heading and title tags, but then there’s
pretty much no content on the rest of the page.
And then clicking through to this one here,
this one seems to be over optimized for their
And if I do a ‘find’ for the word “photo”
you can see over 110 instances of it on this
page, which again, will do more
harm than good in the long run.
What you’re seeing here is an opportunity
to overtake these search results.
Basically, Google has no choice but to choose
the best options from a bad pool of pages.
Alright, so by this point, we’ve optimized
our main pages for our different services,
and we've covered the basics of on-page SEO.
And if you’ve done this for all of your
key pages, then I can assure you that you
are miles ahead of a lot of your competitors.
The next part and arguably most important
piece of ranking high on Google is off-page
Do Off-page SEO.
Off-page SEO often refers to link building.
And link building is the process of getting
other websites to link to your web pages.
Basically, links act as votes or other people
vouching for your website saying:
“hey, these people are really good at what
they do and I trust them enough that I would
send my visitors to their website.”
It works in a similar way that you would refer
your friend to buy a product from whatever
store because you’ve tried it, used it, and loved it.
In general, the more quality backlinks you
can get from relevant pages, the higher you’ll
rank in Google.
Now I’m putting the emphasis here on the
word “quality,” because there are a lot
of different types of links you can get from
like forums, directories, and editorial links
to name a few.
But if you think about it, a place like a
forum where virtually anyone can place a link
will likely hold less value than a link from
someone else's blog.
But to be clear, other types of links will
still hold some kind of value, but probably
not as much as links like editorials would.
So if you’re focusing on quality, then you’ll
probably want to prioritize editorial links.
And the main way to get links from other people’s
blogs is through something that SEOs often
refer to as “outreach.”
Use outreach and guest-posting to build links.
And outreach is exactly the way it sounds.
You’re contacting people and asking them for a link.
But you can’t just email someone and be like, “yo!
I need a link.
Hook it up.”
It doesn't work that way.
There are a three things that you need in
order to make your outreach campaigns more
1. You need people who are actually
interested in the stuff that you do.
2. You need a good reason to contact them.
3. You need a pitch that somehow benefits them.
Let’s go through a few examples, shall we?
First we need to identify people who are interested
in what you are doing.
The most commonsensical one in the context
of link building are websites that have already
linked to your competitors.
You can find these pages by going to Ahrefs'
Site Explorer and entering in a domain or URL.
So I’ll enter in mangostudios.com, who also
does wedding photography in Toronto.
I’ll also narrow our search down to pages
that are linking just to their home page.
From here, I can click on the backlinks option
in the left column.
And here, I’ll use this filter to narrow
down the backlinks to only links within content,
since I mentioned that I want to get some
On the left side, you can see the websites
that linked to the target URL or domain and
on the right side, you can see which page
they linked to and the context of the backlink.
Next, let’s click through to this one on
"Jaw-Dropping Gorgeous Wedding Flower Ideas."
You can see that there are a bunch of pictures
I actually have a great one that’s way better
than all of these.
So let’s check that off on our checklist
for successful outreach.
We now have a prospect.
So I can contact the author, Nicole, and let
her know about one of my pictures that was
published in some kind of wedding magazine,
because it’s that awesome.
So this now fulfills checkbox #2.
We have a good reason to contact her because
we have something relevant to her piece.
And of course, I’d be giving her rights
to publish my photo, which also checks off
As a side note, it doesn’t mean that she’ll
publish my photo or give me a link.
As a general rule of thumb, the better the
‘excuse’ you can come up with to contact
the author, the better your chance will be
to get the link.
Another good reason to contact someone is
to offer a guest post.
Blog owners are always on the hunt for new
content and since your site is new, you’ll
be getting in front of someone else’s audience
in exchange for some of your time and content
where you could easily use some watermarked
photos that you’ve taken.
With guest posts, your reason to contact them
is pretty reasonable and you’ll be providing
value, which is free content (that should
be good), that benefits them and/or their
The next outreach prospect you can find are
businesses in a lateral non-competing niche.
So as a wedding photographer, you might want
to contact other local flower shops, reception
halls and wedding planners.
If you look at the “jaw dropping flowers”
article, you can see that there are two people
mentioned in the article.
There’s Mango Studios, which is the site
that we’re analyzing, as well as an event
and design planning company.
You can contact these people
to form meaningful relationships.
Just think about it for a second.
Your businesses go hand-in-hand and you can
pass on referrals to each other, you can link
back to each other as a ‘preferred vendor’
or link to others’ content in guest
posts where it's relevant.
And this isn’t limited to just local businesses.
This applies to everyone.
So, find some solid partners who are on that
same journey as you in a lateral niche and
help each other out.
Now with link building, there are numerous
tactics and strategies, so if you want to
expand your knowledge in this sphere, then
I highly recommend watching our series on
link building where you’ll get a full scope
of how to do this effectively.
We are on to the last SEO tip that I see a
lot of beginner’s avoiding.
Start a blog and create useful content.
Now, if you have something to sell, setting
up your homepage and product/services pages
is probably the first thing that you’ll do or
did and for good reason.
These are the pages that will directly generate
leads and revenue for your business.
But here’s the final tip: start blogging.
Now, I’m not telling you to write about
how you changed your storefront sign from
red to green.
By blogging, I’m referring to providing
practical content that can and will help your
prospective customers solve problems.
In Dr. Jonah Berger’s book, Contagious:
"Why Things Catch On," he shares his research
on why content gains popularity and even goes viral.
Content that provides “practical value”
was one of the key factors to success.
People don’t just share funny
cat videos or emotional stories.
They share things that help others.
And the same goes for gaining links.
People are more likely to link to your content
if it’s helpful, actionable, and solves
Look at what we do for the Ahrefs blog.
We have numerous SEO tools, but we tackle
different big topics like keyword research
and link building.
And even if you don’t use our tools, you can gain
a ton of value through these monstrous posts.
But you’ll see that we include shortcuts
or hacks where our tool can make doing SEO
a whole lot easier.
To further prove my point, if you look at
the “top pages” report inside Site Explorer,
you’ll see that the pages that generate
the most search traffic for us, mostly come
from our blog articles.
Blogging lets you reach large audiences.
For example, we saw that
Toronto wedding photographer
had around 900 monthly searches in Canada.
Let’s look up something like “wedding
venues Toronto” in Keywords Explorer.
You can see that it has around 1,400 monthly
searches in Canada.
If you’ve been in the wedding photography
business long enough, then you’ve probably
done shoots at numerous venues.
So you could create a post with
helpful and practical value.
For example, I might create an article of
some of the best venues that I had taken photos
at and display pieces from
my portfolio within the blog post.
I would also detail pros and cons of each
place, pricing information, location details,
items on their catering menu, or anything
else that would be genuinely helpful to a
person visiting this page.
And if you think about it, people usually
book the venue before the photographer.
So there’s a solid chance that after people
see some of your stunning watermarked photos,
they might look through your portfolio, and
contact you for a quote that can generate
more customers for you.
And if you think about it, they may have never
discovered you through a different means because
they didn’t type in a keyword phrase like
“Toronto wedding photographer," or their
friends didn't refer you to them.
When you’re thinking of these ideas, put
yourself in the searcher’s shoes.
What would they be looking for and what would
help them solve the query?
Now, when you’re picking topics, try and
stick with ones that provide value to your business.
Pick topics that provide value to your business.
So as a photographer, I would want to almost
always showcase my work because I would be
judged by my portfolio.
As a software company, we showcase how our
tools can help in people’s SEO process because
people will buy our tools if they see how
it benefits them.
As a coffee roastery, you might show them
how to make the perfect cup of coffee or an
article on how to roast beans.
I cannot emphasize enough, how much a blog
can help you boost your SEO efforts.
It’s a great way to get ahead of your competitors
who have been in the game for longer than
you, but they've been targeting only these
From here, you can just rinse and repeat the
keyword research process, the on-page optimization
tips, and continually build links to your
content and articles and start climbing the
Google search rankings.
We have a ton of really helpful videos where
we expand on these topics, so I’ll leave
links to those in the description.
Make sure to subscribe for more actionable
SEO and marketing tutorials and if you have
any questions, feel free to leave a comment
and I would be happy to jump in and help out.
Sam PhOHtography, signing out.