Prior to 2016, I had no clue what SEO was. I used the internet oblivious to the fact Google meddled in our search results.

Honestly, if you’d asked me in 2015 how Google worked, I’d probably say “magic.” I type in a question and out comes an answer. Who cares, right?

Since then, I’ve become a wise SEO wizard. But if you’re here right now, you’re probably befuddled by SEO. So, I’ve set out to give you a simple and quick cheat sheet on SEO.

What Is SEO Anyway?

Simply put, search engine optimization is the constant adjustment to hundreds of factors on a website Google might be monitoring. We do this to hopefully increase our ranking for various search terms.

If you Google search engine optimization, you’ll see topics like keyword targeting, site speed, mobile optimization, etc. Many SEO topics deal with on-page factors like content, keywords, and links.

If you’re just starting out in SEO, these three things will be your opening salvo. You’ll determine what kind of content you want to share with your audience, what keywords you’ll use, and where you’ll link out to.

You’ll eventually learn about WordPress themes, HTML tags, etc. You’ll learn how to keep track of website metrics and eventually, you’ll become an obsessive SEO like the rest of us.

But until then, let’s delve into some basics.

A Few Things to Avoid

Since 2012, Google has filtered results and these filters, when new, wreak havoc on website ranking. Sometimes, you’ll think you’re doing absolutely nothing wrong and suddenly your ranking will drop.

Google has no obligation to warn us when this will happen or to tell us what is going to change. But here are a few things we know will keep you from ranking on Google.

Link Buying

Actually, if done right, this can be extremely beneficial. But you must find a company that knows how to place links naturally.

If your link is to a car parts sales page and you buy a link on an editorial site about animal cruelty law, you’re likely wasting your money. Even if the site you’re linking back from is highly rated, Google will sniff out your spammy link and cut you down.

The best way to gain authority on Google? Earn those links. Create incredible content and get it shared and used.

Keyword Stuffing

Keywords almost don’t matter anymore. Of course, they somewhat matter, but they must be so natural even you don’t know you’re using a keyword.

Instead of focusing on keywords, focus on contextual subjects. Whatever your topic, it will show up naturally as a keyword in your content.

Unoriginal Content

Don’t copy other people. Plain and simple. Google will flunk you faster than you can say Matt Cutts.

There’s More to It Than Content

You could get a free WordPress account and create a ton of incredible content and get nowhere. Do your research. Pay a little bit of money. And then get cracking.

Good SEO takes a lot of work. Cutting corners poorly will often wreck you.

By Ben Mattice

Benjamin Mattice is a freelance writer/editor, horror and sci-fi writer, SEO and affiliate marketing newbie, dog wrestler, cat wrangler, capoeirista, and long distance runner. He lives in the Palouse with his wife, three dogs, two cats, and two rats. Yes, that would probably be considered a mini-zoo.