SEO 101: How to Get Started

The views expressed in this post are the writer's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Aloa or AloaLabs, LLC.

Looking for SEO help? Check out our friends at tiny lever marketing.

SEO (search engine optimization) is one of the most tedious yet important things you can do for your business. The average SEO service costs $100-$300/hour, with companies spending upwards of 5-figures a month to optimize their SEO. In fact, in 2019, US companies spent a combined $73.38 billion. That’s ~$5 billion more than the entire GDP of Croatia. So if you didn’t think it was too important before, hopefully that puts things into perspective.

Aloa’s SEO Journey

LAST UPDATED: July 31, 2023

At Aloa, we were frustrated that our site wasn’t ranking the way we wanted it to. Everyone is hiring/contracting digital marketing agencies, so to us, doing the same didn’t give us a competitive advantage, it just put us at par. So we decided to do something about it.

We spent all of 2022 studying hundreds of digital marketing agencies and becoming experts of SEO. We realized that so many SEO agency had a marginal value proposition to where when you look on paper and compare them one to one, it’s almost impossible to notice. However, when you compare hundreds, and aggregate all of those differences, you start to uncover true gold.

Here’s the thing about SEO: it’s really easy to knock out the 80% low-hanging fruits that will reap benefits. It’s really time consuming to tackle the remaining 20%, which inherently makes it hard. That’s the key. Each of those little marginal tasks seem insignificant individually, but when combined, they make all the difference. The kicker? Nobody is putting in the effort to tackle all the little details because it is so damn difficult and time-consuming. So what does that mean? It means there is immense opportunity.

Don’t believe me? Let me back it up with some facts about Aloa, showing before and after we focused on ALL strategies, even the tiniest of ones (Jan. 2022 —> July 2023):

Aloa's SEO stats
Aloa's SEO improvements (stats via Ahrefs)

So what does this all mean? It means that if you google some of our industry’s most competitive keywords (software outsourcing, hire mobile app developers, hire remote developers, hire android app developer, nearshore software development), you’re going to see Aloa ranked amongst and sometimes above the biggest competitors in the software outsourcing landscape.

Give it a shot. Google “hire software developers” or hire web developers” and tell us what you see.

Now of course, by in large these companies are out-ranking us. It’s a slow and patience-driven process. But here’s the thing about us even ranking up there for some of these heavy-hitting keywords: Companies like Fiverr, Upwork, and Toptal are making over $300M annually. Yet somehow, Aloa, a team of 9 with an SEO budget of $2,000 per month, is making its mark with the big dogs. So much so that the moment we started ranking for these competitive keywords, we started getting SEO attacked with tens of thousands of spammy backlinks to try and hurt us. That can only mean one thing, we’re doing something right.

If you do want to learn more and chat with us personally, feel free to schedule some time with us. Given the volume of requests we’re receiving, we’ve put up a paywall to ensure that the conversations we have are with people who are serious about SEO.

If there is enough demand and specific requests, we can pump out some more content that goes more in-depth into these steps and the details/sub-categories within. At the end of the day, we’re here for the people!

I’m new to SEO, where do I start?

Step 0, find yourself a therapist. Just kidding! The actual Step 0 is about mindset. You must internalize and recognize that this is a process. If you want to do it right, you need to have patience. We didn’t get to where we are over the past 16 months by looking for “get rich quick” solutions. Not at all. We studied the details. We maintained our focus. We stuck to our vision.

This may seem obvious, but when you’re 6 months into this process and still not seeing incredible results, it might be time to consider strategies like SEO outreach. Questioning all of your efforts and the opportunity cost of your time, you’ll start to understand why exploring every avenue, including outreach, is so important. It’s a slippery slope, so be ready with some mental tenacity and figure out what your motivators are to keep you driving forward in the face of adversity.

NOTE: Before we dig in, we want you to know that we’ll always be 100% honest with you. We’re going to get you 90% of the way there, but it won’t be everything we’ve learned. We aren’t trying to make money off of you, we are just trying to help those who are truly interested.

There’s admittedly some secret sauce that we figured out that we can’t scream to the world, or less that sauce is no longer secret and our SEO success will suffer.

So while we’re happy to answer questions and provide guidance, we won’t be sharing the entire secret recipe. With that being said, we hope you enjoy.

Step 1: Track Your Efforts & Gather Your Tools

Everything starts with foundation. Before you can achieve success, you need to set yourself up for success. With SEO, that means putting yourself in a position where you are going to be able to track everything, including the little details, because at the end of the day, your success against the big dogs is going to hinge on your ability to perform the nitty gritty.

  1. Track how long it takes you to do things and figure out where your points of inefficiencies are
  2. As you grow in your knowledge, build comprehensive checklists to ensure that you do the right thing, every. single. time.
  3. Build process, this way you are never the bottleneck. You should be able to teach literally anyone to do what needs to be done in a simple and clear way.
  4. Make sure that you’re using the right tools, you don’t have to do this alone:
  5. Ahrefs or Semrush to rack everything SEO
  6. Screaming Frog to crawl your site
  7. Google Analytics to track your traffic with its embedded analytics capabilities
  8. Answerthepublic to check out keywords

NOTE: SEO is not easy. You'll notice a huge spike in organic pages and then a dip. We did some technical SEO wrong that ended up duplicating pages. We fixed it, but this shows the reality of SEO - it's a process.

Aloa's ranked pages/traffic
Ahrefs shows Aloa's organic ranked pages and organic traffic

Step 2: Understand Your Business

It is important to understand your business before you plan to start ranking for content. You may be thinking that you already know your business and that this is a waste of time. The reason why this is so important is because if you want to build a scalable system, you need one that allows you to onboard anyone and ramp them up quickly.

Aloa's customer personas
Aloa's Customer Personas

It also ensures that your brand voice is in alignment across your articles, that you’re writing content that aligns with what your target audience is looking to read, and that your keywords you are targeting aren’t just industry standard keywords but ones that most align with your own unique value propositions.

Step 3: Understand Your Competitors

In order to best perform on your own SEO, it is important that you study the work and expertise of those with more experience (and bigger budget) than you.

If you can learn what your competitors are ranking for, it can influence your direction. Analyzing competitor backlinks and content also will help you learn what they are not ranking for, meaning identifying potential gaps that you can try to fill to start making your mark. It's also worth researching niche specific links that will help you understand more your competitors.

Aloa's competitor sites
Aloa's competitors (via Ahrefs)

Most importantly, your top competitors who have a deeper reach and budget than you will likely have more hands on this, so you need to know what they are doing so you can position yourselves slightly differently. Don’t try to compete 1:1 with them, try to flex on your unique propositions to position yourself for success. One method for doing this is to scrape Google in order to obtain information from competing search engines and understand the market.

Step 4: Keyword Analysis

Your first step in determining your keywords is first analyzing the general landscape. Start searching in keyword searching tools (like Ahrefs) to understand what the general landscape looks like.

  1. Start by researching the keywords of your site and your competitors' sites. Pull those terms; that’s your first list.
  2. Then start looking at related keywords to those your competitors are ranking for. Add them to the list.
  3. Finally, brainstorm all of your value propositions and the keywords you want to be ranking for, search them and find other keywords related to those that you are searching and add them to the list.
Aloa's keywords
Some of Aloa's top ranked keywords (via Ahrefs)

Step 5: Keyword Selection

Now this is the fun stuff. You have your master list of way too many keywords to think about. How do you choose the right ones? The key here is to be strategic. Let’s start with some basics.

Please remember that all of this is based on our opinion, and nothing more. We aren’t here to say other strategies are wrong, we’re just sharing what has worked for us.

Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit - Keyword Difficulty (KD). The KD is going to tell you relatively how difficult it is to rank. If you have a lot of ranking content and a strong SEO presence, you have an easier chance of getting some higher KD winners. If you are just starting off, it is going to be tougher.

KD Rule of Thumb:

  1. If you are just starting off, target keywords with a KD less than 15
  2. If you have an existing blog with ranked pages, but haven’t done any SEO optimization, look for keywords with a KD less than 25
  3. If you are starting to rank for solid keywords and have implemented SEO strategies for more than 6 months, think about targeting KDs under 45
  4. If you are deep in the SEO rabbit-hole and have been doing optimization, content writing, etc. for more than 12 months, try to go after some high impact terms, KD under 65
  5. If you’re ranking big-time for impressive keywords and have a very strong SEO profile, meaning you’ve been focusing on SEO for 2+ years, then start going after any keyword with any KD.

Another quick tip for the beginners out there - check out the volume of the keywords. If a volume is low, less people are going to be going after that keyword, so while it isn’t too effective in converting traffic, its a great starting point if you are trying to get off the ground and show Google that you are serious about your SEO.

Step 6: Content Selection

Once you know your keywords, its time to start writing content. The first thing you want to do is understand what type of content you should be writing. There are three general stages to consider: Awareness, Consideration, Decision.

  1. Awareness - this is for an audience you are trying to just generally educate on your industry or service.
  2. Consideration - this is for an audience you are trying to convince why your service exists and is better than competitors.
  3. Decision - this is for an audience you know is ready to buy and you want to convert them from your content itself.

Think back to knowing your business, your audience, your competitors, etc. You’ll need to tap into that knowledge. If you’re just starting off, you probably want to start a bit more with Awareness content. If you already have solid site traffic, maybe you’re ready for Decision content. Know your audience, know what you want out of your content, and strategically plan not only what type of content to write but then select the proper keywords to target from your keyword list.

Step 7: Content Execution

Writing the content itself is the easy part, building the structure to make it scalable is the hard part. Here is our recommendation as to how to go about it:

  1. Start by first researching the type of content you are writing. See how competitors structure the content and look to follow a similar format after reviewing many competitors.
  2. Write a few blogs following this general theme, see what feels good and what doesn’t.
  3. Start to build a standardized structure that you can use for future blogs. Iterate on that structure if needed.
  4. Leverage that structure to where you are writing the same format and just changing the variables. Outlining the same flow will allow your writers to get better and quicker as they get more experience writing this type of content.
  5. When you want to write another style of content, follow the same steps. Over time, you’ll build up a beautiful database of templates you can leverage to make your content writing experience more time and cost effective.

Step 8: On-Page Optimization

On page SEO is super important. This applies to everything from your website landing page to your blogs themselves. Here are the general rules of thumb that we follow:

Page Speed & Mobile Optimization

Make sure that all pages are mobile optimized and your load speed is solid. You can check site speed here by typing in the desired URL and toggling between mobile & desktop score.

  • Regarding mobile optimization of the site, if you are just writing blogs, you don’t need to worry about this as the blog will be published along the same theme as other blogs and therefore maintain the high-level mobile optimization.
  • If you are building out a new page on the website, then be sure you mobile optimize it.

Title Tags

The title tag is an HTML code tag that allows you to give a web page a title. This title can be found in the browser title bar, as well as in the search engine results pages (SERP). It's crucial to add and optimize your website's title tags, as they play an essential role in terms of organic ranking (SEO).

Aloa's title tag for software outsourcing
Aloa's title tag for a software outsourcing blog (via Google)
  • Character Limit: 55
  • Choose what you want the main keyword to be that you are targeting for each page. Remember, you don’t want every page to target the same keywords because you want to strategically push certain pages for certain keywords.
  • For example, if you are in the software development space, it wouldn’t be productive to try and rank every page for the keyword “software development” - rather, you should focus on the core feature of the page to help determine what the main keyword should be that you want to rank for.
Title Tag Keywords
  • Make sure that your title tag is targeting ONE keyword.
  • If your title tag is stuffed with keywords, it will confuse google. You have two options here when it comes to choosing the single keyword:
  • — Short-Tail Keywords (i.e. software development)— Long-Tail Keywords (i.e. top 10 programming languages in 2022)
  • A short-tail keyword will be harder to obtain as it is more broad. Long-tail keywords are more focused, so easier to grab. Before you decide what your title tag should be, make sure you do the following:
  • —> Keyword research to determine what keyword is the best value bet (easiest to obtain yet still has traffic potential)—> Determine if your goal is a long-term or short-term rank for the page. If short term, get more focused. If long term, then its more okay to swing for the fences with short-tail keywords.


Subdirectories, or subfolders, are the organized pages that live within your site, under your main domain. A URL that is URL.COM/XYZ/ABC is reflective of subdirectories. The XYZ is a page within the main domain and the ABC is a page within the XYZ, which lives within the main domain.

  • You want to properly organize your website as it will allow users (and google) to properly navigate your site. The more organized and clean your site is, the easier for users (and google) to go through your site, therefore making your site more usable & valuable in the eyes of Google.
  • You want to use subdirectories to categorize pages. Common subdirectories:— Blogs (i.e.


Headers are your larger-sized text on your website. There are 6 different header levels: H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, & H6.

  • Headers help Google determine what the content of your site is, so it is important to include the keywords you want to rank for in your headers.
  • Google values an H1 the most and an H6 the least. Imagine that your headers are your voice, telling Google what you’re talking about.
Let’s break down each header:
  • H1: You are screaming at the top of your lungs
  • H2: Outdoor voice, you’re loud
  • H3: Regular volume voice
  • H4: Inside voice, you’re nearing a whisper
  • H5: A loud whisper
  • H6: A soft whisper

So now if you think of it this way, it makes sense why Google wouldn’t want many H1s, because if you have 3 people screaming at the top of their lungs at the same time, it will be impossible to hear anybody, so make sure it is properly distributed.

  • H1: 1 maximum
  • H2: 1-2
  • H3 - H6: there is no limit, just make sure it looks good

Meta Description

A meta description is an HTML tag that summarizes the webpage's content. It's the snippet of text that appears under your page title in search engine result pages.

Node.js developers SERP
SERP (including meta description) for hiring Node.js developers (via Webflow)
  • Character Limit: 155
  • Your meta description actually doesn’t impact Google’s view of your website, it doesn’t influence your SEO score. So, when it comes to your meta description, it is important to make it catchy and practical. Your meta description is for the users, it is what an individual will read before clicking your site.
  • Some things to keep in mind:
  • If your page is a CTA, make sure you have a CTA in your meta description
  • If your page is informational, make sure you include the catchy one-liner
  • Keep your meta description less than 150 characters

Website Pages

The more website pages (subdirectories) the better. Make sure that you load your site up with content and that your pages are linking to each-other. If they aren’t linking to each other, then Google can’t find them and neither can users.


Make sure that all images are compressed, ensuring we maintain quality site speed. Convert all images to WEBP files as that will help keep files small. You can use this site to efficiently convert all images. To optimize your website further, you can also convert your images to HTML, which can enhance site performance and allow for more dynamic image manipulation.

PNG to WEBP converter
PNG to WEBP converter (via Pixelied)


If your content is going to be displayed to an audience that speaks multiple languages, you may want to consider translating your content and providing a toggle menu for language selection. Allowing for a user experience that is in the viewer's native language will increase your site dwell time which in turn strengthens your SEO.

You can even take it one step further by localization your content, specifying your images and structure to culturally more align with the viewers of different communities and regions. Content translation and localization will help create more targeted user experiences, which in turn will create a stickier webpage.

Step 9: Off-Page Optimization

Off-page optimization refers to backlinks and internal links for your content. This is a beast and a half. Our first suggestion is that if you are starting from the beginning, don’t even worry about this yet. Stay focused on the previous steps. If you are ready to think about this, here are some tips:

Internal Links

Content that you want to be ranked high should have strong internal links. Make sure your homepage links back to the articles and blogs you want to be ranked.


You should gather at least 2-3 backlinks for content that you want ranked highly. How do you get backlinks? Well, it’s not always a fun process. Here are some strategies you can leverage. And remember, keep track of them by backlink monitoring!

Aloa's link-tracking sheet
Aloa's link tracking sheet (via Google Sheets)
Broken Backlink Campaign

Broken Links — this article has a great outline on the high-level strategy.

  1. Use Check My Links - a Google Chrome extension to automatically check all of the links on any page you go on. It will spit back which links are broken.
  2. Ahrefs
How to Find Broken Backlinks (multiple strategies)

Organic Search:

  1. Find high-trafficked sites by typing in Google:
  2. “Keyword” + inurl:resources
  3. “Keyword” + intitle:links
  4. “Keyword” + “helpful resources”
  5. “Keyword” + “useful resources”
  6. Go on the sites and use the Chrome plugin to see if there are broken backlinks
  7. Go into Ahrefs and enter the link being used to get a list of all referring domains (domains that are linking to that page)
  8. Export the list as this is a list of websites that link back to this broken link


  1. Insert in Google: “keyword” intext: ”dead link”
  2. Click on Wiki page and scroll down, any reference tagged with Dead Link
  3. Go into Ahrefs and enter the dead link being used to get a list of all referring domains (domains that are linking to that page)
  4. Export the list as this is a list of websites that link back to this broken link
  5. Steal Competitor Links
  6. Enter the competitor’s URL in Ahrefs
  7. Click on site health, go to health score, click on broken links
  8. See who is linking to your competitor’s broken pages
  9. Export the list and identify what the broken page is that is being linked back to

Email Campaign:

  1. Build out an email campaign
  2. Source the email/contact information for all of the broken site links
  3. Upload all information into an email sequence to send a campaign
Guest Posting

Creating a guest post campaign can be a great way to bring additional traffic to a website, boost SEO rankings, and establish the website’s authority in the industry. Here's an overview of creating a guest post campaign:

  1. Identify Goals: Before starting your campaign, it's important to identify what is our client’s goals are. Do they want to increase their website's traffic? Build their reputation as an expert in their field? Increase their SEO rankings? Knowing what you want to achieve will help you create a more focused and successful campaign.
  2. Research Target Blogs: Once you know what you want to accomplish, the next step is to find the right blogs to target. Look for high-traffic blogs in your niche that have a good reputation and offer quality content. You can also look for blogs that have accepted guest posts in the past and have a good following.
  3. Pitch Your Ideas: Once you've identified the blogs you want to target, it's time to craft a compelling pitch that will convince the blog owner to accept your post. Make sure to include a brief overview of the post, why it will be valuable to their readers, and why you are the right person to write it.
  4. Write Your Article: Once you've been accepted as a guest writer, it's time to write your posts. Make sure to include well-researched content and engaging visuals. Also, be sure to include relevant links to your own website or other authoritative sources.
  5. Promote Your Blog: Once your post is published, it's important to promote it. Share it on social media, reach out to influencers, and comment on related blog posts. This will help you reach a wider audience and get more eyes on your content.
  1. Ahrefs
  2. Gmail
Guest Post - Step by Step:
  1. Brainstorm potential topic angles that would be relevant to the target page.
  2. Draft an email pitch related to the selected topic angle.
  3. Develop content ideations and headlines based on the chosen topic.
  4. Prospect websites that would be a good fit for the topic.
  5. Carefully assess the quality and relevancy of each website. This includes checking metrics such as domain authority and search engine ranking as well as assessing the quality of the website's content and audience.
  6. Gather contact information for the websites. This may include email addresses and social media handles for the website's editor or content manager.
  7. Reach out to the contacts with your pitch. This should include an introduction of yourself, a summary of your proposed topic, and a link to your content or a sample of your writing.
  8. Negotiate the terms of your content placement. This may include the date of publication, the format of the content, and any compensation or promotion that will be provided in exchange for the guest post.
Niche Edit

Link insert, also known as link insertion or link placement, refers to the process of adding a hyperlink to a website or web page. This can be done in a variety of ways, including adding a link to existing content or paying for sponsored content or advertising. The goal of link insert is to have a link to an existing article with high traffic to direct traffic to our link.

  1. Ahrefs
  2. Gmail
  3. Google
Niche Edit - Step by Step:
  1. Research potential websites: Use a tool like Ahrefs to identify websites that are relevant to your industry and have a high Domain Rating (DR). These websites are likely to have a strong online presence and may be more likely to agree to your link insert request.
  2. Find the right contact: Look for the website's "Contact Us" page or try searching for the website's contact information online. Make sure to get the email address of the person who handles the website's content or is responsible for its online presence. Once you've identified the contact, use a free email verifier to ensure the accuracy of the email address, increasing the likelihood of successful communication
  3. Prepare your pitch: Craft a personalized email pitch that explains the value of your website and how your content can benefit the recipient's website. Provide examples of similar link insertions you have done before.
  4. Include your link: Include the link that you would like to insert in the email. Make sure it is relevant to the recipient's website and adds value to their content.
  5. Keep it short and sweet: Keep your email short and to the point, and make sure it is easy to read. Use bullet points or short paragraphs to break up the text. Additionally, consider using a SPF checker to enhance email security, ensuring that your concise and focused messages reach recipients reliably and securely.
  6. Finding Good Page to Insert Link when Prospect Agrees
  7. When reaching out to prospects and trying to win links, the conversation typically immediately goes to whether or not the prospect accepts guest posts. While guest posts are a great way to win links, link insertions are an excellent way to get links fast. This method is handy, especially when the deadline is fast approaching and you must catch up on your link targets.

Ways to find link insertion opportunities

  1. You’re doing a link insertion or content promotion campaign, and your template asks the prospect from the get-go if you can insert a link in one of their posts.
  2. The prospect is open to a guest post, and before agreeing on a topic, you first ask them whether or not they’re also open to link insertions.
  3. The prospect is a paid opportunity, and they inform you immediately of the rates for both guest posts and link insertions.

How to find a good post for a link insertion

  1. Go to the prospect’s website (Assuming that the prospect passed your personal vetting)
  2. On the search bar, type site:[prospect’s site] [keyword related to your project/target URL]
  3. Look for the most relevant page with the highest possible UR.
  4. The first way to check for the UR is by manually entering the URL into Ahrefs
  5. Another way is to download the Ahrefs extension on your browser. This extension lets you see the blog post’s UR in the search results.
  6. If there are multiple potential pages, go through each and see if you can find a spot where you can naturally add a new paragraph to insert your link. Preferably somewhere near the beginning of the article.
  7. Decide which page you want to use and come up with 1-2 sentences that include your target page. The target URL and anchor text can be found in your project’s link tracking sheet, so refer to that as needed.
Skyscraper Technique

This strategy requires you to work directly with the content team.

  1. Ahrefs
  2. Mailshake (or other email campaign)
Skyscraper Technique - Step by Step:
  1. Find an article that outlines a list (i.e. Find Top 50 XYZ) and fits within our domain authority
  2. Copy the article but do 100 instead of 50 (just radically more in the list)
  3. Design it better than the current original
  4. Plug the original’s URL into Ahrefs to export a list of all of it’s backlinks
  5. Build an email outreach campaign to the same backlinks

A Round-Up article is when you release a blog that is a Round-Up of professionals on the topic of your blog. The beauty is that while you will be giving a ton of backlinks, you will inherently get a ton of social presence as everyone in the Round-Up will likely share on their channels as well and hopefully then build more backlinks to you as the content gets referenced.

Step 10: Repeat & Refine

You’ve done it! Now it’s just about consistency. Make sure you have repeatable processes in place to keep the momentum.

And most importantly, this is where you leverage your tools that track your performance. You should constantly be iterating on your approach to keep working towards understanding what is working and what isn’t, what is taking too much time, what is taking too much subjective opinion, etc. The better you can build a scalable and repetitive process, the more efficient your performance will be.

Want to learn more?

Aloa isn’t a digital marketing agency. We aren’t trying to sell you on anything. Hell, this blog itself is free. We’re just a team of dreamers trying to change the world, to create a future where anyone can innovate freely. So, in alignment with our mission, we’ve given you some tips.

If you do want to learn more and chat with us personally, feel free to schedule some time with us. Given the volume of requests we’re receiving, we’ve put up a paywall to ensure that the conversations we have are with people who are serious about SEO.

If there is enough demand and specific requests, we can pump out some more content that goes more in-depth into these steps and the details/sub-categories within. At the end of the day, we’re here for the people!

You can also reach out to our friends over at tiny lever marketing!

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