You’ve got limited funds and more limited knowledge of SEO.
What’s a blogger, startup or small business to do?
Do your own SEO.
The worst thing you can do is hire a low-quality service in an effort to save money.
The cost of hiring a low-quality service can actually surpass the fee of hiring a low-quality service.
If you’re interested in improving your SEO but can’t afford a high-ranking agency or consultant, don’t fret.
We’re going to walk you through how to save money and do your own SEO, at least until you can afford the big guns.
Small business owners and marketers should know SEO strategy and best practices anyway. It’s useful knowledge to have. Even if you end up hiring someone, you’ll want to be able to review and assess their work, right?
Learning best practices for SEO will help you stay in tune with your search engine activity and ensure that you’re always producing content that helps your business succeed online.
1. Know your target audience
SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” Now, why would anyone want to optimize their website for search engines?
To be found. Duh. More than 60% of consumers start with search engines when shopping online. So, if your site isn’t accessible via search engine, you may not be found at all.
Taking another step back, let’s think about who’s searching for you. These are the folks for whom you’re optimizing your website. These folks are called your target audience, and in order to do your own SEO, you must know them.
Traditionally, getting to know your target audience involves determining their age, sex, geographic location and their needs (also known as pain points). These pain points are what you want to focus on, as they will determine what keywords and types of content resonate with your audience.
How do you discover these pain points? Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and consider what they’d do if they had a question. (Hint: They’d probably Google it.)
Instead of relying on Google’s results or autofill to see what’s being searched, head over to Keyword Tool Dominator to get the full picture. This tool will allow you to get an idea of what answers your audience is seeking.
Another option is to insert yourself into your audience’s conversation. Hop onto Quora, Reddit and other popular forums to see what’s being asked and answered, and to better understand how you can help.
If you don’t center your site and content around what your audience is looking for, you may never be found.
2. Understand keyword research and planning
Once you understand your target audience and their pain points, you’ll have a better idea of which keywords to target. Your customers probably use different terms to refer to your products and/or services than your colleagues and industry leaders, so keep this in mind when brainstorming keywords. Look for phrases that are searched for in a more casual, human way—rather than a jargon-loaded way.
Free tools like Google’s Keyword Planner and Ubersuggest are good places to start your keyword research. If you have the funds (which you may, if you do your own SEO), paid research tools like SEMRush and Wordtracker are also helpful.
Make a list of your keywords and longtail phrases, divided by priority and search volume. This will help drive and organize content for your website, blog, and social media.
Monitor Backlinks also provides a keyword ranking tool so you can check your website’s rankings (and the rankings of your competitors) in Google. Use this tool to compare results and discover the best ways to outrank your competition online. Daily reports and weekly keyword updates help you easily do your own SEO.
Grab a 30-day trial here to test it out for free.
If you’re still exploring what’s available, there’s a great list of additional keyword research and rank tracking tools here.
3. Build up your site with keywords in mind
Now that you have an understanding of your most searched and relevant keywords, it’s time to apply those to your website.
Looking at your list of keywords, ensure that you have a page on your website that corresponds to each of your high and medium priority keywords. This will help consumers find your website even if they’re searching for terms that are more generally related to your site’s focal area.
If you’re currently building a site now, we recommend WordPress for individual bloggers and small businesses. It’s simple, flexible and has plenty of built-in SEO features and plugins.
If you already have a WordPress, here’s how to audit your existing content:
- Check each URL. Ensure that it includes the target keyword for that page. Keep it short and sweet. It’s good practice to include your keyword in the SEO title and meta description, too, although this doesn’t directly affect your search results.
- What’s the title of your page? It should include the target keyword, but avoid keyword stuffing as that can actually hurt your SEO. The same goes for the text body of your site.
- If you have any outbound links, check their domain authority. High-ranking outbound links can help boost your page’s rank.
- Include graphics on your page. Nice images keep your visitors around longer and counteract high bounce rates (people abandoning your page as soon as they arrive) which can hurt your SEO.
- Optimize your images. Place the target keyword in each ALT description. Make sure the image you’ve uploaded has been saved with the target keywords in the filename itself, too.
- Include social media share buttons. How easy is it for your visitors to share your content on social media right now? Can content be shared with a single click? If not, add a plugin with social share buttons. When readers share your content, this gives you decent backlinks to your site and boosts SEO all around.
4. Build authority and backlinks through quality content
Surely you’ve heard the saying “Content is king!” We’ve all heard it to death—and there’s a reason why.
Never has it been truer than in today’s marketing world. Having an inbound content marketing strategy is integral to attracting consumers, converting leads and building a loyal customer base.
Consistent, quality content is amazing for SEO. By “quality content,” we mean factual research, actionable blog posts, articles with lists, easy-to-save infographics, thorough guides, e-books and “evergreen” content.
This type of content helps you do your own SEO in a couple ways. First, it helps you build authority within your industry. You’re free to showcase your knowledge and experience in the form of a blog, email newsletter, infographics and/or images. Don’t feel the need to post daily; consistency in any cadence is key.
Secondly, quality content helps to build backlinks for your website. Backlinks are one of the building blocks of a strong SEO campaign. Backlinks are a sign of a popular website, and they’re important for SEO because some search engines (especially Google) give more credit to websites that have a lot of backlinks.
Of course, Monitor Backlinks is a super helpful tool for building and managing your site’s backlink activity. Not only can you get real-time alerts when you gain backlinks, but you can also stay up to date with your competitors’ backlink activity. A tool like this is very important for building your credibility and doing your own SEO.
5. Create, build and maintain social media presences
Social media allows you to connect with your customers, industry partners, competitors and the general public. Every small business should have a social media presence on a few main channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Social media equips your audience to share your content and allows you to collect social signals (likes and shares) that contribute to your SEO.
Social media also gives you another platform on which to share your content, be found by consumers and ultimately garner more backlinks. Do your own SEO right by creating and curating a strong social presence.
6. Understand Google Analytics
The importance of analytics when doing SEO work is unparalleled. If you don’t know how to read and process your website’s traffic and conversions, you won’t understand how to do your own SEO.
Google Analytics is a great place to start, especially because almost 80% of searchers worldwide use Google. This tool helps you know where your visitors came from, segment your customer base, create campaigns, set and track goals, learn which keywords bring in the most organic traffic and much more.
Spend some time reviewing the Google Analytics dashboard and studying the different types of reports it can create. Becoming literate in this data will help you appreciate and improve your numbers as you do your own SEO.
7. Read SEO blogs and take free courses
The curse of SEO is that trends and best practices are always changing.
There are always new ways to optimize your site for search engines.
As do your own SEO, look for ways to expand your knowledge on the topic. Subscribe to an SEO-specific blog or take a free course online.
We suggest free courses like Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO, Search Engine Land’s SEO Guide or Google SEO Start Guide. Follow SEO updates by subscribing to Moz’s Whiteboard Friday or the Google Webmasters YouTube channel.
It’s much simpler than you think to do your own SEO. If this is something you want to do for your business—or just for your own entertainment—follow our seven easy steps above.
Soon, you’ll be having coffee with a friend and sharing all of your new knowledge.
Put in the effort, and you’ll be an SEO expert before you know it!
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