So you want to drive more online visitors to your website or increase your rankings in Google’s search engine, but don’t know where to start.
Should you hire an SEO company or go at it yourself? When it comes to search engine optimization it can be an overwhelming process, but it doesn’t have to be.
An SEO expert or agency can help ensure that when consumers do a web search, your website is one of the first resources to appear in the search results. But prior to paying someone else to help facilitate improved web results, you may want to enlist a few DIY tips yourself to give your SEO a boost.
Here are 16 do-it-yourself SEO tips that small business owners should try before hiring an SEO firm:
1. Start with Personas
Driving more visitors to your site starts with knowing the persona of your ideal buyer and understanding what makes them tick. Why? Because websites are ultimately built for humans and not robots. So dig into their challenges, understand why they buy, and create a customer persona. This will help you to best align your SEO and website strategy so you can get found online by your ideal customer.
To create a customer persona, start by researching your target audience. Gather as much data on them as possible – such as age, gender, income level, and career industry. Also, consider their interests and hobbies to get a better idea of who they are and what drives them. Look at the types of content that resonates with them. You can also talk to your customers directly and ask them questions about their preferences, concerns, and needs. Once you have gathered all the relevant data, analyze it to uncover patterns in customer behavior that will help you create a detailed persona of your ideal buyer.
2. Plan Your Keyword Research
Before you push up a bunch of content and copy on your website, make sure you plan out your keyword strategy. Keywords are the words or phrases that your target audience searches for when looking for products and services or when trying to solve a problem in search engines like Google and Bing. Search engines, like Google, will match up the most relevant content to the search of their user and provide the most accurate results from websites, blogs, and images.
There are a number of tools that give you valuable insights into which keywords you should focus on such as Wordstream, Ubersuggest and Google’s Keyword Planner. If you need a little assistance with your keyword research, here is a great article from Jason Demers at AudienceBloom that breaks it down step by step.
Use these keywords throughout your content in an organic way so that they blend naturally with the rest of the text instead of sticking out like a sore thumb. And speaking of natural keywords, don’t forget to use relevant long-tail keywords in your content to attract more specific audiences.
3. Find Gold in the Long Tail
For a lot of industries, ranking for the most trafficked keywords is highly effective. At the same time, trying to rank for those highly competitive terms can be a long and costly endeavor. Instead of focusing solely on the most popular keywords, spend some time building out a targeted strategy around relevant long-tail keywords.
Long tail keywords are longer and more specific phrases that search engine users search on when they are closer to making a purchase or finding what they are looking for. Longtail keywords are a key to a healthy online growth strategy. In fact, they make up the majority of all search engine traffic:
Image source: http://www.ohow.co/
So if you own an accounting software company, instead of trying to rank for an uber-competitive keyword such as “accounting software” with about 52 million searches and national brands vying for the top spot, try a targeted and more relevant approach such as “accounting software for real estate agents.”
By targeting long-tail keywords with less competition, you can get more targeted traffic that is closer to making a purchase. It may take some time to build out content for these terms, but by creating content for long-tail keywords, you can start to gain traction with the related terms and begin to rank for additional search queries.
4. Study your Competitors
Once you have your keyword strategy in place, identify the top competitors for each keyword and what they are doing right to get ranked in the good graces of the search engine gods. SpyFu is a simple cost effective tool to gain better insights into your competitors’ paid and organic search initiatives. Keep in mind that while competitive info can help shape your SEO initiatives, be careful not to rely solely on your competitors. After all, your best website conversions will come from those visitors that are best aligned with YOUR ideal buyer.
Analyze the backlinks of your competitors to see which ones are driving their rankings. Generate a list of their domains and take note of any recurring patterns. This will give you insights into how they’ve been able to build links and where you should target for your own link building efforts.
Keep track of what content performs well for your competitors, and use this as a benchmark for creating content of your own. Also, take note of their social media engagement metrics to get an idea of what works best on each platform. If you can work out which websites link to your competitors’ content, you have the opportunity to win those links too.
5. Blog Consistently
Pages on your website don’t change every day. So with Google always looking for new content, blogging is a great way to push up fresh, relevant content for the search engines to index. Remember as you blog, write your content for your ideal buyer and the challenges they face every day. Don’t just load your blog posts with keywords. Again, you’re ultimately trying to connect with people – not search engine robots. Avoid keyword stuffing, but do select a primary keyword for your post paired with research from Google Trends to give yourself the best chance of your content being discovered. Make sure the keyword appears in the title, body copy, URL, and meta description for the best optimization of your post.
Avoid keyword stuffing, but do select a primary keyword for your post paired with research from Google Trends to give yourself the best chance of your content being discovered. Make sure the keyword appears in the title, body copy, URL, and meta description for the best optimization of your post.
Another blogging tip is to use guest blogging in your strategy. Identify influencers and leaders in your space who write quality content and partner with them to create content that links back to your site. This is a great way to boost traffic, shares, and brand equity online.
Lastly, make sure to leverage email marketing to keep your subscribers and followers updated with the content you publish. This is a great way to ensure that your readership audience can easily access and engage with your content in one place.
By focusing on blogging consistently and leveraging other digital channels such as social media, email, and influencer partnerships, you will have the opportunity to create new content for your prospective buyers and drive traffic to your site. This will also help you build a loyal customer base that values your quality content which, in turn, seeks out your products or services as solutions to their needs.
6. Eliminate Duplicate Content
One of the easiest ways to drop in the rankings and get punished by search engines is to copy content and use it on your site. When Google is presented with the same piece of content in multiple places, it will show only one page and crowd the others out of the search rankings.
The goal of Google and search engines is to push original and relevant content to the top when users search on the terms they are looking for and suppress duplicate content and nonvaluable pages. So if you want to add content from another site, a simple best practice is to link to it and reference the original source or utilize 301 redirects from any duplicate pages to the original pages.
Make sure that any content you create for your website is unique and fresh. That way, search engines will recognize the value of it and reward it with higher rankings in the SERPs. Avoid using similar titles and meta descriptions across multiple pages on your site as this could be seen as duplicate content as well. Look out for identical URLs with different capitalizations and trailing slashes, as search engines view them as different pages. Review your website regularly to make sure that all content is unique and valuable to your audience.
7. Distribute and Share
As your content engine is humming look for ways to push out your white papers, guides, blog posts, and resources through multiple distribution channels. Content distribution platform Outbrain breaks it down in the following ways:
- Earned Content Distribution: This is when third parties share or publish your content through social media, guest posts, media coverage, or product reviews. This can help you to reach a wider audience and build credibility. It’s important to regularly monitor online conversations for mentions of your brand, product, or services. Also, keep an eye out for opportunities where you could place content or get featured in publications.
- Owned Content Distribution: This includes publishing content to web properties that belong to you, like your blog, email newsletter, or social media profiles. This is one of the most important ways to reach your audience. Make sure you have an editorial calendar in place and take advantage of automation tools to streamline content distribution across all of your owned properties.
- Paid Content Distribution: As the name implies, this is through paid channels, often using a pay-per-click advertising model. Paid content distribution helps to get your content in front of the right people quickly. Consider utilizing platforms like Google Ads, Facebook Ads and Outbrain to promote your content in an effective way. Make sure you monitor your campaigns regularly and adjust as needed – testing different tactics can help you to get the most value from your content budget.
8. Use Internal Links
With today’s heightened focus on content, internal linking is a great strategy to boost SEO. An internal link connects one page of a website to a different page on the same website. By using internal links in your site pages and in blog posts, it improves readability for your visitors, rankings for keywords, and Google’s ability to crawl your site. When you link internally, try to go deep. In other words, don’t just link back to your home page but to pages that are rich in content and relevant to the topic at hand.
Use anchor text that is relevant to the page you are linking to. This helps Google understand what the link is all about and how it contributes to your SEO efforts. Keep your internal links up-to-date as content changes over time so that visitors can find related content that is still relevant and provides them with a better user experience.
When creating content for SEO, internal linking is a great way to increase your search engine rankings. Again, internal links connect one page of your website to another page on the same site and can help you show Google which pages are important and should be ranked higher in search results.
Linking deeper into your site by adding relevant anchor text will also help you to rank for more specific keywords and phrases. It’s also relevant to keep your internal links up-to-date with new content so that visitors have an easy time navigating your website and finding information relevant to them.
9. Grow Your Inbound Links
In addition to your internal linking strategy, external link building remains one of the cornerstones of SEO and the best way to improve your ranking in search land. The goal of inbound linking is to get outside links from sites, directories, and forums that have solid domain authority and link them back to your site. For example, if your business gets mentioned in Huffington Post, which has a higher page rank than your website, it will boost your page rank, and Google and other search engines will reward you by increasing your position in search results.
Make sure when you are reaching out to other sites, you provide them with valuable content that will be shared and linked back to your site. You can also use guest blogging, social media communities, and forum posting as a way of gaining inbound links, but check that the content is relevant and high-quality so it provides value for the reader.
You can also use anchor texts within your inbound links to direct readers from one page on your website to another. This will help users navigate easier and increase their stay time on the page which is beneficial for SEO rankings.
In addition to seeking out opportunities for external linking sources like websites, directories, or forums with high domain authority, you should also create content that will be shared and linked back to your site. This includes utilizing guest blogging, social media communities and forum posting as a way of gaining inbound links. Make sure to use anchor texts within your inbound links so users can easily navigate between pages on your website.
10. Use SEO Friendly URLs
Making sure your URLs are clean and optimized is an important DIY tip if you want to rank highly on SERPs (search engine results pages). URLs are simply the address of a unique page on your website that directs online users to your site. When building URLs for your website, it’s important to make sure they are friendly, easy to read for online visitors, and include relevant words (keywords) that correlate to the copy on the page of the website.
Let’s say someone is looking for red men’s socks so they search Google. By creating a descriptive, friendly URL you can increase the chances you will show up in the top search results in Google and improve your conversion chances with an easy-to-digest, relevant URL:
Notice that Nordstrom is in the #1 spot and their URL is: shop.nordstrom.com/c/mem-socks/red
Here is the URL for Saks Fifth Avenue’s page, found on page 10 of the search results:
There are two main takeaways from this example. First, the descriptive and concise URL structure that Nordstrom has created has helped it to outrank the Saks Fifth Avenue ad. Second, as a user when I click through to the two pages from the search term “men’s red socks,” the Nordstrom page shows me red socks while the Saks Fifth Avenue page just gives me men’s socks. Actually, there are no red socks on the page. Remember, Google is rewarding relevancy more and more. So, matching URLs and content together both improves your SEO and gives your conversion rates a boost.
Try to keep URLs short making them easy to type and read. Also, eliminate unnecessary words such as and, the, and symbols such as @. If you need to separate words in your URL use hyphens instead of underscores as Google has a hard time recognizing them and won’t index your page.
Here are 10 Helpful tips from MySiteAuditor to make sure you keep your URLs tidy and friendly:
11. Feed the Need for Speed
Believe it or not, how fast your site and your pages load is critical to how Google ranks your site for SEO. Not only does it impact your search rankings, but it affects the experience your users have when they engage with your website. In a world of online options, visitors won’t stick around for pages, images, and videos to load. In fact, pages with longer load times tend to have higher bounce rates and lower conversion rates. Here is a great post from Moz to help you optimize your page speed.
Google’s algorithms measure how quickly your page will load. And the faster it is, the more favorably it is rated. It’s worth noting that page speed isn’t just a factor for desktop search engine results – sites optimized for mobile loading speeds are given higher search rankings on mobile devices too. Furthermore, if you want to make sure all of your pages are indexed and included in Google searches, then you need to ensure they’re fast-loading. If not, Google may choose to ignore them entirely!
Given this importance, there are several steps you can take to help optimize your site for speed: Minimize redirects and HTTP requests
- Use a content delivery network (CDN)
- Optimize images and other media
All of these tactics can dramatically increase your website’s loading speed – which in turn can significantly boost your SEO ranking on both desktop search engines and mobile devices. On top of improved search engine rankings, faster site speeds can also make a big difference in user experience.
12. Optimize for Mobile
More and more people are using their mobile devices to search online which means it can be a major source of traffic and conversions for your business. In fact, studies show that 70% of mobile searches lead to an online action within just one hour. Recently Google launched their mobile-friendly update designed to give a nod to pages that are mobile optimized. This is a quest by the mother of all search engines to provide the best possible experience for its users when looking for products and services. If you want to find out if your pages are mobile-friendly, you can simply utilize Google’s tool that checks your URL for mobile-friendliness.
To further optimize your website for mobile, you can ensure that all the content of your pages is responsive. Responsive web design (RWD) means that the content adjusts according to the device size on which it’s being viewed. It also helps if your site loads quickly; slow loading times can cause visitors to abandon your page altogether as we’ve previously discussed.
Also, make sure you include buttons and links in an easily clickable size. And don’t forget about adding a search bar so visitors can find what they are looking for quickly and easily. Another key factor for optimizing for mobile is ensuring that all images on your site are optimized for the device being used. Make sure images are compressed and displayed in the correct size so they don’t take too long to load or are larger than necessary.
13. Use Landing Pages
A landing page is a stand-alone page on your website where visitors land from sources such as search engines, PPC, social, and email marketing. It is a great tool to drive focused traffic to your site and optimize conversions from search. Most landing pages typically use a form to capture and convert visitors. When creating landing pages in WordPress or one of the landing page tools such as Instapage, don’t forget to optimize for SEO with your keywords and use relevant content with a specific call to action (CTA). By using compelling headlines, captivating visuals, and an inviting CTA button, your landing page should be set up for success.
Also, think about the user experience when creating a landing page – make sure it’s not too long or complicated. You can use A/B testing to measure two versions of the same page in order to determine which one performs better with visitors. This way you can identify what works best for your audience and optimize accordingly.
You can also create specific landing pages for each campaign so that you have more control over who visits your site and how they interact with it. This will allow you to track conversions more accurately and analyze visitor behavior on these pages as well. By leveraging different elements such as lead capture forms, personalized offers, and compelling copy, you can create powerful landing pages that drive conversions.
As we’ve mentioned before, it’s important to pay special attention to the design of your page – make sure it is modern, minimalistic, and mobile-friendly as more users access websites from their mobile devices these days. It is also important to ensure that all of your landing pages load quickly – faster load times will help keep people on your site for a longer period of time, resulting in higher conversion rates. Also, make sure that you are tracking the performance of each of your landing pages so that you can identify which ones are performing well and which need improvement.
14. Don’t Forget the User
Most websites are still built for the way Google used to rank. They’re often overloaded with keyword jargon and not optimized for humans. But current-day search engines have put algorithms in place to measure a website’s user experience and reward sites that put UX (User Experience) into practice. Elements like clean site navigation and sitemaps help users to discover content more easily and help your website to be indexed effectively, making sure search engine bots can easily crawl your site.
It’s the quality of traffic and not always the quantity of traffic that is going to grow your customer base. When you build your website around the user and focus on adding value for the user, visitors will stay on your site longer, digest more content, subscribe to your lists, and connect with you to learn more. Bounce rates will decline and conversions will climb.
Follow these basic tips:
- Use language that is easy to read, conversational in tone, and speaks directly to the desired audience.
- Include visuals like images, videos, charts, and infographics that can help support your message and keep users engaged longer.
- Leverage SEO best practices like meta descriptions, title tags, and image alt text so search engines can index your content correctly for improved visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs).
- Ensure you use formatting correctly such as headlines and bullet points, that help break up longer pieces of text into manageable chunks which can be easily digested.
- Include CTAs (Calls To Action) inviting users to take further action – whether it be subscribing to a newsletter or following on social media
Optimizing for usability helps ensure better rankings as it provides a better user experience which ensures more people will click through from SERPs.
15. Keep Up With SEO Trends
Search engine optimization is an ever-changing landscape. Staying at the top of search rankings consistently takes keeping up to date with trends, news, and new concepts. Sign up for SEO blog newsletters and check out sites such as Moz, Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Land, and industry-leading SEO sites. Other helpful resources are Moz’s Whiteboard Friday and the Google Webmasters YouTube channel.
Check out the trending hashtags on Twitter to see what SEO professionals are talking about and search for industry-specific events you can attend in person or virtually. Follow relevant SEO influencers, such as Rand Fishkin and Aleyda Solis, to stay up to date with their thoughts and strategies.
Once you’ve identified some trends that could benefit your SEO strategy, be sure to keep an eye out for new tools being developed that could make implementing those trends easier. There are also major algorithm updates by Google (e.g., Panda and Penguin) which can have a big impact on how websites rank on search results pages so it’s important to pay attention when they do come around.
Keeping up with SEO involves regularly monitoring the traffic, keywords, and rankings of your website on Google Search Console and other analytics tools so that you can make necessary changes based on the data. With a combination of self-education, the use of analytics, and staying up to date with SEO news and trends, you’ll be able to keep your site competitive in search engine rankings.
Finally, don’t forget to measure and monitor the success of your strategies by tracking key performance indicators such as organic traffic growth rates, conversion rates, bounce rates, time-on-site metrics, keyword rank fluidity, etc. This allows you to understand where visitors are coming from and how they are engaging with your site’s content.
16. Use Analytics
As you make changes to improve SEO, you need insight into what’s working and what isn’t. Google Analytics is a free tool to help you to monitor your traffic, see which sources most of your traffic is coming from, learn which landing pages are converting the most traffic into prospects for your business, and measure the overall conversion rate of your website.
In addition to website analytics, you want to make sure that the traffic you’re driving eventually converts into new customers for your business. Tracking the lead source of each prospect in your CRM can tell you which sources your customers are coming from and measure how many folks become customers by finding your website online. This data helps you to understand which SEO tactics are working and whether it’s driving real value for your business.
Analytics is also key when evaluating the success of certain pieces of content – like blog posts or videos. You can track how much traffic each post brings in and which keywords people search for when they land on the page. This gives you insight into what content topics resonate with your audience, so you can build more content around similar topics and further increase organic traffic. It also shows where proper keyword research is paying off and ultimately drives better results from your SEO efforts over time.
Analytics will be a crucial part of any long-term SEO strategy as well. Understanding how each change affects performance helps you continue to improve the website and increase your organic search visibility. With data, you have proof that SEO works and what specifically is driving results. This helps you make more informed decisions about where to allocate the budget for future SEO initiatives. Properly leveraging analytics can help you maximize the return on investment from your SEO efforts.
16.5 Reach Out to An SEO Agency
The DIY tips provided here are designed to give you a solid foundation to help you build an effective SEO strategy and get found online. However, depending on the competitiveness of your industry and the resources of your business you may want to reach out to an SEO firm or consultant to help you along the path. When looking for the right SEO firm consider looking at agencies like Linkbuilder.io, which specializes in comprehensive link-building strategies. Ask lots of questions, understand their linking strategy and what analytics they will provide you with, and don’t forget to speak in depth to relevant references.