Search engine optimization is not advertising. But it still costs time and money. If you’re short on time but have the money, an SEO agency or consultant is an option. But if you’re short on money, use these do-it-yourself SEO tips to improve your organic rankings.
1. Keyword Research
Always start with keyword research. Don’t assume that you know what consumers want.
You likely understand your industry jargon. But your prospects might use different terms than trade colleagues to refer to your services or goods. Keyword research provides an understanding of the words and phrases that consumers use to find your products. It also helps to gauge the demand for them. It identifies the keyword themes that real searchers use in their search queries.
The best keyword tools offer a quantitative demand score that helps determine the relative value in targeting each keyword theme. Google Keyword Planner is the go-to keyword research tool, though you’ll need an active Google Ads — formerly AdWords — campaign to get the most useful data.
2. Understand Your Competition
Search for the most important products and services you offer and note the most prominent websites in the search results, those that share your business model as well as the ones that are dissimilar to yours but compete for the same searches.
- What are they doing well?
- What content themes do they have that you’re lacking?
- Do they structure their site differently to target more valuable keywords?
- Do they have interesting features to better engage their prospects?
Also, study their reviews and benchmark their social media activity to learn what their customers think versus what you hear, or not, from your own.
3. Plan Your Site
With an understanding of what consumers want and the keywords they use to find those products and services, identify pages on your website to address those search queries.
Having a list on paper or a spreadsheet of all top-, mid-, and low-tier web pages and their corresponding keyword focus forms the basis of your website’s architecture. Each high- and medium-priority keyword from your keyword research should have a corresponding page to optimize on your site.
4. Optimize Your Site
The next step is to create the pages. This is the hard part. Depending on your ecommerce platform and your access to developers and designers, you may need to outsource some of this work.
Any website today should be mobile responsive to cater to the ever-growing faction of smartphone and tablet users. A mobile-friendly site is important for two reasons. First, according to Google, more than half of searches come from smartphones. Make sure that the experience of those users is seamless and engaging.
Second, Google now ranks all organic search results — for desktop and mobile devices — based on a site’s mobile experience, including page speed.
5. Produce Regular Content
You don’t have to start a blog or turn your business into a publishing company by posting content every day. It’s unrealistic for many ecommerce sites. But publish your own content regularly. Schedule weekly or at least monthly updates. Consistency is key.
Content does not need to be text. For example, an architectural firm could publish photographs of its projects with short textual descriptions. Realtors could publish weekly video bulletins with transcripts. Publishing content that is tailored to the consumption habits of your target audience is the goal.
6. Build Your Social Media Network
Join Twitter and one or two other social media platforms. You have many options — Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, many more. Social media enables you to connect with your customers and prospects and offers an audience for your content.
Understanding and nurturing these relationships boosts your SEO in the long run. Increasing the exposure of your content also increases the likelihood that some of those viewers will blog about it or link to it.
7. Understand Google Analytics
You can’t optimize what you don’t measure. The importance of analytics in digital marketing is akin to financial reports in business. Both are essential to track performance.
Have a basic understanding of Google Analytics (or whatever web analytics package your business uses). In Google Analytics, study the reports under Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels. By clicking on “Organic Search,” you’ll be able to analyze performance for your SEO program.
10. Ask Questions
If you are stuck or need answers, jump into SEO communities to ask questions. Google’s Webmaster Forum offers the largest SEO community on the web