You understand (sort of) by now that SEO – search engine optimization) is important to your website’s – and therefore, your business’ – success. However, from what little you’ve read SEO seems to be complicated, time-consuming and maybe even controversial, as there seem to be many different opinions and conflicting information out there.
All of this means you’ve avoided addressing it at all. And your tight budget – especially in very uncertain times – means that you are not sure you want to even consider committing to working with an SEO company.
All of this is understandable. As an SEO company that understands just how powerful and effective a good SEO campaign can be, we obviously think every business should consider working with a formal SEO strategy in place. But we understand your reservations.
So why not start small and find out for yourself how effective SEO can be. What follows are some DIY SEO strategies you can start putting into place to find out for yourself – free of all the chatter and confusion – that search engine optimisation really does work and is worth investing time and money in.
Any SEO effort begins with keywords. No matter what else changes – and a lot does change in SEO – that is one thing that always remains the same.
The problem is that most businesses only have a vague idea of what the right keywords are for them to target. Or the ones they have in mind are too competitive, and their chances of ever being able to rank for them are very slim. Or they don’t understand that keyword research has changed a lot, and that now it’s more important to focus on understanding user intent – in the way that Google does – than individual words.
What do we mean by user intent? User intent-based keyword research tells you what topics people care about and, if you use the right SEO tool, how popular they are among your audience. The operative term here is topics — by researching keywords with a high volume of searches per month, you can identify and sort your content into topics you want to create content on. Then you can use these topics to dictate which keywords you want to target.
By researching keywords for popularity, search volume, and general intent, you can address the questions most people in your audience want answering. So they are more likely to discover your content.
Taking keywords for face value is easy, but keywords can have many meanings. Because the intent behind a search is so important to your ranking potential, you need to be extra careful in interpreting your target keywords.
Let’s say, you’re researching the keyword “how to start a blog” for an article you want to write. “Blog” can mean a blog post or a blog website itself, and what a searcher’s meaning behind that keyword should affect your article’s content.
To check what user intentions are attached to a keyword, enter it into a search engine yourself and see what types of results are coming up, to give you an idea of how to adjust your targeting.
Once you have discovered keywords and key phrases that you think suit your needs, you’ll need to figure out how hard it will be to rank for them, and, if it proves too hard, similar keywords that you can target instead. There are several good tools for doing this, although we personally prefer SEMRush (which you can try free for a limited number of searches)
Improve the Quality of Your Content
Content is at the heart of SEO, but it only helps when it provides value and addresses topics and problems your target audience cares about. This is where some people get disheartened. They find that these topics have been covered before, sometimes a lot.
However, that’s fine. All you’ll need to do is create content that’s better as in more informative, more accurate, more engaging or however else it can be improved. The technique is known as sky-scraping content, and it’s very effective when done right.
Take a Long Look at Technical SEO
The one area of SEO that is sorely neglected is technical SEO. Yet it’s increasingly important to Google and other search engines that a website is technically excellent, regardless of the content that it contains.
Technical SEO is quite a process. However, let’s look at some of the basics you can almost certainly take control of right now to boost your SEO performance in general.
Ensure Your Site’s Fast
Google is now a mobile-first index. Mobile users want things fast, and so, as their stated mission is to give their users what they want, Google does give SERPs preference to faster sites.
Fast sites are about more than choosing a ‘faster’ ISP (although that is important). Many technical coding elements can significantly affect a site’s speed, and a lot of them are not obvious to anyone not familiar with ‘techy’ stuff.
Fortunately, Google helps you out here, as their PageSpeed Insights tool will list out everything that’s slowing your site down, and will offer hints on how to fix the problems. Sometimes the fixes needed will require you getting help from someone more technically proficient than you, but some issues can be fixed as simply as resizing images or serving them in a different format.
Ensure Your Site is Mobile First
Remember we told you that Google is now a mobile-first index? That means that to perform well in the SERPs, your website needs to be mobile-first too. Over the last few years, this has led to simpler, more streamlined websites that offer a better user experience to those tapping a small screen with their finger rather than bashing away at a keyboard at a desk. Again, Google will offer you lots of hints here, but getting an expert second opinion that’s more detailed won’t hurt – and will often be a big help – as well.
Get More Technical with Content
Not as in create tech stuff, but ensure that things title length, meta descriptions and primary keywords are optimized as far as possible. These are things that people often don’t do, simply because they don’t know how or fail to understand their importance. But they are very important.
Take your meta description, for example. That’s the short blurb that Google will show in a search snippet. It needs to sell your content to the searcher while also featuring a primary keyword so that Google more easily understands its intent quickly. These snippets also need to be a certain length so that they display correctly in search.
Sounds like a PIA? It can be, but it’s an easy way to get a nice SERPs boost that is not too technical. If your site is powered by WordPress, a plugin like Yoast can help a lot, or if you use a site builder like Wix, Squarespace or something similar then they have these fields set up to be filled out in the main settings (you may have to dig a little, but they are there)
Vary Your Content
A great blog post, or an informative service page, is great, but varying your content is another easy way to get a quick SEO boost. By this we mean add video, audio, infographics, charts, additional images and even things like tutorials. Different people like to consume content in different ways, and the more you can cater to that, the better.
Varied content is helpful for SEO in lots of ways too. Properly optimized images, with the right alt tags, may appear in Google Image search, which is, in itself, the third-largest search resource there is. Visual people – and there are lots of them – often head to a Google Image search to help them find what they are looking for, so great placement offers an easy SEO boost.
What’s the second-largest search resource we hear you ask? YouTube. So the addition of YouTube videos to your content mix will offer a big SEO boost there that will trickle back to your site AND satisfy those users that prefer to watch instead of reading.
Make Sure Google Knows the Site – And Its Content – Are There
Is your website properly indexed by Google? Many people don’t actually know the answer to that question and are sometimes horrified to discover that all the great content they’ve been creating is not being indexed by search engines.
There are several reasons Google may not be indexing your content. Even if it has discovered it (bots crawl a lot, and if you have a sitemap that will guide them to it) including all the following:
Google determining the page content is ‘low quality.’: By this, we mean if the word count is very low or the content is a close/direct duplicate of another page. Keyword heavy ‘over-optimized’ or ‘spammy’ pages that offer no value will often be ignored as well.
When finding unique page indexing instructions (such as a meta robots tag, or a canonical URL tag pointing to another page): In cases like this, Google will make a judgment call whether it should honor the instructions, but chances are, the page will not be included.
How can you figure out if Google is indexing your content? It used to be hard, but now you can check each URL directly in Google Console. This video produced by the Google team explains how and goes into even greater detail about the reasons why they may choose – or be unable – to index your content.
By the way, don’t have Google Console? Setting your site up in Google Console is the first thing you should do when publishing a new website. Not only does it offer a wealth of information and resources – free – but it’s also the only way you’ll ever know if Google issues a manual penalty against your site.
What we’ve covered here is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a great start, but effective SEO gets more complicated and takes a lot more time. Which is why when you are ready to get serious about SEO and boosting your website, you need to think about getting help. And when you’re ready, the Pearl Lemon SEO team will be waiting.