If you’re looking at a quote from an agency or consultant to improve your SEO and your wallet is silently screaming in the background, we get it! While it can be worth the money to have a professional team optimize everything for you, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have the money, to begin with.
Instead, it can be more than worth your time and money to DIY your SEO — and it doesn’t involve anything shady like paying to get backlinks on suspect sites. It doesn’t even involve any money at all. Besides, spending the time to become your own expert on SEO can pay off in the long term and help you better understand your strategy going forward.
But where do you even start? Let’s get into it.
Considering the vast majority of searchers worldwide use Google (it’s called “Googling” for a reason), understanding your Google Analytics is of vital importance. It may seem kind of weird to recommend learning an analysis tool when you’re trying to figure out how to do your own SEO, but you literally can’t understand SEO without it.
Google Analytics will tell you where your site visitors came from, who they are, what keywords are working for you, and so much more. It will even distill all the information you need in a report that’s easy to read. Sounds like the dream, right?
This article will cover the basics of SEO, but if you’re ready for a deep dive after reading this, check out the SEO ranking factors for 2019.
Most of the “quick fix” SEO tips are completely pointless and either don’t work or won’t work for long. This is because the tips completely ignore Google’s overall goal, and how it plays into Google’s algorithm — its algorithm serves a very specific purpose and isn’t the nonsensical game that people try to make it out to be.
Google isn’t trying to give its users a site that has the most content — it’s trying to give its users a site that has the best content, or the most useful content. Google isn’t promoting which site is the highest bidder (aside from ads, of course); it’s promoting the site that it thinks its users are trying to find.
With that in mind, it makes no sense to try any of the tips and tricks you hear, and you should instead be focusing on user experience. Simply put, the basic statistics that Google uses to rank your site are the time visitors spend on it, the number of visits, and the bounce rate.
For improved time on the site, make sure you have useful content that your visitors want. This relates to bounce rate as well because if your bounce rate is high, it means that either the user realized immediately that you didn’t have what they were looking for, or the page took too long to load, so do your best to avoid both of those situations. When you improve the experience a user has on your site, you’ll improve those stats.
This also involves an oft-neglected segment: mobile users. You should be optimizing your mobile marketing, not just resting on a “responsive” mobile design. Because so much traffic comes from mobile users, Google also prioritizes sites that have taken the time to make the experience great for desktop and mobile users alike.
This is a follow-up tip for improving your user experience on your site: It’s time to get cleaning! Google hates sites that are slow and confusing as much as your users will, so it’s time to optimize and compress images, delete redundant pages, and fix broken links.
While you’re learning how to improve your user experience, you should dive into making sure your website is organized around your keywords. If it’s not, you have some reorganizing to do.
There are a few steps to this. First, make sure you’ve fleshed out the short- and long-tail keywords you’re targeting — typically, short-tail keywords are vague and usually for new visitors, and long-tail keywords are more specific, so for more focused visitors. This should all fold into your research on what your customers are searching for so that you can organize your site accordingly.
Next, make sure your keywords are clear and consistent throughout your site. Each page should have a purpose and be clear in which keyword or keywords it is targeting. No pointless pages! Finally, make sure they’re everywhere that Google is looking for them: the URL of your pages, title, headers, etc. You don’t want it to feel unnatural, just useful, so follow the guidelines of our next tip.
To dive a little deeper into “good content,” what does that mean? Well, it doesn’t always mean well-written, at least in the traditional sense. Aside from grammatical and spelling errors, you also have to make sure that it’s keyword-rich, written about a specific and clear topic, optimized for mobile, and also that you’re linking both to content within your own website and high-authority content on the web. It’s a tall order! However, content that does all these things is good content, and will be seen that way by Google.
If you want to figure out what your audience wants to know, you don’t have to limit yourself to keyword tools — try checking out message boards or social media sites (like Quora or Reddit) to see what your audience is talking about. You can directly respond and link to your content, or get inspiration for new content that can help your broader audience.
You’re already cleaning and reorganizing the house and focusing on good content. You might as well optimize your images while you’re at it. When you compress your images, it helps your page load speed. You should also be using optimized file names that are clear and easy to figure out, and alt text that helps Google further categorize what the image is.
Hopefully, you’re already doing social media, but if you’re not (or you haven’t put much effort into it), you really should be. Social media has revolutionized how brands communicate with their audiences, and you can give them a direct link to connect with you. Of course, they also get an easy way to air their grievances, but even that is valuable.
When it comes to SEO, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, it all increases your online presence. The more places that Google can find you, the more legitimate you are, and the more it will promote you to your audience — and the cycle feeds back into itself. You can build a dedicated audience that consumes your content and visits your site, boosting your SEO and letting you reach more people, who then continue the cycle.
This is the biggest and best step, but you can only do it once you have all the other stuff taken care of. You need to develop a strategy to consistently increase backlinks to your site. Simply put, Google most highly ranks sites that have the most backlinks from other sites, particularly from high-authority sites. But it’s pretty clear why this has to come last, right? No one is going to want to link to your site if it’s poorly organized, not optimized, doesn’t have good content, and doesn’t have a social media presence.
Once you do all that, getting backlinks is a lot easier. You can do this in a variety of ways, from promoting great content on your site and hoping other sites will link to it to writing guest posts on other sites that allow links back to your own site. However you decide to develop your strategy, increasing your backlinks will increase your domain authority, increase traffic, and improve your SEO.
When you’re first starting out or deciding where to spend your budget, using your time to become an SEO expert is not only free, but it will help you in the long run with understanding your business strategy.
Did you find some great strategies of your own in the article? Let us know in the comments.