This post is the second in a two part series. If you’re interested in reading the first half, when you should and shouldn’t hire someone for SEO, click here: SEO – To Hire or Not to Hire
We previously wrote about when you should and shouldn’t hire someone for SEO. If you’re a very small business, startup without funding, or someone with a lot of time and is handling the marketing on your own business, you may be better off handling the SEO for your site rather than sending it out to someone else (yes, we realize this means pointing people away from doing work with us. That’s okay.). Yes, SEO can be very complicated. But, if you’re doing it yourself there are a few areas you can focus on for maximum impact, and there are a lot of websites with people who don’t know a lot about SEO that are doing very very well at it. If you’re looking to build up your presence, and you’re basically on your own to do it, here are five tips that should help you get started with your online visibility.
1. Choose the Right Platform
SEO is going to be so much easier for you if you choose a good platform for your website. We highly recommend staying away from website platforms like Wix and Squarespace. Yes, they have a lot of advertising, and it’s pretty easy to drag and drop. However, your options are going to be more limited when it comes to optimizing your website for SEO, and even when you’re designing and building it. Chances are, you’re also going to want to redesign your site in the future, and when you do, changing away from one of these platforms can be a headache and more costly (not fun trying to export content from these sites). It’s usually best to stay away from them to begin with.
We highly recommend utilizing WordPress, with few exceptions. For heavy e-commerce, there are times that WordPress may not be enough for what you need, and for some highly complex sites a custom solution may be your best bet (though this is not common, and if you’re worried about doing your own SEO, you’re not going to be at the place where you need a custom Content Management System, or CMS). WordPress used to be known as a blogging platform, but that time is now long gone. However, the native blog feature it has is still very helpful for SEO. It’s also very flexible, easy to format, has a LOT of free templates if you’re strapped on budget, and has a lot of plugins that can help you out for SEO (tip: install Yoast right away when you’re starting a new site – it’ll be very helpful in the long run). It’s also pretty universally recognized as outstanding for SEO.
So, this is one of the first good decisions you can make out of the gate.
2. Create Lots of Content
The single, most important tip we give people in order to rank well is to continue to create really good content. The best part here about doing your own SEO is that you’re probably one of the biggest experts on whatever your website/business is about – certainly more than an agency or consultant. You’re in a great position to write content that is helpful and informative, and subsequently more likely to rank.
New and frequent content helps you in a couple of ways. First, it adds depth to your site. If Google sees a lot of content on your site about a specific search query, it looks at you as an expert on the topic. If there’s a good amount of depth, you look like you’ll be the best result (and you likely are!). So that depth of content becomes very helpful in ranking. Second, it allows you to have breadth too. Most likely, there’s a limited number of keywords that you can try to rank for with one page. You just can’t be that broad and that deep on a single page. However, with a lot of pages that are related, but different, you can target more individual keywords.
So, for a broad example, let’s say you have a sneaker store. First, the depth of content about “sneakers” helps to show Google you are an expert on sneakers and tennis shoes. Having a lot of pages about Nike, Addidas, Saucony, etc. allows you the breadth of ranking for each of those brands. So, with a large number of pages, you are simultaneously going deep and wide.
Tips for Writing for SEO
There are a few guidelines when you’re writing content that will be helpful. First, remember to be thorough, but not drawn out. Typically content in the 750-1,000 word range is much more likely to rank well. if you’re going to write 250 words, it’s really not worth the time. Second, make sure that you write with consistency. A few times a month is good. If you can write a few times per week, that’s great! Once a quarter – probably not doing so much for you. We’ve run tests and have found correlation with frequency of new content and higher rankings is apparently in most cases (but not all). It’s enough for us to recommend that you write “as often as you are realistically able to.”
So what do you write about? Anything that’s relevant. Think through things like:
3. Optimize Your Content
If you’re doing your own SEO, you don’t have to worry about being crazy here, but there are a couple of things that you’ll want to do. First, optimize your title and meta description (this is what appears in the google search results as the blue link and text underneath). The title also helps Google understand what the page is about. Best way to do this is to install Yoast. They have a whole section right on your WordPress page that allows you to change this then. Just put in what you want your title and description to be.
A few quick tips. First, using a keyword you want to target, preferably near the beginning of your title, is helpful. In the description is nice too, because it will appear in bold in search results if it’s included in the user’s query. Make sure you don’t “stuff” the keywords though – just putting in a bunch of keywords in order to increase your rankings. Trust us, it doesn’t work. Also, try to use the allotted space. You get about 68 characters for the title, so use them. Descriptions were recently increased to about 300 characters, so use those too.
Don’t spend a inordinate amount of time here, but spend enough so you have a title that would entice a user to click, and clearly shows what your page is about.
4. Share Your Content. A Lot.
The more people that share your content, and especially if they link to it, the better it will ultimately perform in search results (note that a lot of social media activity around a post typically correlates with high search positioning, but that cannot be confused with causation). Links, however, are proven to have a causal effect on SEO. So, one of the best things that you can do in a relatively short period of time is to share you posts on social media, send them out in emails, tell your friends about them, etc. Get the word out. Even if it doesn’t wind up helping your site perform well in search, it’s still getting eyes on it, which is what you want after all, right?
5. If You’re a Local Business, Get Google+ and Local Listings
For local businesses, there are additional elements to Google’s algorithm that are helpful. First is creating a Google My Business (Google+) page for your business. Fill it out in it’s entirely, add pictures, and see if you can get some reviews for it. These are extremely important for searches with local intent. After that, try to claim as many local listings as you can. These are listings like Yelp, Whitepages, and anything else that contains a Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP) and that people may use to find local businesses. The benefit of these is that with a large number of them, Google sees that you are an established business with a confirmed address/phone. This makes Google much more likely to serve you up in the local search results.
There’s certainly a lot more that can be done to improve search presence, but if you’re doing SEO on your own, we recommend starting with these guidelines, and really focusing your time there – especially on the creating content element. That’s where you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck.
As you grow, you may want to then look at hiring for SEO – either someone to handle a lot of the SEO for you, or to guide you in the process as you take next steps. Then you can work on elements like advanced on-page SEO, keyword research, and link building (if you want to try your hand at link building, this is an excellent resource that may help give you some good ideas: Point Blank Link Building).
If you’re looking for more guidance, or trying to figure out your next step, please let us know. We’re happy to give advice where we can, and love partnering with companies to help them grow! Contact us.