Are you a startup/ small business owner/solo entrepreneur/ freelancer/ blogger with a limited budget, and no prior knowledge of SEO? Keep reading.
- Your website has few pages, mostly the product/ service ones, or a limited number of blog posts
- The site gets few visitors, or your visitors don’t convert to leads and customers
- Maybe you were selling in retail before, but because of Covid19 you have to sell online
- You’d like to get more eyes on your site and business
- You’ve heard SEO (maybe not even sure what it’s an abbreviation for!) can help with that
Every penny counts, so instead of hiring a professional right now, you want to DIY SEO for your small business website.
You may have read a few articles on SEO and how it can improve traffic, but it all seems a bit overwhelming. So much to do! Do you really have to do all that?
Trust me, I work with tons of clients like you, so you are not alone. Hence this post.
This post will just stick to what is important for YOU, as an entrepreneur/ small business manager/ freelancer/ blogger. It will:
- Clarify your SEO questions
- Explain the fundamentals of SEO, its various 6 elements, and how they work together
- Provide a tutorial for one key step of each element, for you to get started with your SEO yourself
- Mention all the next steps to do, at an intermediate-advanced level
P.S. I will try to avoid marketing jargon/ technical language as much as possible, but will put them in brackets saying ‘jargon’, for you to keep noting for the future, and to Google them if you want, to understand in more detail.
Is this what you were looking for? Great, let’s continue.
Not you? If you already know the SEO basics and want to go more in-depth, there are other advanced posts from SEO experts like Brian Dean that may help you more.
If you’d prefer to learn all this with full in-depth video tutorials, sign up for my free 7-day video course. You will get one lesson in your inbox every day, with videos, checklists, worksheets, infographics, additional supporting resources, and more.
Start getting more website traffic & leads even with a limited budget
Sign up for the 7-Day Do-It-Yourself FREE SEO Course
Ok, first things first, let’s address some questions you may have.
Or jump straight to the 6 elements and key steps.
What is SEO?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is basically a type of digital marketing that helps your website or page to show up in the top results on a search engine (jargon: rank high) when people search for something, without advertising or paying for it in any way.
So as the term suggests:In a nutshell, SEO is about optimizing your site to help search engines help you rank high organically for searches done by your audience. Click To Tweet
There are lots of search engines out there, like Bing, Yahoo, but let’s focus on Google for now, shall we?
You can buy ads on Google, not searches. Google’s algorithm will decide which site page, out of hundreds of billions in its directory, should rank in the top positions of the search engine results for different queries.
How does Google search work?
Here’s a very simple video to explain it:
How does SEO work?
Now, if you need to optimize your site to help Google rank you high, then you need to know what Google wants and prioritizes, right?
For Google, the most important thing is the person searching for something (jargon: user). It will try to understand what the user is really searching for and for what purpose (jargon: search intent) and provide the answer accordingly. This answer can be in the form of product pages, images, blog posts, videos, infographics, news articles, etc.
Now whether Google shows your site at the top depends on hundreds of factors. These are a few key ones:
- Relevance: How accurately your webpage matches the search query
- Quality: How good and helpful your page content is for the particular search query
- Authority: How accurate and reliable Google thinks your page is
- User experience (User Ex): How much users engage with your page
What does this mean for you?Most importantly, the user should be at the core of all for SEO activities. Which also makes sense, right? Because it is the user who will eventually help you increase revenue. Click To Tweet
Note: As per Google’s 2019 update, they added an extra element of E-A-T for page quality (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness), mostly about the creator of the page content. But it’s a lot of advanced concepts which we can get into later. You can read more about it if you want.
What is SEO NOT?
1. A quick win.
SEO is a long-term strategy, and you will need at least a few months to see results if you keep working at it. So the sooner you start work on it the better.
2. Shady or illegal ways to trick Google.
The only way for a page to get to a high Google rank is to be high quality.
3. Buying top positions
You can feature at the top of search results by placing ads on Google. But SEO is about Google naturally putting you at the top because of your optimized page.
Why is SEO important? What are the benefits of SEO for small businesses and bloggers?
Simply put, SEO helps boost brand awareness and sales in the long run, by getting a constant stream of visitors.Good SEO = More website traffic = Possibly more income Click To Tweet
This is how:
1. Making your website pages SEO-friendly means you will rank higher on Google for certain search results
And the higher up you are on Google, the more chances of your audience clicking on your website. See the graphs below.
The first few results get the most number of clicks
The first page in Google gets the most traffic
So good SEO pushes you high up in the rankings and generates consistent visits (jargon: traffic) from search over a period of time, even repeat traffic, without spending any additional money. That’s real people visiting your site.
2. Creating an SEO-friendly website actually means you have a well-structured, fast, secure, and visitor-friendly website that provides helpful content and a great user experience.
- It makes people want to stay on your site longer and browse through your brand and marketing messages
- It boosts your brand awareness, people remember your brand more (jargon: brand recall), they come back to your site repeatedly, recommend you to others
All of this means higher chances of increased income.
Read my post on small business SEO success stories to know how SEO boosts sales.
This is in the long run, however.
If you want to get immediate sales, as a small business owner, you could try showcasing your products on social media (you probably do that already, and it is actually also a part of SEO) repeatedly. Or as a blogger, you could share and promote your posts. But that is usually not enough.
You can also invest in social media/ Google ads. And you might see a short-term spike in sales, which for sure will make you very happy 😉
The flip side is that ads are expensive to do repeatedly, and being able to the right customers is a whole topic in itself. You have to decide if your return on investment makes sense.
You can choose to opt for a hybrid model, getting in some quick revenues in the short run, as you optimize your site with diy SEO actions for the long run.
How much does SEO cost? How to do SEO for free?
Professional SEO services for small businesses would cost a minimum of $1000/ month
So of course you can opt for do-it-yourself SEO. Just note that as they say, there is no free lunch. You will have to spend time and energy on it.
Besides that, I would highly recommend you invest in an SEO software. But more on that later.
How long will diy SEO take to work, to show results?
If your website is currently showing up in around the 5th page of Google for searches or not at all, and someone tells you it can rank within the top 20 positions in Google in a matter of weeks if not days, run like hell. Or, show me the results and surprise me!
How long SEO takes to work, whether you hire someone to do it, or you do it yourself, really depends on how much work you put in. I would say at least 6 months if you consistently work on your SEO maintenance, a little bit every day.
This is an example of how one of my client’s results changed over a year with consistent work (there are only product pages, no blog).
Do I need any SEO tools?
- A laptop and an internet connection
- A website with a good website host. I would recommend Siteground or Bluehost (both officially recommended by WordPress). This is NOT a tutorial for SEO on Etsy. You can control your content on Etsy, but you need your own site with paid hosting (jargon: domain) to really optimize your site completely. Read my detailed Siteground review to know why I recommend it so highly.
- A Google account
- An SEO software. I highly recommend Semrush. There are tons of others too, but this is the best and most comprehensive one for the beginner to intermediate level, in my experience.
When should I start work on SEO?
I get this question a lot from clients:
Q. My site is still WIP/ has very few pages. Shouldn’t I wait to do SEO till it’s done?
A. Absolutely not. You should start working on your SEO strategy in parallel while you finish your site.
Here are 2 reasons why:
1. Ranking on Google takes time.
It’s not like you will start your SEO efforts now, and tomorrow Google will rank you at the top for what your audience is searching for. The moment your site is up, you have indicated to Google that you want your site to be included in the Google database, and allow it to be shown up for relevant search results.
So as Google looks for answers to people’s questions (jargon: search query), it might come across your site repeatedly, and only over a period of time increase the position where you rank.
Now imagine Google comes across your site, doesn’t really understand what it is about, and moves on to something else. You have just wasted an opportunity to be considered by Google for searches your audience is doing right now. A shame, isn’t it?
2. Double effort is avoided.
Imagine you set up all your site pages and website content now, do the work, and don’t optimize it at all. When you start work on SEO, you will have to relook at the whole content: the way it’s written, the search intent it meets, the keywords used, and maybe redo it. Not to mention, you have to rename all the images you uploaded too, to optimize them for Google. That takes time, time that could be better spent on actually running your business. So consider SEO factors and actions while you are building your site.
Ok, that’s the Q&A covered. Now let’s see all the different elements of SEO and why they are needed.
6 elements of SEO: What are they, and why are they necessary?
Different aspects of SEO contribute in different ways to help the overall SEO of a site or page. Below are the definitions of each element and explanations of how it impacts both the user and Google.
So you remember the 4 factors earlier, about how Google decides whom to rank on top? You achieve each of that with different elements of SEO.
Do you have to do all of these?
The first thing to understand is that as you can see from the above graphic, all these steps work together, to improve your site ranking. And they are all broken down into hundreds of steps.
We cannot meet every criterion of Google (it doesn’t even share all its ranking factors openly), but there are a few steps in each section that is good for you to do for your website or online store. The more you can do, the better. If you can do only one or two now, and keep the rest for after a few months, that’s okay too.
The important thing is to get started. In this post, I will share with you how to do only ONE very important step of each SEO section. Because it’s too much to cover everything at once. Like many other posts, it could be overwhelming.
If you would prefer to have one of these steps sent to your inbox daily for 7 days, complete with full videos & worksheets, sign up for my FREE 7-Day Do-It-Yourself SEO Starter Course.
But don’t try to do everything all together, please. If you’re new to DIY SEO, baby steps are better. Plus you have a business to run, a life to live, and a day only has 24 hours, right? So take it easy.
Ok, so here goes one key step each of each aspect of SEO for you to do, one by one!
1. Keyword Research
Keyword research is the process to determine the terms and phrases (jargon: keywords) that people are searching for, so you can create content related to these queries and optimize your site with these keywords. The more your site content and HTML elements are optimized for certain keywords, the better your chances to rank high for these keywords.
Step 1 of Keyword Research
Create an initial list of keywords about the products/ services/ blog posts you want to include in your website.
->Jargon: Identify seed and specific keywords.
Let’s say you are designing/ selling wooden toys. So you want to see what results Google shows when someone looks for wooden toys.
Create an initial list of keywords in 4 sub-steps.
- 1.1. Start with finding keywords about your overall product/ service/ blog (your niche).
- 1.2. Get more specific.
- 1.3. Compile all the initial keywords in a list.
- 1.4. Sort & prioritize your keywords.
We will explore 3 different ways of doing this research.
- Basic Google search
- Tools to solve the challenges with a basic Google search
- Any full SEO software to provide exact, comprehensive data, in minutes
For the full process and various methods of finding the keywords, including how to use the different tools, please refer to my full in-depth video course (free).
1.1. Start with finding keywords about your overall product/ service/ blog (your niche).
Type a first global keyword (jargon: seed keyword) into Google. As you type, Google tries to clarify what the user is really looking for, by prompting certain queries. This is called Google Suggest (or Autocomplete). See what happens when the user types wooden toys, all the prompts that Google suggests.
But the user just sticks to wooden toys. Now Google doesn’t know what the user wants! So it shows everything it thinks it’s relevant.
Around 250 million results!
Product images for which ads have been placed
Websites with products
Then it again tries to clarify the search query in more detail, by this section. People also ask.
It also shows a blog for the best wooden toys.
And it shows what other people are searching for, to help the user get more specific about their question. This is called Related Searches.
So if you want to understand what people are overall looking for related to wooden toys, your first 3 places to start would be:
- Google Suggest/ Autocomplete
- People also ask
- Related searches
Write down all the keywords you have so far in an Excel sheet. So you have an initial list of keywords to begin with.
Now you can take any of these as your seed keyword, put it into Google, and get results again, and type them out again.
The problem with this method? It’s very time-consuming, and quite a bit of a hassle, right? To type out keywords one by one.
There are 2 free tools that can help:
1. Keywords Everywhere: Lets you add an extension to your Chrome or Firefox browser, where when you search something on Google, it shows you some of the search results in a list that you can copy and paste in your Excel file.
2. Answer The Public: Gives you an indication of what questions people are asking related to your seed keyword, and you can download these in a CSV file as well.
1.2. Get more specific keywords.
Now imagine, out of 250 million results, where would your relative small and new site be? So you have to find keywords that are more specific, and very close to your EXACT category of product/ service.
Now there are 2 choices the user has while typing in ‘wooden toys’.
1. The user just leaves it at wooden toys, and clicks on different results that match what they want.
2. The user gets specific at the Google Suggest level and chooses something more specific, “wooden toys for 1-year old”
With action 2, you see Google has narrowed the number of results to less than half of before.
And the first result it shows is a blog because it thinks maybe the user wants to know about and compare different toys. It also prompts additional, related searches like Montessori toys.
Now you can continue the process like before, drilling down into the keywords and continuing as before, following the 3 Google cues, to find more and more relevant keywords for you and your audience.
So now you have a good beginner list!
Great! However, there are a few drawbacks to this method.
1. If you are in a different location than where your audience is, you don’t know what people are searching for in the location that you want to sell in. I am based in the Netherlands, so these results that Google showed me are in the Netherlands. However if you are based in the Netherlands but trying to sell worldwide or in a different country, let’s say in the US, the results that people get there are different.
2. The process is time-consuming. To get a comprehensive list of keywords very specific to your business or niche, you have to really drill down into the keywords. So you have to take each keyword from your first search as a seed keyword and keep doing the whole process again. Whether it’s through Google, Keywords Everywhere, or Answer The Public.
3. You don’t know how many searches for these keywords are there in a month (jargon: volume). So if only 10 people are searching for one of these keywords, that’s not so relevant, right? How many of them will become buyers? Should you really consider a keyword like that? None of the tools mentioned so far will give you any metrics.
There are various SEO tools to address these challenges, including free and paid.
Tool to solve the location challenge.
Use a cheap VPN like Surfshark (to simulate your location as that of being somewhere else) to run a quick search in a different country. Addresses the location challenge.
So if I connect to Surfshark and choose New York as my city, when I do the same search as above, I will see what actual searchers in New York will see.
You see, both the Google Suggest prompts and actual results are different from what I see in the Netherlands.
In the US, for example, the first few results are all blogs. If you want to know more, here’s a more detailed article on how VPN can benefit SEO.
(Side note: You can also use a VPN to see Netflix shows in any other country 😉
However, what you still wouldn’t know is the volume of the keyword or be able to dig deeper into it with enough data. And it’s still time-consuming as you’re only depending on Google.
Keyword tools to solve the challenge of drilling down into the keywords & getting metrics that show the potential of a keyword.
1. One good tool to start with is Google Keyword Planner. It is primarily used to identify paid keywords, for Google Ads, but you can also use them to get keyword ideas, with some data (like a range of monthly searches), for SEO.
This is where a keyword or SEO software really comes in handy.
3. Only for finding keyword volumes and location, a tool like KW Finderworks well.
However, the data is not always as accurate as some other advanced software, and it is not easy to filter the data quickly to get the exact keywords you need. Besides, it is only about keyword research, not other aspects of SEO. But it is also a great place to get some good keyword data to start with.
SEO software to provide very specific and accurate data, fast:SEMRush
Besides having a HUGE amount of data (multiple times that of Kw Finder) in keyword research, it has all these extra features and toolkits for Competition Research, Market Explorer, SEO, Content Marketing, Site Audit, which all work together to help you find the right keywords and optimize your website SEO. Besides, you can do keyword research in minutes instead of hours by filtering and narrowing thousands of keywords to a handful specific for your niche and business.
You can just sign up for a 14-day free trial and play around with it, see if it helps.
Let’s see how we can get really specific with the keywords.
Reminder: Full explanations and video tutorials of both these tools and a spreadsheet for compiling your keywords are included in my free video course
Keyword Research by SEMRush Step 1: Go to Dashboard -> Keyword Research and search for ‘wooden toys’ in the location you want to sell.
Let’s take for example the United States.This is what shows. Ignore everything else for now, just focus on the volume.
See that volume? So ‘wooden toys’ is searched for almost 15K times in the US monthly. That’s a lot of searches! And for a generic keyword like this, there are millions of established websites and big brands which you have almost no chance of replacing as a small, new site.
Pro Keyword Research Tip
When just starting off with SEO, try to target keywords with low volumes (about 100-500). Usually, the keywords with more words in them (jargon: long-tail keywords) will have lower volumes.
More importantly:Long-tail keywords, because of their specific nature, will help you reach your exact target audience more easily. Click To Tweet
The broader the terms are, the harder it is to identify the exact search intent of the user.
Look at the section below.
Keyword variations: All keywords related to the seed keyword of wooden toys.
Questions: Keywords in the form of questions. Similar to Google’s ‘people also ask’.
Related Keywords: Keywords related to ‘wooden toys’, but don’t necessarily contain the phrase exactly. Similar to Google’s ‘related searches’.
Keyword Research by SEMRush Step 2:Click on Keyword Variations.
This is what it shows.
Notice keywords like ‘wooden toys for kids’, ‘wooden toy for blocks’, have much lesser volume.
Keep scrolling down, and you will see keywords with a volume less than 500. These are potential opportunities. See how specific they are? Like ‘white wooden toy box’, ‘handmade wooden toys’.
So if you are a designer of handmade wooden toys, then you see that there is a potential for that keyword.
Of course, then you can see more details on handmade wooden toys, to see what keywords people are looking for, and what questions they are asking.
Keyword Research by SEMRush Step 3:Click the export tab on the top right and download the whole list in an Excel file.
This process saves you at least 70% time compared to the Google search process. See my free SEO starter video courseto check out how quick it is, and how you can get keywords specific to your product/ service/ blog/ business, super fast 😉
Ignore all the columns in the Excel sheet for now, except the volume.
1.3. Compile all the keywords in a list.
Copy all the data you have downloaded from one or multiple sources and put them in an Excel sheet.
1.4. Sort & prioritize your keywords.
Sort the keywords according to different categories that suit your business/ blog. Prioritize them according to the relevance they have for your website. And that’s it!
For the full video tutorial on keyword research, with all tools, and a spreadsheet to capture your initial keyword research list, sign up for the course with the form below.
Whichever method you chose to do your keyword research, the result achieved after this Keyword Research step is that you have some idea of the kind of searches your potential customers may be doing, so you can use these in your content and other aspects of SEO.
Note: This is just one key step of keyword research. The next steps would be:
- Understand the different search intent types for different keywords and sort your list
- Check what keywords you rank high for currently (if any), and how to optimize them further
- Identify commercial and non-commercial keywords
- Identify keywords that your competition ranks for, and why (if you know who they are)
- Analyze the sites that currently rank for the keywords you have chosen
- Identify gaps in your content and SEO for you and the other sites
- Assign keywords for each of your website pages (jargon: keyword mapping)
- Find related and semantic keywords to use in your content
But that is a later step, once you’re comfortable with this process of an initial keyword research.
2. Technical SEO
Technical SEO is the process of ensuring that your website is secure, can be found and indexed by Google, and that your visitor has a good user experience.
A key first step of Technical SEO
Make sure your site is safe and secure.
Jargon: Get HTTPS by installing an SSL certificate.
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and it provides an additional level of security for your website, protecting all data, including that of your users from hackers. Especially if you have ecommerce on your website, and people are entering their credit card details, it is very crucial that you keep your site and user data safe.
When a site has an SSL certificate, it will show a lock to the left of the domain name in the Google browser and the URL will start with https:// instead of http://
The s in HTTPS stands for secure.
Google has made clear that it is a ranking signal as it takes security very seriously.
If you already have HTTPS on your site, ignore this step. You will just have to ensure later that the HTTPS version is the only one Google indexes, but more on that in a different post.
If you don’t have HTTPS, there are 2 ways of doing it yourself (unless you have a developer to outsource it to).
- Option 2.1: Install SSL directly through your website host.
- Option 2.2: Buy a cheap SSL certificate and install it through your host.
Option 2.1. Install SSL directly through your website host.
If you have a small website, chances are that you don’t have a dedicated host all to yourself, but that your website is hosted in a shared space (jargon: shared hosting), and you have your WordPress or any other CMS installed through there. Examples of these shared hosts are Siteground, Bluehost, HostGator, GoDaddy, etc.
Go to your website host dashboard. In my case, that’s Siteground. And the SSL certificate is free. These steps would work similarly for all shared hosting where an SSL certificate is included for free. e.g. Bluehost
So here I show you an example with Siteground, and the process literally takes 2 minutes.
Install HTTPS with Siteground Step 1:Log in, go to the Header Menu -> Websites -> Site Tools -> Security -> SSL Manager.
Install HTTPS with Siteground Step 2:Choose the domain, and then SSL Let’s Encrypt. (in my case, it’s already activated).<
Install HTTPS with Siteground Step 3:Enforce HTTPS, to force it’s safety all the time.
And that’s it! Done.
Sometimes the SSL certificate is not free through your host, but they give you an option to buy one. But in my experience, they could be more expensive than if you buy it from an external site, for example an affordable one like Namecheap. I also buy all my domains from there, because they are much cheaper than on Siteground.
Option 2.2. Buy a cheap SSL certificate and install it through your website.
Buy HTTPS & Install Step 1:Go to Namecheap.<
Buy HTTPS & Install Step 2:Choose an SSL that’s most apt for your website and buy it.
Buy HTTPS & Install Step 3:Follow the steps after the purchase to install it for your domain.
If this is very confusing and technical for you, just get help from a freelancer in Fiverr.
For example, these were some of the results I found when I searched for it. Not much to pay for security, right?
This is just the first step of technical SEO. Some other next steps would be:
- Check that Google can actually find all your pages (jargon: check for crawl errors)
- Submit a sitemap and generate a robots.txt file
- Improve your site speed. No one likes a slow site that takes ages to load. Neither does Google.
- Make sure your site is mobile-friendly and mobile-optimized
- Check that Google can actually find all your pages (jargon: check for crawl errors)
These are slightly advanced methods, so I haven’t mentioned them in this starter course for do-it-yourself SEO. But if you’re up to it, you can always read up detailed blog posts on technical SEO and work on it.
3. On-page SEO
On-page SEO refers to optimizing every (HTML) element on every page of your website, to match what the user is really searching for.
A key first step of on-page SEO
Make it easy for your users and Google to navigate your site. Ensure products, categories, blogs, and information about you are easy to find.
Jargon: Create a site structure and architecture that flows easily.
Let’s look at this structure of a website.
Imagine if you had to browse around this site. How are you supposed to know where to find the information you want? You would get fed up after some time and probably leave.
And Google would follow you 😉 Which is not great for the SEO of the site.
Make sure your site is easy to look around and get all information in a relatively straightforward way. Like below.
Create your optimized site structure in 4 steps:
3.1. Make a list of all your website pages in an Excel file.
3.2. Create categories of your products/ services and blog posts.
3.3. Organize all your pages under categories
3.4. Arrange your website header and footer menus according to your categories
3.1. Make a list of all your website pages in an Excel file.
Write down all the pages your website has or you want it to have.
These would essentially include:
- Business information and brand pages like About, Contact
- Product/ service pages
- Blog posts
If you already have many pages, you can use an app like Screaming Frog (for free), to download the list of pages.
3.2. Create categories of your products/ services and blog posts
If you have too many products, add sub-categories. See an example below.
A general rule of thumb for SEO is not to have your final page 3 clicks away from your page with the most traffic. Generally, that’s the homepage.
So 3 clicks away would be Category -> Sub-Category-> Product. That is okay. If you have a hover menu like the above Crate and Barrel one, then even without clicking you can reach directly the category you want, which is great for user experience.
You can do the same thing with your blog posts. Divide them into topics.
I would avoid having products in your hover menu, though. Generally, product pages are much more in number and have bigger names, so it’s best to keep your menu clean and just have categories and sub-categories in there.
3.3. Organize all your pages under categories
Take all the pages you wrote down before and sort them into the relevant categories.
This would be a site structure example of a simple product-based website (my client’s website). As you hover on ‘Collections’, it shows you the different categories, and you can click on a category to see all the products under it. There are even 2 categories of Latest Creations and All Creations.
3.4. Arrange your website header and footer menus according to your categories
In my website, for example, you see services -> website & seo content -> website design, etc.
In WordPress, you can easily organize this menu by going to Dashboard -> Appearance -> Menus, and dragging and dropping pages in a certain order according to your Excel sheet.
Note: There is a difference between having a product or blog post under a category, and whether the web address of that page (jargon: link/ URL) of that page contains the name of the category. Generally for small sites, it would be good to have an URL like https://domain.com/category/product, or https://domain.com/blogcategory/blogpostkeyword, but if you have a large website with many categories and subcategories, you can also avoid at least some of the sub-categories in the URL.
You can also get a full video tutorial on creating a smooth site structure, along with a spreadsheet to help you organize and classify pages, in my Free 7-Day Do-It-Yourself SEO Starter Course.
Pro SEO Tip:It is better to keep your About Us and Contact page as separate pages directly in your header, for your audience to easily know more about your brand and reach out to you. Make it easy for them to connect to you.
There are lots of other steps of on-page SEO to be done later:
- Set a standardized URL structure for all pages and posts
- Include the focus keyword in your URL
- Optimize your title tags and meta descriptions
- Assign the right header tags
- Add alt text to all images
- Set up internal linking with relevant anchor text
- Add schema markup to all pages
4. Content SEO
Content SEO refers to optimizing every page of your website with the relevant content and the keywords that your audience is using to search for what you have to offer, with the specific objective of ranking higher for those and related keywords.
A key first step of Content SEO
Include your target keyword in the first 100 words of text on your page (jargon: content)
It helps Google to identify what your page is all about if it can quickly find your exact keyword (and preferably related keywords) just as it starts scanning the page. So whether it’s a page you are creating or a post, try to include the keyword for that specific page you have chosen in the first 100 words. See the example below.
This page ranks in Position 3 for wooden toys. Now we don’t know whether this was their target keyword for this page, but it is there in the URL, and at the beginning of the content. So even before Google has scanned the full page, it immediately has a clue that this page is about wooden toys.
You can include the keyword even in your category and product descriptions.
Thinking about how to include keywords in a product description? See an example from the site mentioned above, and notice all the words they use that besides explaining the product in detail, give clues to Google about what the page is about.
The more details and context you can provide in your content, the easier it is for users and Google to understand it.
But don’t force the same keyword in your page repeatedly (jargon: keyword stuffing), to try to rank for a particular keyword. Google does NOT like that. Use related keywords instead.
Content is one of the most crucial aspects of SEO, and optimizing it for every page requires a lot of different steps:
- Develop a content strategy based on your keyword analysis
- Create excellent content that matches the search intent
- Use related and semantic keywords
- Optimize your content to make it easy to read
- Use different forms of media as much as possible
- Optimize your content for voice search
- Avoid and fix duplicate content
- Add external links to high-authority and related websites
If you are outsourcing your SEO content writing, don’t forget to give a very clear SEO content brief to your writer. It will help an SEO writer create the copy that matches your website goals and also ranks high on SERPs.
A clear and precise content outline also helps in creating SEO content that gets you more website traffic.
5. Off-page SEO
Off-page SEO refers to the actions you need to take external (or off) your website, to provide more credibility (indicate your relevance and authority) to users and Google by helping them find you through links from other websites. It mainly focuses on getting links from other sites (jargon: link-building). High-quality links from related domains indicate high credibility and can significantly improve your Google ranks.
A key first step of off-page SEO
Ask other websites to link to you (jargon: get backlinks). Start with your immediate network.
As you saw in the first video on this post, the more websites you have linking to you, the more Google finds you on its crawling journey. So backlinks are very, very, important for SEO. Period. If the site linking to you is related to your field of work, even better.
See this below example of a post talking about 24 wooden toys.
If you are a designer for children’s wooden toys, it would be great to have a link from this site. But is this a good site? You need to check how high it scores by SEO algorithms (in SEMRush, called Authority Score). And the traffic it gets.
Note: Every SEO software has a different way of calculating scores, and also terms it differently. But generally, a domain score of 50+ would be good.
I copy-pasted the link of the above example site in SEMRush, and these are the results.
Authority Score: 78
Organic traffic of the domain: 22M (22M people find and visit the sitethrough search)
Organic traffic of the page: 2000 (2000 people find and visit the page< through search)
So it’s a high-quality website, and that’s potentially 2000 people who can click on the link of your website on that page and visit you!
We will see how to try to get backlinks from high-quality websites in a full course, as it’s a whole topic in itself.
But as a first step, try to get links from your immediate network, people you know. Here are a few examples:
- Family/ friends
- Any website related to your category
- Post on social media
Try to ask your community to give you backlinks that allow Google’s crawlers to follow the link (jargon: dofollow). In WordPress, unless specified, every link is dofollow unless specified otherwise.
Links from social media are by default nofollow (signals to Google’s bots not to follow the link), but the links still help to drive traffic to your website. And if these visitors engage well with your website, it gives Google a good signal, which can help it to rank you higher.
Other steps of off-page SEO to be done later:
- Understand in detail how backlinks work
- Fix outgoing broken links on your website
- Analyze competitor backlinks and ‘steal’ them
- Create a link-building strategy
- Develop a link outreach plan and implement it
6. Local SEO
Local SEO is the process of optimizing your site to rank higher for local search keywords, in order to help users and Google find you easily and quickly in the location you’re in.
A key first step of local SEO
Register yourself in the local directory of Google.
Jargon: Get a Google My Business profile.
2 simple sub-steps:
- 6.1. Go to the page and login with your Google account.
- 6.2. Fill out relevant details about your company, starting with the Info section.
6.1. Go to the page and login with your Google account.
6.2. Fill out relevant details about your company, starting with the Info section.
The more details you can add here, the better. Makes it easy for your audience to know about your business. The minimum you should at least include are:
- Business name
- Contact details (address, phone number)
- Products and services
- Opening hours
- Product images
Below is the example of my Google My Business profile.
Make this listing as comprehensive as possible, especially if your objective is to sell more products locally, to avoid inventory and shipping hassles.
It is good to have a Google My Business profile even if you are a blogger or have an online business. It makes you look more legit, plus in case someone wants to hire you for SEO writing, copywriting, or any other service you mention on your site, they can contact you easily offline.
Concluding Tips for DIY SEO starters
Now you have a good idea of the essential SEO tips you could start with. All this could all seem a bit overwhelming though, for sure. So based on my experience, I would recommend the following as you work on your SEO.
1. Take baby steps.
Do one thing each day. Read through every step above a few times if you need and let everything sink in. If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me a message.
I would recommend you to register for my 7-Day Free SEO Starter Course, where you get one lesson in your inbox every day, along with video tutorials, worksheets, supporting links, and more. Then you can actually implement these steps along with me, one at a time.
2. Do what you can, get help for the rest.
You don’t have to be able to do everything yourself. Whichever part you think will take too long or you’re simply not getting it, just outsource. I am constantly outsourcing little elements of my website that need some coding, usually to Fiverr. These freelancers are totally skilled, not very expensive, and have been absolute life-savers!
3. Practice constantly, especially with things like keyword research and content SEO.
You won’t get the hang of it in one day. The more you do, the better you get at it, and the more efficient you get with your time. And especially for small businesses, time is money, right?
4. You can keep checking your work if you are up to it, with site audits (advanced)
Most SEO software (including SemRush) will give you the option to do a site audit to see what errors you have on your site and how you can optimize it further. However, those are fairly advanced processes, which we can get to in due course.
For now, the above 6 steps is a good place to start. There are lots more, which I will cover in my Complete DIY SEO Course (coming soon: let me know if you’re interested through the forms on this page, and I will send you a link once it’s up). But that would be for only when you feel good about these first few steps and want to move on to more.
Good luck then! Would love to hear your comments about how you get started with your SEO. Which steps do you want to take first?