Steps that all business operators can follow
Search engine optimization is a valuable marketing exercise that drives organic traffic to your website. SEO is a must, particularly for small business owners and those running e-commerce sites. After all, if consumers can’t find you when they need the service or product that you offer, you are out of business as far as they are concerned. If you don’t have a budget to devote to hiring SEO experts, there are several straightforward SEO tactics that you can implement yourself. There are also free, easy-to-use tools to help you.
Here are the basic tactics you should first implement to get results with SEO:
Set your organic website traffic baseline.
Check your traffic analytics package reported by your website provider. You can also use one of many free tools such as MOZ or SEMRUSH or a combination of all three. The key is to benchmark traffic to your website generated by organic search before you do the steps to enhance your search engine results presence.
An SEO analysis shouldn’t just include your website, though. It should also encompass your overall industry’s search volume. Domain overview tools highlight organic competitors as well as lesser-known keyword strings. This lets you identify potential areas for growth and can serve as a source of inspiration.
Set up keywords.
Keywords are at the heart of a strong SEO campaign. These are words or phrases that searchers enter into a search engine like Google that are connected to your site. Identifying keywords that align with your website content and match your target audience’s search intent is critical. You can use a keyword research tool like the Google Keyword Forecast tool or SEMRUSH to learn which keywords perform best. Sometimes it is best to use more than one tool because they use different methods for capturing keywords. Here is a round up of the eight best keyword tools.
Below is a sample of the SEMRUSH keyword tool for the Home Décor category. Note that estimated search volume associated with each keyword string is provided. This allows you to prioritize your use of keywords in content on your site. Google Webmaster Guidelines recommends one website page for each major keyword category with no more than five additional or related keywords under that category for each page for best results.
Produce and publish content on your website using primary keywords.
Once you’ve identified valuable keywords, you can start crafting high-quality content that will make up a significant portion of your content marketing strategy. Follow these basic rules:
- Include a primary keyword naturally in the text. As mentioned before, don’t overuse keywords on a page. Search engine algorithms don’t react positively to the overuse of keywords.
- Include the primary keyword in the title. This is known as an H1 heading.
- Choose secondary keywords that logically complement the primary keyword. So, if you’re creating a webpage about root canals for a dental website, a primary keyword might be “root canal,” and a logical secondary keyword might be “cavities.” For future content, you can also consider building out content pages for these secondary keywords and then providing internal links to those pages.
- Include at least one piece of “rich” content, like an image, infographic or video. Search engines recognize that this adds value to the content and will rank the page higher accordingly.
- Include the primary keyword in the page title tag and meta description. If someone else is posting your content or building your web pages, pass along this instruction. It is surprising how often webmasters skip this because it is an extra step.
- Consider using any plug-ins available to optimize your content. For instance, WordPress offers many plug-ins that can help you enhance your individual webpage SEO efforts. This adds keywords and indexing in the HTML code which helps to guide search engines as they crawl your site.
- If you’re refreshing content, make sure that your new content is uploaded to the existing landing page or remove the old content before producing your new page. This will help you avoid duplicate content, which can harm your Google search rankings.
Create an offsite and backlink strategy.
Backlinks are links from other websites to your own. Search engines prioritize content that is valuable to the consumer doing the search. Therefore, Google has established criteria to assess value, the EAT principle: expertise, authority and trustworthiness. Search engines establish your EAT. Links from high-authority, high-traffic domains are the most valuable and worth pursuing as part of your digital marketing strategy. There are many effective link-building methods from shareable infographics to writing guest posts on other platforms. Here is a recent blog post outlining elements of a link building strategy.
Content aside, your DIY SEO strategy also needs to take technical issues into account. For example, you should make sure you’re using HTTPS, a known ranking factor in search engines. This offers encryption that keeps data passed through your site secure, including potentially sensitive customer data. The Google webmaster guideline advises on how your website developer should structure your site for maximum organic search results with the Google algorithm. While helping business operators improve search results, I have often run into scenarios where a web host has charged them for the SEO package and simply never entered keywords into the system. The business owner can document progress by conducting monthly checks using a website ranking tool previously mentioned. If the search engine results ranking for primary keywords does not improve, it’s time to contact your webmaster or hosting company for an explanation. Insist on an actionable plan for improvement from them and feel free to reference the Google Webmaster guideline document. If the webmaster or hosting company can’t help, then it’s time to look for a new webmaster!
Search engine optimization is a constantly evolving field. That’s why specialists dedicate their entire careers to it. Search engines like Google are always updating their algorithms and changing the factors that influence search engine results pages.
You or your website administrator should follow SEO best practices in the industry in order to stay up to date on SEO criteria. There are many sources, but the Google search central blog is a great starting point. Also remember that algorithms for Google, Bing, Yelp and other search engines are closely guarded trade secrets for those companies. Therefore, no consultant or SEO expert actually has all of the keys to perfect search engine optimization performance. These steps are a good start for any small business to be found by their target consumer audience.
This article is a summary based on a more detailed article in SEM Rush Blog published in November 2020.
More information, deeper reading and training on SEO:
Search Engine Land Guide. SEO What it is and how it works
Google Search Central SEO Starter Guide