Many small to medium sized businesses depend on the steady stream of leads and referrals that their website generates for them each month. However, with a little bit of the proper SEO, they might be able to multiply the amount of new business that their website generates.
While there is a definite advantage to hiring an SEO expert to help you out, for many tight budgets that can be a tough sell. SEO doesn’t always have to be done by an expert, nor does it have to cost a lot of money. There are a number of things that you can do yourself to improve your ranking with the search engines.
There are certain website factors that might be better left to a professional. If your website design is difficult to navigate, takes a long time to load or has other technical problems, they can be difficult to find and fix. But one of the keys in the post-Panda world of SEO is meaningful content, and business owners are in the best position to create useful content about their niche market.
Here are 10 do-it-yourself SEO steps to help you get started:
Regardless of search engine algorithm tweaks and updates, search results will continue to be driven by keywords. For this reason, keyword research will always be an important part of SEO. The key to increasing ranking is to target the correct keywords. There are certain keywords that will have a broad scope and a lot of competition, but the key is to find the long-tail keywords – search terms of three or more words – that meet these three basic criteria:
Once you have identified two or three such keywords, you can begin to tailor blog posts, social media updates and other content to focus on those keywords. While it won’t win you all of the battles, you may find significantly increased traffic due to high rankings for those particular search queries.
Searchers are constantly seeking relevant and informative content. The Internet is designed to let users connect with experts and specialists, so writing for your business blog is a great way to connect with people who are looking for information about your industry.
There are a few blogging rules that will help you get the best benefit and a real SEO boost. First, write content with depth and valuable information. The new search engine algorithms are looking for authority. Be informative, helpful and answer the questions that searchers have. Be truly helpful, even beyond your ability to sell whatever product or service you provide.
Second, don’t be too pushy with the sales talk. Again searchers – and by extension the search engines – are looking for information, not advertisements. Take this opportunity to give advice, share how to’s and talk about the latest developments. Sales will come later.
Interaction with other authoritative sites can be a big help to your own brand and authority. In addition to demonstrating your own expertise outside the confines of your website, guest blog posts can also help you establish links to your website from other established websites. To do this, you will need to reach out to other bloggers in your field, get to know their sites and offer to do some writing for them.
There are so many different social media outlets that busy business owners may not be able to find the time to properly share and distribute new content from their blogs and articles. However, this self-promotion is vital to your success, especially when you are trying to build brand awareness and a following for your site. It is vital to let people know when new information is available, and social sites are one of the best ways to share these updates.
If it is truly informative and useful, those who already follow you will be willing to share it in their social circles. Once a certain point has been reached, the post may develop a life of its own, but this should never mean that you aren’t promoting your own materials. After all, if you don’t believe in it enough to share it, why would anyone else?
By signing up for social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, you will gain access to hundreds, even thousands, of experts and colleagues in your industry. Make it a goal to find and follow as many as 10 different people in your industry each day. Many of them will follow you back, and you can begin to develop connections, links and credibility, which can lead to guest blogging opportunities, referrals and inbound links to your website.
Once you have established a social presence, it may be difficult to come up with enough meaningful content from your own website to share. Sharing interesting content from others in your industry has a number of positive benefits; it increases authority as you show that you know what content is new and informative. It adds credibility, as you become part of the community. Even though your eventual goal is to increase traffic and sales, it isn’t as blatant when you are sharing someone else’s work. It also helps you keep a finger on the pulse of the industry as well as its customers. And finally, it may trigger ideas for articles for your own site if ever run into a little bit of writer’s block.
SEO has gone beyond keywords and link building. Social media has a big impact on brand awareness. It may also impact rankings as the algorithms see links from actual people on a social site as a powerful indication of relevance and credibility. By interacting with the community, you place yourself as a vital, engaged member. That alone can drive interest and traffic to your site.
Additionally, since your social profile is associated with your brand, it gets your name out in front of the public. By sharing your own information along with links to other useful content, you build a reputation along with brand awareness.
Once a mainstay of SEO efforts, the actual usefulness of press releases is now widely debated. This was an SEO tool that was manipulated, overused and is now downplayed. Google’s Matt Cutts has stated that he wouldn’t expect press releases to have a positive effect on rankings. However, the evidence on this is not clear, and Matt didn’t say that they were worthless. In any event, they can have positive impacts that extend beyond pure SEO efforts:
The key here is not to overuse them. Make sure that you have something worthwhile and newsworthy to announce. Even then, they should probably be limited to once a month or less.
While the previous suggestions addressed filling your site with great content and increasing traffic, which are both very important, it is also important to step back and take a critical look at the layout of your site. Not only is it important to give any visitors valuable content, you also need to make the content easy for them to find. As your site grows and more content is added, it may begin to be a little difficult to navigate.
While you may not be able to fix structural problems yourself, you can certainly identify when they are an issue. Take the time to visit your site like a first time visitor would. Get friends and associates to visit your site and give you some good, honest feedback. Tell them not to hold back and don’t be offended by their criticisms. In addition to good content, it is vital to have a good user experience to continue to build traffic and to keep your current readers coming back for more.
Make sure that you have some kind of tracking in place, and then make sure that you are keeping an eye on the results. You know best of all what is going on in your business, and understanding how your website and the traffic it generates is contributing to your success – or failure – will help you to determine what further SEO efforts are needed.