Getting Started with Do-It-Yourself SEO
The Sprocket Report
This is an update to "SEO for the Common Man" dated 08/08/2011.
Thinking about trying to improve your Search Engine Optimization on your own or wondering whether to hire an SEO agency? Here are a few things you need to consider first.
Back in the digital stone age, when websites for smaller businesses were a novelty, we used to regularly attend the Search Engine Strategies conference in Chicago. The splashy expo featured big companies who offered SEO services with rates starting at $5,000 per month, which was unaffordable for smaller companies. It wasn’t long before a proliferation of hucksters filled the gap by selling cheap SEO packages that promised to get your website on the first page of Google. Today’s SEO services still have a wide pricing range.
Being among the first search results is still important, but the definition of the “first page” has evolved since search results are now personalized to each user’s online history. Today’s SEO has evolved as well – both easier and more difficult. We have more and better tools available for recording and comparing data, but the competition has never been steeper. So it makes sense to start at the beginning to understand what your website goals are, how optimized your site is now, and what you can do to improve your SEO.
Plan Your Website Goals
Start by thinking through what people will want to do at your website. Some examples could be:
- Buy products from your store
- Get guidance from your government agency
- Make an appointment with your service business
- Ask your not-for-profit for help
- Learn from your expert experience
- Confirm details for your community event
Your SEO effort is meant to make it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for, so knowing exactly what they want and the word they are using to search for it will influence all of your strategies. Keep in mind that it can be prohibitively expensive to rank high for common terms, so look for more specific ones.
Assess Your Current SEO
Taking a hard look at where you are now will show you – or any agency you hire – what needs to be fixed. There are a myriad of tools available online, both free and paid, that can help you analyze your website. Some questions to answer include:
- What search terms and phrases do you use?
- Are those terms featured in your content, headlines, and meta tags?
- How long has your website been active?
- What websites link to yours?
- How quickly does your website load?
While there are hundreds of search engines, Google is still number one by a wide margin so it makes sense to play by their rules. Tools such as Google Analytics, Search Console and Google My Business are free for you to use.
What You Can Do to Improve
Search engines exist to spit out the best possible results to a visitor's query so your goal is to figure out what the visitor is asking for and optimize your website so that you are that best possible result.
- Be sure your website is mobile-enabled
- Install an SSL certificate
- Research and choose the best search terms
- Feature those search terms in your site's content
- Use geographical terms for improved local search
- Write better title and description tags
- Support your website with links from social media, associations and other online directories
If you have never addressed your SEO, even small improvements will yield impressive results, but keep in mind that it gets harder to improve as you go on. Also, results won’t happen overnight – it will take time to see if your efforts are working. Finally, don’t forget that while you are optimizing, so is your competition. There’s no end to this race.
There is a lot more to search engine optimization, but just going through these first steps will improve your understanding so you can either DIY your SEO or weed out inept and unethical SEO agencies. If you have more questions, give us a call. We’re happy to help!