You don’t have to be an SEO expert to boost your website’s search engine cred. The SEO community shares tips on how individuals and organizations without SEO expertise can increase their sites’ search engine rankings.
Whether you’re a small business owner or an online marketer at a large company looking to enhance your SEO, the most important thing is to “recognize that the techniques and tactics a DIY SEO’er must use are not universal,” Ward says. “A site that sells hand-carved boomerangs requires different SEO techniques and tactics than a site that sells bobsled parts. While there are some technical aspects to SEO that are common, the ultimate success or failure of your site will be based on SEO and promotion strategies that differentiate you from everyone else.”
Register your domain name for multiple years
With actual .com domains being under twelve bucks these days, there’s no reason you shouldn’t register your own domain name. I remember seeing a guy about a year ago who spent the money to have his URL printed on his truck, but the URL was that of a “free website” he doesn’t own – who could change his address or shut down at any time. Additionally, it’s easier (for a lot of reasons you probably don’t know or care about) to rank a website on your own domain in most cases. Don’t wrongly assume that “you can always get a real domain later.” For SEO purposes, changing the address of your website is something you want to avoid if at all possible.
Pay for hosting
There are tons of hosting companies offering affordable plans for less than $10 per month. Assuming you are a “local business” reading this, you won’t likely ever have to worry about getting more traffic than your basic hosting company will allow. If you can swing it, I’d recommend you pay the $1 or so extra per month for a unique IP address. (Just tell your host that, they’ll know what it means.)
Set up an email address using your domain
Trust me on this. It looks much more professional for a business to have an email address with your business name in it than not. For example: email@example.com is not as good as firstname.lastname@example.org. Your host will have instructions on how to set up an email address. (It’s not that hard.)
Have a clean and simple website design
It is SO cheap now to have someone design a site for you. Places like 99designs.com, elance.com and others will design a nice site for you for less than $100! If you want to do it even cheaper (and I generally recommend this), you can install a “blog” using WordPress for free! The WordPress platform is so much more dynamic than a blog though. It’s easily customizable to look like sales page or a shopping cart or almost anything you can think of. You can go to sites like WooThemes and ThemeForest for inspiration and customized themes starting at $1. Just remember that when customers come to your site, their first impression of how professional you are depends on how professional-looking your site is. If it looks sloppy or cheap, they’ll probably assume your work or services are the same—like it or not.
Create accounts on Google Webmaster Tools, Google Analytics and Google+
Google Webmaster Tools (Google Search Console) Implementation
Webmaster Tools (Google Search Console) will help you make sure there aren’t any “Manual Actions” active against your site. In English, these are penalties that may be preventing your site from being able to rank on and obtain traffic from Google. Here’s how to get started:
Step 1 – Head on over to Google Webmaster Tools
Step 2 – Sign into your Google account, enter your website URL and click “Add A Site”
Step 3 – Select the “HTML File Upload” verification method. Follow the on-screen instructions for verifying
Step 4 – Review your crawl errors, crawl stats and impression data. Need help interpreting Google Webmaster Tools for a small business website? Contact Us
Step 5 – Once your site’s been added, you can check to see if Google is having any issues with your site on your dashboard—it’ll tell you if you have any critical issues that might be affecting your search rankings.
Google Analytics Implementation
Before we even get into SEO tips, tricks & tactics, our first step is to make sure that we’re tracking everything that happens on our website. There are lots of website analytics tools that can show you what your visitors are doing. The top web analytics platforms are: Google Analytics, Piwik, Adobe SiteCatalyst & WebTrends. The best web analytics tool for a small business is by far Google Analytics. It’s free and super simple to implement.
- Step 1 – Sign up for a Google Account (or sign in if you already have one)
- Step 2 – Head on over to Google Analytics
- Step 3 – Click “Sign Up”, enter your Website name, URL, category & time zone. Click “Get Tracking ID” to finish up
- Step 4 – Place the tracking code on every page of your website.
- Step 5 – Check your Analytics account weekly. Not sure what to track? Contact Us for Perfect Google Analytics Account Setup
1. Find the keywords Google attributes to your site
This should be the first step for any SEO campaign, according to Achalu Narayanan, vice president, Internet Marketing, Egnyte. Narayanan recommends the free Google Keyword Planner tool, which can be used to input your website’s home page URL and review the keyword ideas Google provides. You should also do the same for two or three competitive sites, he says.
2. Optimize content for relevant, long-tail keywords
A long-tail keyword phrase is one with more than two or three words, such as triathlon training for women in SF Bay Area. “The shorter keywords are usually a lot more competitive, which means that other businesses are spending a lot of time, effort and money getting them to rank as they compete,” says Michael Lazar, TrueShip Shipping Software‘s “growth hacker.” Long-tail keywords “are easier to rank for and can drive just as much traffic,” he says.
Lazar says Hit Tail ($10 per month and up) can help you find ideas for long-tail keywords because “it tells you what your best long-tail keywords are and how to write articles, website content or blogs using them to get them ranked.”
For additional keyword research, Debbie Carkner, VP of ecommerce strategy at SMITH, says the following tools (in addition to the Google Keyword Planner) are “industry favorites”: WordStream, Wordtracker, SEMRush, Search Engine Genie, SEOBook, UbberSuggest and KeywordSpy.
3. Get keyword ideas from customers
“Only optimize your site for the keywords that matter to your business,” says Adam Barker, director of demand generation, Continuum Managed IT Services. “Understand which words your customers use to describe your product by asking them face to face, on a website form, or in a survey. Once you learn this, structure your Web content around it. Use the same lingo they use on your site, because those are the words and phrases that they use to search for you.”
- Use Google’s Keyword Tool to refine your list of keywords.
- Create 1 page of authority content for each keyword that you want to rank for.
- Add additional content to your site on a weekly/monthly basis.
Do Basic On-Page Optimization
- Write a unique title tag for each webpage, using one or more of the target keywords you’ve assigned to that page. Be sure to include your business name. Keep the entire title tag under 60 characters.
- Write a unique meta description for each webpage, using one or more of the target keywords you’ve assigned to that page. Keep the entire meta description under 155 characters.
- Include a target keyword in each page’s URL.
- Check that each page has one (and only one) h1 tag, preferably including a target keyword. Additional headers (h2 – h6), if applicable, should appear in order, lower on the page.
- Make sure all page on your website can be accessed in less than 3 clicks from the homepage. If you have pages (or whole sections) buried deeper than that, consider linking to them from your main navigation, or an applicable category page.
- When you link to a given webpage from elsewhere on the site, use one of the target keywords associated with the page you are linking to as (part of) the anchor text.
- If your website is image-heavy, add ALT tags to the images to let search engines understand what visuals users are seeing.
- Ensure that each page of your site has at least 300 words of unique content on it that can’t be found elsewhere on your site (or anywhere else on the Web).
- Set up a blog on your domain, and publish something on it as often as you can (aim for twice per month to start). Write articles that you would personally find interesting and would want to read.
- Go beyond text: create videos, podcasts, webinars, infographics, illustrations, PDF downloads and more!
- Identify 2-3 primary audiences for your product or service, and create unique content for each one. What are the pain points or salient features that relate best to their individual needs?
- Break away from the hard product pitch all the time, and talk about other related topics that will interest your audience. Keeping them coming back to your site increases the likelihood that they will convert at some point.
Then: Check Your Site Speed
Did you know that the speed at which your website loads affects your search engine rankings? You could be doing everything else right and this alone could be killing your efforts. Website Page Speed is a critical component in the digital user experience, and it is hugely important in our content-driven world.
Belasco recommends heading over to Google’s PageSpeed tools (again, free) where you can use resources to increase your page-load time. WordPress users can instantly increase their site’s page-load efficiency with a plugin like WP Super Cache. Be sure to test plugins before setting them live on your site, however. Your developer can help you avoid any potential conflicts with your existing site and a new plugin.
Do Competitor Analysis
- Free Social Media Analytics Tools By Simply Measured
- How to Analyze Your Competition in Less Than 60 Seconds By QuickSprout
- Free Competitive Research Tools: SEO Book.com
- SERP Analysis – SERP Analyzer – Free SEO Tools by WebSEOAnalytics
Put your address and phone number in a prominent position on every page of your site.
Did you know that 60% of small business don’t have their phone number listed on their website? You’re working so hard to get that traffic, don’t you want to use it efficiently? If a potential customer can’t easily find your phone number, how are they going to call you?
Some extra small business seo checklist steps includes:
- Add social media sharing buttons and links to your social media accounts to every page of your site.
- Link directly to your best content from your homepage and/or main navigation area.
- Make every page of your site accessible within 3 clicks from your homepage.
- Make sure your site loads properly in different web browsers and screen resolutions.
- Add your site to industry and local online directories.
- Ask partners/suppliers/customers/friends to link to your site.
- Contact businesses and bloggers and ask them to link to your best content.
- Use Ahrefs.com to find the good backlinks that your competitors already have, and then replicate them.
You can also contact me to ask a question or hire me to implement some or all of the actions for you.
Wait… And Get Back To Regular Business
Once you completed all of the above, you need to give Google a few weeks to a couple of months to figure it all out. If you don’t live in a big city and don’t see yourself ranking where you want to be after three months, then you’ll need to start putting in some further link development effort. Be sure to subscribe to my blog AND subscribe to my newsletter (different content goes out to each) so that you don’t miss upcoming posts and information on that topic!