To the average business owner or marketer without a lot of experience in search engine optimization (SEO), diving in head first can seem like a daunting project.
At its most elementary level, the purpose of SEO is to increase a website’s ranking in organic search engine results. In other words, the better your SEO, the more likely people will find your company when they search on Google.
While there are complex SEO tactics at your disposal, there are many ways to optimize your site today for free (or almost free) and improve your SEO. Here, we will walk you through different strategies you can accomplish in the three main divisions of SEO: on-site, off-site, and technical.
- On-site SEO relates to your website’s contents
- Off-site SEO relates to the improvement of your website’s visibility
- Technical SEO relates to the improvement of your website’s crawlability.
With about 3.5 billion Google searches a day, SEO is an incredibly valuable and important tool to connect to potential customers.
On-Site Ways to Improve SEO
1. Create great content
One of the most powerful ways to improve SEO is to develop trustworthy, interesting content that will bring searchers to your site.
If you don’t have a blog for your website already, you should consider WordPress, a free content management system, which can integrate with your existing setup.
On your blog, you should post articles that offer valuable expertise and insights that draw new readers searching for specific queries. If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, analyze your competitors’ blog content and consider the questions you get again and again from customers. As you write content, ensure you’re telling interesting stories, being conversational, and engaging your audience.
In your blog, be sure to include useful images and videos, and links to your own site as well as links to reputable content on the subject. Linking to high-quality sites tells Google your content is well researched and authoritative.
2. Use the right keywords
As you create content, be sure to naturally include keywords that will help you rank in search engines. In layman’s terms, these are words or phrases that your customers are specifically searching. The Ubersuggest tool is a great, free way to check the difficulty of ranking for a particular keyword, alternative keywords, the top content ranking for the keyword, and the search volume for the keyword.
As you write, use the keyword and its synonyms throughout the content that you’re writing wherever it may appear naturally. Also, be sure to include the keyword in the URL (if it makes sense) as well as the title and metadata.
3. Perfect your titles and meta descriptions
As you produce content, ensuring that your pages have optimized elements including titles and meta descriptions is vital for healthy SEO. Using a free WordPress plugin like Yoast SEO will make editing these elements a breeze.
Using the snippet editor will allow you to see what your content’s title and meta description will look like in Google search results and edit it to your satisfaction. From the editor, you can add target keywords and optimize for length using Yoast’s suggestions.
4. Opt for static URLs
When creating URLs for your site, always go with static URLs (www.fundera.com/blog/square-pos-review) over dynamic URLs (www.fundera.com/blog/?id=123) to ensure they’re easily readable and don’t become easily broken if they are linked to. According to Moz, using dynamic parameters in a URL can even result in lower overall ranking and indexing.
If you’re targeting a particular keyword for a page or piece of content, you should include it in the static URL, but don’t include multiple keywords. With SEO, simplicity is key. Read over each URL and consider whether a reader could predict the content of a page just by reading the URL. In addition, separate words with hyphens rather than underscores or plus signs.
Off-Site Methods to Improve SEO
5. Share with the right audiences on social media
While links to your site on social media don’t directly affect your site’s rank because they’re marked as No-Follow, an instruction for search engine crawlers to ignore them, they still hold value as a means of promotion
By sharing pages and articles from your website, you’ll increase traffic to your site and increase the chance that your content is either re-shared or linked to, especially you share it with the right audience. An effective social media-sharing campaign could even result in a nice bump in search traffic. Implementing principles of growth marketing, like reviewing and reverse engineering the social media marketing success of competitors can be very effective in increasing engagement with your shared content.
While Google’s inclusion of tweets in search results, or indexation, is on the decline, it’s still possible that one of your tweets could be added to search results for a particular term if you have enough authority. What exactly conveys this authority — followers, tweet engagement, or tweet length — is not totally known.
6. Guest post on blogs in your niche
One excellent way to build awareness for your brand and build links to your website is to guest post for blogs and publications in your industry. This off-site SEO tactic can land you high-quality backlinks. With these links, you’ll raise Google’s awareness of your site and will increase your site’s search profile as a source of information for your niche.
You’ll also increase traffic to your site through the included links in the guest post, especially if they’re highly applicable to the content of the post and indicate some further value that can only be derived by following them. For example, in your guest post, you can mention an interesting workout routine and write, “if you’re interested, check out my guide on this full-body workout” with full-body workout hyper-linked to your site.
While you undoubtedly know of trusted publications in your space, you can find sites explicitly seeking guest posts by searching Google for phrases like:
[Your Niche] “Write for us”
[Your Niche] “Submit guest post”
[Your Niche] “Become a contributor”
For example, if you have a fitness education website, you can search for fitness training “submit guest post” or exercise “become a contributor.” When you submit an idea, carefully follow the instructions that the blog provides to ensure that you receive consideration for your submission.
7. Score easy links to your site
There are a few other great ways to earn easy links to your website and further improve your website’s SEO.
One is by finding unlinked mentions or places online where your brand has been mentioned, but a link hasn’t been added. Reach out to the site administrator and politely asking for a link to be granted. If your website is relatively young, you may be able to find these mentions quickly by Googling your brand, finding mentions in the results, and determining whether a link has been added. You can also be notified of new mentions by setting up a Google alert for your company’s brand name. Once your brand starts taking off, you may need to search for unlinked mentions with a professional tool like Ahrefs.
Another easy way to land new links is by signing up for HARO (Help A Reporter Out) emails, which will send you requests from reporters for quotes from professionals in your space. For example, if you sign up for the HARO Business & Finance email, you could respond to requests on marketing, finance, accounting, and more, and be included in articles with valuable links back to your website.
8. Build your brand
As competition has increased for domination of search results, searchers are increasingly relying on brand recognition when deciding which result to click on.
Search Engine Journal found that nearly 70 percent of U.S. consumers look for a “known retailer” when selecting a search result. For this reason, it’s more important than ever to develop a known brand in your space.
This is no easy feat, but by creating trustworthy content on subjects related to your core competency and sharing it on social media with interested audiences, you can begin to develop a known brand. Having executives at your company share their insights on matters related to your space at events and in guest posts will also help to make your name known.
Technical SEO Tactics
9. Create a simple site structure
A simple, logical site structure will make it easier for search engines to crawl and index your site and for visitors to navigate your content and pages.
Develop a hierarchy for your site with main categories, subcategories (if you have enough content on your site), and pages to make it easy to navigate. For example, your blog could be the main category, followed by subcategories of different subjects you cover, and articles within each subcategory.
Your website header should follow this pattern with main categories across the topic, followed by drop-down subcategories or pages. Your URLs should also follow the same logical pattern of your site hierarchy. As long as your site is simple, logical, and uniformly structured, you’ll be in good shape.
For more detail, check out Neil Patel’s great guide on how to improve SEO by structuring your site effectively.
10. Reclaim broken backlinks
As you change and create new pages on your site, inevitably you’ll find broken backlinks or links to pages on your site that are no longer live. Perhaps you relocated content to a new page, deleting the old one and its former URL. It’s important to redirect these broken backlinks to reclaim link-juice and bring link-followers to your site.
To easily find broken backlinks, you can sign up for Ahrefs’ seven day trial for $7, enter your domain in their Site Explorer, and click ‘Broken’ under the Backlinks tab. This will give you a full list of your site’s broken backlinks, the referring page, and the error code.
There are two relatively easy ways to fix this problem. The first is to simply reach out to the referring sites and politely request that they add the replacement link instead. Most webmasters and editors will gladly comply. The alternative, if they don’t get back to you, is to serve a 301 redirect, which will carry any link weighting to the new URL. You can do so by following Moz’s guide on redirection.
11. URL Canonicalization
According to Moz, canonicalization refers to “individual web pages that can be loaded from multiple URLs.” This is problematic when you have multiple pages with the same content but different URLs. These different URLs could be earning their own links or receiving disparate traffic.
To check if your site has this problem, enter in your domain with and without “www.” and “http” as well as “https.” If different pages are loading with these URLs, you’ll need to set up a 301 redirect to the correct URL to ensure the right pages are being indexed.
12. Leverage your Robots.txt file
The robots.txt file is a text file which tells search engines which pages on your site to crawl and which not to crawl. Before crawling a page, search engine crawlers check this file for instructions. Search engines may crawl more or fewer pages on a domain depending on the popularity of your URL and the speed of your server, so by telling crawlers to crawl certain pages and avoid others, you can have your site judged by your best pages and content.
One great use of the file is to tell search engines to avoid non-public pages like login pages. Similar content, duplicate content, and thank you pages from lead generations forms are also pages you may want to tell Google to avoid.
To find and optimize your robots.txt file, follow Neil Patel’s handy guide.
While improving SEO may seem at first glance to be highly challenging, many of its most basic tasks can be achieved in just a few hours. There are hundreds of high-quality guides online that can walk you through further on-site, off-site, or technical SEO tasks, helping to increase your pages in rankings for competitive terms. By thinking about website optimization before you create new pages or content, auditing existing content, and planning website redesigns, you will be yards ahead of the competition and, hopefully, get your business in front of more and more potential customers.