Search engine optimization does not require a professional. Companies with small-to-medium websites and an SEO-friendly content management system or ecommerce platform can do much of the work in-house.
Here are my top 10 do-it-yourself SEO tips.
1. Research Keywords
Keyword research has dual benefits. First, by discovering and organizing relevant search queries, you’ll understand the words and phrases consumers use to find your products and services. You can then use those keywords in product descriptions, titles, and blog posts — all improve your organic search rankings.
But keyword research is not just for SEO. Knowing how consumers search for their wants and needs uncovers competitors (that rank for those keywords) and generates ideas for new or improved products.
There are quite a few free and freemium keyword research tools. Organizing keywords by a common intent can be challenging (and time-consuming), but it’s doable with spreadsheets.
2. Identify Keyword Gaps
A keyword gap is a search query that two or more of your competitors rank for, but your site does not. Premium tools such as Ahrefs and Semrush can identify those missing keywords, which represent opportunities for your brand.
The entire analysis takes no more than 30 minutes. You’ll end up with new content ideas, new pages to create, and popular informational queries to address.
Premium SEO tools, such as Semrush, can quickly identify keyword gaps.
3. Build Internal Links
Internal linking is key to the organic visibility of important pages. Google crawls websites using links. Its algorithm assigns equity to each page based on how many internal links point to it.
Google offers no guidance on internal links or where they should reside. But over the years Google personnel have hinted at the priority:
- Main navigation.
- In-content, such as the body of blog posts.
- Above-the-fold (top of page).
An internal linking strategy should include all these locations for diversity. Use “Related,” “Top,” and “Popular” content widgets, and ensure that your key pages are linked directly from the main navigation or only a click or two away.
4. Improve Click-throughs
While keyword research identifies ranking opportunities, click-through optimization generates more traffic from existing positions.
My favorite click-through strategy is rich and structured snippets. Both stand out on search engine result pages. They require minimum coding using Schema.org markup or similar. Third-party plugins make the job easier.
Rich snippets (such as stars ratings in this example) and structured snippets (such as product specifications) enhance the appearance of organic rankings and improve click-throughs.
5. Optimize Title Tags
Title tags are slowly losing organic ranking power, but they remain important. Including keywords in the title informs Google of the page’s purpose. Moreover, a well-crafted title will likely be the most visible portion of a standard search-result snippet. Thus it can impact click-throughs, too.
Title tags are often the most visible portion of a standard search-result snippet, such as these examples for the query “buy watches online.”
6. Create Useful Content
Knowing a page’s primary keyword and including it in the title (and body, if it makes sense) is a key component of optimized content. But the most important tactic is creating genuinely useful info that consumers want to consume. It’s ultimately impossible to optimize content that no one wants to read or view.
Google now understands searchers’ intent and the relevancy and value of content. But it all starts with useful content that serves your target consumers and answers their questions as revealed in search queries.
7. Update Old Content
Most content slowly loses organic traffic. Older content produces fewer clicks from organic results, mainly due to the date in the search snippet. Moreover, Google strives to surface newer content.
Yet you can recover much of that loss by updating content with fresh data, new references, contemporary descriptions, and more.
Older content produces fewer clicks from organic results, mainly due to the date in the search snippet.
8. Monitor Analytics
Google Analytics and Search Console are critical for understanding organic search performance. They report the pages with the most organic traffic, the keywords that drive that traffic, and engagement and conversions from the traffic, among many other metrics.
In the absence of viewing detailed reports, at least check your analytics regularly for traffic declines or site performance glitches. Both require immediate attention.
9. Build Link Equity
Link building is the most challenging SEO task. The job is never done. Google uses backlinks to inform whether your content can be trusted. Links from reputable news sources, for example, drive trust.
The good news is link building can be done in-house.
The best link-building tactic comes, again, from quality content that folks want to share. Participate in niche communities, meet like-mind people, and reach out to journalists — all are legit and doable.
Never pay for a link, hire someone who pays for links, or manually insert self-serving links on another site. If it’s easy to obtain, the link is likely useless or worse.
10. Educate Yourself
Finally, there’s no substitute for knowledge. Learn SEO. There are many terrific, free resources.
Search Engine Roundtable is my favorite source of curated SEO news and advice. Moz’s blog is a good, clutter-free resource. My weekly column here focuses on ecommerce.
Every online merchant should perform some level of DIY SEO. It saves money and puts you in control of organic rankings. Yet some tasks likely require professional help. Examples include coding changes, structured data, and site speed (including Core Web Vitals).