Can't afford to hire an in-house SEO specialist or shell out a hefty sum of money to an SEO agency? No worries. There are certain quick fixes small business owners can resort to to improve their site's positions in the search engines without any agency help.
Find your focus
Before you do any search engine optimization on your site, it's important to know which SEO measures produce the most impact. Google uses hundreds of signals to rank sites in its search results, yet only a small portion of those signals have much weight - and it helps to know which ones.
Even though no one in the SEO world has ever seen Google's ranking algorithm, the collective SEO wisdom has long come up with its own estimate of search engine ranking factors and their importance. For instance, you can check out this Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors compiled (and regularly updated) by Search Engine Land.
In this table, the factors marked 3 are of utmost importance. So, if you can't afford to do SEO all around the clock, concentrating on the most important SEO tasks will help you make the most of your efforts.
Now, where do you start?
Brush up your website
Investing time in improving your own website is by far the best SEO technique to pursue if you're looking for easy-to-implement optimization tricks. Here are a few things you can do in this respect.
1) Get rid of duplicate content
Search engines don't officially penalize websites for internal duplicate content, but certain instances of involuntary content duplication on your site may confuse search engine bots and get your site ranked lower as the result.
A quick comparison: imagine if one and the same house had 3 street addresses instead of one. Wouldn't you get confused while looking for that house? Wouldn’t you feel there is something sneaky going on there?
So, how can you tell this is not the case with your site? First of all, if you're taking care of its SEO single-handedly, it's really worth setting up a Google Webmaster Tools account.
While in Google Webmaster Tools, go to Search Appearances > HTML Improvements and see what duplicate HTML elements are listed there. For example, if you see that you have duplicate title tags or duplicate meta descriptions, most likely it's because some pages on your site can be reached via multiple URLs. To look into it, download the table with duplicate pages from Google Webmaster Tools and analyze their URL addresses.
To fix the problem, you may have to change the URL structure of your site (you might want to discuss this with your webmaster), close off certain webpages with robots.txt or a robots noindex meta tag, or use canonical tags.
2) Close irrelevant pages from indexing
Perhaps you've never thought about how search engines view and analyze your site, but if you have, you probably know that they look at your site's pages, their interlinking and try to make an educated guess as to what your website is about.
So, if they see one page about guitar lessons, another one about your Terms and Conditions (that's full of legal gab), and one more page about the Halloween deal you ran last year, they may be a bit confused about the topic of your site.
Among SEOs, it's common practice to hide certain pages from the search engines. This is mostly done to:
- Hide old sales copies
- Hide irrelevant legal pages and stuff
- Conceal sensitive information
How do you let search engines know you don't want them to visit and index certain pages of your site? First off, you need to see if undesired pages show up in search. For that type in the following query:
(replace "example.com" with the Web address of your site)
And see which pages appear in the search results. If you notice any pages that don't add any semantic value to your site and/or contain outdated or sensitive information, simply close them off pages with the robots.txt.
3) Optimize your content for popular keywords
What makes webpages show up at the top of the results page for certain searches is that they contain the keywords people search for online - and those keywords are often to be found in key parts of those pages (page title, page H1 heading, etc.)
So, to increase the odds of your pages showing up for popular keywords and to get more Web traffic, you need to:
(A) Find out which keywords are often used by searchers;
(B) Think which of your site's pages can be optimized for these keywords.
To discover popular keywords in your niche, you can use any of the keyword research tools available in the market today. For example, here is a tutorial to how to do it with Rank Tracker (the software unites 19 keyword research tools under one roof and lets you research keywords even with the free version):
Once you know which niche keywords you should be focusing on, start optimizing your site's most important pages for them:
- Tweak page copy to include your target keywords;
- Review page titles and meta descriptions;
(These should be compelling, because they also show up in the search results. Plus, the title should contain your keywords, because this helps your pages rank higher. )
- Inspire user-generated content by allowing commenting on your site;
- Add new sections to the site that will be helpful to users and will let you use your keywords (the FAQ section, for example).
Do not create a blog or a new section unless you know you will have the time to maintain them in the future. An educational how-to or a FAQ section with so-called evergreen content may work better in this case.
Also, if you do have a blog, make sure you have Google authorship set up for it correctly, since this could help your content rank higher and get higher click-through rates, because of the author's snippet displayed in the search results:
4) Interlink important webpages
Internal links (especially those that have the right anchor text) are believed to help your webpages rank higher for your keywords. Besides, by providing links between different pages of your site, you help users discover pages with related content, which in turn improves user experience.
How can one tell which pages would be good to link together? Perform a Google search for the following query:
(replace "keyword" with the keyword you wish to rank for, and replace "example.com" with your site's Web address).
This way, you will get a list of your site's pages that contain your target keyword and are good to interlink to be ranked higher for that particular search term.
Build quick links to your site
In SEO, the things you do to your site are considered on-page search engine optimization, while the things you do off your site are called off-page search engine optimization.
One of such off-page SEO tactics is attracting links from other websites, which affects how search engines view your site. The more links from other sites you have and the higher-quality they are, the more important your site looks in the eyes of Google and other search engines.
1) Ask your connections to link
Here is how you can get a few links fairly quickly:
- Ask your friends or coworkers who have a site or a blog to write about you or to mention your biz elsewhere on their site - with a link back to your domain, of course.
- Reach out to partners and long-time clients and ask them to mark your relationship with a link to your website.
2) Search for link donors on Google
Search for relevant sites in your niche or simply for quality sites you could acquire links from. Here are some tips on how to do faster and in an organized way.
Essentially, you'd like to look for the following types of link donors:
- Online journals that accept guest articles, to which you could be a valuable contributor
- Relevant and/or well-known online directories that organize websites according to categories
- Review sites that specialize in covering products/services in your niche, etc.
Another easy way to get some quick backlinks is by searching for your brand name and contacting websites that mention your brand, yet do not link to your website.
3) See who links to your competitors
You can also discover link acquisition opportunities by checking which websites link to your online rivals. You can see this information with any of the backlink checkers available to SEOs these days, for example, with SEO SpyGlass:
When analyzing competitors' backlinks, do not visit each page that links to them: it's often enough to look at the page's URL or Title to get an idea of whether it's a blog article, a directory listing, or something else.
4) Diversify and scale your link building
The more you do link outreach and link building for your site, the more you realize that the methods by which one can acquire links are virtually endless, and there is a lot of space for experimentation and innovation here.
However, as you may not have the time and money to try out every link building method under the sun, it's important to know which way of developing links to your site can be scaled, repeated or carried out on a regular basis.
Jon Cooper and Co have created a great adjustable list of link building techniques that covers a wide range of link development activities one can possibly engage in. Take a look at this list and think what human resources you could allocate to execute these tactics, what type of content could be created inside your company, and what types of jobs you could effectively outsource.
Also, before you begin any link building activities, learn what backlinks you already have - just to make sure you don't pursue the backlink opportunities that are already yours. You can see your own backlinks in Google Webmaster Tools (under Search Traffic -> Links to Your Site) or by using a backlink checker like SEO SpyGlass.
Tap into vertical search
Online search has long stopped being all about webpages. Besides many specialized search engines (TinEye for image search, for example), most major search players such as Google or Bing have vertical search sections where one can search for a certain type of content.
And, having high rankings in, say, Google's image search or on YouTube, often results in a lot of additional traffic to one's site.
1) Optimize for image search
You are likely to have at least some imagery on your site or blog. If you do, it takes only a few seconds to fine-tune your images for higher rankings in Google Images:
- Use your keywords in the image's file name
- Use your keywords in the image's title
- Create an alt text for each of your images
Besides, you can use Image search to see if anyone is using your images but isn't providing a link back to your original page. Just go to Google Images and either search by image URL or upload the actual file:
2) Optimize for video search
Videos work marvelously for marketing these days. Many brands find it necessary to create at least some type of video content, be it a short about us video, a product demo or an educational piece.
This said, whenever you upload videos to your site (or to YouTube), make sure the title of the video, its file name and the description (if applicable) contain your keywords.
You may also want to check out the interactive YouTube optimization checklist we put together some time ago.
3) Get found in local search
Most small businesses have local significance, which means they qualify for being represented in Google's local search results. Is your business showing up there? If you're not sure, it's high time to find out.
Just search either for the name of your business, or for a generic term that best describes it + your location, and see if any local search results appear there.
If it turns out that your competitors have high rankings in local search and you're nowhere to be found - claim your Google+ Local page, fill out as much information about your business as possible (nice pictures of its interior will help) and try to get business ratings/reviews from your customers. All these measures this will help you rank higher on Google Maps.
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