DIY SEO: How to improve your organic marketing with affordable search engine optimisation
If you’re a fellow small business owner, I’m not giving away any trade secrets by stating that search engine optimisation (SEO) doesn’t always come cheap. If you’re using an agency for SEO, you know first-hand how much it can cost.
Why is it so expensive? It comes down to three main issues:
- people see SEO as a bit of a dark art and feel like they have to outsource it to experts
- effective SEO takes a lot of time and energy to build = lots of money
- too many people rely on paid marketing for SEO (ignoring the power of organic search)
There’s nothing wrong with outsourcing your SEO (or outsourcing other elements of digital marketing). But if you’re just starting out in your business or not making enough to justify the expense, it’s good to know that there is another way. Affordable search engine optimisation is possible – you just need to know how to get started.
With the right tools and strategies in place, you can DIY your SEO and help your business get found by your ideal customer, without paying thousands along the way. Lucky for you, this is what our Organic Digital Marketing Facebook group learned in a recent guest speaker session.
Led by SEO specialist Karen Dauncey from Blue Cherry Online Marketing and The SEO School, the session covered the basics of SEO and ways to improve online visibility. Working in the industry for nearly 20 years, Karen is an expert in SEO and Google Ads. She shared a ton of gold during the session, including links to some handy tools.
What is SEO?
In a nutshell, search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of making changes to a website so it’s easier to find, both for search engines and for humans. By using the search terms your audience uses to find products and services like yours, your business is more visible online.
Keywords are the ‘key’ to SEO. When you sprinkle relevant keywords across your website, Google knows what your business is about. With this information, your business is more likely to show up higher in search results, putting you in front of more people and helping to boost traffic and conversions.
How does SEO work?
Most people think SEO is beyond their understanding, so they put it in the too-hard basket. While there is a lot to SEO, the truth is, it’s just a set of processes. Taking a step-by-step approach, you can manage your own SEO to make it more affordable for your business.
First off, there are two sides to SEO that impact your business:
- Business search – when people know who you are and search for your business name directly. It’s important to build an online profile so Google knows that your business exists so you can be found by people online. Sign up for your free Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) and ensure Google has indexed your site correctly.
- Keyword search – when people don’t know who you are and search for relevant products and services. Not everyone will know that your business exists. That’s why it’s vital to harness the right keywords to give Google clues to what you do. There are many keyword research tools you can use, including Keywords Everywhere, a handy browser extension.
To get the most from your SEO, you need to optimise both types of searches. While it’s important for your business to rank for direct business searches to capitalise on brand awareness, keyword search is where you have the most chance of finding your ideal audience.
The power of keywords
Keywords are words or phrases people enter into search engines to find what they’re looking for. First, there are short tail keywords. These are short phrases commonly used to search online (e.g. women’s clothes, blinds, kitchens). While short tail keywords generate more search volume, this means more businesses target them, making it difficult to rank for these terms.
Then there are long tail keywords. These are longer phrases that are used by fewer people but are more targeted and specific (e.g. plus size women’s clothes Perth, outdoor blinds Sydney, kitchen renovators Newcastle). Not only are long tail keywords more relevant to your audience, but they are also usually easier to rank for as there’s less competition.
When it comes to SEO, niching down can be a big advantage. If your business sells women’s clothes, you’ll have hundreds of thousands of competitors, including huge players like Myer and City Beach. If you specialise in plus-sized women’s clothes in Perth, you suddenly have less competition, meaning you can rank higher and target a more relevant audience.
While this means you have less search volume, the people that do find you will be more likely to want what you offer, leading to increased conversions and sales.
How do you find the right keywords for SEO?
Start by thinking about the terms your customers would use to find your product or service. Google keywords that people might use and look at the results. If big players come up, think about how to niche down your search (adding a location helps). If your competitors start appearing in the results, you are on the right track.
You can also use a range of keyword search tools, such as Keywords Everywhere to help. With this tool, you can search keywords to check their volume each month. You can also see long tail keyword suggestions that might be a better fit for your business.
Ideally, you want to target two different keyword phrases on each page of your website. To get the most bang for your buck, focus on these pages:
- Product category pages
For eCommerce owners, don’t worry so much about individual product pages. These are already self-optimised with the product descriptions and specification details. You’re better off focusing on optimising your product category pages as these can be juicy when it comes to SEO.
How many times should keywords appear on a page?
You want Google and your customers to understand what you do, but don’t be tempted to over-optimise keywords. In the past, keyword stuffing was used to game the system. Nowadays, the key is to write for humans first and Google second.
Use keywords where you can but be subtle about it. Use keywords in headings, subheadings, alt image text and throughout your content to make it easy for your audience to know what you do (and help Google know too!) There’s no magic keyword number – the rule of thumb is to ensure your keywords appear more than once in a natural way.
How FAQs can boost SEO
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) are SEO gold. These are the exact long tail keyword phrases that most people will use in their online searches. Sometimes it can be hard to fit these into your content naturally. Including an FAQ section on each page gives you an excuse to pepper your pages with keywords in a natural and helpful way.
Think about including a short FAQ section on your core pages for an SEO lift. If you structure them well, Google may even pull out a section of your FAQs as a featured snippet when people search for a relevant keyword. As featured snippets appear above all other search results, this can provide a huge boost to online visibility.
Aside from the SEO benefits, FAQs also help your audience and improve the customer experience. If you anticipate the most common concerns and provide an immediate answer, you can quickly overcome any barriers to a sale and boost the chance of a conversion.
Stop relying on paid advertising to bring traffic back to your website.
Our handy guide contains actionable tips you can implement so that you don’t have to rely solely on paid advertising. Download the Organic Marketing Essentials Workbook and enjoy!
5 ways to start improving your SEO
Start by picking 10 – 15 keywords that people use to search for your business. Look at Google Analytics data to see how people are finding you. Review Google Search Console information to see what they’re searching for on your site.
Get to understand your keywords and what terms your customers are using to find you and your products and services. Know the difference in search terms and their intent. For instance, are people looking for a product to buy or information on a product to help with their search?
Think about a counsellor in anxiety. They may specialise in anxiety management and want to rank for that term. However, people searching for ‘anxiety management’ are usually looking for strategies – they are looking for information, not for a specific business.
Potential customers looking for a business to help them would generally search for ‘anxiety management Perth’ (they’ll add a location). It’s vital to understand the difference between information and business search terms to ensure you target the right keywords.
To check if the keywords you want to target are business search terms, google the keyword to see if any of your competitors come up. If they don’t (and more informational results come up) you might want to refine your chosen keyword.
Keywords alone won’t help you become more visible online. You need to know where and how to use them for the best effect. Here are some tips to get you started.
- Add keywords to your title tag and in your meta description to help Google correctly index your content and add it to search results. The title tag and meta description are the details you see on the search results page and are adjusted in the backend of your site.
- Only use relevant keywords. Google wants to return the best possible results to users. If you use keywords that aren’t a good match, users will bounce off your page which will signal to Google that your site isn’t a quality website and affect your ranking.
- Add keywords to headings, subheadings, image alt tags and your content. This will help both Google and users know what your site is about. Add FAQs to your main pages so you can naturally add more keywords while improving the customer experience.
- Consider hiring an SEO copywriter to get the balance right. Experts in keyword optimisation, SEO copywriters understand how copy can drive conversions. If you’re not sure where to begin, investing in professional copywriting is a great place to start.
- Review the content on your site. Do you have content for all your products and services? If not, think about adding some blog posts or additional pages to provide more information to your customers (and add more useful keywords to your site).
When we think about SEO, we typically think about websites. But looking at your social media (SM) presence through an SEO lens will also help boost your online presence. Most businesses use social media to promote their products and services. If your SM channels are not harnessing the power of keywords, you’re missing a vital chance to increase your reach.
Include keywords in your profile and bio so users instantly understand what you do. Users can search for topics on most SM platforms. Using keywords gives you a leg up on other businesses that aren’t thinking about how more and more users are searching for content outside their feed.
Keywords are also key to paid advertising on social media. To get more from Facebook ads and other paid advertising vehicles on SM, you need to use the right keywords to attract the attention of your intended audience and encourage them to take action.
Using keywords in your hashtag strategy is another way to be found by more people on social media. Demonstrating a consistent online presence across your website and social media channels will not only boost SEO, but will also help cultivate expertise, authority and trust (EAT). This is an important part of Google’s algorithm when it comes to ranking your site.
Having other websites link back to yours is another core element of SEO. When reputable websites link to your content, this shows Google that you have a quality site and helps improve your Page Authority (PA) and Domain Authority (DA). Sites with a higher PA and DA will rank above lower authority sites, which is why link building is so important to SEO.
Any affordable search engine optimisation strategy must include link building. But you don’t want any old links. You need good quality links that are relevant to your business. You also need to be careful about reciprocal linking – you don’t want that to be the main way you build links.
If you’re a member of a business association or professional group, check if the association has linked to your site. See if you can guest post for their site or get them to cite an existing blog post of yours to get another backlink (and share good quality information with others).
You can also add links by joining relevant business directories.
- niche business directories (tradie, marketing, eCommerce, mum businesses, etc.)
- local directories (local council, chamber of commerce, university alumni, etc.)
- citation directories (HotFrog, Yellow Pages, TrueLocal, etc.)
- digital directories (Google Business Profile, Apple Maps, FourSquare, etc.)
- online marketplaces (Facebook, Gumtree, Etsy, etc.)
The key is to try to cultivate a diverse backlink profile for the best SEO results. Also, make sure your address is consistent on ALL platforms. Google loves consistency and rewards you for it.
Writing blog posts can also boost your SEO. This gives you the chance to target more specific long tail keywords and provide good quality content for your audience. It’s important to start building links before you start blogging. Link building is key to improving Domain Authority (DA). With a higher DA, you will rank higher and your blogs will have a better chance of being found.
There are two main benefits of blogging for SEO:
- Blog content can rank in Google for information search terms. You can improve brand and product awareness through information blogs. You can also build your EAT factor (Expertise, Authority, Trust) through good quality content, helping you rank higher.
- Blog content improves internal SEO. You can link blogs to existing pages and products to increase your internal link profile and boost SEO across your site. For instance, you could write a more detailed blog about the benefits of a product and link to that product.
Blog content can also be reused and repurposed to boost your online presence on all platforms. You can take a single blog post and create additional content without much effort including:
- Social media posts
Top SEO tools to create great content
- Google Search Console – log in to see what people are searching for on your site to create new content and improve existing blog posts.
- Google Trends – use this tool to understand what keyword terms are most popular with people to help guide your content strategy.
- Answer the Public – type in your keyword to get examples of questions that you can use for different blog posts and content angles.
- Google – open up Google and start typing to see intuitive search suggestions (based on what people most commonly use when searching).
- Google Analytics – measure traffic, discover how people are coming to your site, see your most popular pages and monitor SEO results.
Want to learn more about SEO?
If you’re keen to learn more about affordable search engine optimisation and DIYing your SEO, Karen shares a ton of information at The SEO School, which offers information and training on SEO for small business owners.
Karen recommends her evergreen 8 module signature SEO course for anyone looking to embrace DIY SEO. The course covers:
- Keyword research
- Keyword optimisation
- Google Business Profile
- Technical SEO
- Link building
- Content marketing
- And much more.