When you’re designing your website and writing blog posts to promote your business, there’s a term you need to keep in mind: search engine optimization, also known as SEO. Not sure where to start? Don't fret: Let's take a quick look at SEO for beginners.
There are entire books dedicated to mastering SEO, but the good news is you don’t need to be an expert to get started. Search engine optimization determines what page of Google or another search engine your website can be found on. A good SEO strategy can help your website get found by your ideal clients and customers. Here are 5 steps to set you on the right track.
1. Think like a client.
While optimizing your website and blog posts, it’s important to think like a client or whomever you’re trying to attract to your site. You might be familiar with some of the jargon of your industry (if you’re a freelance writer, for example, it’s common to see acronyms like SEO, B2B, CTR, etc.). However, your ideal customer might not be as familiar with the lingo that insiders use.
Let’s look at an example for a freelance writer: Put yourself in the shoes of a potential client. Would the average person know to search for those terms when looking to hire you? Chances are, while a small business owner might be familiar with those phrases, they would probably search for something much more simple when trying to find you, like “freelance ecommerce writers.”
If you’re a blogger, the same idea rings true. Think about how your ideal audience or followers might search for things related to your niche or blogging topic on Google. Whatever you come up with, see how much you can simplify it. That’s probably what people are most likely to search for.
Once you have a few terms in mind that your clients or readers might search for in order to find your site, we’re going to take them to the next level.
2. Do some keyword research.
When you have a good idea of what your clients are looking for, it’s time to get specific. Using tools like Ubersuggest, Google Analytics, Ahrefs, or Moz, you can see exactly what search terms you can use to maximize your optimization.
The exact process varies depending on which keyword tool you use, but essentially you’ll want to type a good, generic keyword into the tool to start. Any of the phrases you came up with in step 1 will work. If you make and sell crochet hats as a side hustle, it can be as simple as typing “crochet hats” into the search box.
Once you’ve done that, there should be a list of suggested keywords for you to view. The first thing you’ll notice is that the term “crochet hats” isn’t very specific, and a lot of people are using that term on their websites. It will be pretty difficult for a new business to swoop in and appear on the first page of Google for a term that broad.
However, you may also notice that it helps to be specific. A lot of the related search terms have to do with patterns for crochet hats and not hats for sale, so if you tweak your keyword to be “crochet hats for sale,” you won’t have to worry about the wrong people stumbling on your website.
The more specific you can get, the more likely you are to attract the right people to your website. Of course, it’s a good idea to sprinkle in some of the broader terms when they’re relevant, too. Make a good list of keywords to keep in mind as you write your web content, but don’t get started until you consider the next step…
3. Write with “user experience” in mind.
Throughout the years, companies have been using different strategies and techniques to improve their search engine ranking. But ultimately, Google’s algorithm boils down to this: What pages are going to be most relevant to a client’s search and what pages out of those are easiest to read, navigate, and use?
This means that although you have a list of keywords you want to target, you don’t want to force them into your text where they won’t make sense. The algorithm has gotten a lot smarter in recent years and it can tell when you’re trying underhanded tactics, also known as “black hat SEO” or “keyword stuffing.”
Use your keywords where they naturally fit but don’t overdo it. You want your content to be accessible and make sense to the humans that are reading it. Keep in mind that you’re writing for a person, not a robot.
Take this article for example. The keywords I'm hoping to rank for in Google search results are “SEO for beginners.” You might notice that if you do a page search for this (go ahead and try it if you're reading from a computer – click “ctrl + f” on a Windows computer or “command + f” on an Apple computer), you won't find that specific phrase more than once in the body of this text. That's because it doesn't really fit naturally.
The point here is to not force things, even if you're tempted to. Stick with a conversational tone and easy content. The Google algorithm will see right through any “old school” tactics.
4. Format correctly.
There’s more to SEO than just what you write. It turns out that your formatting matters, too. Using proper headings, breaking up big chunks of text with paragraph breaks and bullet points, including images and videos, and adding images and graphics where relevant can all make the page more visually interesting and appealing to readers.
In addition to the formatting of the page itself, you’ll need to make sure any images you use are optimized as well. Each image needs an alt tag, which should be a brief description of the image that helps search engine crawlers know what the image is. While this won’t be seen by your readers, it’s an important step to remember.
5. Update old content.
The best part about SEO is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you want to boost your site traffic. Search engines like to see that content is timely and relevant, so if you’re stuck for new ideas, why not give some of your older content a refresh?
Adding new links, updating outdated information, including more images, and sprucing up the text are all things that show search engines your website is up-to-date. It’s a good idea to go back through your old content at least once per year to keep it fresh, but you can update it more frequently if your analytics show your page views dropping.
Although there’s always more to learn about SEO, the basics are more than enough to help you build your website and write killer blog posts that will help your business or website get noticed. With a little research and some strategy, you can put yourself lightyears ahead of your competition.
How to Start a Freelance Writing Hustle This Weekend
Have lofty, wanderlust-y or romanticized dreams of sipping hot drinks from mugs in cafes while sitting in front of a shiny, new MacBook? I can't help you with all of that, but I can help you get a jumpstart on your own freelance writing hustle. Download my ebook for a step-by-step playbook and get started this weekend!