Do it yourself SEO optimization…is it really possible?
SEO is often a scary word for businesses and bloggers alike, and that’s for a good reason! Doing your SEO wrong could be the difference between huge profits and fading into obscurity.
But is there anything YOU can do to optimize your own SEO, or is it always worth leaving to a professional?
This is a difficult question to answer in my opinion.
On the one hand, since SEO can be such a make-or-break part of your business, it’s worth investing in doing it right. A good SEO agency may charge high, but you’ll get results.
On the other hand, the world of SEO agencies is polluted with B-Grade agencies who will charge you low prices…but only because they are going to end up ruining your site.
How can cheap SEO agencies hurt your business?
I’ll try not to get too technical here (partly because I don’t fully understand it myself) but some SEOs will revert to techniques that are commonly known as ‘blackhat’.
Think of it like weight-lifting. It’s obviously not a perfect analogy, but it definitely helps illustrate why this practice can be so bad for you.
Imagine there are two weightlifters. One of them eats healthy food, drinks plenty of water, and gets lots of sleep. The other guy just pumps himself up on steroids.
Of course, the steroids might work at first but I’m sure you’ll agree that there are some serious long term consequences and if you took the steds away, he would be left back where he started.
Whereas the healthy eating, clean living guy will reap the rewards long term down the line.
This is essentially the difference between ‘blackhat’ and ‘whitehat’ SEO. Blackhat, like steroids, might get you noticed for a short time, but it has some SERIOUS long term negative effects on your site. And if you take away these techniques, you’re left back where you started.
On the other hand, what we refer to as ‘whitehat’ SEO (writing content, targeting keywords, quality links, pagespeed, etc.) might not get you noticed immediately but will definitely pay off in the long term game.
So, you want to make sure you AVOID blackhat agencies AT ALL COSTS.
But even once you’ve hired a reputable whitehat SEO agency, there’s no need to assume that that is ‘it’. While there are certain jobs that may be beyond your skills, there are definitely things you can do yourself to help with your SEO.
Here are 5 ways you can do some SEO optimization on your own, and 5 tools to help you out along the way.
1: Learn About SEO
This will definitely help you out, for one main reason. When you’re talking to an SEO consultant, you’ll be able to understand what he’s talking about.
That way, you’ll know whether what he’s feeding you is rubbish or not.
What are the best ways to learn about SEO? Here are a few free guides that might help you get started.
2: Get Your Content Right
This is a really important part of your SEO, and in most cases YOU are in charge of it. If you’re currently writing your own content, that’s great- as long as you optimize it for SEO.
How can you write good content for SEO?
This might sound counterintuitive, but the best way to write for the Search Engines is by forgetting that you’re writing for Search Engines.
Why shouldn’t you write for Search Engines?
Google has specifically said that we should NOT write for their algorithm; but rather, for their users. Anyone who provides a great user experience for Google’s users is going to be rewarded by receiving better rankings.
So, how do you create a better user experience for your visitors?
The key is to make your content as useful and engaging as possible. If you create great content that people spend a lot of time reading, this is going to send the message to Google that your content deserves to be read, and above all, provides great user experience.
So when you write, make sure you write with your visitors in mind. Try to answer any possible questions they might have, and aim for at least 1500 words worth of content. Images and videos are another great way to engage your viewers.
If you decide to use images, make sure they are either made by you, or sourced from royalty-free image sites so you avoid potential copyright issues later on down the line.
If you have the equipment to create relevant videos, go for it. If not, try to find similar videos on YouTube that you can incorporate. For example…
3: Create Engaging Meta Titles And Descriptions
This is another fairly simple task you can take care of yourself.
If you’re using WordPress, chances are you are using either the All in One SEO plugin, or Yoast. You can do this step with both of these.
What is a meta title, and how do you edit it?
Your meta title is how your post will appear within the Search Engines. For example, if we search ‘What is a meta title?’ we see these results.
The larger title in blue is the meta title, and the gray text beneath is the meta description.
You’ll notice when you search something within Google that all the pages that are ranking for the term will tend to have very engaging and ‘clickable‘ titles; for example something like ’21 ways to boost your SEO with ZERO effort!’ (hey, that’s not bad actually- maybe I’ll use it in the future!).
So whenever you write an article and create the meta description and title, make sure you make them as ‘clickable’ as possible WITHOUT resorting to clickbait.
Make sure you stay within the character limit too; it’s around 60 characters for the title and 160 for the description.
Now, don’t be alarmed if you create an awesome description but when you find it in Google there’s something different showing. That’s not any kind of mistake on your part, just the fact that Google is selective; sometimes it will use what you suggest and other times is will grab other parts of the post to display.
However, it’s such a quick and simple step that it would be stupid not to do it!
Why can an engaging title and description increase your SEO?
This one is a little harder to explain, but put simply, titles that get clicked more are assumed to be the most useful, and so are shown higher in the rankings. That’s why it’s important to keep a track of your Click Through Rate (CTR).
4: Keyword Research
I’m sure you’ve heard loads about keyword research all over the web, so I won’t waste your time repeating things you already know!
However, I think it’s important to reiterate that good keyword research does NOT just mean finding a keyword with low competition and high search volume.
You need to dig MUCH deeper into the keyword; perhaps the reason it has such low competition is because the sites that are ranking are huge authority sites like Wikipedia! Nobody wants to try competing with them, and as such nobody targets the keyword.
The best way of running checks on selected keywords is simply by heading over to Google and manually taking a look at the competition! I’ll talk about how you can do this more effectively in a minute.
So, there are three ways that should you can manage some of your SEO efforts independently! Here’s three tools that will help you do that…
If you were expecting something fancy right off the bat, sorry to disappoint! However, having a spellchecker is a MUST.
There’s nothing that tells people ‘unprofessional’ more than a spelling mistake. You’ll find it hard to get people to take you seriously if your writing is full of them.
You might already have a spellchecker installed, in which case you’re good to move on to the next tool!
If you don’t, you need one ASAP. I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about Grammarly lately so they might be worth checking out.
In fact, one of the big perks of Grammarly is that it isn’t just limited to writing content for your site. It can come in handy when writing emails to colleagues or any other kind of online communication.
2: Chrome Extensions
I recently wrote a post comparing two toolbars for Chrome; Mozbar and SEOQuake. These two toolbars are both great tools to implement into your manual keyword research.
How do they work?
You can install them free within the Chrome add on store, and they only take a moment to download. Once they’re installed, they can be activated by clicking on their icon.
So, to test them out, head over to Google. Search anything at all. Now, when the search results appear they’re also going to have a little bar beneath them like this.
The info you get depends which tool you use, but generally speaking the bar is full of information about this result; how strong the domain is, how many links are pointing to it, how much trust it has within Google.
This information is incredibly valuable for checking out your competition. If you find a great keyword, you can manually search it in Google and take a look at who you’ll be competing with. If they have really high scores and metrics, you might want to decide to give them a miss.
However, if you see that the competing results are fairly weak and you reckon you can outrank them, go for it!
3: Google Trends
Many people underestimate the power of Google Trends but it is a seriously powerful tool, especially for helping you understand your audience.
For example, let’s imagine you’re writing a post about ‘healthy cereal bars’ (first topic that I could think of…).
You would go to Google Trends and run a search on the keyword ‘healthy cereal bars’.
As you can see in the graph, it looks like interest in this topic is pretty good, and going up. That’s important; you want to make sure you’re writing about a topic that people want to read.
Secondly, we can see that the location where this gets the most searches is New York. That’s interesting!
Now that you know two things; people are interested in this topic, and they’re mostly based in New York, you can write your content with this demographic in mind. This should help you create a much better overall user experience- and like I said earlier, a better user experience = better rankings!
I hope this quick guide has helped! I’m no SEO genius by any stretch of the imagination, so I wanted to create a useful resource for those on a similar skill level to me with practical tips they could implement without waiting for their super expensive SEO consultant to do for them…
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If you still have any questions on the topic of do it yourself SEO optimization, don’t hesitate to ask me in the comment section below and I’ll be sure to get back to you within 24 hours!