It’s completely possible to do SEO yourself, on your own website and the rest of your online presence. There are just lots of pieces to the puzzle.
In my opinion, the business owner should always be involved in the SEO campaign. There’s no one who knows the business so well.
SEO takes place within the website itself (on-page SEO) and also outside of it (off-page SEO).
Optimisation isn’t just how you maximise the website itself. There are external elements that need to be addressed too. What matters is the whole presence of the brand across the internet.
Understand that ranking well takes time. Results are gradual, to begin with. You’ll need to build trust and authority which doesn’t happen overnight.
I encourage you to keep going. It takes 6 months to a year to start seeing results especially for a small business with limited hours and budget.
But it’s so worth it!
Make sure you have the most basic SEO factors in place by watching my simple website checklist video.
Here’s a quick sweep through those factors.
- Reliable domain name.
- Fast web host.
- Mobile-friendly design.
- SSL certificate.
- Good user experience (UX).
I’m going to show you some tools and tactics to do SEO yourself. The first three recommended steps are the most daunting. However, once you’re set up there’s no need to do these again.
Get these done and just keep going! The fun bits come later.
Where to start when doing SEO yourself
Step 1: Google Search Console
The first thing to do is to get the website monitored with the Google Search Console. There’s a great guide by SEM Rush for getting Google Search Console set up.
To get set up visit search.google.com. You’ll need to be signed in to a Google account.
- Add a property to the Google Search Console.
- Choose a PROPERTY TYPE – this will normally be the option ‘whole domain’. The option for URL prefix will separate results by subdomain, such as blog.kaydee.net. Or maybe a mobile version of your site – m.kaydee.net.
- Now you’ll come to a screen that asks you to Verify Domain Ownership. You’ll need to add a TXT record to the DNS via your host. Ask your web developer or your host to do this for you. You’ll need to provide them with that long code on the screen, this is a TXT record, so copy that and send it straight to them. If you’d like to have a go yourself then Google provides instructions for many common hosts.
- Once the DNS record is added you can come back to the console to verify your domain. Done!
The Google Search Console will show you the performance of the website for key phrases that it ranks for.
It also flags up certain errors such as 404 errors (missing pages and dud links).
You can submit URLs when you add or change content to request that Google crawls it quickly.
It’s a pretty useful tool for SEO.
Add a sitemap to the search console.
If you’re using WordPress install a plugin called Yoast SEO which will provide a sitemap for you.
WIX and Squarespace both automatically generate a sitemap.
The URL is almost always domain.com/sitemap.xml.
If you would like more control, use pro-sitemaps.com which will scan the site and create an XML file for you to upload. As your site grows, remember to manually keep the sitemap up to date.
Step 2: Analyse
It is highly recommended that you analyse the website. The Google Search Console will only provide you with so much information.
When you measure the small successes you’ll find it all much easier and more interesting.
Analytical software can show you where the website is ranked for key phrases, suggests more key phrases to rank for, compares competition, suggests links opportunities, shows SERP features and measures how well pages are optimised.
My favourite tools to analyse a website are –
Step 3: Correct errors
The next action to take is to correct website errors which the Google Search Console should flag.
We call these crawl errors and they exist in many ways.
- Dud links.
- 404 errors
- Title tag too long.
- Description too long.
A tool called Screaming Frog can help you scan the website for these errors, and there is a free version which is plenty for a small business website.
Now comes the fun part of SEO
Okay, so those are the three tasks to complete first if you are doing SEO yourself.
Once those are complete come back here and get started on with the fun part of SEO.
Let’s learn a few basic terms first.
The basic terms of SEO
PageRank is generally our biggest concern when it comes to SEO. It’s the position on which your page/post appears on a SEARCH ENGINE RESULT PAGE (SERP) when a user enters a search term.
Pages can be ranked for many different search terms, it doesn’t have to be just one.
Keywords make up key phrases. A key phrase consists of more than two keywords – certainly 50% of online searches use more than four in a query.
Longer terms are known as long-tail key phrases and will contain up to 10 keywords. We use long terms when we search these days, we’re more precise.
Website owners give a page or post intention using a key phrase – by doing this they target those search queries.
Do off-page SEO yourself
Before you start to really look at your own website and build on it, what I advise is that you do some of the off-page SEO tasks first. These are fairly easy.
You just need a day at the computer and a good supply of tea.
To identify the actions of a business all across the internet, search engines need to first recognise the business.
So it’s important to use the same business name and contact details on every platform.
Search engines can then acknowledge that the business is active online.
Inconsistent business names and contact details can confuse search engines.
So, if the business name is “Kelly’s World Hikes” in one place but “World Hikes by Kelly” in another place, search engines will see these as two different businesses.
Even small differences such as Kelly’s Hikes Ltd v Kelly’s Hikes.
It doesn’t end there.
NAP stands for NAME, ADDRESS, PHONE NUMBER but it really means a tonne of other things too.
The website address is hugely important.
To a search engine all of these variations are different website addresses:
Stick to one and always use that one and only that one when you create a link to your website.
I use the latter – https://kaydee.net. That way I know that everything links to my secure site (https) and I never use the www. It’s not needed these days.
Consistent opening times and price range come under NAP Consistency too.
And the logo. Always use the same logo. I do tend to switch between my full logo and my truncated logo which fits into a circle as an avatar, but they are very obviously my brand colours, font and symbol.
Show search engines you have taken the time to keep your details up to date all across the web.
Google My Business
Google My Business holds a lot of weight when it comes to SEO. GMB is a social tool for business, a directory and part of Google search itself.
When a business is listed on Google My Business it receives a listing on Google Maps – one of the most influential places that a location based business can be listed.
Using the Google My Business tool, a business owner can update their listing on Google Maps and on the sidebar of Google results page, which appears when someone places a local search.
Within the tool, complete every field to keep visitors informed. And encourage Google reviews.
These two simple tasks will ensure that your listing appears before competitors (or at least close to them) when someone places a local search.
The more reviews and the better they are, the higher the listing.
Directories are big websites – local guides, industry-specific directories and general directories such as yell.com that list businesses, for free.
Most intend to charge for upgrades or advertising when businesses see value in it.
They scrape websites for the initial information and so listings become outdated when a business grows and changes.
Do a search on the internet for your business.
Search each variation of the company name and right anything you find that is incorrect.
How? Often you just have to trawl through the net.
Once you find a page with your business details on it, look on the website for a link to “Claim this business”, “Update the business”, “Is this business yours?” – something like that.
Usually, you’ll need to create an account to update a listing.
Check all directories are aligned – change the business name, check the website address, use an up to date logo, add opening times where possible and have a consistent description to use across them all.
Social media platforms
The same goes for social media platforms.
Make sure each profile is up to date and agreeable with the rest of your online presence. Even if you aren’t particularly active on the platform, it should still have correct details.
Whilst we are on the topic of social media, let’s look at how important social is when it comes to doing SEO yourself.
Social media and SEO
Google has never come out and said that social media has any effect on PageRank whatsoever. Popularity on social media isn’t an official signal to search engines.
But there is proof to say that activity and engagement on social helps rank.
Facebook reviews appear on the Google Local panel when someone places a search for a local business.
Tweets are SERP features. Articles that are engaged with and shared across social media tend to get much higher ranks than those that aren’t.
To me, it is obvious. Social media affects PageRank.
All those clicks and shares show search engines that the brand is popular, valuable, interesting – all the things that Google requires to rank content well.
Social media must help Google to recognise influential figures within industries via shared content and hashtags.
Even though I believe that social has an impact, do understand that any links from a social profile are ‘nofollow’ links.
The nofollow tags tells search engines to ignore the link and the destination does not get search engine ‘juice’ or credit.
So, social media will not be a part of your link building strategy and I don’t think will ever be.
Which brings me nicely to backlinks.
Backlinks are links between websites and they are the icing on the cake when it comes to SEO.
They are incredibly hard to achieve because people don’t link to poor websites.
A link is like a recommendation from another website, a slap on the back if you will.
Through backlinks, a website can build domain authority which is measured by a number between 1 and 100.
High numbers are given to websites that have good domain authority, although I don’t know any website over 65.
The more backlinks, the better the domain authority and in turn, the better the PageRank.
Now, not ALL backlinks are good.
As a general rule, encourage backlinks from websites that are on a similar plane as your own site.
It’s really not worth having a link from a website with a low domain authority score. It can actually have negative effect.
Avoid backlinks from websites that are flagged with a SPAM score – many of these are blackhat websites or aren’t abiding by SEO rules.
Usually, analysis software will unearth the websites with a high SPAM score.
Link building is pretty hard – backlinks are something to have in mind as a final goal. People really only link to websites they trust.
Work on your website first to make it unique and worthy. Use video to allow an audience to get to know you and your personality.
Guest blogging also helps in link building – you can write worthy articles for other blogs and ask them to link back to your own.
Use networking to build strong relationships. I can’t express enough how valuable real-world connections are.
Once you have a strong website and great contacts, ask directly for backlinks.
Let’s get the internal parts of the website strong too now.
On-page SEO yourself
Here, I outline on-page SEO that you can do yourself.
If you’ve been reading about SEO for long enough you’ll have seen articles with titles like “Content is King” and it really is.
Content can be written articles (posts, pages, products, events, PDFs), images (illustrations, photographs, infographics, animated gifs), video and audio (podcasts, sound files).
It can be embedded onto the website from external sources, such as a YouTube channel, but think about your NAP consistency and make sure the channel is aligned with your brand, so search engines know that this is your own content.
Done well, all of these mediums will help your website to rank well.
Content is search engine fodder. Consistently feed the machine, show your knowledge, your uniqueness and your passion. This will certainly help your SEO rank.
I can’t provide you with a secret tool that will help you produce content quickly. Like anything worth doing it has to be worked at.
Some website owners use curation tools but original content ranks best.
The beauty is that the production of all this content for SEO means that you will have more to share on social media.
Once you write a blog post, always share it to get it in front of your social media followers and achieve more hits whilst it’s fresh.
Control how your posts look on social media.
What is an OG image?
Read on, to learn how to use content when doing SEO yourself.
There’s a bit of confusion on the net as to what a landing page is.
In SEO terms a landing page developed around a specific topic or product. People carry on a search and click onto these. They are strong pages containing your best content.
Visitors come into a website in so many different ways and that is why we use landing pages – to capture those people that are searching a term that may not be on our home page.
The home page is often quite generalised on a website or a blog – you can hardly niche it down because you need so much information on it.
Think carefully about each of your services or products and split them up into individual landing pages.
Make the key phrases unique for each one and target them to a specific audience.
Category pages can be targeted too.
Create pages that cover a topic and give it real intention – like the answer to a question – so Google can’t resist them.
Avoid what Google calls Doorway pages – creating multiple pages for similar key phrases that push people into another part of the website.
Doorway pages aren’t included in the menu system, they are extra pages created only for search engines and the website can get penalised for this.
This is very different from having a clear, honest landing page. The landing pages I’m talking about will be included in your menu, never hidden. They are primarily to help your visitor and they are super informative.
After you’ve made an incredible effort with all your pages you can start to blog and this is really where you will build the valuable content.
Blogging helps the website to expand reach, appealing to a wider audience.
We write around extra, related topics to help our client base.
All content across a domain must relate. Build authority in one industry or at least related industries.
Don’t start trying to rank for Formula 1 Cars on your Fluffy Cat blog. Unrelated.
By blogging a business can rank for thousands of key phrases and really dominate one area of search.
Other media can also be hosted within this blogging area – such as photos, infographics, and illustrations. Here you’ll embed videos from your chosen platform (I recommend YouTube) and podcasts.
Each media can rank independently and when something starts to rank well, it helps the rest of the content.
Building related content strengthens the domain.
I constantly monitor my blog to work out what is not being visited and what is not ranking well. I improve on my weak content or revise articles for different key phrases.
A blog can also be used as an effective customer service tool. It becomes a hub of information that you can send clients to.
It appears so professional when someone asks you a question and you can send them a link to a blog post that answers everything and even includes links.
A blog is a place to show knowledge, teach or entertain an audience.
It’s even a place for your thoughts to show your true beliefs and personality so you can connect with your ideal customer base.
Writing for SEO
Writing is food for search engines.
When you start doing SEO yourself, concentrate on writing evergreen content to begin with.
Evergreen content is relevant over a long period of time – years in fact.
Timely content, about trending topics, can come later.
Google crawls a strong domain more frequently. So build up good evergreen content first, build domain authority. Only then will a topical post rank well and quickly.
Learn to write well, for humans with a slight twist for search engines. That twist is so subtle because really, what we want to do with our writing is to help people.
Search engines are intelligent enough to weed out articles written only for search. It’s damaging for your credibility, so always have humans in mind.
Support it with attractive images and YouTube videos.
Do it yourself video for SEO
People consume content in many different ways, depending on their preference and environment.
People read in-depth when relaxing on a train or watch a quick ‘how-to’ video if they are in the middle of something.
Provide different ways for visitors to absorb your information. Help their experience and your search engine rank.
Embed related videos into blog posts to benefit rank. Video will be at the top of results for certain searches, when Google deems them useful.
Video can be pretty daunting. My attitude is – ‘do it to learn it’, much like my stance on writing for the web.
A great place to learn video skills is over at The Video Marketing School.
Parts of written blog posts can be transformed easily into video or podcast scripts and visa versa.
Content can always be repurposed when you’ve put lots of time into it.
Create a YouTube channel and host all videos there – they’ll be conveniently formatted for all platforms.
Embed videos onto related pages and posts on the domain. Choose where they will be most suitable and relevant to the text.
Throughout written content, link to other helpful blog posts on the same domain.
This is known as internal linking and aids the visitor to navigate around the website.
Search engines follow these links too.
Provide a simple, practical path for the reader and the crawler.
Regularly use external links throughout your writing too. But like backlinks make sure the link is to a valuable website.
Only ever link to content you’ve thoroughly checked over and trust implicitly.
Linking externally helps to encourage backlinks.
Any good website owner will analyse backlinks, get in touch and reciprocate.
The effort that you’ve made with your DIY SEO will pay off when it comes to building an e-newsletter list. More visitors means more email addresses to capture.
Remember, that no one provides their email address for nothing so develop a lead magnet – something truly valuable that people will exchange their email address for.
When someone has entrusted you with their email address, they really are a fan. Your newsletter list is truly precious.
A growing website/blog should be constantly scanned for errors and analysed for weak spots.
Return to your analysis software at least every week to check things over and catch anything that is going wrong.
Checklist on how to do SEO yourself
- Long-standing domain name.
- Reliable and fast web host.
- Mobile-friendly design.
- SSL certificate.
- Good user experience (UX).
- Link Google Search Console to website.
- Submit a sitemap to Google Search Console.
- Correct errors.
- Produce content such as blog posts and videos.
- Place helpful links throughout – internal and external.
- Share on social media.
So, if you can find your way around a computer and you are passionate about your business SEO is a lot of fun to do yourself.
Become dedicated and enthusiastic about your website, about writing for your business and create content that people will love. Build a plethora of material that can be shared on social media and other blogging platforms.
Sign-up to my GUIDE TO A SUCCESSFUL WEBSITE to learn more about search engines and see all the tools I use.