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How to Boost your SEO When You’re Not an Expert

You don’t have to be an SEO expert to learn the techniques and reap the benefits of search engines. 

If you listened to the Dreamer’s Den Podcast episode, “What is SEO and Why you Should Care?”, you know that search engine optimization can do more than land you on the first page of Google search results.

Recap of Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization is taking the necessary steps to improve your website or page, which results in improving its rank and visibility to potential customers.

SEO involves actions to ensure your website performs at its best security and functionality while also providing the best information and experience for your users.

We’ve gone over the basics of search engine optimization and even brought in an expert to explain why it’s the holy grail of modern business.

Now, it’s time to put in the work to improve your SEO. As we talked about in How to Use SEO to Reach your Dream Clients, how you tackle search engine optimization is a matter of deciding whether to use your money or your time. You can hire an SEO company to do the work for you or you can learn the best practices and do it yourself. 

How Much Does Professional SEO Cost? 

Some companies charge by the hour and some charge per month. It’s really up to the company to decide. If you plan to use the company ongoing, it may be best to go for a good monthly rate.

Hiring an SEO company will cost you somewhere between $200 and $5,000 on average, let the Search Engine Journal tell it. For a top-level company, expect to pay at least $500 for local SEO or between $2,500 and $5,000 for a national or international campaign. 

If your business is sitting on this type of cash or you have it in your marketing budget, save yourself a lot of time and invest in search engine optimization. If you do your research and find a good company, you will see long-lasting returns.

But if the way your business bank account is set up won’t let you do it just yet, clear off time in your marketing schedule for some in-house SEO. You may be glad you learned the SEO process once you’re able to hire someone else.

This guide will give you some simple ways to start plugging in search engine optimization even if you just started yesterday.

Know the Difference Between Black Hat and White Hat SEO Practices

There’s a right and wrong way to build your reputation using SEO. The search engine’s webmaster determines what’s right or wrong, so you’re practicing black hat SEO if you violate those rules. 

The terms of service may not name out every single thing you shouldn’t do, but you’ll probably know it’s a black hat strategy if it feels like it’s wrong or a shortcut. 

Google wasn’t as strict on these violations back in the day, and even SEO guru, Neil Patel shared about his glory days of “winning” using black hat SEO. 

Nowadays, these and other black hat SEO activities will land you on the blacklist or with low page rank:

  • Linking to spammy sites or having those sites link to your website.
  • Purchasing backlinks
  • Adding multiple keywords to a page and matching the text color to the background of that page.
  • Spamdexing
  • Content scraping
  • Keyword Stuffing

White hat SEO strategies follow the webmaster’s rules and focus more on creating a valuable experience for the users. Let’s discuss some examples of white hat SEO in more detail.

White Hat Link Building

Linkbuilding is building the number of links on other websites or pages from your domain name. Taking the slow and steady route with link building will eventually pay off much better than buying links. 

You can do this by building a reputation as a thought leader who provides high quality, reliable content. Creating content that focuses on the wants and needs of your audiences is a good start. 

As mentioned above, it won’t help you for low-quality websites to add your link. 

Building a good reputation with search engines means receiving links from authoritative, high-quality websites who also follow the rules. You should also link to authoritative sources within your content. 

Authoritative sources are those that have built a solid reputation for being reliable, relevant, and trustworthy. These could be scholarly websites, government websites, news or journalistic websites, or even well-known content creators.

Work the Comments

It may help some to visit and make thoughtful comments on other site’s content as they allow it. Most times, you will have the opportunity to include details such as your name, email, and web address.

This may help at a lower level, but the best way to work the comments is on your website.

Use a call to action during or at the end of your content to ask for comments. Don’t just say leave a comment. Make it easy by asking a question or asking for a specific recommendation. Also, make sure you reply to comments as much as possible. This type of dialogue shows the search engines that your content is valuable and engaging for users.

It can also add more layers to the content you shared by giving additional details that you didn’t include or making other relevant suggestions. That’s why chat forums and other threads can work well in search engines.

Guest Posting Still Works

Guest posting has been around for a while now. It’s where you have an opportunity to publish your content on another website. Guest posting allows you to put your expertise in front of another audience to present yourself as an expert. And it also gives you another link. 

If you guest post for a website such as Forbes, Medium, Inc., etc., this is even better than guest posting among your peers. This rule doesn’t only apply for creating a blog or article, even an interview spotlight or being a guest on a podcast will give you the link and a fresh audience.

Submit your Website to Relevant Resource Directories

If you provide a service, product, or information that relates to a specific business directory. Submit your details for the website to include you as a resource. 

Getting a directory listing is another lower-level way to receive links back to your domain. This works well if the search engine considers that site an authoritative source. 

For example, a website such as The Knot has built a good reputation for providing reliable resources for wedding planning. Angie’s List is an authority for providing feedback on service-based businesses of all types.

How to Boost your SEO If You're Not an Expert

Other Ways to Boost your SEO When you’re not an Expert

So we’ve cleared up the difference between black hat and white hat SEO and you have some healthy link building strategies to work on. Now, let’s talk about some other simple things to start doing to boost your SEO.

Get Clients to Submit Honest Reviews

Sure reviews work as social proof to show you do what you say you do, but they can also work in your favor for social media. Positive reviews are a part of the process of building a good reputation. 

The first step, of course, is to provide an overall high-quality experience. Make sure you’re worthy of the favorable reviews you desire. 

Put out good content, a satisfying experience, and top quality products and services. Then, ask for what you need from your clients. 

Don’t expect every customer to submit a review on their own. Many people are only quick to do that when they have a bad experience.

 According to this Inc. article by Andrew Thomas, only one in 10 happy customers leave a positive review but an unhappy customer is highly likely to leave a negative review.

So, while your clients are all giddy about their experience with your business, ask them to leave a review. Some ways that work are to ask for reviews by email, in-person, or send out a friendly reminder in a social media post.

Building your reputation with reviews sends a message to Google that your business and website is legitimate. This helps you with those rewards that John Vuong discussed in the SEO podcast in the link at the beginning of this post.

Where Should Customers Post Reviews?

There are plenty of places to give and receive reviews, but just like the rule for other SEO strategies, stick to authoritative sites. 

So your GoogleMyBusiness, Facebook Business page, Yelp, Angie’s List quality sites are perfect for this.

You can also reach out to influencers to give honest reviews of your products and services. But if you’re paying them to do so make sure they make this clear. Disclose any form of compensation, even if it’s only a free product or service.

Use Keywords Throughout your Content (Sensibly)

I emphasize sensibly adding keywords to your text because you don’t want to be accused of keyword stuffing. And you don’t want to create text that sounds like a broken record if read aloud or that just sounds dumb. 

Use a combination of short tail and longtail keywords where they fit within your content. Take some time to research on Google, Pinterest, or using a keyword search tool. This will give you an idea of what others are searching for related to your topic. 

You know how you go to Google and start searching for something and it either finishes your phrase or has something similar to it? That’s what you’re looking for.

Image of Google Search Engine Keyword Results

Make a list of 2-4 short and longtail keywords that would fit your topic. Now, just write as you normally would using your own style, language, and swag. Then review your content and find places where you can naturally add these words a couple of times.

Adding the keywords last is advice I got from Timothy Ferriss’ blog a while back. You know, he was the master of outsourcing and delegating who wrote The 4-Hour Workweek.

Carefully Craft the Perfect Titles and Headlines

Headlines and titles are the first things people read to decide if they’ll give your website, email, social media post, or content a shot. That’s the most important reason you don’t want a sorry headline.

The other is because it holds some weight in being searchable and ranking in the good ole engines. Make sure you put some swag in your titles, but also try to add one of your keywords closer to the beginning than the end.

Also, use a service like CoSchedule Headline Analyzer to give you in-depth feedback about how well you’ve written your title. Monster Insights also has a plugin that does this analysis for WordPress users.

High-quality Website Based on Search Engine Standards

Search engines like google don’t just use bots and crawlers to check out websites. They use actual humans too. I know because I used to be a search engine evaluator contracted with a company providing this service for search engines.

That’s how I know what search engines review to decide if the website is of high quality or not. User experience is of utmost importance. So, the website should be functional, easy to navigate, fast-loading, and easy to navigate.

The purpose of your website should be clear and your content should satisfy that purpose well. So when a user visits your website, they should know what you offer.

If it’s an online shoe store, they should be able to tell from the products, about information, and any page they enter that you sell shoes.

If you offer life coaching, they should be able to tell by the services and details you provide.

If you curate cute dog photos, visitors should be able to tell that’s what they will get from your website.

And spam is non-negotiable. Most spammers know that they are being spammy because that’s their intent. But for the sake of being clear, don’t overdo it with pushing sales or trying to force your visibility in the search engine and you should be fine. 

Lastly, you should create a secure experience for your visitors. You do this by making sure your contact information is visible and accurate. It’s a plus if you have a business phone number, address, and email, and a contact form is helpful.

SSL Certificates add another layer of security, and they are a part of the evaluation process for Google page rank. The Secure Socket Layer certificate encrypts visitor information. So when visitors complete forms on your website or make purchases, it helps to protect their information.

If your hosting plan doesn’t include an SSL, like the ones included with BlueHost, you can purchase one or use this tutorial to install a free SSL Certificate.

Make Sure You’re Publishing High-Quality Content

Besides links, one of the ways search engines detect your web page is through content. 

Doing a few things will help you make sure your content is high quality: You share accurate information, structure your writing well, and provide helpful content that satisfies the user’s intent.

Share accurate information

Make sure your content is factual. Make a clear difference between your opinion and what is true. You do this in the way you word it and by using supporting sources. 

Notice how I link to articles from authoritative sources to back up the advice I’m giving you? That’s what I mean by supporting sources.

Case studies also work to support your claims.  Remember, case studies are screenshots showing examples, infographics, etc. 

Structure your writing well

Make your content easy to read. Use clear, simple language, short sentences, and small paragraphs.

Grammar and spelling are also important for having high-quality content. So make sure you proofread your documents.

Tools like Grammarly and Hemingway App help with this. 

Search engine evaluators won’t critique every, single spelling mistake. They will notice an overall poorly written article.

Think About the Length of your Content

The more content you create, the better chance of having information that people are looking for, and that search engine deem rank worthy.

According to Yoast’s evaluation, your content should be at least 300 words, but we know most articles and blogs are longer. 

I would suggest no less than 500-700, but I recommend in-depth content of around 1,0000 words. Some long-form articles are closer to 3,000 or even 5,000 words.

When you think about length, go with quality over quantity. Don’t add in a bunch of fluff for the sake of meeting word count.

Satisfy the user’s intent

Can you get inside this person’s head and know what they want? You can if you’ve done your research. 

If you know the topic and understand what the user wants, you can use your expertise to satisfy their needs.

With search engine optimization, there are different types of user intent. Also known as search intent or query intent.

User intent could be transactional, which is about taking an action (buying something, booking a service, making contact).

It could be informational (learning, reading, finding a tutorial).

Commercial investigation- Someone is gathering information for a future purchase. 

Navigational-  A person wants to visit a website, but doesn’t know the website address. This doesn’t apply here.

Do your best to make sure your content satisfies what your user is looking for by writing complete content.

Understand How to Properly Use Alt Tags for Your Images

An Alt tag is a description of an image within your website that shows up when you hover over the image or when it isn’t visible. These tags help the visually impaired to still experience the image

Create and Submit your XML Sitemap

This is probably the easiest and quickest way to start boosting your SEO. 

An XML (Extensible Markup Language) sitemap is an organizational structure of your website in links. 

Without being too technical, it communicates how your website is set up, where certain pages and content are, and when it has been published or updated.

This is a quick and easy way to get indexed by Google. Their web crawlers read links and the XML sitemap tells Google exactly where to crawl. 

Use a plugin such as Yoast SEO to quickly create and submit your XML sitemap. If you’re not a WordPress user, follow the steps in this guide.

SEO Tools and Tactics

Even if you don’t have the budget for a search engine optimization agency, you still don’t have to do it all alone. There are tools available to help you learn and make some SEO practices easier.

  • SEO Plugins-SEO by Yoast

There are other search engine optimization plugins out there, but I’ve had the most experience with SEO by Yoast. 

These plugins exclusively for WordPress will take care of many of the white hat recommendations above or give you feedback on how you’re doing with them.

The plugin will give you a general idea of how to do basic level SEO. It evens has an option to help you create your Sitemap.

  • Pinterest marketing

Pinterest won’t take users directly from Google to your web page. But with a good title and an attractive pin, they’ll get there. 

Pinterest itself is a search engine, not a traditional social media platform. Their content also happens to rank well in other search engines. 

This platform is not just for hobbies and crafts. It’s a powerful tool for businesses to get in front of their target audience. 

People explore Pinterest to learn things. And what better way to gain website traffic and a loyal audience than by teaching?

We’ll talk about Pinterest in more detail during our next series. Just know for now that these SEO strategies will prepare you to rock on Pinterest.

The most important thing to take away from this guide to boosting your SEO is to always have your audience and users in mind. You do this when you know what they want and need and serve those things to them at a high level. 

If you already provide high-value content, products, and services on a user-friendly website, then the guidelines and tools I mentioned will help you do this even better.

Now, let’s get ready for the blogging series! 

*This post contains affiliate links for products that I use and recommend. I may receive a commission at no cost to you if you choose to make a purchase.

Danielle Towner | Entrepreneur + Digital Creative Resources

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As owner of Dream Work Creatives, LLC, Danielle has the opportunity to use her gifts of business development and creative expression. She has a passion for helping solo entrepreneurs and small businesses make their dreams work through marketing and creative strategy. Danielle’s digital marketing services have helped countless businesses build their brand awareness and online presence using social media marketing, website design and content marketing. Her blog features business and lifestyle growth tips and “Dreamer’s Den Podcast: Entrepreneurs Making the Dream Work”. During her free time, she enjoys travel, movies, books and the endless joy of her little one.