Some people get nervous when you bring up SEO.

They know it’s something they need to work on – maybe they installed that free plug-in, read a guide once or watched a YouTube video – but they’re not sure where to start. From the way some blogs go on, there’s arcane magic involved in “beating the algorithm” or something!

In reality, there are some things that every person with a website can do to increase their relevance and loading speed and give a boost to their SEO. This guide will walk you through them step-by-step, with helpful tips. Many SEO Guides have been created, but we think ours is both the simplest to follow and the most complete, especially for a small business or blogger who doesn’t have a team of minions waiting in the wings.

Basic SEO

The first place to start is with the easy fixes – the primary SEO. These things must be done for minimum SEO ranking; if they are not corrected, search engines will penalize your website. Like all of these guidelines, the “Basic SEO” doesn’t just get done once and forgotten since pages get moved or deleted, pictures get edited, and new content gets added. These steps need to be included in your regular SEO review.

To Do:

  • Broken Links: Ensure that all links on your site work and that there are no error messages.
  • Redirect Chains: Don’t slow your site down by having more redirects than necessary.
  • Duplicate Title Tags/Meta Descriptions: Each page needs a unique title tag and meta description.
  • Clean XML Sitemap: Ensure your site’s XML sitemap doesn’t have redirects/no-index/broken links.
  • Internal Linking: Provide links to additional content that are natural extensions to info on the current page.
  • Proper Index Directives: Have a robots.txt file in place to direct search engine crawlers.
  • Provide Alt-Image Text: Ensure that your images all have descriptive alt text for users using a screen reader and for search engines to have image context.

Messaging

Moving on to the meat of the page, you’ll want to look more closely at your messaging. A great place to start is with your competitors. Looking at them can give you ideas of what to do and what not to do, or possibly show you a target audience you hadn’t thought to reach. It can also give you some ideas for keywords, which you’ll use in the next section. You can take a look at Google Search Console to see which pages are the most popular on your site and also what people are searching for to get there.

To Do:

  • Who are your organic competitors? Often these are different from your local competitors.
  • What content do your competitors have that is doing well that you don’t have?
  • What content is on your site that is already performing well?
  • What could be performing better?
  • What pages aren’t ranking for what you intended them to rank for?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What problem does your target audience have that you solve?

Keywords

Keywords are vital to being found in the SERPs, and many people don’t spend time doing their research on what keywords will help their SEO. It’s not always what you think! Free tools such as Google Trends and Keyword Generator can help you with your keyword journey. Sometimes keyword research can feel tedious, but it does pay off in the end, and your initial time investment will be rewarded.

To Do:

  • Do Your Research: Intent is essential – if users aren’t searching for it, it doesn’t matter how interesting or topical it is.
  • Use Keyword Variations: In the age of semantic search, using related keywords throughout your content is critical, as is using long-tail keywords (e.g., “fresh fish restaurant in North Ocean City” rather than “seafood restaurant in Ocean City”).
  • Use Keywords in Crucial Parts of the Page: Your title tag, meta description, and H1 should all use versions of your target keyword.
  • Write Compelling Content: Not only should your content address the user’s intent, but it should be written in a way that engages a reader without coming off salesy or spammy.

Optimize for Local Search

Local Search is surprisingly important, even for websites that might not consider themselves “local” businesses. Google especially places a high priority on local visibility and making sure there is consistency across listings. This task can take a bit to tease out, especially the NAP consistency, as you may find you are listed in many seemingly random directories. It’s something to chip away at and, again, something you have to check regularly. User suggestions can edit Google My Business, so you must also consistently check that for accuracy.

To Do:

  • NAP Consistency: Having your business name, address, phone number, and URL consistent across the Internet is incredibly important. Consistency is an indicator of trust for search engines.
  • Site Geotargeting: Use the geographic names (cities, landmarks, etc.) of places you want to do business in/with naturally throughout your site.
  • Locally Focused Content: Create content about your local community. A “Best Donuts in Jacksonville” blog or a “5 Local Favorite Drives in Oceanside” writeup is valuable! It may seem a little trivial, and you may wonder how it will help you promote/sell/monetize your website, but it will signal to the humans and web crawlers that you are an authority in your area.
  • Google My Business: GMB is incredibly important and highly underutilized, affecting SERP ranking. It’s simple to fill out, and you should do it even if you’re not a “local” business to get the SEO boost and prevent someone from hijacking your listing.
  • Consumer Engagement: Respond to the Questions & Answers section on GMB thoughtfully, and reply to both positive and negative reviews.

On-page/Design

Last but not least is the design of your website. You want your pages clean, clear, and engaging, and you want to be able to use all those gorgeous photos of your adventures or products or happy clients. It’s tough to do that and still have a fast-loading website that will result in excellent SEO. The best solution is to use an image CDN like ImageEngine that can detect the device that’s accessing your website, automatically optimize each image precisely for that device, and deliver it from a global PoP network of edge servers. This reduces payload, increases PageSpeed, and is optimal for mobile optimization.

To Do:

  • High-Quality Visuals: Don’t overload pages with extraneous media that will bog down your PageSpeed.
  • Optimize for Mobile: Tweak where needed for desktop.
  • Review New Pages: Check on both mobile and desktop before publishing.
  • Utilize Internal Links: Direct visitors to other pages and topics relevant to their journey to keep them on your site.

Good SEO is a continuous journey, not a destination. Not only do the “rules” change frequently, but things on your site (and on your competitors’ sites!) are constantly changing, so it’s essential to do a thorough SEO review at least quarterly. It’s great if you can get more than one person to take a look at some of these things – we all get blind spots when we look at the same thing for too long. SEO can be complex, but if you follow this guide, it no longer has to be confusing!

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