by Kim Cooper, Alexa
Would you like to get started with SEO? But you aren’t sure if it’s worth all the effort?
Many start-ups neglect SEO in their early days. And it makes sense. They have limited time and resources. So it’s hard to commit to such a time-consuming pursuit.
But later, when they need to find scalable growth strategies, they shift their focus and find that getting SEO results is easier than they thought. And they regret not starting sooner. I’ve been there, done that, wasted a year and $60,000 cranking out content with no regard for SEO, and wished I had started SEO sooner.
So I want to help you discover that success before you make the same mistake.
Take the Groove blog as an example. They’ve had great success with their content marketing. Founder Alex Turnbull says their blog is the biggest driver of revenue growth. Even with that success, they regret ignoring SEO for a long time. They dismissed it, thinking it was scammy. That is until they discovered thatwhite hat SEO techniques make SEO simple, and easy to get results.
In this post, we’ll show you how to start SEO. The great news is–there are a few easy things you can do to get a couple of quick wins under your belt.
How to Start SEO Without Betting the Farm
No one wants to spin their wheels doing SEO only to find out it’s not working. The best way to start SEO is to run a few small tests, measure the outcome, and then increase your investment as your confidence improves.
Follow these three simple steps for a quick way to prove to yourself (and maybe your boss) that the results are worth the effort.
- Pick a piece of content from your site that you’d like to drive more traffic to (30 minutes)
- Choose the best keyword to target (30 minutes)
- Tweak the content to optimize for that keyword (30 minutes)
With just a 1-1/2 hour investment, you’ll get some answer as to whether SEO can work for you.
STEP 1 — Pick a piece of content to optimize
This should be quick.
Think about these things. What posts on your site:
- are already popular
- have proven to be valuable to your readers or customers
- drive the most conversions
Those questions can be answered by looking at Google Analytics and any direct feedback you’ve gotten from readers, including comments, social shares, and emails.
The key is to pick a page that does these things:
- Solves a problem of your target customer with educational content
- Subtly ties the education it provides to the solution your company offers
If you didn’t think about optimizing for SEO when you created that content, it’s a prime opportunity to make a few tweaks that’ll win some organic traffic.
STEP 2 — Choose a target keyword
This will take a little bit of keyword research, using the keyword difficulty tool. Long story, short–you’ll look for a keyword that is:
- Highly relevant to the content and topic of the post you picked
- Has a competition score that is within your site’s Competitive Power
- Has a decent popularity among the shortlist of options that meet the requirements of 1 and 2
Think about what question your content answers. What might someone who needs to read your post enter into the search box when researching the topic? Start with your best guess as the seed phrase to kick off your keyword research.
Use Alexa’s keyword difficulty tool to find low competition keywords so you can uncover the most optimal option. Often, the seed keyword you think of is too highly competitive for your site. And sometimes it’s just too broad. Taking this step to do keyword research will help you find long tail keyword ideas that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own.
Look for relevance
As you sift through the ideas, think about how accurately the keyword ideas describe the content you plan to optimize. You want to avoid broad topics because those don’t drive the type of relevant traffic that has a very specific pain point they are trying to solve.
As you find highly relevant keyword ideas, add them to a shortlist so you can weigh them against each other to make a final selection.
Pro tip: Even if you find keywords that are relevant to your business but aren’t right for this piece of content, save them for later. This will speed up your future content creation process because you’ll have a list of ideas that are ripe for the taking.
Focus on low competition
Next, concentrate on the competition score of the keywords in your shortlist. The most important thing to consider is whether your site has a chance to rank for that keyword. Use your site’s Competitive Power score as a benchmark for knowing what level of competition you can take on. And use that to find keyword options that are at or below. The lower the score, the easier it will be to rank, and the more confidently you will be able to choose SEO keywords.]
OK, now it’s time to focus on popularity
By now you should have a shortlist of probably around ten keyword ideas that are all fairly similar. So how do you choose which one to go with? Given the narrowed list of options that are both relevant and at a competition score your site can handle, look for the most popular option.
Keep requirements #1 and #2 as a top priority, and select the most suitable keyword that balances competition with popularity, so you have an easy time ranking for a keyword that has reasonable volume.
Pro tip: While you need to pick one primary target keyword, you can use the other keywords on your shortlist as related phrases to help you reinforce the topic without having to repeat the target phrase too often and risk keyword stuffing.
STEP 3 — Optimize the content for SEO
You have content — check
You have a target keyword — check
Now it’s time to include the keyword in the content–in all the right places.
You’ll do that by following on-page best practices (15 minutes) and by building internal links (15 minutes)
Follow on-page SEO best practices
This is pretty straight-forward. You’ll want to include your target keyword in the following places:
- Page title
- Meta description
- H1 tag
- H2 tag
- Image alt tags
- Image file names
- Body content
Bonus: Also include keywords that are related and to your target phrase. This reinforces the topic of your post.
Build internal links to the content
You need to do everything you can to tell Google what the page is about. You have a good start with the on-page SEO essentials above.
Now, you can reinforce the topic by linking to the page from other pages on your site.
Find pages that are somewhat related to the topic of your newly optimized post. Add links wherever it makes sense in the context of the page. Try to use the exact target keyword phrase in the anchor text of the link. You’ll often need to make a minor tweak to the wording to make this happen.
Here are some ways to find great places to add an internal link:
- Search Google for “site:yoursite.com keyword phrase”
You’ll see a list of pages on your site that Google considers relevant to the search term. Choose pages you think will be suitable for incorporating a link to the page.
- Look in Google Search Console for pages receiving traffic for that keyword
Often, you’ll receive traffic from a keyword for which you didn’t intentionally optimize. Even if you only get a trickle of traffic to it, it tells you that Google sees it as somewhat relevant to the keyword. That’s a great page to add a link using the keyword as anchor text. It directs readers and Google to the page that was truly optimized for that term.
Here’s how to find internal link opportunities in Google Search Console.
Go to Search Traffic > Search Analytics.
Enter your search term into the Queries filter.
Click on the Pages toggle.
In this example, I’ve filtered Queries that contain “keyword research.” And I’m looking at Pages that show up in SERPs.
The list of pages will be ones that receive impressions and perhaps even traffic for that keyword.
Since Google is displaying these pages for the keyword you are targeting, that means they see it as someone relevant–even if the position is really high or the clicks are low.
It’s a telling sign that Google sees these pages as related.
- Looking through a list of your blog posts
One way to jog your memory of related posts is to simply scroll through all your blog posts. As you see content that has some relationship to your newly optimized post, click through and scan for opportunities to squeeze in a link to the page.
Do it again
Chances are that you did that in less than 1-1/2 hours. And you probably found other great keyword ideas during step 2. Take those keywords, find content that you already have that is relevant to those other ideas and follow steps 3 and 4.
Repeat this for a handful of posts.
Did it work?
Come back in a couple of weeks. Take a peek at Google Search Console. Filter Queries by the target keyword.
Does the page you tweaked show up in the list of pages receiving traffic for that keyword?
If so, that’s your sign that a larger investment in SEO could work.
What should you expect from this SEO experiment?
Keep your expectations in line with the effort you invested. The goal of this experiment is to prove that SEO can work for you with a small win. It won’t be a runaway success that skyrockets your organic traffic. That’s unrealistic when you are just starting SEO. What you should see is a moderate increase in organic traffic to that one page of content you optimized. Now, imagine every piece of content on your site having that moderate increase. You’ll see how quickly those small wins can snowball into large increases in your site-wide organic traffic.
You might not be ranked in the top 10 positions. And you might not be getting a crazy amount of traffic. But the fact that Google is now seeing your content as being relevant to that search term is a big step in the right direction.
What to do next?
Now that you know how to start SEO with a small test, how do you scale up the results?
As you create new SEO content, start with keyword research. That is the foundation of a great SEO strategy. The more content you create that is optimized for search, the more Google will start seeing you as the authority on that subject.
It’ll create a snowball effect where each piece gets easier to rank. And the additional traffic you drive to each piece of content will add more and more to your overall volume of traffic.
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