The ultimate DIY Guide to SEO

Reading time: 13 minutes

This guest post is written by Shaun Oakes, an SEO Consultant who is part of our collective and works across a number of our clients.

For those of you that are new to SEO, or haven’t ever quite got your head around it, here is a simple definition to get started:

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the practice of making your website as EASY as possible for Google to check out and review. Thus increasing the chances of your website being highly visible on Google. In other words:

When someone searches on Google for something related to your business, your website appears on the first page.

Why is this important?

Because if it’s done right, it can be highly profitable for your business.

Millions of people use Google every day, so SEO can help you bring large numbers of visitors to your website on an ongoing basis.

And the right type of visitors – people who are actually looking for what you offer, be it a product or service.

The problem is – effective SEO can be a time-consuming activity, it’s likely that you’re already time-pressured as it is, and you simply don’t have the time to get into the nitty-gritty of a deep-down SEO audit, analysing keyword density, scrutinising meta tags, building links and all that other stuff you read about on SEOMoz.

So hopefully this post will help you.

I’m going to break down the most important stuff for you to look at – forget about the 200 considerations Google looks at when they rank a website. (yes, there are actually 200 😮)

I’m going to cut out all the fluffy bits and show you the meat.

If you could only do Five Things, this should be it.

And I’m going to explain it in an easy, non-technical way that anyone can understand.

It’s going to be easy enough that you’ll be able to do this yourself, even if you’ve never done SEO before.

That’s my goal as you’re reading this today. Great, let’s dive in.

Step #1 – Check if anything is broken

So the first thing you want to do is check if there is anything super important on your website that needs to be fixed.

As in:

Are there any issues on your company website, which might make Google ignore you and not bother checking you out?

This is typically referred to as an SEO Audit.

Here is a nifty free tool you can use, which will quickly give you an idea of whether the website is in serious trouble or not.

It’s called the SEO Analyzer Tool:

https://neilpatel.com/seo-analyzer/  

You just pop in your website address and give it a few mins to work.

It takes about 10 – 15 minutes to go through a sample of pages on your website.

So make yourself a cup of coffee, stretch your legs, or maybe watch some TikTok videos while it’s working.

It then spits out an easy-to-follow report, showing:

Recommendations – usually quick and simple fixes.

Warnings – not super important, but nice to just be aware of.

Critical Errors – this is the stuff you’ll want to fix.

In this example, there are 3 Critical Errors that were picked up.

If you scroll further down the page, you’ll see what these issues are that need fixing.

There were pages with a low word count, a page without a Heading tag, and pages with no meta descriptions.

Oh, if the last sentence above didn’t make any sense to you, don’t stress – I’ll explain what these all mean in Steps 3 and 4.

Okay, so that’s it really.

That’s a quick and dirty SEO audit you’ve just done on your website.

Depending on the issues, you’ll be able to understand and address them yourself, after I explain and talk you through them in Steps 3 and 4.

Let’s move on to the next step.

Step #2 – What are people searching for?

So you’ve probably heard this term get thrown around when it comes to SEO – keyword research.

What is keyword research and why is it important?

Well, unless you’re a world-famous brand, when people are on Google they’re more likely to search for what you DO, rather than who you ARE.

So keyword research, in a nutshell, is about:

Figuring out the non-brand words people would search for on Google to find your business.

Once you have these words (or keywords as we call them) you’ll know what to use on your website, to attract the right type of website visitor.

The type of website visitor who will actually want to do business with you.

There are 2 really useful (and free) tools you can use to find these keywords.

The first one is Wordstream:

https://www.wordstream.com/keywords  

You just pop in a keyword – not your brand name, but what your company actually offers.

You then change the location to South Africa (or the country you operate in), and the tool then shows you:

  • How many people have been searching for that keyword every month
  • Other keyword ideas you could consider, that your website should potentially be ranking for

This will give you a good idea of where you should be focusing on, as this is potential business you might currently be missing out on.

You can ignore columns 3 and 4 (CPC and Competition).

Those are for if you’re thinking of running Google Ads. It just gives you an idea of how much you can potentially pay per click. (CPC = “Cost Per Click”)

What you want to look at is column 2 – Search Volume.

This gives you a (broad) idea of how many searches there are for a keyword on a monthly basis in South Africa.

So “divorce papers” – 2,900 per month.

Don’t take these figures as gospel, but it does give you an idea of which keywords are more popular than others.

You can export this list and have it emailed to you.

This will help you in the next chapter.

Okay, so that’s Wordstream.

Then, because this is all about getting Google rankings, it makes sense to use a Google tool.

So let’s look at the Google Keyword Planner:

https://ads.google.com/intl/en_in/home/tools/keyword-planner/

It’s similar to Wordstream in that it gives you an idea of monthly search volumes as well as keyword ideas.

You will need to sign in with a Google account or Gmail address first, but once you’re in, you should see a fairly simple interface.

Discover new keywords will give you some additional suggestions besides the keyword you typed in.

Get search volume and forecasts will give you a (fairly) accurate representation of how many people are searching for a given keyword per month in a region you choose.

In the table above, Impressions would give you an idea of how many monthly searches there are.

Again, as with Wordstream, you can download these lists.

Right, so now you have an idea of which keywords (related to your business) are being searched for on Google.

You now need to add these keywords to your website.

Which is what we will cover in the next step.

Step #3 – Flirting with Google

So now you have a set of keywords that are related to your business, and which you know people use on a monthly basis.

If you can get your website on the first page of Google for these keywords, you should start generating more business for your company.

This is where we talk about optimising your website.

Or to put it another way:

Helping Google figure out which pages on your website should rank for which keywords.

The good news is this doesn’t need to be super complicated.

There are two important things you need to consider:

1) Treat each page as a separate entry point.

Think of it this way – people are not going to necessarily arrive on your website via your home page.

If I do a search on Google for “South Africa” and click on the Wikipedia entry…

I arrive on the Wikipedia page about South Africa – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Africa 

Not the Wikipedia Home Page – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

So likewise, treat each page on your website as if it were to appear on Google if someone searched for a specific keyword.

Look at your website and see where you can break things up into separate pages.

For instance, companies often list ALL their services on one page.

Break up each service into separate pages, and then add keywords specific to that service onto that page.

Confused?

No problem, it will make sense once you read point 2 below.

2) Optimise your meta tags.

Wait – meta what?

So you know when you search for something on Google and you see the results come up?

Actually, wait, the image below will explain it better.

Saturday Night Live – NBC.com – is the meta title.

Watch Videos. The Emmy Award-winning comedy sketch show Saturday Night Live is in its 42nd season – is the meta description.

Together, they are known as meta tags.

Now, the meta title carries a lot of clout when it comes to ranking on Google.

You will want to make sure you use it to put in relevant keywords for your website.

The ones you found in Step 2.

Businesses often waste it with something like “Welcome to Business Name”.

Don’t do that.

It’s wasting prime real estate pushing a brand term.

What you should do instead is use a relevant keyword so it looks more like “Primary Keyword | Secondary Keyword | Business Name”.

The meta description is the “selling” copy that… well… sells your page and tries to convince someone to actually click on the link when your page comes up in the Google search results.

So try and make it compelling, what’s going to grab someone’s attention and make them click on this?

Right, let’s move on to the next step.

Step #4 – Some more flirting

Okay, remember in Step 1 we mentioned “low word count” and “Heading tags”?

Right, it’s time to have that conversation.

You’ve identified keywords and you’ve added them to the meta tags of your website.

You now need to do just a smidge more to help your website get better rankings on Google. It’s time to do some on-page optimisation, or more simply:

Doing some more flirting with Google to help it figure out which pages on your website should rank.

If you have some experience with SEO, you’ll know about adding keywords into the body copy of your pages.

In the past, people believed there was a hard science to it. That you needed to write your copy in a specific way for Google to love you.

If you wanted your website to rank for Keyword A, you needed to include Keyword A in your meta tags, and then include Keyword A in your page copy 4-5 times.

Things have evolved since then though. The basic rule of thumb is to just write for your audience.

Make sure the copy makes sense, that it reads well. Don’t “keyword stuff” – i.e. placing 4-5 mentions of Keyword A on your page because you think it will help you rank.

If it doesn’t read well, people will quickly leave your website and go somewhere else.

And if people do that, Google will notice.

So write for humans.

Now let’s quickly talk about humans. People have short attention spans.

The way they read and consume info from their screens (computers and phones) are quite different from the way they read and consume info from a book or newspaper.

So keep things simple.

Break things up nicely, using bullet points.

Using headings.

Avoid using long paragraphs.

Kind of how this guide is written.

So play close attention to how your website content is displayed.

Here are some things to consider:

Use headings
(if you’re site is built on WordPress or Wix, use what’s called <h1> or <h2> tags for your headings. They’re pretty simple to set up from within the WordPress dashboard

Don’t have thousands of words on your page.
It’s too long, but don’t have too little either. Have a maximum of 250 – 300 words per page

Break things up with images and video.
A clever image or video here or there is another way to keep someone’s attention

Link to other pages.
If you mention something about Wooden Tables on your Wooden Chairs page, link to it from within your copy.

Use bullet points.
Break up long paragraphs by using bullet points. It just reads better.

Bold keywords here and there.
Don’t overdo the bold function, but use it to highlight important points. Again, it just reads better.

Step #5 – Make your website more likeable

So you’ve done an SEO audit, and identified any super important issues that might prevent your website from ranking on Google.

You then researched keywords that people would search for on Google, related to your business.

You then implemented these keywords on your website, updated meta tags, breaking up pages, rewriting copy etc.

The next important thing is to build links to your website.

In other words:

Having other websites point to yours.

Why are links important?

A link to a website is kind of like a vote in the eyes of Google.

It tells Google that this is a website to take note of.

So if you have two similar websites:

Website A with 1,000 links pointing to it

vs

Website B with 12 links pointing to it

It’s more than likely that Website A will rank better than Website B.

Now traditionally, getting links was quite a labour-intensive process, and often involved trying to “game the system”.

So I would email you and say “Hey, our companies are in complementary industries. How about I link to you on our Links Page, and you do the same? Hooray. Look at us.”

Again, thankfully things have evolved.

Want to know the best way to get links? (i.e. get other websites/ social media linking to your website?)

Have interesting content on your website.

Content that is either useful, informative or weirdly interesting.

Weirdly interesting would depend on what your business does.

It makes no sense to post videos of cats playing the piano on your industrial hydraulic website.

Make sure that the stuff you put out there, is actually relevant to your business offering and your target audience.

Put yourself in the shoes of your potential client or target audience

What are their pain points?

What type of stuff would make their lives easier?

Once you have that, create content that will address those things.

If it’s useful, people (and other websites) will link to it because it’s helpful.

And hey bingo – you’re now getting links to your website.

Which will help it rank well on Google.

So how do you figure out what stuff would make your target audience lives easier?

Glad you asked, here are two simple ways to do just that.

The first one is Answer The Public:

https://answerthepublic.com

Answer The Public is kind of like a Google for questions.

So you type in a query, and it spits out a bunch of questions people on the internet have been asking about that particular keyword.

It will help you identify common themes or pain points that people have around your company’s offering.

You can use these insights to create content that addresses these things.

As an example – let’s say you’re a digital marketing manager for an LED light company.

You would just go to https://answerthepublic.com, pop in a keyword like “led lights” and then see what people have been asking.

The benefits are two-fold:

  • Your website is now growing page wise. (which is an SEO benefit – look at how well Wikipedia does through the sheer amount of pages they have)
  • You are addressing things experienced by your target audience.

When they next search for “Best LED lights for the kitchen”, they may find your page on your website where you list recommendations for kitchen LED lights = SALE.

The second thing to use is Google’s People Also Ask feature.

Type in a query on Google.  (again, let’s use “led lights”)

Scroll down the page and you’ll see “People Also Ask”.

Again, if it’s informative and useful, people are going to link to it.

People are also going to find your website and arrive on one of your pages if you have something which addresses a question they have.

This is probably the most effective way to build links for your website.

Why waste your valuable time manually adding your website to directories and asking people to link to you?

You have loads of other activities on your plate.

This approach gives you far more bang for your buck.

In conclusion

Although quite a meaty blog post, you’ve hopefully found this useful, and you will now be able to apply the thinking to your own website.

As mentioned, this is probably the most important stuff to look at, and if implemented correctly, you will start seeing a steady increase in traffic.

If you need any help with this or are not sure where to even begin, let us help you. Click here to set up some time to chat about how your business can benefit from SEO.

Ready to get started? Contact us today.

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