5 ways to increase your SEO for free

What happens for you when you hear the term, SEO? For many of my clients it conjures up images of black magic or of thousands of dollars spent with consultants who couldn't prove any sort of return on investment. But SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, doesn't have to be a confusing element of business.

 At its most basic, SEO can be divided into two camps: on-page SEO (everything you do on your own website to help it rank well in search engine results pages) and off-page SEO (everything you do to help others link to your site, thereby driving traffic and creating the idea to search engines, like Google and Bing, that your site is a reputable place to send people). What's more, there are plenty of FREE ways to help with on-page and off-page SEO.

Here's five ideas I like to suggest clients start with, before splashing the cash on expert assistance:

1. Tidy Up

Anyone else frantically rush about to make the house look 'clean' before the cleaner comes? (Please tell me I'm not the only one??) It may sound crazy, but this is exactly what you should do before hiring an SEO consultant - tidy up your website. This means using tools like Dead Link Checker to check for broken links (URLs on your site that don't work and result in either a blank page or an Error 404 display when someone types the site link in or clicks on an old hyperlink). Removing broken links from your site aids in SEO as search engines like Google and Bing deem the site to be of higher quality if no broken links appear. You should also check and edit your site's rich snippets, and tidy up your URLs making sure they are easily understood (i.e. mydailybusinesscoach.com/blog/5-ways-to-aid-seo vs. mydailybusinesscoach.com/blog/march/1/45/optimise). Lastly, check who is directing traffic to you (i.e. bloggers, media etc.) and, where necessary, get in touch to ask them to update old links ensuring any cred they're giving you is kept up to date. You can use this tool to find out who links to you.

2. Get to know your audience

Imagine if you were asked to find the perfect partner for your single best friend. Now, imagine if you were asked to find the perfect partner for someone you'd just met. Chances are you'd know way more about your bestie and could start writing a list of things they'd want in a partner, whereas you'd just be guessing for the stranger.

This is exactly the same when it comes to SEO — you want to know your audience so well that you understand how and what they search for. One of the easiest ways to do this is to ask people in your target audience to find something you offer (i.e. business coaching) while using their phone or iPad. This may be via a networking event, or a coffee date or even while they shop in your store. Literally watch them as they type things into Google / Bing and you would be amazed at the terms you may not have considered that they use to search.

Another approach is to use tools like Answer the Public which allows you to enter a key term such as 'business coach' in and then see all the questions people ask search engines around that term (make sure you scroll down below the fold when using this tool). Google Keyword Planner, Uber Suggest and Keyword Tool are also great ways to find what people are searching for, the volume and location of searches, and what your competition for these terms looks like. (Be mindful that terms you might use about your business (i.e. fulfilment) may not be what the average person is searching for (i.e. deliveries).) Once you have your top list of keywords ensure you are using them throughout your site and creating separate pages that speak to your top search terms.

3. Utilise FREE tools

There are an abundance of free tools to help you figure out your SEO, from Google Search Console which shows you which search queries led to people landing on your site, as well as how to remove certain content from search results and Google PageSpeed Insights which measures things like load time and overall site optimisation, through to SEMRush which provides info on keywords, search rankings (organic and paid), trends and top pages for your site (and your competitors) and Moz Keyword Explorer which allows you to view the top websites / articles for your key terms, as well as stats around organic click-through-rate and search volumes for those terms. Ensuring your brand has a Google My Business listing is another free way to increase your local SEO (note: you must have a biz address you feel comfortable being shown online, i.e. not your home address).

4. Get consistent

When I started working in online content marketing back in 2009, content was considered king. Today,  I really feel that consistency is king. Now, I'm not advocating you become a publisher, but rather if you do choose to update your brand's site with content, make it consistent.

If you update once a month, then just stick to that and schedule 12 key update periods a year. If you choose to add a new blog once a week, then look at how much time you have to ensure that happens every week and if you don't have the time, consider pushing it to a fortnightly frequency instead.

Make sure content is helpful, not just hyping your brand and that it corresponds to the top searches your audience are making, i.e., 'Why get a business coach?' in search may be met with a page on your site dedicated to '5 Reasons Why You Should Get a Business Coach'. For pages / blog pieces you're certain help others, conduct an outreach campaign asking bloggers and media to link to those pages. You can also amplify reach by re-purposing the content on your site for email, social, LinkedIn and Medium (if appropriate).

5. Revise and review

This step is crucial in anything you do for your small biz and SEO is no different. There's no point creating awesome content for your top keywords, if you don't check it's actually working. Good SEO should result in more traffic / more conversions and/or better quality leads. You can track these are working by setting up dashboards in Google Analytics and inputting 'Goals' you want people coming to the site to fulfil i.e. Goal 1 may be clicking on the 'contact us' button or giving your their email address in return for downloadable content (otherwise known as an 'opt-in').  (Here's a breakdown on how to add Goals into Google Analytics.)

SEO is not a dark art, so  don't let all the hype around it stop you from exploring how it could benefit your biz. By following the steps above, you're far closer to understanding how it works and, if you do choose to hire an expert, at least you'll come to your first meeting armed with the basics which allows them to scale up your SEO for success.

Fiona Killackey