How to Do Your Own SEO

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short, is the information that search engines use to decide where website should rank in a listing of search results. A lot of factors go into SEO, like the content of a website, the site’s HTML coding, and the number of links coming and going from the site.

SEO as a formal concept has been around since the late 1990s, when people started making frequent use of search engines. At the time, there were far fewer web pages, so the process of searching websites was based on search engines extracting information from the page and indexing it in its own database. Now, of course, there is a lot more that goes into searching and all of the major search engines employ complex algorithms to rank pages and offer results. Fortunately, although the system is complex, there are some simple things that you can do to improve your business’ SEO right now.

Think Like Your Customers

A large part of effective optimization revolves around the keywords you choose to lead people to your site. In order to pick the best keywords possible, you’ll need to think about your typical customer and do a little research.

· Know Your Audience. In order to select the best possible keywords, put yourself in the place of your potential customers: what are their needs when they find you? Keep in mind that your audience is probably not searching specifically for your brand (if they were, you wouldn’t need SEO!), so what magical combination of words, when run through the search box, will bring them to you? If, for example, your business is a bakery, think about what brings people in. It’s unlikely that many people are searching for “Cute petit fours,” even if it is your specialty. Do people in your area want a place to hang out and eat pastry while using your free Wi-Fi? Consider terms like “bakery,” “café”, “free,” and variations on the spelling of “Wi-Fi” (WiFI, Wi-Fi, etc).

· Be Specific. Think about what you want people to accomplish by accessing your website and ask yourself who, specifically, is using the site. Is it busy moms looking to order a birthday cake? Early risers who want to know if the shop is open early enough for them to grab a croissant on the way to work? Write a few sentences to express your goals to yourself, such as “I want local parents to find my site and order birthday cakes online.”

Choosing Your Keywords

· Do the Research. Once you have some keywords in mind that match your goals for your potential customers, take to the internet to see what you can find. There are lots of tools—many of them free—for analyzing keywords. Try one out here.

· Analyze Frequency. You can check a keyword’s frequency here. This tool looks through top Google hits for a keyword and says how many times the keyword appeared in the page.

· Use Alternate Spellings. Even though Google can correct spelling, it may help to use alternate spellings of easily mistaken terms (e.g. Wi-Fi v. wifi).

Still Not Sure?

If you still don’t feel confident about DIY SEO, there are plenty of resources. Try reading SEOmoz’s Beginners Guide to SEO or pick up a book like The Art of SEO from O’Reilly Media. If after all that, you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, you’ll at least be informed when you call in a professional. In the event that you want an SEO expert to help you, taking the time to find one online (and there are many) is a great method. If they’re any good, you’ll find them near the top of the results—and that won’t be an accident!

Angie Picardo is a staff writer for NerdWallet, a website dedicated to helping consumers alleviate debt with the best balance transfer cards.

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