Okay, so you’re interested in search engine optimization (SEO), but like most newcomers, you’re intimidated by the perceived complexity of the field. To be sure, there are hundreds of independent variables that collectively bear an impact on your site’s rankings and search engine visibility.
And, learning how to master all of them is a process that takes years of experience and practice.
However, you don’t need a huge budget or years of experience to get started with SEO. Dominating the top rankings for general keywords related to your brand may be out of your reach, but even a slight investment in SEO can help your business earn more traffic and visibility.
To get started, you’ll need these seven basic components of a starter SEO campaign:
1. A website with a good SEO plugin
First, you need a decent website, and if this one is your first effort, and/or you want to keep things simple, it’s in your best interest to use a website builder like WordPress. In fact, this and most other website builder tools are inexpensive and easy to use; and, importantly, they come automatically equipped to handle basic SEO fundamentals.
For example, they’ll be coded in a way that’s neat, clean and easy to crawl, and they’ll be responsive, so you needn’t worry about a separate strategy for mobile optimization. You may also want to consider a separate SEO plugin, which can help you with technical tasks like optimizing title tags and meta descriptions, and pinpointing the keyword density of your various pages.
2. A carefully chosen niche
Next, you’ll want to define your niche and target a list of carefully chosen keywords. If you go too general, you’ll end up competing with businesses that have a much bigger budget and a longer history of development. Instead, it’s better to focus on a highly specific niche that’s relevant only to your customers.
At that juncture, you’ll need to conduct some keyword research. You don’t need to get fancy here; just target a mix of basic “head” keywords and extended “long-tail” keywords, and aim for terms with high volume and low competition ratings.
3. An on-site overhaul.
Next, you’ll need to optimize your site directly. It’s true that your website builder will set you up with some fundamentals, but you’ll still need to add your own content.
Organize your pages into categories and subcategories, including page titles that contain some of your target keywords. Make sure every page of your site contains at least several hundred words of helpful, well-written, relevant content; and optimize all your title tags and meta descriptions while you’re at it.
4. A regular blog
I’d argue that the most important thing for a new SEO strategy to take off is a high-quality, regular content-marketing campaign. Aim to produce at least two new posts every week, covering topics that are relevant to your readers, and providing detailed, helpful information that your competitors haven’t already covered.
Originality, practicality and aesthetic value all matter here, so spend some time refining your strategy and stick to your editorial calendar. You’ll also want to include a blend of mediums, including images and videos, if you can.
5. An off-site publication schedule.
Aside from on-site optimization and content marketing, the most important element of your strategy is your link building campaign — otherwise known as off-site optimization. The quality and quantity of links you have pointing to your domain determines your overall authority, which in turn determines where you rank for various search queries.
However, you can’t just spam off-site links — nor would you want to. Instead, focus on writing valuable content for external publishers, establishing your author profile and your expertise simultaneously. Usually, you’ll earn at least one link back to your site, and over time, you’ll develop your authority so you can rank higher.
6. Integrated social media
Contrary to popular belief, social media doesn’t have a direct relationship with your search rankings. However, it can have an indirect bearing on the success of your SEO campaign. So, flesh out your profiles and regularly promote your latest content; you’ll earn more shares and links to those blog posts, which can boost your search visibility.
Additionally, you’ll earn more followers, which can become an additional stream of traffic to your site (and a good way to get your foot in the door with more publishers since it establishes your credibility).
7. A good reporting strategy
Finally, you’ll need some way to measure your effectiveness (so you can determine what changes you need to make to your strategy). A good starter tool for this is Google Analytics, which will allow you to measure your “organic traffic” — meaning the amount of traffic you’re generating naturally through search engines. Ideally, this will grow over time.
Implementing these seven “starter kit” items won’t let you tap your business’s full online marketing potential, but they can and will get you started on the right path. With a decent infrastructure in place, including a baseline domain authority score, your subsequent investments will become even more valuable.
Related: 10 Questions to Ask When Hiring an SEO Consultant
When you’re ready to scale your strategy, consider hiring a professional SEO agency or a highly skilled independent contractor. Or invest in your own training and education to see better results.