photo of woman sitting looking at search engine results on a laptop

Improving your search engine ranking is vital for any website looking to increase visibility and attract more organic traffic. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a combination of techniques and strategies aimed at optimizing your website to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). The higher your website appears in the SERPs, the more likely users are to click on it and visit your site. Improving your search engine ranking requires an understanding of how search engines work and a strategic plan to optimizing your website’s content, structure, and authority. In this article, we’ll explore some key DIY SEO tips and strategies you can use to improve your search engine ranking and increase your small business website’s visibility.

1. Establish your search engine ranking baseline

The first key to improving the visibility of your website and increase its search engine ranking using search engine optimization (SEO) is to identify where you currently stand. A number of free tools are available to help you investigate the current status of your website from a major search engine’s perspective.

First, if you haven’t already, install Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a free and incredibly robust analytics reporting tool that will prove invaluable in this process. Once installed on your website, you’ll have access to thorough reports on things like which pages are most frequently accessed, the most common keywords and phrases that people use in search engines to find your site, what links they clicked from other websites to access your site, how many visits you are getting per day/week/month, what technologies are being used (e.g., desktop, tablet, or mobile device), screen resolution, type of browser, and more.

Next, do some keyword research. There are several free online tools that can help you identify which keywords or phrases to target to make sure that your website appears in the search results and to monitor your website’s search engine ranking:

Many of these keyword research tools can also provide some valuable insights into your website in terms of search engine ranking, reach, visitor demographics, and more.

2. Ensure your site is chock-full of relevant content and meta data

Once you’ve identified the keywords that represent your website, make sure that those keywords are used in your content and meta data. Meta data… what’s that? Within the <head> of an HTML document, you can add title, description, and keyword tags that will help search engines parse key components of each page on your website. It’s important that every page have a unique title, description and keywords to be most effective. Search Engine Watch provides a good overview of the title, description, and keywords meta tags for more information.

As far as content goes, here are few tips to get you started:

  • Write relevant, focused content. By focused, I mean write individual pages or blog posts that focus on 1-2 competitive keyword phrases. Keep in mind that your content should be written for your readers, not for search engines. If your readers are looking for an article about “SEO Tips and Tricks” and those words appear at least once in your content and in your meta tags, search engines these days are smart enough to figure out if your content is relevant or not for a similarly-worded search. Sometimes overworking keywords into your content can work against you – so address your readers first with search engines in mind (not the other way around).
  • Optimal length is contextual. Keep it useful and on point. The ideal length of a blog post for SEO can vary depending on the topic,  target audience, and goals of your website. In general, longer blog posts tend to perform better in search engine rankings, as they provide more in-depth coverage of the topic and demonstrate expertise and authority. Research shows that the average length of content on the first page of Google search results is around 1,900 words. However, this does not mean that every blog post needs to be this long. It’s more important to focus on creating high-quality, informative content that provides value to your readers.As a general guideline, a blog post should be at least 300 words to provide enough content for search engines to index and understand the topic. However, longer posts in the range of 1,000 to 2,500 words tend to perform better in search rankings and are more likely to be shared on social media. Ultimately, the length of your blog post should be determined by the needs of your audience and the goals of your website.
  • Remember to use internal links (links to other pages on your website) within your content. The internal links on your website not only help your readers find more information on your website, it helps search engines, too. When used correctly, internal links can help search engines understand the hierarchy and structure of your website, which can improve the overall user experience and make it easier for visitors to navigate your content. Internal links can also help distribute page authority and link equity throughout your website, which can help boost the ranking of individual pages in search results.By linking to other relevant content on your website, you also keep visitors engaged and encourage them to explore other pages on your site. When creating internal links, use descriptive anchor text that accurately describes the content of the linked page, and avoid using too many links that could be perceived as spammy by search engines.
  • Regularly update your content. Consider creating an editorial calendar to keep you on track. Search engines prioritize fresh and relevant content, so updating your website with new blog posts, articles, or pages can signal to search engines that your website is active and up-to-date, which can help boost your ranking.Regularly updating your content can help keep your audience engaged and encourage them to return to your website for more information. You can also optimize your existing content by updating outdated information, refreshing images or videos, or adding new keywords and topics that are relevant to your audience. By regularly updating and optimizing your website’s content, you can improve your SEO performance and stay ahead of your competition.
  • Include links to reliable sources. Linking to reputable external links in your blog posts is a valuable SEO strategy that can help improve your search engine ranking, authority, and trustworthiness. External links (also referred to as outbound links) are hyperlinks that point from your website to other websites. By linking to reputable and authoritative sources in your blog posts, you can demonstrate to search engines that your content is well-researched and backed up by trustworthy sources. This can improve the perceived quality and relevance of your website and help it rank higher in search results.Linking to relevant and high-quality external sources provides value to your readers by giving them access to additional information and resources that can help them understand your topic better. When including external links, it’s important to choose reputable sources that are relevant to your topic and provide value to your audience. Overusing or linking to low-quality or spammy websites can have a negative impact on your website’s credibility and SEO performance.

3. Make sure your site is technically sound.

Review your site to make sure that it is running optimally for search engines to access and index. Make sure your website is coded with W3C-validated code and is easily navigated by your website visitors and search engines alike. Ensure that each page has a URL that reflects a sound information architecture and contains the most important keywords from the page content and page title.

Sign up for Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. With these free suites of tools, you’ll gain insights into the strengths and weaknesses of your website from Google and Bing’s perspectives. This is also a great way to make sure that these search engines are indexing your site on a regular basis and to be aware of any potential technical issues that may be negatively impacting how your website is being ranked or appearing in the search engine results.

4. Verify your website with the major search engines

Create an XML sitemap that is hosted with your website files and submit it to the major search engines: GoogleYahoo!, and Bing. If you have a website built on WordPress or Drupal, there are plug-ins help with this, such as Yoast SEO or Rank Math SEO. Verifying your website with the major search engines ensures that they have a full listing of the pages on your website, understand your site architecture and are more likely to include the pages in their search engine results.

5. Build relationships and increase inbound links

Inbound links (also referred to as backlinks) reinforce the authority, relevance, and trustworthiness of your website to search engines. When other reputable and authoritative websites link to your site, search engines perceive your website as valuable and relevant, which can improve your ranking in search results. The more quality websites that link to yours, the more your website is considered a reliable source and can improve your search engine ranking.

Inbound links are particularly important for off-page SEO, which refers to the factors outside of your website that can affect your ranking, such as backlinks and social media mentions. By building a strong network of high-quality inbound links from relevant and authoritative sources, you can improve your website’s visibility and authority, which often leads to increased traffic, higher engagement, and  conversion rates.

Note that not all inbound links are created equal. Low-quality or spammy links can have a negative impact on your SEO performance and should be avoided. It’s essential to focus on building a diverse portfolio of high-quality inbound links that are relevant to your industry and audience. By doing so, you can improve your website’s SEO performance in a sustainable, long-term-focused way.

Another way to increase inbound links and increase your organization’s visibility is to create online business profiles on popular directory sites like Google Business Profile, Bing Places Business, Yelp, and other websites and online directories relevant to your field of work. You can also submit articles, post training or informational videos on YouTube or Vimeo, and share PowerPoint presentations on platforms like SlideShare to establish yourself as an expert in your field.

Additional resources

Heather Larson is a WordPress specialist based in Seattle who designs and develops user-friendly websites for nonprofits, wellness professionals, and small business.

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