SEO website optimization is a continuous process. While there is no magic solution, there are some general practices you can start implementing today to improve your search engine rankings.
Understanding SEO website optimization
First, you need to understand the intent behind SEO website optimization. This will ensure that you understand the process and will go about things with more transparency and effectiveness. The ultimate goal is to help Google do its job. Yes, your personal goal might be to increase leads and conversions from search engines, but you do this by helping Google do its job. We all love Google because it quickly and easily helps us find what we’re looking for. When you look up fast food restaurants while you’re on a road trip, it shows you restaurants close to you, not those you left behind back home. It’s smart and understands your intent, and you can help Google refer to you similarly by optimizing your website. Essentially, you want to ensure that you’re telling Google that you’re relevant in a specific area.
You probably don’t need to pop up when someone looks up local restaurants, but you do want to show up when they’re looking for a wedding photographer or business coach. Again, you won’t hit spot number one right away, but you can start strategizing now and slowly seeing an increase by doing the following:
Improve your on-page SEO
On-page SEO takes into account the content on your website — from your home page text to your URL structure and mobile speed. I’m going to keep it simple today, for the sake of teaching you elements of SEO you can apply without getting too overwhelmed. This will be the largest checklist from this post, but is the most important, as the content on your page not only affects your search engine rankings, but it also affects the likelihood of leads booking you or purchasing your products. If your content gets you found, but doesn’t result in actual sales, it’s useless!
Whatever you do, make sure that you have high-quality, engaging text on all of your website pages. From there, you can start applying the below.
- Use the free Google Keyword Planner or another keyword research tool to select one main, specific keyword per webpage to focus on. Essentially, you’re optimizing each page for a specific search query in an attempt to have that page show up in search results. For example, your home page may be optimized for the keyphrase, “Oregon wedding photographer,” but your about page can be optimized for “Elopement wedding photographer.” This allows you to select multiple key phrases that you believe your website is relevant for. Aim for keywords that are specific to what you do, have at least 100 average monthly searches, and low to medium competition if possible. For each page, use that keyword in the page title, URL, meta description and naturally in the text of the actual webpage. (Here’s a video that walks you through creating a free account!)
- Review your page titles and meta descriptions. These aren’t as complicated as they sound. They’re just the settings you have for how your site will appear in search engine results. View my page title and meta description below as shown in a Google search result. The page title is the blue text and the meta description is the brief description under it. Here, you want to focus on clearly and simply describing each webpage, as well as enticing users to click on your page instead of someone else’s. Keep your page titles short, with under 60 characters, and keep your meta descriptions to under 155 characters if possible. The rest could potentially be cut off.
- Add alt text to your images. Did you know that your images play a role in search engine rankings? Users can even find you in Google Image Search (which is a definite possibility for photographers). Within each image, use your site’s advanced settings to edit the alt text. Use this to add the selected keyword for the page, or to clearly and simply describe what the image contains. Be specific, concise and clear.
- Leave breadcrumbs, or in other words, use internal links! This means linking to your own webpages within the content of your website. For example, if I talk right here about my SEO blog writing services, and link to that page, that counts as an internal link! You’re making it easier for users to find the content they’re looking for, which Google loves!
- Review your URLs. Your URLs should be short, sweet and contain keywords if applicable. For my site, I’ve kept my main pages (home, about, services) simple with my website name and a /home. For my blog pages, however, I simplify the URL so that it contains the keyphrase for the blog and not any filler text such as “and” or “in.” Look through your URLs and see where you can add keywords or perhaps simplify long URLs. Remember that changing URLs can potentially break links such as Pinterest pins or social media posts that link back to the page in which you’re updating the URL. As a result, use a redirect tool when changing URLs.
- Read through the actual content. Does it make sense? Does it accurately target your audience and their needs? If you were a first-time visitor, would you be interested? Would you connect? Improving the content so that it answers questions and identifies the problem you’re solving will help tremendously. I’ll leave it at that for on-page SEO, but let’s hop into some other facets of your website that you can work on.
This is overwhelming for a lot of small businesses, but can be an exceptional way to improve your rankings. Search engines love websites that have new, relevant content. If you publish a six-page website and don’t update it or add new content for a year, that’s not going to do you any good. But if you start blogging and sharing content specific to your business that your audience will find helpful, you’ll be upping your content marketing game and slowly improving your search engine rankings! Double points!
Here are some key tips to follow for your blog:
- Write at least 300 words
- Optimize the post, using the same alt text and keyword techniques I suggested above
- Share the post on social media! You can’t rely on search engines to get all of the views. Any views can help, even if you direct them there from Instagram!
- Write content your audience will be interested in. Teach something, explain your process, etc. Here’s a post with blog ideas for photographers!
Backlinks are links back to your website from other sites. Backlinks are a wonderful way to improve SEO, but take more time as you have to create relationships with high quality website owners. Don’t pay odd sums of money to backlink creators as those will often be low quality backlinks that can penalize your SEO. Instead, try the below:
- Guest blog for others in your industry and include a link back to your website. Here’s how: Reach out to other small businesses with a pitch for a guest blog. Identify a topic you’d like to teach. You can even offer an opportunity for them to guest blog on your website as well. This helps you both increase your reach, and provides a backlink for both parties. It’s a win-win!
- Join organizations with good reputations, and ensure that the membership includes a directory listing or backlink. This includes organizations like chambers of commerce, vendor websites and more. Wedding professionals, there are SO many websites you can join for a membership fee and many of these include a backlink.
- Social media can technically count as a backlink, especially Pinterest pins! Share your blogs on Instagram, pin them on Pinterest and post them on Facebook too!
Create a complete Google Business Listing
While this isn’t technically a website SEO tip, it leads users to your website so I’m including it here. You know how some search results pop up with detailed boxes, outlining a business’s hours, address and more? You can create one FOR FREE for your business and this can help tremendously with SEO.
- Fill out the listing completely. If there’s information you can add, add it — hours, description, website URL, scheduling link, etc.
- If you’re a service-based business or don’t have a storefront, you can hide your personal address! It’s quite unprofessional when users happen upon your business and end up looking at an image of your front door on Google Maps. Google has an option to hide your address, and instead add ‘service areas.’ Use this option and add local areas, unless you only serve elsewhere.
- Ask clients for reviews! This adds an element of reputation and credibility that you can’t do on your own and it helps with SEO! I ask almost every client for a review with Dubsado (here’s how).
My favorite SEO website optimization tools
Google Keyword Planner for keyword research
Learn how to create a free account with this video.
Yoast Plugin on WordPress for blog optimization (the free version)
Answer the Public to find relevant topics
Moz.com for keyword research (they have a free version with limits per month)
Last, but not least, I want to remind you that SEO is a long-term process. You aren’t likely to see a sudden jump in views after you write one blog post or optimize your website. It can even take up to FOUR TO SIX MONTHS to see results. Google takes its time analyzing your views, bounce rates, content, etc. It’s paying close attention to how actual people interact with your content, and whether or not they’re satisfied when you pop up in their search results.
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And if you’re struggling to apply these tips, let’s chat. I offer SEO copywriting services for creatives!