The phrase “Search Engine Optimization” often scares small business owners who can’t afford a large budget (if any) for online marketing. They have good reason: SEO is costly and often too sophisticated for small businesses to invest in.
The passage of time has not dissipated these fears. In fact, it may even have compounded them because of all the havoc caused by Panda, Penguin, and a host of other algorithm updates. Of course, Google had a good reason for introducing these algorithms: to scour poor-quality sites from its results and deliver the best to users.
In response, SEO has had to become even more costly, with uncertain guarantees of tangible and rewarding results. But funding and expertise aren’t everything.
Bootstrap SEO: An Affordable Solution
Bootstrapping, or do-it-yourself SEO, suits most small players who’d prefer to attempt SEO all by themselves instead of spending a large chunk of money. After all, SEO is not rocket science, and many website owners have amplified their traffic to spectacular numbers without having to become SEO specialists.
Bootstrap SEO doesn’t guarantee success — and it’s not “free,” because you have to invest a ton of time. If you’re facing a tight budget where you can’t afford SEO services but want to optimize your website right away, however, this is the way to go. And if you’re already familiar with SEO ideas and concepts, the DIY method can be enormously beneficial.
#1: I’ll let you in on a little secret: DIY SEO is fun, interesting, simple, and straightforward… but it’s not easy. A consistent and prolonged effort is required if you want to see good results or returns.
#2: You’ll need basic on-page optimization knowledge. Check out this wonderful resource for on-page SEO.
1. Write For Your Blog
Action: Write highly valuable and unique content and post it on your blog.
Constantly updated content is the key to establishing value and making Google notice your website/blog. And in an increasingly competitive world, producing content that is unique and valuable (actionable) is mandatory. This helps you build keyword-rich and relevant content, which can then be used to generate traffic and drive business.
2. Build Relationships & Publish Guest Blogs
Action: Connect with other businesses, websites, and blogs by emailing the authors personally.
Somewhere along the line, you’ll figure out that interaction is a key factor in establishing brand reputation and authority. Guest posts are particularly useful for driving establishing credibility and authority, and generating powerful inbound links from established websites and blogs.
To reach that level, first you’ll need to build relationships with fellow bloggers in your field, get to know their work, and pitch them for guest posting opportunities. Along the way, you might even pick up a few ideas straight from the other horses’ mouths.
3. Follow People/Businesses In Your Industry
Action: Follow relevant people/businesses on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook
Nothing gets instant visibility like following the right people on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites. After you create a social profile (on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), you should start following relevant businesses and people.
There are usually hundreds, if not thousands. You can start by following 10 people every day. Pretty soon, you’ll get followed back by folks. You can use tools like FollowerWonk or WeFollow.com to find relevant users and businesses in your niche.
The benefit here is that you’ll align your business and your brand with industry movers and shakers. Engaging and interacting with these folks will result in exposure to other industry-related folks, driving inbound links, referral traffic, and credibility.
4. Find Content to Share
Action: Browse through industry-relevant information from across the web and collect the best content. You can share items you’ve turned up at random intervals on social channels like your Facebook fan page, Twitter, Google+ profile, LinkedIn Groups, etc.
If you’re just starting, you might not have enough content from your own website/blog to share. If you’re running a website (especially one that’s not constantly updated), you’ll need to find content to share on your social profiles. That’s why it’s important to collect interesting links to useful, industry-relevant information on a regular basis. By sharing these, you create value and substance — two important factors that drive brand reputation and trust.
This process has another advantage: searching for industry-relevant information gives you enough scope and content to write for your own blog and for content marketing purposes.
Action: Comment on blogs, participate in discussions (on forums/discussion boards), and interact with readers and other bloggers through various media.
As the world of SEO changes from merely compiling links to content marketing and building a readership/reputation, interaction becomes a pivotal activity that can help you grow into a highly reputed brand. This can have a positive effect not only on your website’s authority but also traffic and visibility in search results.
In addition to all these, your website gets publicity when you are a frequent commenter and a participant in meaningful discussions across the web. People begin to notice and remember your website/brand.
6. Basic Keyword Research
Action: Identify two or three relevant, high-traffic, but mid- to low-competitive keywords in your market.
Regardless of all the algorithm updates, one thing that’ll remain important is keyword research. That’s of paramount importance when you begin to publish blog posts, write/tweak website copy, post descriptions in directories, and use anchor texts in backlinks.
Unlike in the past, though, keyword research should focus on obtaining a few strong keywords with a decent competition. These will become especially useful in connection with the next tip.
7. Write for Social Hubs
Action: Write instantly useful articles, tips, helpful troubleshooting ideas, etc. that can be posted on social hubs.
Social content hubs like Hubpages and Squidoo are great places for marketing your content and thus generating high-quality inbound links and traffic. Many small businesses rewrite or create highly useful content to publish it specifically across a variety of social hubs like Squidoo. These pages are known to rank higher in Google for the targeted keywords than, say, a new blog.
8. Go Social
Action: Spend the time necessary to share links to your blog and blog posts on various social channels.
With a plethora of social channels on which to share links, business owners generally do a haphazard job of sharing their content. You should devote time to selecting valuable content from your blog and sharing it across a variety of social profiles and microblogging services.
Social media management tools like HootSuite and Sendible make it easy to handle and monitor social sharing. This helps to build social value, which can foster a constant stream of traffic and inbound links.
9. Write and Distribute Press Releases
Action: Once a month, create and send out a press release.
Once regarded as gold mines for inbound links, the value of those links from an SEO perspective is heavily debated today. But whether or not links from press releases have SEO value, they have many other benefits, including:
- Brand awareness
- Referral traffic
- Citation-building for local SEO
- Social proof
Press releases should be used with discretion and with conservative limits, though: one PR a month is a decent number.
10. Rinse & Repeat
The whole process described above requires a lot of time, but much of it can be delegated to a staff member. Another option would be to consider hiring an intern.
The final step, “Rinse and Repeat,” is where most people fail. SEO is not a one-time move that pays dividends endlessly; it’s a consistent effort, repeated often so the effects of high ranking and traffic can be sustained. Remember, rankings are not in a vacuum. If your competitors continue working on it but you stop, your rankings can only fall as your competitors climb above you.
Ultimately, it’s about building and spreading value. If you can nail that, you will land all the traffic you need.
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