As much as we feel that every company needs a great SEO consultant to help guide their search engine optimization strategy, we have also become realists, knowing not all companies have the passion/belief in the strategy – as we do.
With that said, some try to do SEO themselves by taking the DIY SEO route. As much as we feel they should seek professional help, our goals and beliefs are rooted in helping businesses succeed online – even if they don’t use our team.
If you’re going to try to do SEO yourself, you’ll need to understand some basic principles that Google likes to reward and users love.
Nine Core Principles of Do-It-Yourself SEO
DIY SEO Principle #1: Understand Your Competition
When we look at the competitive nature of SEO, it’s hard to ignore the fact that, in reality, each site is competing against the value of others – and not against the algorithm. Because of this, understanding your competitive set and what strategies they are using to increase traffic is key to competing within the search results.
If you’re going to do SEO yourself, you need to analyze the competitive tactics of the websites ranking for your target keywords. This includes exploring competitive keyword targeting strategies, content creation tactics, and link-building strategies.
DIY SEO Principle #2: Understand Your Users
Providing value to your users should be the ultimate goal of any website. Value comes in many forms, but for SEO understanding the content, functionality, design elements, and information architecture of your target users’ value will go a long way towards providing value.
Gaining user insights is easier than you may think and can be accomplished by engaging with your website visitors and asking them questions – or for those with a physical location, just talking with your customers when they come into your store.
DIY SEO Principle #3: Great Design
This is probably one of the most difficult strategies to define since “great” is a subjective term – but to create a truly great small business website design, it must also be looked at objectively based on data and user needs.
There are core components and a process for creating a website that looks great and functions well. Some of these include; design consistency, well-thought-out architecture, well-planned content, and integrated SEO strategy.
To view more of these core components, check out our website evaluation guide.
DIY SEO Principle #4: Site Architecture
In its basic form, a website’s architecture is defined as how the information is organized and navigation elements are built.
Website architecture strategy includes; understanding your users well enough to know what they expect, how they navigate websites, the nomenclature they use, and their mental model for making decisions.
Nothing is more frustrating than finding a piece of content or a product on a website with a poorly designed IA.
Recommended reading: Basics of Information Architecture
DIY SEO Principle #5: Keyword Research
For DIY SEO to benefit a business, the correct keywords need to be targeted. Targeting a keyword-based on search volume alone is not always the correct strategy.
To correctly target a keyword, a business needs to understand why they are spending time optimizing their website to rank for that keyword.
There are two types of keywords; vanity and data-driven.
Vanity keywords are usually chosen because the business owner or marketing executive wants to rank for them, but there is little data to support the value of ranking for them – these are usually generic head terms with low conversion rates.
Data-driven keywords include keywords that are backed by quantitative and qualitative data points such as paid search conversion rates, user insights, search volume, and contextual value.
DIY SEO Principle #6: Blog Regularly
Just because you have a blog does not mean it will instantly benefit your business. Blogs, at their core, are simply publishing platforms – meaning garbage in, garbage out.
The key is to understand what content your users will find valuable and in what form, choose the correct keywords to target within each blog post, and then create valuable content on a consistent basis – quality over quantity.
The internal linking we are referencing here is not primary navigation-related – as mentioned in the information architecture part of this article. Internal linking strategies we are referencing include choosing the best keywords within articles to link to other pages on your website.
Internal links have many benefits, including; increasing page views, giving users additional contextually relevant navigation options, and helping distribute ranking metrics throughout your website.
Remember, if you plan on embarking on DIY SEO and working on your internal linking strategy, context is key – so don’t just link any random word.
DIY SEO Principle #8: Market Your Website
Marketing your website is key to earning links that help pages on your website rank well in the search results. I am sure you have heard the adage “if you build it, they will come.” well, this could not be more incorrect for websites.
Earning links starts with creating great content for your website – the better the content, the less you need to market it; the worse the content, the more you’ll need to market it, and the less likely someone will be to link to it or share it on social media.
DIY SEO Principle #9: Tracking and Analytics
Finally, and maybe the most important part of SEO yourself will be tracking your success and shifting strategies based on what the data shows.
Google Analytics and other data points we usually recommend checking weekly/monthly include:
Total Keywords a Website Ranks For
This can be pulled from a tool such as SEMrush and helps provide trending data for what many know as a TV or Radio success metric, called Reach.
As you publish more content or revise your keyword strategy, you want to see a consistent growth in total keywords your website ranks for. Growth in these SEO metrics means your content is being valued and shown for an increased number of keywords – thus increasing your reach within Google.
Traffic By Source
Segmenting traffic by sources such as Organic, Referral, Social, and Direct can provide insights into which channels are performing best – each channel provides its own insights.
- Organic – how is your DIY SEO doing, and is Google, Bing, Yahoo valuing your website.
- Referral – is your content being linked to and valued by others.
- Social – are people sharing and engaging with your content.
- Direct – a good indication of brand recall and/or successful traditional marketing efforts.
Traffic By Section
Understanding which sections on your website are performing best can help drive strategies.
We like analyzing year-over-year traffic for websites that have major swings in seasonality and traffic patterns from month-to-month
Rankings Of Priority Keywords
Rankings are ok to monitor, but only if the keywords that are being tracked have proven to be valuable. Just tracking hundreds of keywords is not the best strategy for the majority of websites.
Conversion Rates By Source
This can help provide insights into which source or marketing channel should get a budget allocation or which needs more attention for your team.