SEO. The mere sight and sound of it makes some solopreneurs and small business owners cringe. Yes, we want our websites to be found by search engines. No, we don’t want to spend a gazillion dollars to make that happen. Yes, it’s all very confusing! So what’s a solopreneur or freelancer to do?
I’ve had the opportunity to get some answers to a few solopreneur-focused SEO questions from Ashley Verrill, Market Analyst at Software Advice. I think her insight and practical tips will give you a better understanding of SEO – and a firmer grasp on what elements of SEO are within your control.
What would you say are the top 3 things solopreneurs/freelance professionals can do on their own to improve their SEO?
Like I said, SEO is changing all of the time, and no one really knows “the answer” to cracking the Google algorithm. But there are definitely three things I can say are valuable for any website right now. These would be in addition to making sure all of the pages on your website are optimized for keywords that drive really relevant traffic, avoiding duplicate content, and maintaining the order of your website infrastructure.
One, would be building links from highly-authoritative websites (e.g. big media) and websites that are highly-relevant to your market and industry. These links should be natural (a link in the comment section of an article doesn’t count). The second most valuable thing right now would be website engagement. So ensuring that a healthy proportion of your website visitors stay on site, click to other pages, and interact with things on the page (rather than immediately navigating away). This signals to Google that you are a real business, and you are providing information and services that people actually want. This is where blogs play a big role. Not only do they drive traffic, but they drive visitors that actually stick.
The last factor is social media signals, for a lot of the same reasons as onsite engagement. Every time someone shares something from your website, it’s like a vote to Google for your authority (similar to how they count links, but not in the same way, at least not yet). Again, this is another place where your blog (and other content, e.g. infographics, eBooks, Webinars, etc.) will really determine your success.
The frequency is not as important as the content. You can publish 20 blogs a week and never move the needle. You need content that is unique, valuable and relevant to your business. Google wants to see that you are driving relevant people to your website. If you’re just starting out, I would say do some keyword research around your ideal buyer’s biggest pain points, and use those as guides for finding the right topic. You won’t really know what’s successful until you have some data, so you’ll just need to start publishing. Watch your analytics to see which articles and topics get the most visits, shares, and time on page. Continue to write more about the most popular topics and make sure you’re adding to the conversation (not just regurgitating what other people have said).
Is “link building” still a valid way to build up your SEO mojo? What’s the best way to go about it?
Absolutely, but what we are learning is that it’s not about quantity of links as much as quality. The best way to get links is really just turning into good marketing. Create something valuable, promote it to key journalists, get a writeup, and that will organically produce links as other people read and share the article. We’ve had a lot of luck with original research. These are really easy to write about (people love data) and it’s natural to link to us because we are the source of the information.
Social media seems to play a BIG role in SEO. What recommendations can you make to solopreneurs/freelance professionals for optimizing how they use social media to improve their website ranking?
Make sure that you are participating in the the right communities and have relationships with the heavy hitters. Klout is great for finding the most influential people in your industry. Find them, and gather in the same communities they do. Sometimes the best method is to look at who’s doing it best in your community, then mimic everything they do. Also, you need ammunition, so again, really quality content is crucial. You need to give people a reason to follow you, and share your content. Also, return the favor. If someone likes your articles, find another time to go and comment on something they posted (and make sure it’s more than “great article”). You need to prove that you’ve actually read what they posted and have something insightful to say about it.
Ashley Verrill is a Market Analyst at Software Advice, as well the Managing Editor for the Customer Service Investigator blog. She has spent the last seven years reporting and writing business news and strategy features, including articles for GigaOM and CIO.com. Her work has also been cited in myriad publications including Forbes, the New York Times and Inc. Previous to her current roll, she worked for five years as a Web Editor and Reporter for the Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. She also spend time in sales management and advertising with an Austin-based startup. She graduated from the University of Texas graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
You can follow her on Twitter at: @CRMAdvice
Image courtesy of stuart miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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