So you’ve decided to start a business. Perhaps you’ve created your website already, but then what? How do you get people to find your site in search results? You most likely Googled SEO and were bombarded with results for companies promising to increase your web traffic, and expensive ‘SEO experts’ claiming they can rank your website higher on Google. You might have even watched some videos on how to optimize your website for search on your own. But, how do you know who to trust and what will work? It can be overwhelming and difficult to know where to start.

In this step-by-step guide on how to optimize your website for search, I will tell you everything you can do right now (for free) that will have a huge impact on the SEO of your site.

What Is SEO and Why Do I Need It?

You probably understand what SEO is and roughly how it works, but just in case, I will explain. When you search for a term in Google, for example, ‘personal trainers london’, Google will search websites for that phrase to give you the most relevant results. This basically involves using the keywords and phrases, which people would search in Google on your website (although there’s much more to it, which you’ll learn in the steps below). SEO is also about making your site appear as a trusted and relevant domain by ensuring there are plenty of other trustworthy sites which have your links on them. I’ll talk more about this a bit later on.

Whether you’ve already built your site or not, you can follow these steps outlining how to optimize your website for search for beginners.

1. Get an SEO Keyword Tool

SEO keyword tools can tell you how many searches there are per month for a specific phrase or word. They also tell you how competitive different words are and how much people are currently bidding for PPC (pay per click) advertising. There are so many SEO keyword tools (e.g. SEMrush, Ahrefs, Moz, KeywordSpy) which you can use (just have a search). I use SEMrush which I find is simple to use and does the job.

Use your keyword tool to generate keywords/phrases that people might search to find your business. For example, if you own a florist in Notting Hill, you might try phrases such as ‘florist london’ as well as more specific phrases such as ‘flowers delivered west london’ or ‘wedding flowers notting hill.’ The keyword tool will give you ideas for other phrases and perhaps more popular ones that you may not have thought of.

The tool will give you a competitiveness ranking (usually the higher the competitiveness ranking, the more saturated the market for that keyword and the less likely you are to rank for it). It will tell you how many searches that term gets in each country every month. The more searches, the better the term (and usually the more competitive it is). Spend some time getting to know your keyword tool before you use it. There are some great tutorials on YouTube for most tools.

Look out for free trials. Lots of tools offer free months, which might be just enough to get your website up and running, without spending a penny.

2. Choose Your SEO Keywords

Choose keywords for your site which have decent search traffic but less competition (often called long tail keywords). For example, choose keywords which have 50 searches a month but no or little competition, over the terms with 4k searches a month and high competition.

Be specific and thorough when researching your keywords. Try to think about what your potential customers might search for, as well as finding keywords for particular services. For example, a dermatology clinic might try some of the obvious keywords such as ‘dermatologists new york’ but they might get better keyword results if they look at ‘acne treatment new york’ or ‘skin specialist manhattan,’ etc.

Choose 20-30 keywords/phrases and optimize each page on your site for one or two keywords. You can choose more if you think you have room for that many pages on your site. Remember, you’ll need to fit your phrases into sentences of your content to optimize your website for search properly. For example, ‘send flowers online london’ probably has a lot of search traffic, but will be more difficult to smoothly incorporate into a sentence. Try to choose keyword phrases that have less traffic but are more versatile, such as ‘send flowers online in london.’

Don’t go for the competitive phrases with lots of search traffic. Unless you’ve got big bucks to spend or you’re already a large and established company, it’s pointless at this stage, because you’re so unlikely to rank for them.

Use Google suggestions to help you generate more keyword ideas. Google your keyword phrase and scroll to the very bottom to see a list of related searches. Remember to think about why people might search for a specific phrase. For example, if someone searches ‘photography london,’ they may be looking for photography courses, rather than to hire a photographer. Related Google searches can help with this. You can also see what comes up in search results. If the first page search results for ‘photography london’ are all courses/jobs, then it probably isn’t an ideal keyword for your photography business.

3. Optimize Each Web Page for a Keyword

The next thing to do to optimize your website for search is to choose an appropriate keyword to focus on for each page. For example, you might want to use ‘send fresh flowers online’ as your homepage keyword. For each page, you need to mention that exact keyword phrase (without any other words in between) several times within the text. You need to include it in:

  • The heading (using H1 tag), ideally at the start
  • In sub-headings (use H2 tag) where possible
  • In the first 2-3 lines of text
  • Spaced out naturally throughout the body of the text (roughly once every 100-200 words)

Google notices how prominent a phrase is on a page to assess where to rank it. Put your keyword phrase in bold and italic where possible. Also capitalize the first letter of each word in headings. But don’t overdo it. This can be a common mistake when you start researching how to optimize your website for search. If you use your keyword an unnatural amount, Google will know and penalize your site, moving it down the search rankings.

Create more content for each page, where possible. Each web page should be at least 400 words. Google loves text and it’s also a great way to get your keyword in more times, without sounding unnatural. You may even want to create an additional web page for each service you provide and optimize it for a keyword. You can do this by creating a services drop down, where you can create a page for each specialism.

For example, for a photographer, ‘wedding photography,’ ‘birthday party photography’ and ‘family photo shoots’ can all be different pages on your site. You can then optimize each of those pages for a relevant keyword or phrase, offering detailed descriptions of each service. This will not only get your site more traffic from different keyword searches, but will also mean your potential customers will be taken straight to the most relevant page on your site.

4. Put Your Keywords into the Coding of Your Site

As well as reading your page for keywords, Google also looks at how your site is presented to it. Always put your keyword as far to the beginning as possible in your:

  • URLs for each page (separating each word with a dash)
  • Page titles
  • META/SEO description tags (the part that comes up in search results under a page title)
  • Image titles/descriptions
  • Site description

Avoid keyword stuffing your meta descriptions and site description (this means listing the same keywords multiple times). Aim for using your keyword no more than twice in your META tags. Remember, people will read this part before they decide to click on your site, so make it super clear. Make sure you use the same keywords you optimized a page for, in that page’s URL/page title/META description. For example, a page optimized for ‘send flowers online in miami’, would have a page URL that includes: ‘send-flowers-online-in-miami.’

Use your keyword first for your META description to show what and who you are. Then start a new sentence to describe your services/business, putting your keyword in again. For example, for keyword ‘personal trainer liverpool’ try: Personal Trainer Liverpool and surrounding areas. Expert trainer, Sam Hartland can help you reach your fitness goals. Offering FREE 1 hour trial sessions. Find your Personal Trainer Liverpool here.

SEO keywords are important for the right customers/clients to find you, especially for new businesses, but almost more importantly, for your page to have a chance of appearing on the first page of Google, you need to have backlinks. Backlinks take a bit more time and effort to get, but are worth it.

Backlinks are when other people put a link to your website on theirs. This is usually done by referring to you within content or in the author bio of an article you’ve written for them. Backlinks are more valuable if they come from a reputable, high ranking site. You can use your keyword tool to find out the domain authority or DA (ranked from 0-100) of any site. Domain authority between 40 and 50 is considered average, 50 to 60 is considered good and over 60 is great.

You can get backlinks for your site in many different ways, depending on what works for your industry. Here are some simple ways you can start to get backlinks:

  • Register on business directories. There are loads of websites that you can easily register your business and link under for FREE (for example Yelp, Yell, 192 and Google My Business).
  • Guest blogging. This means creating a blog post/article for websites related to your niche in exchange for a link to your site in the author bio. For example, if you run a business selling bags made from recycled materials, you might write a blog entitled ‘A guide to recycling household items’ and pitch it to sites promoting recycling. You can usually find the right sites for you by Googling ‘your industry + guest blogging.’
  • Press releases. Send a press release including your USP and website link for your new business to local newspapers and relevant sites. They may feature you if they’re interested.
  • Networking. Collaborate with other people in your industry and see if they will share your link on their sites. Just remember to always give them a reason. Think about what you could offer them in exchange for the promotion. Make sure the content will be relevant and useful to their site users.

Make sure you don’t pay for links or guest post on dodgy sites. Google will penalize your site if it’s connected to spammy websites, even if they appear to have a decent DA. If someone is offering to post an unvetted post about anything if you pay them, chances are the website is created purely to generate profits from offering people backlinks. Always take a quick look at some of the articles on their site. If you spot spelling mistakes and broken English, avoid them at all costs.

Start small. Amazon probably isn’t going to feature your products in an article straight away, but smaller sites might. Start by pitching sites with DA scores of 40-50 as they’re more likely to give you backlinks. Of course, still aim high, but prepare for a lot of rejection at first. Remember, you can send the same article to multiple sites as not everyone will get back to you. Just make sure you don’t get the same article published on two sites, unless they have agreed to non-exclusivity.

You may also want to use a copywriter to write your blogs/articles. Writing is time consuming, and this means you can get maximum content quickly. You can pay them to create quality content for you that’s more likely to get accepted by sites, so you can spend your time on your business. And remember that fewer links from websites with a higher DA are worth more in terms of moving your site up Google rankings than getting loads from lower ranking domains. So work hard (or hire someone that will) to ensure your content is top notch and gets published by bigger, reputable sites.

6. Be Patient and It Will Pay Off

SEO takes time. It can take a few months for your web pages to get indexed by Google and start ranking for keywords, especially if your website is new. Backlinks also take a few weeks to take effect, so be patient. If you follow the steps outlined above, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work. For more in-depth tips on SEO, guest blogging and backlinks, I would recommend looking at Neil Patel’s YouTube channel, a great starting point for learning how to optimize your website for search.

While you’re waiting for your optimization work to pay off, create social media pages for your business, if you haven’t already. Join groups and promote your content/articles and website on there as well. And keep optimizing your website for search. SEO isn’t a one-time activity; the more attention you give it, the more successful you will be.