This is a guest post by Sara Davis. Sara  is the VP of Growth for CanIRank. Sara is also an accoladed Stevie Award Winner for “Best Woman in PR, Advertising, and Marketing,” and has been featured in Forbes, ThriveGlobal, MoneyInc, Search Engine Journal and more.

Find search engine optimization (SEO) scary? Getting started with DIY SEO, all the technical jargon is intimidating. You just want more customers, not endless website tinkering.

Like other forms of marketing, it takes time to achieve SEO expertise.

However, you can attract leads and sales even if you are doing SEO all by yourself in just a few hours per week. To guide you through the process, use this seven tip process to reach DIY SEO success.

1. Start With Your Customer's Needs and Questions

Success in SEO requires that you balance a few points: your customer's needs, your business goals, and Google's needs. While technical SEO efforts do make a difference, I regard them as an enhancement to the fundamental need to serve your customers first. Specifically, your website needs to have content, product pages, and other material that closely match what customers want.

There's no need to commission expensive market research. Instead, go through these questions in an afternoon.

  • What questions do customers ask during the sales process? (examples: does it come in blue? how long does shipping take?)
  • What are customers saying in public reviews on Amazon, TrustPilot, Yelp, and other review websites?
  • What are your most profitable products to sell? (Hint: focus your SEO efforts on your winners rather than diluting it across the board)
  • What is the unique selling proposition for your product or company?
  • Survey your customers to ask how they heard about your company and products.

As you dig further into the details, keep these observations in mind. SEO research will sometimes turn up surprising results that need to be balanced with your knowledge of the customer.

2. Study The Search Results And Competition

In this DIY SEO step, let's open the search engines and see what we can find. For this example, let's imagine we are doing SEO research for CanIRank.com. Some people may not have heard of the product, so they are going to search for something more general, like SEO software or SEO apps.

Here's what I found with a Google search for "SEO software" and "SEO tools." In this case, let's look at the search results on Google. Moz, Wordstream, and Link Assistant are doing well in the rankings.

In contrast, we see something quite different from the SEO Tools search. The top-ranking pages are reviews and content pages rather than specific companies. That suggests some interesting link building ideas.

From an SEO content creation standpoint, I recommend studying the titles and descriptions of the top results. In addition, take a look at the related searches at the bottom of the page. Repeat this process three to five times with different keywords to get a sense of the current SEO results for your niche.

Need More Keywords Ideas? Use CanIRank.com's keywords ideas feature. It helps you filter keyword ideas to find the most relevant ones to your business. Here's what I found using CanIRank's tools to analyze CanIRank.com:

I suggest focusing your efforts on keywords with a ranking probability over 50% and more than 100 searches. In the example above, I have added black boxes around the examples of promising keywords.

Keep going with this step until you have at least 20 keywords, ideally 50, and put them into your favorite spreadsheet application like Excel or Google Sheets.

3. SEO Planning: Where Can You Win?

Search engine optimization is competitive, like other marketing channels. For example, if you wanted to rank for keywords like "cars," you would immediately face competition from the world's large carmakers. Outranking them may be possible, given enough time and resources. From a DIY SEO perspective, you need to take a different approach.

You need to determine which SEO keywords are worth going after. The ranking probability feature in CanIRank.com is an excellent way to identify promising keywords. Look up each keyword and take note of the following data points: search volume, CPC (cost per click), and search difficulty. You might be wondering why CPC (i.e., the estimated cost for a paid ad on the keyword) matters in SEO. After all, you are not focused on pay per click advertising; you're doing SEO! The answer is simple. CPC prices are sold through an auction process where many companies compete to buy the traffic. If nobody is attempting to advertise on a keyword, that suggests that there is no current commercial value in the keyword.

4. Fine Tune Your Website To Become Google Search Friendly

Congratulations! You know understand your customers, search results for your niche and the keywords you plan to focus on. Optimizing your website for SEO is also known as on-page SEO. Making these improvements requires access to your website's backend. If you have a web developer available, consider asking for their help.

To get you started, there are four specific areas I recommend focusing on:

  • Homepage. Your home page will likely receive a significant amount of traffic, so let's make sure it is well optimized. First, check for keyword usage. Your top 2-3 keywords (i.e., ones describing your business category or most important products) should appear at least 3-5 times on your homepage. Avoid excessing repeating the same keywords over and over again since Google tends to regard such content as spam.
  • Avoid using Java and Flash. These types of media tend to slow down websites and make it more difficult for search engines to process your website. If you insist on keeping them, you may need to create other conventional webpages elsewhere on your website to compensate.
  • Improve your website's load speed. Industry research suggests that faster websites tend to perform better in search and in conversions. For example, HubSpot reported that websites that load in 2.4 seconds or less have an average conversion rate of 1.9%. In contrast, pages that take 4.2 seconds have a conversion rate under 1%. Slow pages could eliminate HALF of your leads and sales! Use Google's PageSpeed Insights tool to measure your website speed and identify areas for improvement.
  • Revise your meta description and titles for SEO and conversion. Combine using your keywords and copywriting to create enticing titles and descriptions. If you have limited time, focus on your top 5 pages first (e.g., the home page, about, contact, and your top-selling products). For more guidance on this topic, check out "How to write meta title tags for SEO."
  • Install Google Analytics. This free tool provided by Google is a mainstay for DIY SEOs and professionals alike. Find out how to set it up by using Google's help page: Get started with Analytics.
  • Install the Yoast SEO Plugin (WordPress). If you use WordPress, Yoast SEO is a must-have tool. It will assess your content from an SEO perspective before you hit publish.

The above tips make your website easier for search engines to process your website. However, that's just part of the SEO game. You also need links to your website, so let's turn to that issue next.

5. Publish Valuable Content Worthy of Links

By this point, you have set your website up for SEO success and you understand what your customers want. That's not enough to attract high-quality links in 2020 and beyond. Over the past decade, Google has been pushing website owners to publish high quality content. For more details on Google's expectations, take a look at the Webmaster Guidelines.

Don't worry; we're not going to leave you hanging. To give your DIY SEO efforts a head start, use these 10 ideas for link-worthy assets. We will focus on text content because that tends to be the easiest to produce, but don't let us stop you if you are great with video.

  • Optimize Your Product Pages With Additional Information. Look for ways to add more valuable information to your product pages. For example, can you provide more photos, additional details on product features, and options? User-generated content in the form of reviews is a simple way to enhance product pages without creating more content. Take a look at Saddleback Leather's product page for the Front Pocket Leather Briefcase. This page has over 100 reviews, 6 product photos and two videos. That's worth linking to!
  • Provide Step By Step Directions. ``How To`` remains one of the most popular types of content on the Web. In a way, this DIY SEO post is an example – we're teaching you SEO fundamentals so you can reach your online marketing goals. Reflect on the most common questions your customers ask and then create content based on that topic.
  • Create Data Based Content. People love to read content based on original research and data. To see this content idea in action, take a look at our article: Data-driven SEO Part 2: Does Long Content Really Rank Better?.
  • Curate The Best Content. In SEO, it's natural to focus exclusively on promoting your website. However, it is often wise to give first in SEO. Consider creating a list of your favorite content around a topic. For example, you can create content on the best books in your niche like Nomadic Matt's post: 13 Travel Books That Will Give You Serious Wanderlust.
  • Mistakes To Avoid. People love to avoid mistakes, so create content that helps them avoid mistakes. For example, your customers might struggle to set up their new printer. Create a content piece that addresses that pain point like "7 New Printer Set Up Mistakes To Avoid."
  • Publish Case Studies. Pick up the phone and ask one of your most loyal customers for a case study or an interview. Ask them why they like your products. Publishing original interview-based content is a tried and true SEO content creation strategy. If you record an interview as audio, use a service like Rev.com to transcribe audio recordings into a transcript.

Now, let's go out and get some links for your website. Without links, you will struggle to excel in SEO.

6. Ask Your Network For Backlinks

Link building is critical to SEO results. Yet, it is easy to do it poorly. In the past, people would buy links in bulk. Others would use "article spinning" software to create "content" and attract more traffic. Many of these tactics are considered spam by Google.

Instead, we are going to start with a much simpler approach to get links: ask for links from people in your network.

Reach out to people you already know and ask them for links. For the best results, go slow at first. Send no more than five-link requests to people you know. If you have been following along with the steps above, your website will have a growing library of valuable content. You are going to reference that content in your outreach.

Here is an outreach template to use as a starting point.

Hi NAME,

Since you're interested in TOPIC, I thought you might like CONTENT. Take a look at it – LINK. If you like it, can you add a link to it on your website?

Thanks,

YOUR NAME

For example, if you just added an ultimate guide to running gear on your fitness e-commerce website, sending an outreach message to your marathon-running friend makes sense. After you attract a few dozen links from your network, you can take on more ambitious link building campaigns like reaching out to people you don't know and asking for links.

Tip: There are software tools that will help you increase your link building results. For example, you use a customer relationship management tool like Pipedrive to track your outreach emails and follow up. If you are doing SEO and link building on a budget, you can use a spreadsheet and calendar instead.

7. Monitor Your DIY SEO Progress And Make Adjustments

Few SEO campaigns strike gold right away. That's why you need to commit to monitoring your results over time. Specifically, we recommend that you watch your SEO monthly or weekly if you are particularly enthusiastic.

Every month, there are a few points to check in your analytics software. Let's take CanIRank.com as an example. Here are two points I suggest regularly checking to see how your SEO performance is developing.

  1. High Potential Keywords In CanIRank.com

This report tells you about keywords that may be promising. In this list, I would suggest looking into "startup marketing" as an idea.

Next, let's look at changes in your rankings.

2) Change report from CanIRank.com

Specifically, look at the "Rank" column. This tells you if you are gaining or losing in the rankings. If you have your website has dropped below ranking 10, take action to recover your rankings. For example, improve your content, ask for more backlinks, and analyze what the competition is doing.

Tip: Want more do it yourself SEO help? Check out our past article: How to Get Traction With Do It Yourself SEO.

Final Thoughts On DIY SEO: You Can Do It!

You've learned the fundamentals of DIY SEO. Congratulations. Don't worry if you feel overwhelmed or only have a few hours per week to spend on SEO. Simply take one part of the process at a time. This week, start with researching your customers. Next week, move to the next step of the process. To speed up your results, consider using a specialized SEO software tool like CanIRank.com.