Five Easy Ways to Boost Your SEO Without Spending a Fortune

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By Jess Dixon

Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is a series of steps you take to make your website rank more highly in the results on Google and other search engines. It scares a lot of people, because it seems complicated – and it is. Experts make whole careers out of doing SEO, and make good money out of it.

But what if you can’t afford to hire an expert to get your website ranking? Don’t worry – there are a few things you can do by yourself that are cheap or free.

Get to grips with keywords

You can’t hope to start ranking if you don’t understand how to choose the right keywords in the first place. To do this, I recommend using a fantastic tool called Keywords Everywhere. It’s a plugin that you can add to your web browser, and then you buy “credits” to use for searches (at the time of writing, 100,000 credits costs £10.)

When you do a search on Google, Keywords Everywhere will give you a host of useful information on that keyword or phrase. You’ll see the search volume (how many people are searching for that phrase,) a competition score (how competitive the keyword is to rank for, on a scale of 0-1,) and an average cost-per-click (this is only relevant if you’re going to do paid advertising, which is another topic for another day.)

The plugin also shows you suggested alternative keywords with their respective volumes, competition scores, and CPC, for easy comparison.

Keywords Everywhere plugin screenshot for a piece about cheap ways to boost your SEO

For basic SEO, there are two main things I want you to keep in mind as you research keywords.

First, focus on long-tail keywords. These are words and phrases that are longer and more specific than generic terms (for example, “cake” is a short-tail keyword. “Vegan chocolate cake recipe” is one possible long-tail variation.) The idea is that people tend to search for specific terms on Google, so by targeting these terms, the people who find you are more likely to be looking for exactly what you’re selling.

Second, focus on high volume, low competition keywords. That is, keywords that a lot of people are searching for and comparatively few sites are trying to rank for.

I tend to aim for keywords with 1000+ searches per month and a competition score of less than 0.4, but your mileage may vary.

Focus on cornerstone content

Cornerstone content is the best content on your site. Great cornerstone content must be evergreen (relevant over a long period of time,) useful to your audience, informative, comprehensive, and up to date (even if you have to add to it as new information becomes available.) It must also be well written and of high quality, because it is the first thing many of your site visitors will see.

Cornerstone content should be optimized for the most important keywords you want people to use to find you. So for example, I’m a freelance writer based in Leicestershire, and want to be found by people looking to hire a writer. Therefore, my cornerstone content might focus on keyphrases like “freelance writer Leicestershire” or “copywriter Leicestershire.”

Use alt text for all your images

Alt text is a small snippet of text that describes the content and purpose of an image. You can input alt text on your images when you upload them into your content management system (e.g. WordPress.)

A piece of alt text must include your target keywords for that piece of content. This allows Google’s crawlers to understand what the image contains and its purpose. Relevant images with good alt text directly impact your search rankings.

Here’s an example: let’s imagine you’re creating a piece of content targeting the keyphrase “freelance graphic designer”. You might illustrate the post with a picture of you working, and use an alt tag along the lines of “a young male freelance graphic designer working at his computer.” Just make sure it’s concise, descriptive, and contains your keywords.

Write guest posts

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of SEO is building backlinks. The more links there are to your site from others, the better you’ll perform in search results. However, all backlinks are not created equal. Your links need to be from trusted and authoritative sites. As a rule of thumb, I recommend using Ahrefs’ Authority Checker and targeting sites with a Domain Rating (DR) of 50+. The closer that number is to 100, the better.

One of the best ways to build backlinks is to write guest posts for other strong sites in your industry or niche. So identify a few suitable sites and drop a line to the site owner or editor, asking them if you can write a guest post for them. Tell them a bit about your expertise and, if you have any, writing experience and past publications.

You should only do this if you’re a strong writer (or happy to hire a skilled ghostwriter.) If you want your piece to get published, it will need to be of high quality.

If you write a few great quality guest posts, you’ll build your backlink profile and drive more traffic to your site from the host site. Win-win!

Check out this useful resource on scaling your guest posting efforts.

Claim and optimize your Google My Business account

If you’re at all interested in targeting the local market with your business, you absolutely need a Google My Business listing. Check out my guide on setting up your page and getting started.

Many people don’t realise that a Google My Business listing has a direct SEO impact. To capitalise on this, make sure that your listing is up to date, with current photographs and accurate contact information, opening hours, and address details.

Once your account is set up and verified, ask your customers to start leaving you reviews via your page. Positive Google reviews have a positive SEO benefit, and you don’t need as many as you think to start ranking.

Bonus tip: be patient!

SEO isn’t a game of overnight success, and in most cases you’ll need to do it alongside other, more immediate marketing efforts. It can take 6-12 months to start seeing good, consistent results from SEO. Therefore, don’t worry if your traffic doesn’t skyrocket overnight. Give it time.

What cheap or free SEO hacks do you love?

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Five Easy Ways to Boost Your SEO Without Spending a Fortune

Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is a series of steps you take to make your website rank more highly in the results on Google and other search engines. It scares a lot of people, because it seems complicated – and it is. Experts make whole careers out of doing SEO, and make good money out of it.

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