How to build an SEO strategy that won't break the bank

If there's one acronym that can make someone new to marketing pause it's SEO. 

What is SEO? If you're fuzzy check out our intro to SEO before reading the rest of this post.

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, still seems to strike fear and concern in the hearts of many a business owner. It seems... foreign. Complicated. Technical. The internet is a huge place, how is my business supposed to rank? How can I control its rank?

Yikes, even these questions are enough to make me nervous. Fortunately, we've done our homework and have compiled some affordable SEO strategy tips to get you started. The key word there is affordable. SEO does not have to be something that consumes your budget or puts you in debt. These are simple strategies that anyone can start implementing to improve the quality of their site's structure and content.

You don't have to be a marketing wizard, a high-priced consultant, or a web developer to take our tips and apply them. All you need is a bit of diligence and consistency. As with all things organic, improvement won't be immediately seen. That said, much like a healthy diet and regular exercise, good SEO habits will pay off in the long run.

What's the deal with SEO?

Before we dive in, let's review some basics of SEO. 

SEO is about optimizing your website and content so that search engines (like Google, Bing, etc) can understand what it is about and rank it accordingly.

People are taking to the web, and their smartphones, to get what they need. Just think to yourself, how often have you googled something in the past 24 hours? When you last made a purchase, did you search online at all? Now you see the power of ranking across search engines if you command the attention of your target market you can see your audience increase tenfold (or many more folds).

Google's job is to answer questions. Every time you type into a search engine it's essentially a question and Google is only as good as the results that show on the first page. Your mission as a marketer is to create the best content possible, and structure it in a way that it appears for those millions of searches that are typed into Google each day.

SEO is a growing field that has come with a hefty price tag, but it's not something that requires you to break the bank. By heading our tips you can see an improvement in your site's rank and traffic at little to no cost.

How SEO and Search Engines work

So how does Google work?

Google was the brainchild of Larry Page and Sergey Brin who wanted an easy way to find academic papers in grad school. What began as an academic search engine quickly dominated the search market as the search engine of choice for pretty much everything.

Every day Google is crawling the web indexing millions of pages. Not all pages are created equal though, there are a few criteria Google uses when it comes to determining the value and therefore rank of a specific page. Primarily, Google uses text analysis to determine the relevancy of the page then analyzes the popularity and credibility of the page - this can be boosted by traffic to this page, referring links to this page, and outbound links from the page.

SEO is about leveraging the known techniques search engines use so as to boost your page organically.

For marketers this means creating more pages, such as blog posts, to give your company a greater weight and authority on the web. On those pages, ensure that they are easy to read, load quickly, link to other parts of your site, and cite outside sources. This ranks you favorably with search engines while giving your pages added credibility. Be sure to share them across your social networks as well, this ensures they get a decent amount of foot traffic, hopefully getting re-shared in the process.

Tips and tricks

Be smart with keywords

This is admittedly one of the more challenging aspects of SEO, but it's important to get out of the way first. 

As Google analyzes the content of your page, it's important to ensure that your content is focused on a topic you want to rank for. Back in the day it used to be as simple as picking a keyword and using it in the title, first sentence of the blog post, and several times through the rest of the copy.

Ta-da, rankable content. 

Now, not so much. You have to choose your keywords wisely. I've worked with a client who sells name brand insoles (think New Balance, Superfeet, etc). Ranking for the name brand is next to impossible but leveraging their medical expertise it's easier to create great content on the best insoles for bunions, or in depth reviews of their insoles based on the needs of prospective customers. 

Using us as an example, the keyword we're utilizing is 'affordable seo strategy'. It has quite a few results (943k) but far fewer than the broader 'seo strategy' (12.3M).

The idea here is to go after the 'long tail keyword'. Rather than shoot for the broad and highly searched term, think about what is directly applicable to your business and start researching. Run a Google search to see what appears on the first page and use Google Trends to analyze volume and make sure people are still searching for it.

Then it's a matter of creating content. It's still important to use the keyword in the first paragraph, as well as sprinkled a few times throughout the post - just don't overuse it, this is called keyword stuffing and it's a bad practice.

About that content...

Create content regularly

The heading says it all: create content regularly. One of the best affordable SEO strategies is to sit down at your computer and blog. Seriously that's it. 

Something as simple as blogging once a month can generate some pretty sweet results for your business. If you increase your frequency to 4x per week you're going to see 4 times the traffic of those who don't blog. To learn more about setting a frequency for your blog check out our guide on knowing how often to blog.

Blogging can be intimidating though. To start, let's take a step back from the keywords and just focus on essential questions that pop up in your industry. For us it might be 'what is SEO?' 'how do I optimize my website?' 'how can I increase traffic to my site?' and so on.

The questions that come up time and time again are perfect subjects to focus your posts around. Write simply and clearly. Be authentic and answer the question as thoroughly as you can and you've got a post that can make an impact. 

Link early and link often

Links are crucial.

Link to other pages across your site that are relevant as it encourages traffic across your site, as well as ties pages together. Not only that, link to outside sources as well. Linking to other credible pages across the web gives your pages a credibility of their own. Note how we linked to Moz up top, as well as that across our blog posts we generally reference and link to previous posts/other sources. That's not by accident, it's intentional.

Start sprinkling a few links into your blog posts and pages, it's a quick and easy way to give yourself a nice boost and put your pages in a favorable position with Google when they get indexed.

Ensure your site is user friendly

Nothing is worse than a slow loading site. Honestly, if five seconds go by I get irritated and close the browser window to try again. If it happens again I toss up my hands and give up. A bit over-dramatic but aren't we all like that? Google is too.

Loads of CSS and JavaScript that may render cool effects can clog your site's load time. Additionally, large images, expansive use of video, or pop-ups can slow your site down to the point of no return for many would-be visitors. Sure these effects may seem cool however when it comes to SEO they are hardly worth it. Heck, when it comes to user experience they're hardly worth it! An easy way to ensure your site is ranked well by Google is to keep it user-friendly.

Affordable SEO strategy: Not so difficult

SEO doesn't have to be frightening. As you can see, it's not impossible to build an effective strategy for next to nothing. It just requires some dedication and consistency. For more tips, tricks, and resources check out the rest of our posts on SEO.    

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