How I Got My Website on the First Page of Google
This is a blog post about how to improve your SEO using common sense. No crazy tricks or coding here. Just 4 basic techniques that anyone could (and should) implement to help their website rank higher.
Sure, the world of SEO is complicated and you can find endless (& confusing) information online about how to improve SEO for your blog or website. It doesn't have to be rocket science though. With just basic knowledge of the fundamental principles of SEO, you can make great strides using common sense.
Using the following techniques, I got my website gretchenkamp.com to rank on page 1 of Google for the following searches:
San Diego branding specialist
San Diego brand identity
San Diego branding
San Diego branding studio
San Diego branding designer
San Diego brand photography (I hold the #1 spot on Google for this one!!)
Things to keep in mind:
SEO takes time. It doesn't happen overnight. According to this article from Forbes, you can expect it to take 4-6 months for SEO improvement efforts take effect. Don't let that discourage you. It's a great reason to START NOW rather than waiting.
SEO efforts must be ongoing in order to be effective. You can't optimize a site one time, be done with it, move on and expect positive results. You have to be consistently working at it. Search engines are smart and they don't like lazy! But that's okay because you aren't lazy.
SEO is constantly changing, and therefore there is no way to guarantee results. Be wary of companies who claim they can.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER: The absolute best way to improve SEO is to have lots of unique content on your website, and to change it regularly. Unique content refers to originally written material on the web. This means content that is NOT copy & pasted from other websites. You have to write this stuff yourself. (If you don't have time or you're not a strong writer, hire an assistant or a copywriter to do it for you.)
Tip #1: Beef up the main pages of your website
First things first. Is your ABOUT page only 1 or 2 sentences? You can do better than that. The people who visit your website are there for information. They want to get to know you.
"Share a little bit about yourself and your family. Let the reader know about your core values and how those translate into the work you do. If you’re a mom, love your dog or are obsessed with coffee, let the reader know! Your About Me page is a great place to let the reader know a bit about your hobbies, family and passions." — NJ Rongners, from this article: HOW TO WRITE AN ABOUT ME PAGE THAT WILL GET YOU SALES
Be thorough when describing your products or services. A mistake I notice my clients make often: they include a menu or services list but not a written description about the menu items or services. For example, a spa might offer a list of facials by name, but more valuable information for the prospective client (and for search engines!) would be a description of each facial. Or even a description of what a facial is at the beginning of the facials section is better than no descriptions at all. Give the reader an idea of what she can expect when she comes in for a facial at your spa. Will there be a comfy robe and a mimosa waiting for her? Do you use only the best organic, local skincare products? All this info is helpful to your prospective client, and therefore helpful to search engines. Yes, less is more with logos, but less is NOT more when it comes to writing content that will help your SEO.
Pro tip: Does your website have any links to download PDFs? If so, consider copy & pasting the text to the actual pages of your website instead so that it can be found by search engines.
Not sure where to start? Go through each page of your website and make a list of what useful information you could add.
Tip #2: Start a Blog
When it comes to SEO, your blog is your BFF! Squarespace makes blogging super easy. Just remember the content has to be unique. If you find other people's blog articles and copy and paste them to your blog, search engines will recognize that and it will hurt your SEO. Plus plagiarism is lame! It's fine to quote or reference others, just make sure to give them credit.
Not sure what to blog about? Start by making a list of ideas. I typically find that I come up with better ideas when I am away from a computer. So I whip out a piece of paper and a pen and start jotting down ideas that way. Your blog content MUST be relevant to your business in order for it to engage your users and help your SEO. I love wine, but people who visit my website are looking for information about my company and services, so an article about how much I love a new Malbec I found at Trader Joe's won't be useful to my audience, and it certainly won't help my SEO. Keep in mind that search engines are looking for keywords that relate to your business. Write naturally about the subject matter. If you write a bunch of nonsense sentences filled with the keywords, search engines recognize that too. They are pretty difficult to out-smart!
Tip: Can't seem to find the time to blog? Me either. I recommend carving out a chunk of time each week to dedicate to blogging. For me, it's Friday mornings. 1 blog post a week a good goal if you're just starting out. Then work your way up to two, and so on.
Tip #3: Links & backlinks
Search engines like it when a website has links to other sites, especially when all the sites involved are LEGIT. You may have noticed already that there are a handful of links to other websites in this blog post. Not only is it helpful for the reader who may be interested in where you got your information or would like to learn more about something, the links are also good for your SEO.
A backlink, also called an "inbound link" or "incoming link," is created when one website links to another. The link between the two websites is the backlink — so named because it points back to the linked-to page.
Basically all this means is you want other websites to include a link to your website on their site. One way I implement backlinks is by including "Website by Gretchen Kamp Design" at the bottom of all the websites I design and build for clients. If you're a web developer, that one is a no-brainer. Just make sure your clients are cool with it.
If you know other bloggers, ask if you can be featured as a guest writer on their blog, and include a link to your website. If you have friends who are fellow small business owners and your businesses complement one another, ask to be featured on their resources page.
If you'd like to dive more into this, here's an article that explains the types of backlinks and how to use them:
Natural links are editorially given without any action on the part of a page owner. For example, a food blogger adding a link to a post that points toward their favorite produce farms is a natural link.
Manually built links are acquired through deliberate link-building activities. This includes things like getting customers to link to your website or asking influencers to share your content.
Self-created links are created by practices such as adding a backlink in an online directory, forum, blog comment signature, or a press release with optimized anchor text. Some self-created link building tactics tend toward black hat SEO and are frowned upon by search engines, so tread lightly here.
That's it! If you have any questions about any of the above, please don't hesitate to contact me. I would love to answer your questions and offer more specific advice for your unique business.
Hey! I’m Gretchen.
I'm a bi-coastal (New York City & San Diego) graphic designer turned branding specialist who lives in yoga pants and is fueled by pizza and red wine. I will use any excuse to travel and I LOVE teaching other entrepreneurs everything I've learned about branding and digital marketing in the last four years of full-time self-employment. When I'm not in my design studio, you can find me cooking, sipping on red wine, listening to jazz, and spending quality time with family & friends.