Tech tips Seo

How to Perform Your Own SEO

How to Perform Your Own SEO

New clients often ask if we offer “SEO tools”. These clients often come from bigger website hosting providers like GoDaddy or BlueHost which have sold them on “SEO services”.

Much like the common practice of overcharging for SSLs, hosts will charge for SEO tools that provide limited insight and lull customers into believing the host is helping them SEO-wise.

Unless “managed SEO” or consulting services are offered, hosts are not providing manual SEO work. Instead, they are simply providing tools for you to attempt your own SEO.

ZebraHost doesn’t offer SEO tools because we believe the best SEO tools are third party tools that specialize in various aspects of SEO. Many of these tools are either completely free, offer free scaled down functionality, or are inexpensive compared to the value they bring.

What Are Hosting SEO Tools?

The SEO tools offered by many website hosts are a step up above basic site health monitoring tools. These tools will likely offer the following functionality:

  • Proprietary domain authority score
  • Site visits
  • Basic site health
  • Basic keyword research capabilities
  • Mobile accessibility
  • Backlink count

SEO tools provided by hosting companies are better than nothing. However, hosting companies are not SEO experts and their tools are typically much more limited in scope than most premium, and even free SEO tools widely available online.

Components of SEO

Here are the 5 main aspects to what makes a site rank well:

  • Backlinks
  • Keywords
  • Site speed
  • Technical cleanliness
  • Traffic/popularity

A note on traffic/popularity. This is somewhat of a chicken/egg scenario. Number of backlinks, keywords, site speed, technical cleanliness will all contribute to your content ranking higher and therefor getting more clicks.

But this gets into what modern SEO is all about… how relevant is your content?

When the internet was young tricking search engines through tactics like keyword stuffing was easier. Keyword stuffing is visibly apparent in practices like using the same terms over and over again, making articles longer than they need to be, or using white text blended in the background that readers aren’t meant to see.

Search engines have gotten smarter and are instead now ranking content based on both keywords AND how fast you provide an answer to readers. This means content that is legible, relevant, and gets to the point will generally receive more views and boost your rankings.

Here is how to perform SEO yourself in 2022.

Make Sure you Have a Presence

Before getting into actual SEO, its most important that your business has an established online presence. This step can be performed quickly (typically in about a day).

There are several places you will want to have your business listed. More places listed increases the chance your site is viewed. Listing your site in directories and web apps also in search results to get clicks. Your site may show up in your prospects’ favorite directory, or on services like Google maps!

Here are the places you want your site listed:

Google MyBusiness: This can help you rank higher in Google. Your business will be listed on Google maps and potentially as a big sidebar on the right of the results if the users' search query is specific enough.

In some cases this can help you rank at the top of Google as a My Business page even if your pages don’t typically rank well.

Bing Business: Same reasons as Google MyBusiness. It can help you rank in Bing and will show your business in Bing maps.

Generic Directories: Directories like Yelp, Yellow Pages etc. They are not industry specific and used by a wide variety of people when shopping for a service.

Business Specific Directories: You may find a directory specific to your business or industry. You should absolutely list your business in these if it’s free.

Some Advertising or Sponsored Lists: If you can afford it, sponsored listing will help your business get exposure and traffic while you work on building your organic lists via SEO.

Review Sites: Review sites like The Better Business Bureau, Yelp, TrustPilot will provide an opportunity for clients to review you. This increases engagement and can get you a nice backlink with high domain authority.

Wikipedia: You will need to perform some work to get your business listed on Wikipedia, but if you do it will be much more likely to appear in Google snippets or have a Wikipedia sidebar result on Google.

Understand How Domain Authority Works

A term that comes up often in SEO is domain authority. Domain authority describes an algorithmic rating of your website based on the strength of your backlinks, keyword rankings, traffic, and other various metrics.

Domain Authority was created by Moz and has since been adopted by several other SEO tools. Each SEO tool has its own algorithm for domain authority.

It’s important to know that search engines like Google DO NOT use domain authority. DA is a score purely used for search engine optimization.

Domain Authority is very useful for assessing your site’s progress. If the number is going up, your chance of ranking is going up based on a variety of factors. But do not obsess over domain authority because it is not an official ranking used by search engines.

Its Harder to cheat the System

You might think the strategy to success in SEO is to simply use as many keywords in your writing as possible. The problem is that search engines understand this thinking and instead will now actually penalize articles that use keyword stuffing.

If you try to use too many keywords, search engines will potentially flag your page for keyword stuffing. Tools like Surfer do an excellent job of letting you know the ideal number of keywords to use and how many times to use them.

Another strategy that used to be common was black hat SEO where writers would game search engines by performing actions that violate search engines terms of service like matching text color with the page background. The reader wouldn’t be able to read the extra text, but search engines would still rank the page for those keywords.

Search engines now penalize this action. As a result of trying to hide text, search engines HEAVILY penalize sites that do not meet a contrast threshold. Sites like WebAIM will compare contrast and let you know if your page passes. But if it doesn’t, search engines may assume you are trying to use black hat SEO methods.

What to Do About Mobile?

Google and other search engines are now prioritizing mobile in their rankings. What that means is that there will be SEO penalties if your site is not optimized to work on mobile.

First, if you don’t have a responsive site, you need to have one. You can tell if your site is responsive because it will be able to adapt to different screen sizes.

You will also want to take care with your website design. Make sure elements like buttons are easy to click and text is big enough to read on a small screen.

You can check how mobile-friendly your site is by using the Google Mobile Friendliness test.

Note this doesn’t mean you should abandon, or even de-prioritize desktop. Especially if your solution is oriented towards desktop users, such as businesses.

Tools for SEO

Although your web host’s tools might seem like the simplest, most integrated option, these tools lack the depth or sophistication to help you improve your SEO in a meaningful way.

Instead, you should use a suite of tools dedicated to their own strengths. Here are a list of different tools for each SEO function we recommend you try.

[For a skinny list of our favorites, go to the end for a simple SEO tool setup](#What Are Our Favorite Tools?).

Site Health

The first tools you need are tools to monitor your site’s health. These tools will let you know if your site is slow, isn’t passing contrast checks, or has structural issues. Here are some of our recommendations.

Google Speed Test (Free)

Google Speed Test

Google Speed test will tell you if your site is fast or slow. Just input your domain and Google will ping your site. When the scan is done you will receive info on how fast your site loaded. If your site loaded slowly, Google will tell you why.

to access, just type “Google speed test” in the Google search engine.

Google Search Console (Free)

Google Search Console(Image Credit: search.google.com/search-console/about)

Google Search Console is an omni-tool that provides both search traffic and site health information. You can also set a sitemap which is important for SEO.

A sitemap basically tells the search engine how it should read your website pages and headings.

Google Search Console provides suggestions to improve your site performance. This includes components like link errors, mobile friendliness, security vulnerabilities, and more.

The challenge with Google Search Console is while it can pick up some things and point out the pages that need fixing, it doesn’t catch everything and shouldn’t be your primary tool for optimizing your site.

Google LightHouse (Free)

Google Lighthouse

Google LightHouse is one of the best free tools for monitoring your site performance and heath. It installs as a chrome extension. LightHouse provides scores by each page for SEO, performance, accessibility, and best practices.

Once LightHouse performs a scan of your site it will tell you how the page scores and what fixes you can make.

Another use is that Google LightHouse also works with all site pages. Meaning you can visit a site you believe has excellent performance and scan to see why. Or, you can use it to see if you can make fixes your competitors haven’t and potentially increase your rankings.

Lighthouse can be downloaded as an extention on the Chrome extensions store.

Screaming Frog (Free/Paid)

Screaming Frog(Image Credit: screamingfrog.co.uk)

Screaming frog is an excellent, user friendly tool for checking and fixing errors in your site. Screaming frog will pick up on serious issues like incorrectly formatted headers, contrast, and broken links.

You can download and use the tool for free. It will crawl up to 500 pages for free. To crawl beyond 500 pages you will need to upgrade.

WebAIM (Free)

WebAIM Contrast Checker(Image Credit: webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker)

WebAIM (Web Access in Mind) is a tool to check color contrast. This tool is invaluable if you are looking to design a new site or redesign your current one. You can plug in your foreground (typically your text color) and your background color and see if there is enough contrast.

You will see the contrast result as well as a pass/fail. If your site doesn’t have enough contrast there can be hefty SEO penalties due to search engines wanting to thwart black hat SEO attempts.

Google Mobile Friendliness (Free)

Google Mobile Friendliness results

Google Mobile Friendliness scans your site and determines how mobile friendly it is. Unlike Google search console or lighthouse, this tool focuses only on providing tips to improve mobile friendliness.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is the heart of SEO. Ranking for more keywords allows your website to get more views and convert more sales.

Keyword research can be challenging. You need to understand how difficult it is to rank for keywords, how to write articles and pages that make good use of those keywords, and how to write so your content is understandable and relevant to your audience.

Keyword research tools make the process of discovering and selecting keywords to go after far easier. Some research tools and methods are completely free, while others are paid. We recommend using a paid tool as your baseline then exploring other free tools to supplement.

Uber Suggest ($300 one time)

Uber Suggest(Image Credit: neilpatel.com/ubersuggest)

Uber Suggest is an SEO research tool created by SEO guru Neil Patel. Uber Suggest allows you to perform backlink research, keyword analysis, view pay per click estimates, and plan content. You can track how your site and rankings perform each month.

Uber Suggest’s greatest advantage over other paid keyword research tools is that you have the option to pay for the tool once and have access for life. This can contribute to huge savings in your digital marketing budget.

Moz (Paid)

Moz(Image Credit: moz.com)

Moz is one of the original SEO tools. It provides features like the ability to track and discover keywords, analyze paid search difficulty, research backlinks etc. Moz is oriented mostly towards keyword research so if you feel that is the most important part of your SEO right now Moz is an excellent choice.

One of Moz’s greatest benefits is Moz academy which provides a series of lessons on how to perform SEO. This can be a very valuable tool for those just starting out.

Ahrefs (Paid)

Ahrefs SEO tool(Image Credit: ahrefs.com)

Ahrefs started as a dedicated backlink research tool but has since evolved into an entire SEO suite featuring backlinks research, keyword, research, PPC analysis, and more.

Ahrefs’ greatest advantage is that it provides much stronger backlink research tools than many of its competitors making it a top choice for backlink research.

Ahrefs also has a useful YouTube channel that shows you how to perform SEO keyword research visually using the Ahrefs tool.

SEMrush (Paid)

SEMrush SEO tool(Image Credit: semrush.com)

While SEMrush provides the same features as other premium keyword research tools, it also adds a couple like ad monetization platform integration and competitor social media mention tracking.

Google Ads Keyword Planner

Google Ads Keyword Planner provides suggestions for keywords to target and PPC cost estimation. But there is some really useful information to take from this.

Keywords ranking well in ads tend to rank well because people are researching those topics and more importantly, converting. Words that have a high PPC cost tend to convert higher than those with a low PPC cost. The higher cost is because companies keep bidding and paying for frequent ad placements.

Google Ads Keyword Planner is a tool available in your Google Ads account.

Google Trends (Free)

Google Trends

Google trends is useful for comparing interest between two keywords online. You can compare 2 keywords or phrases and Google will provide a chart showing interest in each over time.

Here’s why this is useful: Let’s say you are trying to rank for Dog Spas in Des Moines or Dog Spas in Iowa, you will see which is being searched more often and which is trending better long term. Then, you can write your site and or content based on the better performing term.

Google

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Simply using Google to research keywords can actually yield some nice results. Here’s a few ways to do it.

  1. Pay attention to rankings. What kinds of phrases are used in the header and meta description of the links that rank well? Are there any keywords that are being repeated? How often do these articles use keywords you are after?
  2. Pay close attention to the box with questions on Google. See what questions are asked and what the answers are. Also, as you click each box, a new one is generated. You can use this to see how people are searching for a term or posing questions.
  3. Type in phrases related to your search inquiry and see how articles relate. Do they mention the keyword you are going after?
  4. Put in your search term but don’t click search. See what Google fills the rest of the search query as. Google’s autofill is built to provide you relevant (high ranking) results.

Answer the Public (Free/Paid)

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Answer the public is a tool that lets you search a keyword and see questions and threads related to that keyword. It provides insights for how people are searching for keywords.

Here’s an example:

Say you are trying to research keywords relate to “chocolate”. Answer the Public will then provide a web of search terms related to how the question is being asked. For example, “how” could provide “how is hot chocolate made?” or “how is chocolate made?”. “What” could provide “what is chocolate?” “What ingredients go in chocolate?”

Answer the public won’t provide you with specific keywords to tackle necessarily, but will provide insights on how keywords are used in search so you can be more wise in choosing what you go after.

Answer the Public does have a paid version which provides more searches and more results. But the free tool is an excellent way to get started.

Exploding Topics (Free)

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Exploding topics is an excellent tool for those that write about a wide variety of currently trending topics. For example, an online news site.

Exploding topics provides a growth chart for searches that are trending. It shows how much the topic has grown in recent years and when you click on a topic it will also suggest similar topics that have experienced growth.

The challenge with exploding topics is that it does not have in-depth search functionality. Search results only show trending topics. This means if your solution is niche, exploding topics won’t help much.

Exploding topics offers a paid version that shows more exploding topics but the free version shows the vast majority of topics so its a great place to start.

Content Writing

Now that you have tools to monitor site health, track backlinks, and research keywords its time to get into the meat and potatoes of SEO which is content writing.

It’s long been said that on the internet content is king. And now that search engines are ranking relevancy over technicality, that phrase has never been more true than now. To rank well you are going to be required to push out relevant content regularly.

The best way to do that is to add a blog to your site. A blog provides a section to regularly add keywords you want to rank for without affecting page on your main site.

Here are some excellent content writing tools that will make your content more relevant and rank better.

Hemingway (Free)

image(Image Credit: hemingwayapp.com)

Hemingway focuses on a very overlooked criteria of SEO which is to make content friendly to read. You can copy your writing into Hemingway’s prompt and it will suggest the school grade reading level your content is written for (1-12).

You want to write for about a 5th grade level. This makes your content more accessibly to a wider audience. 12th grade readers can read at a 5th grade level but 5th grade level readers can’t read at a 12th grade level.

Hemingway also increases relevancy and might help your content rank higher. This is because search engines know the answer is provided quickly, and is understandable to the vast majority of their audience.

The downside to Hemingway is that it’s catered towards simple to understand topics. This means if you are in a complex industry like IT where keywords are rarely catered towards casual readers, you will not be able to reach 5th great level in Hemingway. Still, it can be used for individual sentences, less complex paragraphs, or even to just get your writing down a grade level or two.

Jasper AI (Formerly Jarvis) (Paid)

image(Image Credit: jasper.ai)

Jasper allows you to push out content faster and get past writer’s block by using AI to write articles for you. That’s right, give Jasper a title, description of your subject, a couple keywords, and watch Jasper write entire blog posts for you in seconds.

The tool works surprisingly well. It scans the internet for information on your topic and adds it to your article in an order that does not plagiarize. You will have to write a little bit yourself, like the beginning of paragraphs, but Jasper then figures out your subject and does the rest for you.

Jasper is AI. And because of this you will have to do some heavy editing once your article is written. Common fixes include information that is out of date, grammatical structure, and paragraph continuity. But Jasper is still the best AI writer so far and is very much worth exploring.

Headline Studio (Free/Paid)

image(Image Credit: coschedule.com/headline-studio)

Headline studio analyzes your headline and provides an SEO score. It checks for things like word type and encourages you to make changes that make your page more clickable. It will also provide a reading grade level so you can gauge how broad of an audience can read your headline.

You will receive a general headline score in the free version but the paid version provides a more SEO centric score.

Surfer SEO (Paid)

Surfer SEO is an excellent tool for calibrating how many keywords to put in your blog articles to optimize it for SEO. When you tell Surfer your article title, copy your text into the Surfer editor, and provide 3 keywords you want to target, Surfer will analyze your writing and provide all the keywords your article needs to contain to rank well and how many times those keywords should be used. Surfer will also provide suggestions like number of pictures and links needed in the article. As you edit Surfer will keep track and provide a ranking score out of 100 telling you how SEOd your article is.

Yoast SEO (WordPress) (Free/Paid)

image(Image Credit: yoast.com)

Yoast SEO is a decent option for WordPress users. It installs as a simple plugin. When you write a blog article in WordPress, a sidebar will open that provides SEO analysis, keyword count, suggested keywords, header formatting etc.

Yoast is not the most powerful (or accurate) SEO tool on the market but the free version provides some valuable tools and makes SEO intuitive.

Keyword Research Tool

Tools like Moz, Uber Suggest, SEMrush, etc will all have built in SEO tracking. They will track a variety of things such as what keywords your domain is ranking for, if pages are trending up or down in rankings, and an estimation of how many visits both your entire site and individual pages are getting.

Your keyword research tool will become your SEO tracking hub.

Google Analytics (Free)

image(Image Credit: 1000logos.net)

Google Analytics will tell you how well you site is doing on a whole and if your search presence is increasing or decreasing. Google Analytics mainly tells you information on your audience like where they are located, number of users currently browsing your site, and what pages are receiving traffic.

Google analytics lacks keyword tracking which is critical for SEO. This is why we recommend you use Google Analytics alongside a keyword research tool.

Bitly (Free/Paid)

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Bitly is a link tracking tool. Bitly shortens a longer URL into one that is only a few characters long. Bitly will then keep track of how many people have clicked the link.

Bitly is useful for a couple reasons. For starters, being able to track clicks on your content lets you gauge how popular it is. A blog post or webpage receiving many clicks resonates with your audience and will likely be more optimized for SEO.

Bitly is also useful because you can keep content links in one convenient location which helps when you want to backlink content.

What Are Our Favorite Tools?

Many of these tools perform the same functions. You can certainly be successful with SEO by using a smaller selection of these tools. If we have to choose only a few, here are the ones we have found particularly useful:

Uber Suggest

Why we like it:

The big advantage that Uber suggest has over its competitors is that you can optionally pay a one time $300 fee to use the tool forever. One-time payment for digital tools has become exceptionally rare.

To put this into perspective Ahrefs costs about $100 a month for the basic paid plan. This means that in the 3rd month you will have already paid the same as you would for Uber Suggest and you will continue to pay after that, making Ahrefs $100 more expensive each month than Uber Suggest. After one year Ahrefs costs $1200 while Uber Suggest will have cost $300.

Ahrefs and Uber Suggest perform essentially the same functionality. In our experience Ahrefs offers more tools and better backlink research than Uber Suggest but not enough to warrant the price.

Surfer

Why we like it:

Surfer takes all the guess work out of content writing for SEO. By providing the key terms you want to rank for Surfer will tell you what keywords to add and how many times to add them. As you add them they are checked off in a sidebar so you can keep track.

Surfer also has a very intuitive meter to show how SEOd your article is. Getting a high score out of 100 (usually 80 and above) will ensure your article is fully optimized for search engines.

At about $50/month it is well worth it.

Jasper AI

Why we like it:

Jasper can speed up your content creation. If you don’t have a full time content writer you are likely having a hard time performing your core tasks AND writing content. Jasper will allow you to write articles in minutes. All you really have to do is guide the AI as you write and edit the finished product.

The written output is not perfect, but is still incredible for an AI. Also, you have likely used services like Fiverr or UpWork to write for you in the past. Jasper will give you similar quality.

The service costs $99/month which depending on the author you have hired, is similar to what it would cost to farm out the writing to a person. At $99/month you will have to make sure you are using Jasper several times a month to get value, but it really helps busy professionals put out sufficient content.

Headline Tool

Why we like it:

A LOT of SEO is getting headlines right. Headlines that resonate get views.

Tools like Jasper AI and Surfer provide built in headline rating functionality, but if you don’t pay for those services and want a free alternative, Headline Tool can give you excellent guidance on how to write headlines.

If you want more SEO centric ratings for Headline Tool you will have to use the paid version, but the free version provides great guidance under a rating system made more for human attention (which also really matters).

Why we like it:

Google ad tools provides keyword searching based on PPC relevancy. You can search for a term like “flower shop” and it will show examples of how to use that keyword to generate the most paid clicks.

Paid clicks are an example of converting keywords because businesses are paying for them. This means they are likely generating a return. This eliminates a lot of guessing when choosing what content or ads to write.

And if you are going to create ads on Google, this allows you to build a realistic budget and understand cost.

WebAim:

Why we like it:

If your site doesn’t meet contrast guidelines it can be heavily penalized by search engines. So when you are designing your site you need to check from the beginning if your site colors and text provide enough contrast.

This tool takes the guessing out of contrast and will simply tell you if your colors pass or fail.

Google Analytics

Why we like it:

Google Analytics provides a set of great SEO tools for analyzing audience. Google analytics will show stats like how many visitors are currently visiting your site, where your searches are coming from geographically, and if people are staying on your pages (bounce rate).

Google analytics should not be the only SEO tool you use but it is free and a great tool for analyzing audience when that is otherwise difficult.

All these represent our favorite tools to use for SEO. These provide a solid basis for performing your own SEO.

How to Structure Your SEO

Now that you have an idea of what tools are at your disposal you need to actually organize your efforts and learn how to perform SEO.

Step 1: Analyze Your Current Site

The first step of SEO is taking a look at where you site is currently. Do you have technical issues? What keywords are you currently ranking for? Questions like these need to be answered so you can develop a game plan on how you are going to improve your site and online presence.

In this stage you are going to get your site plugged into your selected SEO tools. Examples include Google Analytics, Google LightHouse, Ahrefs, etc. The goal is to get a full view of your site.

During this stage you need to find out the following:

  1. What technical issues need immediate fixing?
  2. What keywords am I ranking for?
  3. Who are my competitors and how does my site stack up?
  4. Where is my audience from?
  5. How many backlinks do I have?
  6. What backlinks are my competitors getting that I’m not?
  7. How fast is my site?
  8. Is my site optimized for mobile?

When you have all these answered you can begin performing actual SEO work.

Step 2: Fix Your Site

If you have never designed your site with SEO in mind, chances are there are some technical issues that need fixing. Common examples include:

  • Poor contrast
  • loading optimization
  • Lack of a sitemap
  • Wrong headers
  • Lack of metadata
  • Poorly formatted URLs
  • URL that are either too long or too short

Many of these issues are actually really easy to fix. Remember the tool Screaming Frog from earlier? That is an excellent tool to find many of these issues, especially if your site is under 500 pages.

Download and perform a site crawl with screaming frog and it will point out exactly what the issues with your site are. For other issues like latency and contrast, specialized tools like Google Lighthouse and WebAIM will help so I would run your site through these as well.

You SEO will will give you insight into your backlinks, and more importantly, your competitors’. You should use this to find where your competitors are linked then try your best to go after those same backlinks.

Some backlinks will be much harder to get than others. For example, a backlink on a forum because someone mentioned their site is hosted there and linked the company isn’t going to be viable to go after. On the flip side, if your competitor is linked on an industry directory, chances are all you need to do is sign up on that same directory.

Use the backlink tool to sign up for things like business directories, forums, and review sites.

If you want to try harder, you can see if any blog articles from your competitor are linked on third party sites then offer some of your own content to see if they will link you as well. This will require both selling skills and original content.

While trying to match with your competitors, forge your own backlinks by finding blogs, review sites, and directories on your own. You should also make sure to sign up for tools like Google MyBusiness, Bing Business, Map softwares, etc. These are all low hanging fruit and a great way to build your presence online.

Step 4: Content Planning

Once your site technicals and backlinks are where you want them, you will start to participate in the end game of SEO which is content writing.

A common saying in online marketing is that “content is king”. This means that only if you have relevant content that viewers find valuable will your site generate leads and sales.

Importance of a blog

To start, make sure your site has a blog. A blog will allow you to write content freely and chase keywords without having to over SEO your main site pages. You should still perform SEO on your site pages, but orient them towards providing relevant information and terms that generate interest and sales.

A blog doesn’t necessarily have to be a direct selling tool. For example, your flower shop could write facts about different flowers, show pictures or arrangements, or announce industry news. A savvy blogger will create content that doesn’t try to hard to sell, but will link a page or product where readers are lured into a sales funnel. For example, writing facts about geraniums then linking your page where you sell them periodically throughout the article.

What’s important about a blog is that you are pushing out consistent content and have a place to put keywords on your website.

Research

Use tools like Google ad tools, or your premium keyword research tool of choice to discover which keywords are valuable. Sticking to our example of the flower shop, searching “geraniums” yields results like “geranium care” and “hardy geraniums”. Both present excellent blog topics that can also host a link to buy.

When you search in a keyword research tool you will see the following ratings;

CPC: the dollar mount estimate to advertise using this keyword

Keyword/Search Difficulty: The difficulty to rank for the keyword

Volume: Estimate of searches involving this keyword

Paid Difficulty: How difficult will it be for your ad to bid against others?

Trend: is the keyword search trending up or down?

You will need to find out for yourself which of these ratings matter the most for your purposes. Ideally a good keyword will have an easy to medium search difficulty, mid to high PPC cost, upward trend, and large volume of searches.

A rating of particular important is CPC. Generally, high cost per click means that businesses are paying to be positioned well for that keyword. This means the keyword is likely converting sales.

When you have found a keyword that you believe to be relevant to your brand and audience while being predicted to have strong searches and ranking potential, you are ready to write about that subject.

An important note: Keyword difficulty is an important metric. High keyword difficultly means that if you write to rank for that keyword, your chances of becoming a part of the top search results are very low. High keyword difficultly keywords are likely saturated by big brands writing content for them, have a crowded marketplace, are a common subject, and or are short one term phrases. An example would be that “Keto Diet” would be extremely difficult to rank for.

A way to write about crowded subjects is to add your local market to the keyword. For example, instead of going after “flower shop” go after “flower shop in Des Moines Iowa”. This not only creates a more specific keyword combination but also is more specific which tends to lead to more serious leads.

Step 5: Content Writing

Getting started

There are A LOT of ways you can go about content writing. There isn’t so much an order as much as a checklist of things you must do for your content to be successful.

Here’s a great place to start. If you don’t have a subject you want to write about, go to your competitors and see what they are writing about. Find a blog article and think about how you can make it better. For example, if a competing online flower shop is writing about “Tulip care”, consider how much more you know about tulip care and add details their blog article missed. Hopefully, your article will then gain traction for providing more relevant content in an already proven subject.

Another way to go about starting content writing is using an AI to help. Jasper AI will write an entire blog article for you. Just provide the keywords you are after, a title, and a description of your subject. Jasper will harvest details from the internet and write the article for you. It also does this in a way that doesn’t plagiarize because it doesn’t take entire clips of out articles, just patterns it sees.

Note that when you write using an AI you are going to need to check for accuracy. The AI isn’t perfect when it comes to article accuracy and you don’t want to provide bad information.

Writing for SEO

A mistake a lot of writer make when they write is that they write with SEO in mind. You need to begin by making your article digestible by humans. It must be easy to read and the reader must find their answer quickly.

When you have a great article that needs to be tuned for SEO, use a tool like Surfer or Yoast (if you have WordPress). These tools will give you a checklist of keywords to have in your article for it to rank well. They will also provide guidance on length, number of pictures, internal and external links etc.

Here is your writing Checklist:

  • An article that is between 1000 - 3000 words
  • Several images (custom is better) that have metadata
  • Internal links to your own site
  • External links pointing to helpful information
  • A mix of heading sizes (H1, H2, H3…)
  • The right number of keyword mentions for each keyword you are going after

When you have run your article through a tool like Surfer to make sure you have optimized your article for SEO, you need to make sure the article is still readable for humans.

I recommend copying your entire article into a tool like Hemingway which will rate your article based on grade level required to read it.

If your article is a simple subject like “what the color blue represents” you should aim for a grade level between 5-7. This makes the article accessible to both experts and casual readers.

If your article is more technical, like care for a particular kind of flower, aim for grade levels 8-10. The reason is that Hemingway rates complex subjects with uncommon words often at grade 12. So aim a few grades lower to make sure your article is digestible to a wide audience.

After running your writing through all these tools, you should have an article that is ready to publish.

SEO Takes Time and Dedication

Now that you know the order of operations perform SEO research and write content, you need to build habits and have patience.

Articles can take several months or even years to begin ranking. The less common the subject the more easily and quickly your articles will rank. But to rank high on search engines will take time. You need an audience to begin clicking on your article and the search engines to repeatedly crawl and consider your article strong.

You should be writing regularly to ensure that you have all the opportunities to rank. Once you have an article or two that ranks number 1 or 2 on search engines, it tends to lift you entire domain and therefor your other articles. You want as many opportunities for this as possible and just because you think an article is great doesn’t necessarily mean the internet does. Write about a variety of subjects relevant to your brand for the best chance to rank.

Search engines also enjoy fresh content. Making small corrections or updates to your article (like changing the published date) will make search engines believe your content is fresh and relevant. So keep up to date with past articles and make changes as needed.

Summary

ZebraHost doesn’t offer SEO tools. But we want to provide all the help we can to our clients. Many of these tools on this list are tools we have personally used for our own efforts. These tools will take some getting used to but with proper use dramatically bolster your SEO efforts.

ZebraHost offers competitive website hosting plans with 24/7 support. We will assist with the most complex aspects of hosting a website like like assisting with DNS. This means all you need to focus on is growing your business and managing your SEO.

To see what we have to offer, browser our website hosting plans.

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