Search Engine Optimization -- SEO -- is a term you will be hearing a lot once you have created a website and developed a marketing plan that is heavily involved in attracting clients via the internet. So here are a few basics to know and do in all that spare time you have as a solopreneur. LOL!
Search Engines and Optimization
First, what is a search engine and why do you need to optimize your website. or social and internet marketing for it?
Good question. Google is a search engine. So are Bing and Safari. There are others, but these are the big 3, with Google pretty much setting the standards for the whole industry. A search engine -- usually Google -- is where people go when they want to find a website that offers a service like yours.
Optimization is a vast collection of tasks that tell Google when to show your web page descriptions to people searching for your kind of service. There are many factors that can be part of optimization that need a true specialist to operate for you on a continual basis. But there are several that you, the website owner, can and should be doing for yourself.
1. Optimization Factors
Google has literally hundreds of factors that their algorithms use to determine if your website is a good match for a question, word or title typed into their search bars. What solopreneurs and first-time website owners need to be aware of include:
2. Blog, Blog and Blog Some More
Blogging is the best way to satisfy Google's desire for frequently new content on websites. Not only is this a good way to develop a base of potential clients, consistently new content verifies to Google that you are still in business.
So when I say that blogging is good for SEO, it means that every new blog post signals to Google that you are actively engaged in operating your website and seeking connection to people searching for your kind of service.
Blogging is also the cheapest and most effective marketing methods for solopreneurs. It costs you nothing but time because the blog is part of your website and there is no extra fee for blogging as often as you wish.
Blogs are a reason to promote yourself, even for introverts who hate self-bragging. When it make sense, you can always say, hey, I just wrote about that exact topic on my blog last week. You can read that at domain dot com.
Providing links to your posts or just mentioning your easy to remember domain name will get some people to come to your website who may not have otherwise done so. This increases traffic to your website, and lets Google know your site is gaining in popularity. This is good for SEO.
3. Relevant Content
As a journalist back in the day, one of the lessons I had to learn about blogging is that a blog is not the same as an op-ed. Opinion pieces -- or writing just to espouse a point of view -- are not as helpful to the business owner in the healing and helping arts.
Neither are good blog posts an academic essay. Never write in the impersonal, cold, and unfriendly 3rd person tense. Always write the way you speak -- use polite slang, use "I" and "you", and show your sense of humor a little where you can. But above all, be helpful!
The public is already on information overload and your editorial or academic 2 cents isn't what they need -- UNLESS you are writing about something that directly and immediately relates to them.
This is why blog posts should always be optimized. What does that mean? There are two ways to optimize a post. One way is to be sure to include words that are likely to be used in the search question someone asks of Google. Imagine a potential client is Googling for info on SEO. Maybe they type in what does search engine optimization mean, or maybe they ask for easy ways to do SEO.
Assuming those are likely basic questions for my audience of beginner website owners, this post, for example, is optimized for the following:
All "optimizing content" means is to use obvious keywords in the writing in meaningful ways without worrying too much about repetition. Look through the paragraphs in this post and notice how I keep repeating these words, casually and purposefully.
The second way to optimize a blog is to check on how Wix has auto-filled the meta title for the blog post page and the meta description that will show up in Google and other search engines. Both the old Wix blog and the new Wix blog have a special location for this in the Wix blog editor. Ask me if you can't find it.
You might decide that what Wix does for you is just fine. Great. You're all set. Or you have the option of editing the description and title to add more keywords to optimize them better. If you do edit, be sure your version is readable by human brains and not just cramming in a bunch of keywords that sound stupid or incomprehensible to a potential client.
4. Content Authority
Authority means sounding like you know what you are talking about. It's adopting a knowledgeable tone, offering solutions and helpful resources, providing case studies or other illustrative examples that readers can make a personal connection to. You don't have to be the world's leading expert to have SEO-quality authority.
So taking care of this aspect of SEO happens while you are writing. Use direct, commanding language. Hone your awareness of how your writing is read by a seeker of information, especially those who are likely to be feeling some degree of stress or vulnerability when considering hiring a service like yours.
You can be gentle and confident at the same time, but indirect, impersonal, abstract, overly wordy, or wishy washy writing will hurt your professional reputation AND your SEO.
Keep paragraphs to no more than 5 lines. Make sentences short.
A second part of content authority is to provide links to other sources that add to or validate your points. This is why you'd add a link to an American Psychological Association's page on some aspect of anxiety, or to the AANP's FAQs page. And this is a good place for me now to link to Search Engine Journal's article on The Three Pillars of SEO.
A third part of authority comes from the opposite direction -- from links coming TO your website instead of going to some other website. You might hear these called backlinks because they link back to your site.
If you are on any locator directories for professional associations or places like Psychology Today or Theravive, look for ways to add links to your profiles on their sites. Or link to your Facebook business page, like I'm doing here.
You could pay hundreds and thousands of dollars for some SEO expert to put backlinks to your site all over the internet, but please be very careful about doing that. Paying for backlinks is more appropriate for websites like Amazon that need millions of people buying stuff every day than they are for a one-person service provider.
Paying for backlinks from places that you may not want to be associated with could backfire on the reputation of your brand. And it attracts tons of spam to your email inbox.
5. Generating Social Proofs
Social proof is the phenomenon of gaining credibility in the eyes of the general public because they are seeing your name or brand in a lot in various places, especially on the internet. In a way, social proof is related to the old marketing idea of mere exposure -- that it takes 7 times or more for someone to be exposed to your name or brand before they trust you with their dollars.
In today's online world, social proof is built from:
mentions by more well known providers in your field / or celebrities
individual client testimonials
crowd wisdom - social media discussion / interaction
fans and friends who fave about you online
professional credentials / membership in professional associations
Almost all social proof happens through social media. This is why an active presence on at least one or two platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram is highly recommended for SEO, even Pinterest and YouTube if your services are especially visual.
Generating social proof is admittedly lot of work. On the other hand, it's free, can be done in your spare time, can be scheduled for posting later, can help you reach beyond your local community if your business can benefit from clients in other parts of the country.
And for me, it beats the heck out of trying to be an extrovert at 7 am for a networking breakfast!!
To generate SEO-friendly social proof with the least amount of effort:
ask recent clients to post a recommendation for you on your LinkedIn profile
have a LinkedIn icon connecting your website to your LinkedIn profile
establish a Facebook business page, ask for recommendations there
have a Facebook icon connecting your website to your Facebook page
when you blog, post a link to the blog post on your Facebook page
also post a link to your blog posts on your LinkedIn feed
blog and post on social media with the intent to be known as a helpful resource
start a private group on Facebook or LinkedIn to discuss some of your general tips -- helps establish you as an authority
join private Facebook or LinkedIn groups that talk about your brand interests and be a subtle source of reliable info
If you'd like to read up on all the types and ways of gaining social proof, this is a good online resource. A lot of these options, though, could be beyond reasonable reach for the busy solopreneur.
6. On-Page SEO
Lastly, you have likely heard talk of on-page SEO, especially if I have built your website. This refers to a few simple coding basics that help search engines recognize the organization of your website pages. With Wix, this is mostly ensuring that every page has the correct order of H [headline] tags, that the meta title and meta description tags are done for each important page, and that the Wix SEO wizard is run on your site so that the site is submitted to Google for indexing.
All of this is part of the package when I build a website. You as website owner never need to worry about these piece unless you start adding pages after I'm done. At that point it may be a good idea to let me check over the on-page SEO to make sure new page will get indexed by Google and found by other search engines.