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DIY SEO In 7 Easy Steps

Search engine optimization (SEO) is vital to any online marketing strategy.

But SEO doesn’t have to require huge investments. With a little dedication, time, and a willingness to work, you can successfully apply a DIY (do-it-yourself) ethic to SEO.

This will help you rank higher in search engine results, capture more organic search traffic, and convert more visitors.

In this DIY SEO guide, I’ll walk you through the process of building and maintaining a DIY SEO campaign from scratch.

 What you will learn

  • The basics of DIY SEO
  • 7 steps for building and implementing your SEO project
  • Pros and cons of managing SEO on your own
  • Resources for learning and staying current with the latest SEO best practices
  • Free SEO tools you can use to streamline the process

 What is DIY SEO?

DIY SEO refers to the practice of optimizing your website for search engines without hiring professional SEO services.

This approach involves using various strategies and techniques to enhance your site's visibility and performance in search engine results.

By dedicating time and effort, you can improve search rankings, capture more organic traffic, and increase conversions, all while maintaining control over your SEO efforts and minimizing costs.

This is important, because organic search accounts for more than 45% of all clicks, with the top result achieving a clickthrough rate of 27.6%.

If you’re not ranking at or near the top of SERPs, you’re missing out on potential conversions, often to the direct benefit of your competition.

 7 steps to successful DIY SEO

From on-page elements to backlinks, loading speeds to crawl budgets, there’s a lot that goes into SEO. It requires know-how and takes time to see results.

And because it’s such an important piece of your marketing mix, it’s easy to understand why many organizations prefer to outsource SEO to professional agencies.

But don’t be intimidated. You can start seeing results independently by following the steps and best practices listed here.

1. Conduct thorough keyword research

Keyword research is the cornerstone of a successful SEO strategy.

Keywords are the words and phrases your audience searches for online. By optimizing your website for these keywords, you can increase your chances of appearing at the top of search results. 

To get started, you can rely on your industry and audience knowledge.

For example, if you’re doing SEO for a motorized scooter company, you’ll probably quickly come up with terms like “scooter,” “electronic bike,” and “Vespa.” From here, you’ll want to dive deeper and look for related keywords you may not have considered.

Open Google search in a browser window and one by one, type those words and phrases into the search bar.

Google’s autocomplete feature will automatically suggest a number of phrases related to your initial keyword, for example "motorized scooter for adults" and "motorized scooter with seat ". If these apply to your site, add them to your list of keywords to add to your content.

Google Autocomplete

Another place to look for keywords is in the “People also ask” section.

People also ask

Similarly, the “People also search for” section, which appears further down the page can help you uncover new keywords and other relevant search queries.

People also search for

By this point, you should have a list of keywords relevant to your webpages.

The next step is to prioritize which keywords to focus on. For that, you'll need to asses a keyword's potential in terms of its:

  • Search volume - the average number of times a keyword is searched for in a given period.
  • Ranking difficulty - how challenging it is to rank for a specific keyword based on competition and search engine algorithms.
  • Business potential - the likelihood that ranking for a keyword will drive valuable traffic and conversions for your business.
Getting started, focus on keywords with high search volume, moderate ranking difficulty, and strong business potential.

These keywords will attract substantial traffic while being achievable to rank for, and they are likely to drive valuable conversions for your business.

You can use a keyword research tool like Surfer's to assess the above. There, you can easily see such metrics in an instant.

2. Write SEO-friendly content

Now that you have your list of target keywords, it's time to create your content.

Google puts a premium on helpful, reliable, people-first content.

In other words, you shouldn’t create content to manipulate the search algorithm to rank higher, but instead should strive to genuinely provide value to your audience.

Google seeks to provide organic search results that best match the query's intent, so it will rank pages higher if it believes they provide the most relevant results.

To help you understand search intent, analyze the sites currently ranking the highest for your targeted keywords. Nearly every search falls into one of four intent categories:

Informational – These are searches looking for specific info and include searches like “What is the weather forecast for today,” “béarnaise sauce,” and “Chinese food near me.”

Navigational – These searches are targeting a specific brand or website. They include things like “Facebook,” for people who are on their way to the social media site, and “Eddie Bauer,” for people who are looking for a specific retailer’s website.

Commercial – This type of search is performed by someone who is looking for information about a purchase but is not ready to buy at the moment. This could look like “best lawnmower under $300” or “autocleaning cat litterbox.”

Transactional – These are searches with the intent of making an online purchase, often with credit card in hand. For example, a search for “buy vintage Boston Braves hat” or “Montblanc pix black rollerball pen.” These searches are generally more specific than those with commercial intent.

Targeting intent will help you identify the right type of content, its format and the angle it should take.

Note the difference in the type of results for a commercial search shown here...

Commercial search results

...versus a transactional query like this:

Transactional search results

Once you have decided on the right approach for your keyword, it’s time to create SEO-friendly content. Here are some important things to keep in mind:

  • Write for humans – You’re not creating content for search bots, you’re writing for actual users. Make sure your content is easy to read and keywords are used naturally – not just jammed in wherever they will fit.
  • Cover the topic thoroughly—Provide in-depth information on your topic so that it answers the searcher’s intent with a single click.
  • Use your primary keywords in the right places—Your main keyword should be used in important and visible places, including the URL, metadata, H1 header, and body content.
  • Naturally include secondary keywords – Secondary keywords can help you beef up your content and ranking, but only if used naturally. Make sure any secondary terms you’ve included fit organically into your copy.
  • Incorporate rich content—Adding images, infographics, videos, and other types of content is a great way to reinforce your message and encourage interaction while also aiding in SEO efforts.

If possible, include original content. Primary research, personal experiences, and expert interviews are great ways to create content that stands out while enhancing your E-E-A-T (experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness) profile.

This is an important part of Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, which help the search engine determine the quality of its ranking algorithm.

There's a lot that goes into creating high-quality SEO content. But that doesn't have to be the case with the right tools.

With an AI content writer like Surfer AI you can have a fully researched and optimized article ready in just a few clicks.

You can then focus on humanizing the AI text by adding to it your unique data and insights.

3. Refresh or delete existing content

Besides creating new content, it's important to update your site's existing content regularly.

Keeping your website up to date ensures you’re providing the latest information, pricing and features, and it also factors into your SEO efforts.

Google loves fresh content.

If its crawler regularly finds valuable and reliable new or updated information, you will have a better chance of ranking higher with each update.

Your SEO plan should include regular site audits to determine where to optimize existing content and what to delete.

Refreshing older content is a great way to improve on-page SEO and recapture lost traffic.

For example, on Google Search Console, you may find that pages that once generated high levels of organic traffic have fallen off.

Surfer's Content Audit makes spotting such content update opportunities easier than ever.

Head to the Best opportunities tab to see which pages you can optimize for the quickest results. There, you can see their switch in ranking position, traffic, impression, and clicks.

You can update and refresh these pages by following the guidelines in the Content Editor.

Some ways you can update your old content to give it an SEO boost:

  • Rewrite headlines and meta tags.
  • Include new relevant keywords.
  • Replace outdated statistics or information.
  • Expand on ideas that drive search traffic and tighten those that don’t.
  • Swap out media like visuals and videos.
  • Update internal and external links and remove broken ones.

4. Develop an internal linking strategy

Internal links are the links within your site that direct users from one page to another. They help visitors navigate within your website, as well as make it easier for search engine crawlers to discover and index your site.  

But you can’t just place links pointing anywhere and hope for the best.

You need a well-structured internal linking strategy that makes your site architecture clear to both humans and search engines.

Flat internal linking structure

Internal links allow you to pass on authority from one page to another.

If you have a high-performing page, adding internal links from other pages within your site will help boost its authority and the ranking of the others.

Good site architecture has also been shown to improve dwell time, which many SEO experts believe is an important ranking signal.

When organizing your web content, you can use topic clusters to determine your link structure.

Topic clusters are an internal linking strategy that involves creating a "pillar" page that provides a broad overview of a topic and linking it to more detailed pages on related subtopics.

This structure helps both users and search engines understand the relationship between different pieces of content on your site, improving navigation and SEO.

For example, our scooter company may have “e-bikes” as a pillar page. This page will provide an overview of owning and maintaining an electric bike, with links directing users to pages on charging the battery, performing regular maintenance, and the benefits of riding an e-bike.

Each of these pages should be accessible from the pillar page and should link to one another where logical. Taken together, all of these related pages create a topic cluster.

You may do this manually or leverage a tool like Surfer to help you build a content cluster.

Using the Domain map feature on Surfer, you can easily look at your existing cluster coverage and identify new content opportunities to complete the clusters.

Remember: links within your site can be a huge asset to your website and encourage intra-site navigation. However, you must ensure they’re used naturally and create relevant connections between your pages. 

For that, it's also important to pay attention to the anchor text.

When creating internal links, use descriptive and relevant anchor text that clearly indicates the linked page's content.

Avoid generic phrases like "click here" and opt for specific keywords that enhance SEO and user experience.

As the number of pages you create increases, it might be challenging to remember to link to all your old and new content.

But if you're using Surfer's Content Editor, you may use the Insert internal links feature to add them automatically.

5.  Improve off-page SEO through link building

Generating incoming links, or backlinks, as they’re sometime known, is an important part of any successful SEO strategy.

An incoming link from a high-authority website transfers expertise and authority to your page and signals that your content is to be trusted. 

But while many parts of successful SEO rely on nothing more than elbow grease and a bit knowledge, link building is a bit trickier. You need to find ways to generate links to your content from third-party sites – but that can be easier said than done.

If your content is original, insightful, and thorough, over time, you’ll find it has generated backlinks on its own, as other webmasters have used it as a reference for their content.

But this takes time and isn’t always reliable. Luckily, there are other ways you can generate inbound links. Some of the best ways to do this include:

Guest posting

Reach out to other organizations in your field or adjacent industries and offer your services as a guest blogger.

Building connections

Networking within your industry can open doors for collaboration and guest posting opportunities, helping you earn valuable backlinks from reputable sources.

H.A.R.O

Help a Reporter Out, or H.A.R.O., is a web service that matches journalists and bloggers with subject matter experts.

Reclaim unlinked mentions

Unlinked mentions occur when another website mentions you, your brand, or your offering but doesn’t link to your site. Set up a Google alert for your brand name and products that automatically notify you when another site mentions you.

Google Alerts

Outdo the competition

If you find a coveted backlink that points to a competitor rather than your own site, you can try to create better content and ask the backlinking site to direct to you instead.

Do NOT use link farms

Link farms are groups of websites that hyperlink to other sites solely for SEO purposes. These are not high-quality links and can lead to penalties that will lower your rankings.

6. Assess and improve your technical SEO

Now that we’ve covered the on-site and off-site aspects of your DIY SEO plan, it’s time to address technical SEO issues. 

At its most basic, four elements make up this side of SEO:

  1. Website hierarchy – How is your site structured, and does it have a logical and well-organized flow?
  2. Crawlability and indexability – Can search engine crawlers successfully navigate from one page within your site to the next? Are the pages being indexed, i.e., are they being added to Google’s directory?
  3. Security – Is your site using the latest security protocols and protecting user data?
  4. Accessibility and usability – Is your site easy for users, including those with disabilities, to navigate?

You can measure your site’s organic search performance in these areas using tools like Google Search Console and Google's Page Speed Insights. There, you'll also find more information on solutions to the technical SEO issues your site may be experiencing.

Such tools can make the process of performing a technical SEO site audit far easier.  

7. Monitor your SEO performance

Search engine optimization is not a “set it and forget it” undertaking. For one thing, it can take three to six months for your efforts to start reaping rewards.

And in that time, your competition is likely undertaking SEO initiatives of their own, which may require you to adjust your tactics.

In addition, Google frequently updates its search algorithm. Many of these updates are relatively minor, and you may not notice their impact. Others, however, updates like 2011’s Panda or 2015’s RankBrain dramatically changed how sites were ranked.

You can use Google Search Console, Google Analytics, or other third-party apps. What's important is that you should frequently check and compare your SEO metrics, such as:

  • Organic traffic
  • Keyword rankings
  • SERP visibility
  • Clickthrough rate
  • Backlinks and referring domains
  • Conversions
  • Bounce rate

Should you do SEO yourself?

If you have the time, dedication, and willingness to learn, you should do SEO yourself. It can save costs and keep you in direct control of your website's optimization.

SEO can be complex, demanding a learning curve and ongoing attention to keep up with the latest best practices.

Handing off your SEO to a professional will also free up a lot of time. However, hiring a professional can be expensive, with costs ranging anywhere from $500 to more than $10,000 a month.

Especially with the right tools, you can build and implement an effective SEO strategy all by yourself.

Can you learn SEO by yourself?

If you have the dedication, you can master SEO by yourself, even as a beginner.

Luckily, there are a lot of resources available to help. SEO experts are usually happy to share their knowledge and experience; you can learn everything you need online.

Some of the best places to read about the latest news, best practices, and other SEO trends are:

Surfer blog – A regularly updated blog from the world’s best content creation platform, Surfer covers various topics, including tips and guides for on-page SEO, content creation, and other related topics.

Google Search Central – Formerly known as Google Webmasters, Google Search Central is the primary source for SEO, offering specific recommendations and information you can use to improve your search rankings. 

IMG courses – Billing itself as Netflix for SEO, IMG courses has an extensive library of videos covering the full spectrum of SEO. It requires a subscription, but a free trial is available.

Learning SEO – Covering everything from fundamentals to advanced SEO concepts, Learning SEO provides an education roadmap of curated articles to help you expand your knowledge and skills.

The SaaS SEO MBA – A collection of SEO resources from around the web, the SaaS SEO MBA provides a broad range of concept, from beginning fundamentals to advanced concepts.

Can you do SEO for free?

You can do SEO for free.

In fact, you don’t have to spend a nickel to search optimize your site. That’s not to say there isn’t a significant time investment, but there are many tools you can use to search optimize your site without spending any money at all.

Here are some of the best SEO tools you can use to improve your search rankings:

Keyword Surfer—A free Chrome extension,  Keyword Surfer is the fastest and easiest way to do keyword research, complete with search data.

AnswerThePublic—An audience research tool, AnswerThePublic is a social listening tool that helps you find queries related to your keywords, search volume, and competition information.

Yoast SEO—Providing real-time content analysis, Yoast SEO calculates your SEO score as you write content. You provide a target keyword, and it offers suggestions to help you improve exposure.

Ahrefs Backlink Checker—Leveraging Ahrefs extensive database, Backlink Checker shows referring domains, metrics and performance for any target. The free version has limited functionality compared to paid plans.

Key takeaways

  • Search engine optimization doesn’t require a huge investment or an outside SEO agency – with a willingness to learn and a solid work ethic, you can optimize your pages to rank higher and capture more organic traffic.
  • Keyword research forms the foundation upon which your SEO campaign will be built. Find the right words and create great content around them.
  • Write for human visitors – not only search engine crawlers.
  • Rework old content to give it new life and drive more traffic.
  • A logical site architecture makes it easy for visitors and search engine spiders to navigate your site and find information.
  • Link building takes time, but it is well worth the effort because it transfers expertise, authority, and trust to your site.
  • Following technical best practices for SEO keeps your site user-friendly and helps Google crawl and index your site.
  • DIY SEO is an ongoing process that requires regular monitoring and adjustment.
  • There is a wealth of resources available for free on the internet – use these to your advantage.

Conclusion

You don’t need a degree to optimize your website for search engines successfully. It’s possible to develop and implement an SEO strategy that will improve your Google ranking and drive more traffic to your pages without spending any money at all.

However, SEO requires a significant investment of your time and a willingness to learn.

SEO is a long-term process and does not deliver overnight results. Follow the tips in this article, the thought leaders in the field, and stay current with what’s happening. You’ll be an SEO expert before you know it.

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Screenshot of Surfer SEO Content Editor interface, displaying the 'Essential Content Marketing Metrics' article with a content score of 82/100. The editor highlights sections like 'Key Takeaways' and offers SEO suggestions for terms such as 'content marketing metrics