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Launching a side hustle takes a lot of work, and if you want to eventually grow yours into a full-time business, you cannot afford to ignore Search Engine Optimization (SEO). There are an estimated 5.8 billion searches on Google every day, leading to 93 percent of online experiences. In short, SEO helps potential customers find your business on their own when they search for something on Google. A good SEO strategy helps increase your brand awareness, brings visitors to your website, and helps you meet your businesses goals for very little cost.
Below are five actionable ways to grow your side hustle using SEO.
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Conduct keyword research and find the right terms to target
One of the most important parts of any SEO strategy involves keywords. A keyword is the term or phrase that someone enters into Google when they start a search. It is very important to be thorough with your keyword research so you know what keywords to optimize your website for. When you do your research, look for keywords that have a good search volume. You also want keywords that have a manageable difficulty score, which tells you how difficult it is to rank for that keyword.
Keyword research is necessary for pretty much every part of your SEO strategy. You write your content around target keywords, you make your anchor text in link building campaigns based on specific keywords, and so on. The keywords you target should be relevant to your business, but you should also prioritize keywords that actually lead to sales.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when starting your keyword research:
- Reverse engineer the keywords your competitors are ranking for to know what they have targeted.
- Keep “search intent” in mind so you are writing content specifically for what people are trying to find when they use certain keywords.
- Look for long-tail keywords that have lower search volumes but are less competitive, and therefore easier to get a higher ranking.
- Look for keywords in the form of a question and then write content that answers those questions.
Once you have finished your keyword research and have a good list to work with, you can move on to the next most important element of SEO.
Create great content (that your audience wants to read)
With your new keyword list, you can start by planning out your content. If you execute this well, content by itself can help you generate business in the long-term.
First, you need to find content ideas. Enter your most important keywords into a search engine and see what content ranks at the top. You can also check what content your competitors have written about on their website. Think about the common questions and concerns your customers have and write content to address those needs.
Secondly, think about the type of content you create. Content doesn’t just mean written copy. Your strategy should also include images and custom graphics, videos, case studies, audio and more.
Now. it’s time to actually start creating content.
Here are some tips to guide you in the process:
- Create a content framework using the keywords you want to target, the information you want to cover, and what types of content you want to include.
- Use tools like Hemingway App or Grammarly to make sure your content has no mistakes and is at an acceptable reading level.
- Use bullets to break up paragraphs of text that contain useful statistics or helpful tips.
- Mix in useful links to both your other content and outside, high authority websites that provide more relevant information.
- Use Google Analytics or other data to see what content is working well and what isn’t so can refine your process for future content.
Once you have the content drafted, you can move on to the next step.
Follow on-page SEO best practices
The next step is publishing your content to your website. There are a number of what are called “on-page SEO factors” that help your content rank better, so it’s important to follow best practices here, too.
First, there are the meta tags. Each page that is published should have a meta title and a meta description. The meta title is the hyperlinked portion of text that you see in search results:
This acts as a “title” for the page and should include the page’s most important keyword. The meta description is the text below the meta title, which offers a lengthier explanation for what the page is about.
Other on-page factors include your headings and URL structure.
The H1 is another type of title for your page, but it should not be the exact same as your meta title. Your H2s are the sub-headings that introduce each section of your content. You can have H3s or lower within each sub-section, but they aren’t as necessary.
For the URL structure, make sure to keep it as short as you can while describing what the page is about in a few words.
When writing each of these technical elements, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Write your titles, headings and descriptions in ways that entice searchers to click on and read the content.
- Update your content regularly, especially if the keywords you initially targeted don’t get searched for as frequently anymore.
- Make sure your main keyword is included in each the meta title, description and headings.
- Track how the content performs using common SEO metrics so you can keep working on pages that aren’t performing well.
With your content written and optimized, your work isn’t done yet. Now it’s time to promote it with an effective link building campaign.
Create quality links with link building
Link building involves a set of strategies and methods for getting other websites to link to your website. Search engines like Google use backlinks as a signal that other people like and trust your content, and will improve your search rankings as a result.
There are good ways and bad ways to go about getting links, the latter of which can actually result in Google penalizing your website. In general, avoid low-quality links from irrelevant websites. You want to focus on getting high quality links from other websites that are relevant to your business.
Here are some tips you can follow for an effective link building strategy:
- Search for broken links on other websites so you can notify the webmaster and ask for them to replace it with your link instead — it’s a quick win.
- Find websites linking to your competitors so you can get links from them if you offer up better content than theirs.
- Avoid working too much on getting links from websites that only add them as nofollow, since you won’t get the same boost to your rankings.
- Make sure the anchor text used in the links is optimized using relevant keywords that also describes the page.
The final tip to follow is to focus on getting links from websites that are locally and topically relevant, so Google doesn’t think it’s spam and ignore it. You should also try to get links from higher authority websites, such as universities, government websites or respected news websites. They provide a more significant benefit to your SEO rankings.
Use technical SEO to ensure search engines can find your site
Last, but not least, you need to make sure your website and each of its pages is set up properly from a technical perspective. Technical SEO means optimizing the coding and server elements of your website to make it friendlier to search engines.
Optimizing the technical elements of your website helps search engines easily and efficiently crawl and index your website. That way, they fully understand what your website contains. When they understand your website, they’re more likely to show it in relevant and valuable searches.
Here is a quick outline of the most important technical SEO elements you should focus on:
- Site structure: Create logical categories for your content using menus and URL strings based on topics, products, locations, and so on.
- Make sure each page links to other internal pages that are relevant to pass the link juice around.
- Set a canonical URL so search engines know which version of a page to crawl, and which ones to ignore.
- Optimize the page loading speed by compressing images and making the server and page coding more efficient.
- Use 301 redirects for pages you are getting rid of so you don’t lose any link juice you built for it.
- Make sure your website uses an SSL certificate to encrypt the communication between the browser and server.
- Create HTML sitemaps and submit them to Google via Google Search Console so they know the structure and pages on your website to crawl.
The technical parts of SEO can seem more complicated, and you might not have the technical expertise to do it yourself. If that is the case, you can also hire a freelance expert to assist with this part.
These actionable SEO tactics form the core of what you should be doing with your website in order to help your business grow.
Let’s recap. To set yourself up for success, you need to:
- Know what keywords to target
- Write great content
- Optimize on-page elements
- Build backlinks
- Fix technical elements
The real benefit of SEO is that while it can take a lot of work, executing it properly can lead to a long-term surge in online growth for your business. More people who are actively searching for a business like yours will find you online, and those are customers you don’t have to pay for.