The SEO Guide for Side Gig Entrepreneurs

Increase Organic Traffic with Search Engine Optimization

Author: Zach Dilworth Thursday November 11, 2021
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What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

SEO is your website’s ability to rank on the first page of Google’s search results for a given keyword related to your products or services.

Why is SEO important?

In the long run, organic traffic can be much cheaper than pay per click advertising. Organic traffic usually leads to a much higher conversion rate and the cost per acquisition tends to be much lower than pay per click. Without SEO, the only way to rank as the first result on Google would likely be through a paid ad and depending on the targeted keyword, it could be extremely expensive. If your keyword was in the first position of the organic results, your website would be in an advantageous position with the potential to gain a good percentage of click-throughs from Google searchers.

SEO Basics

  • The reputation of the search engine

    • When someone searches Google for “fuzzy earmuffs,” Google is going to try it’s best to show relevant web pages that offer fuzzy earmuffs. Google has a reputation to uphold with its users by sending them to reputable websites that are consistent with the search requests.
  • The architecture of your website

    • Website architecture is extremely important when it comes to optimizing your site for SEO. If Google and other search bots cannot distinguish one page from another, it’s likely to dismiss those pages. Hence, your site will not be ranked. Keyword architecture pertains to the keywords being used within specific areas of your website.
  • The reputation of your website

    • Have you ever noticed when you try to click on a link with a bad reputation, your anti-virus software stops you and said the page was blocked? That’s an extreme example, but sites that have a poor experience across the site will cause visitors to leave quickly. When that happens, it’s logged as a bounce. Search engines tend to rank sites lower if they have a poor reputation as it puts their reputation at risk.

SEO is really about providing a great customer experience on your website which in turn provides a great customer experience on Google as well.

SEO Terminology for Beginners

  • Keyword Search Volume

    • Monthly volume of searches associated with that keyword
  • Keyword Difficulty Score

    • Organic competitiveness for a specific keyword. The higher the number, the harder it will be to rank for that keyword.
  • Gems

    • High volume and low difficulty score
  • Long-tail vs short-tail keywords

    • A short tail keyword is usually made up of one or two words that are general in nature and often have high searches matched with high difficulty scores: “entrepreneurship.”
    • A long-tailed keyword is usually made up of three to five words that describe a specific request. Usually, conversions from a long-tailed keyword tend to be the most relevant: “startup costs for entrepreneurs.”
  • Domain Authority

    • The strength of a domain’s reputation as it corresponds to its ability to rank as a domain
  • Page Authority

    • The strength of a web page’s reputation as it corresponds for the page to rank
  • Backlinks

    • Links on external websites that link back to your website.
  • SERP

    • Search Engine Results Page
  • Search Engines

    • Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.
  • 404 page

    • A broken link on your page. Perhaps a URL on your website was modified or deleted. It’s best to have a custom 404 page that shows the same navigation and look and feel as your website, but it just says this page is not valid or it’s under construction. That way, a user isn’t just sent to a blank page with no way of getting out of it except pressing back. Without it, the customer experience isn’t great.
    • Try typing in www.side-gig-startup-entrepreneurs.com/hamburgers
  • 301 redirects

SEO Keyword Syntax

Google is really smart – instead of having to search Side Gig Startup Entrepreneurs, you can search Side Gig Startup, Gig Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneur Startup, Side Gig Entrepreneurs, etc. Google not only adjusts the order, but it also will help you rank for like-keywords through content clustering. Once your website as a strong reputation, you may be able to rank for keywords that are synonyms of your targeted keywords.

How to Perform SEO on My Website?

  • Keyword Research

    • We used Moz to determine which keywords to use related to entrepreneurship and side hustles. Can you guess why we chose such a long name? We chose Side Gig Startup Entrepreneurs for a reason – SEO. In SEO, your brand name comes up a lot and if your brand name happens to include one of your targeted keywords, it might just make it a little bit easier to rank for it.
  • Keyword Architecture

    • The keyword architecture is the distribution of your targeted keywords on each page of your site. Take a look at your site map and place 2-3 related keywords on each page. Focus your primary keywords on the main pages of the website.
  • Index for search engines

    • Search engines follow a certain path when their bots crawl the pages on your website. It’s taking a look at your sitemap and robots.txt file to get a better understanding of the architecture of the website. Additionally, the bots dive deeper into each page to see what it is about. It scans each of the following components of your pages so it’s important to incorporate your targeted keyword in each (where applicable).
  • Site Map

    • Categorization of the website. Here’s a simple website hierarchy example:
      • Home Page Links: 6-8 Primary pages
        • Primary Page Links: 6-8 Sub-pages
  • Page Title

    • Length: no more than 70 characters as Google may truncate it in the search results.
    • Title of the page – try to get your keyword in here as a natural title of the content. Each title should be unique.
    • Placement: Try to get your keyword for that page at the beginning of the title.
  • Meta Description

      • Length: between 100 and 220 characters – However, this number may vary based on mobile vs desktop. Check out SEO Processor for more details.
      • Meta Description – describe your webpage and include targeted keywords naturally. Each meta description should be unique.
  • Headers

    • There are multiple headers on a webpage typically labeled from H1 to H6 and they follow a typical outline structure:
      • Header 1 (H1)
      • Header 2 (H2)
        • Header 3 (H3)
          • Header 4 (H4)
            • Header 5 (H5)
    • Headers should be written to separate sections of a web page. There should only be one H1 per page but there can be multiples of other header types similar to an outline format. If a keyword magically fits into a header, it’s helpful. However, stuffing your keywords into each header when it doesn’t make sense may cause Google to flag your site as potentially keyword stuffing which could result in a poor customer experience.
  • Anchor tags (hyperlinks)

    • Fancy terminology for hyperlinks. By adding anchor tags which essentially links a keyword to another page, you’re helping the linked page rank for the keyword that’s being linked. For example side gig entrepreneurs links to the home page where we are trying to rank for the keyword side gig entrepreneurs. A common technique where this is used is by linking keywords from the blog to the primary page that you are trying to get ranked.
  • Alt Image text (description of the image)

    • Length: Around 125 characters.
    • This is a description of the image that is meant to support image searches and website accessibility. Also, it’s a great place to incorporate a keyword so take advantage of the allowable lengths.
    • By checking the above attributes, the search engine bots are building a profile for your website and getting a better understanding as to which topics are relevant to your website. When you index your website for SEO, you’re putting your website in a better position to rank for your targeted keywords.
    • As the foundation for your website’s SEO, it’s important to continue following this methodology with all future posts.
  • Fresh Content

    • Fuel the website with fresh content and follow the content optimization techniques from above. Often websites have a blog or news section where content is constantly refreshed. If you’re unsure what topics to write about, check out Hubspot’s content pillars templates. Hubspot does a great job of explaining content clusters that support primary content pillars.
  • Backlinks

    • Backlinks help build your website’s reputation. When other websites link to your website, that’s considered a backlink. Obtaining backlinks can be tricky. Simply adding a comment with a link to your page will often be flagged for removal. Neil Patel has some great techniques for increasing the number of backlinks for your site.

SEO Tricks of the trade

  • Competitive research

    • Check the backlinks that support your competitors. Define your competitors as the websites that show up ahead of yours when you search your targeted keyword phrase.
  • Check your performance

    • Google Analytics provides great insights into web traffic. Sign up for an analytics account from Google and add the tag to your website. Then, see how your site performs. 
  • Utilize Social Media

    • Drive traffic to your website using social media to promote your site. Add hashtags to reach a larger audience.

Avoid Blackhat SEO

Blackhat SEO refers to using aggressive SEO practices aimed at ranking the website and are often positioned to support search engine bots and not actual humans. Google and other search engines are against these practices as they often result in a poor customer experience. If these practices are discovered by the search engine bots, the search engine will flag the website causing its position to drop on the SERPs, often significantly.

Some SEO agencies will promise to get your website ranked in less than 30 days. Often, they are adding your website to a slew of websites that allow anyone to post on them. Google states “No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.” Some SEO agencies may claim to have a special relationship with Google, but according to Google, there are no priority submissions. Companies should never promise that a company will rank due to their ever-changing algorithm.

Keyword stuffing refers to the over-usage of a keyword in each of the page elements when it doesn’t make sense for the page. In the ’90s and early 2000s, websites would place thousands of keywords with the font colors matching the background color so it would be hidden. Google’s algorithm has since updated to avoid sending users to pages like that.

Buying links: Check Fiverr and see how many freelancers are offering thousands of backlinks for $5. Google could flag your website if there are links from spam-like websites. To correct a past mistake, Google allows you to disavow links from spam-related websites. On a side note, Fiverr can be a great place to buy links in small amounts that are manually placed on a website, usually on a directory or profile page of a site.

Check out Google’s Helpful Guidelines for choosing an SEO agency.

SEO Misconceptions

  • Ranking #1 for your brand

    • This is great if your customers are looking for your brand, but not great if your brand is unknown to them. Instead, focus on the keywords used by a customer experiencing symptoms of what your product resolves. We are not a good example of this as we incorporated our targeted keywords in our domain and brand name.
  • It’s impossible to rank #1

    • This can be almost true if your chosen keywords have the highest competitive scores. However, if you’re targeting keywords with a difficulty score of under 40, it’s possible to rank as long as your website is in good standing, and continues to follow proper SEO techniques with fresh content on your site. SEO takes time and requires consistency to rank. Don’t expect results within the first 12 months for any short-tailed keywords, but if you’re doing it right, you should start seeing some long-tailed keywords moving to higher placements on the SERPs.
  • No one really knows how Google ranks a website

    • Google wants to provide a great experience to its users. If you continue providing great content that’s optimized for SEO and building a strong domain reputation by earning backlinks from other reputable websites, your site should start ranking, naturally.

Other factors that influence the ranking of your website include:

  • Google My Business

    • Add business information to Google My Business to have business-related information show up on SERPs on the right side of the search results.

    • Enable security tags on your website so it’s not under HTTP and instead HTTPS. This adds a layer of validity to your website.
  • Mobile Responsive website

    • If you’re using a web builder tool, be sure to check how your website renders from a mobile device. You can always use Google’s emulator as a starting point. Open Google Chrome and right-click a webpage and select inspect from the drop-down menu. Upon doing that, there’s an option to change the size of the window to different device sizes. It’s not 100% accurate, but it gives you an idea on how the website may look on a mobile device.

Google Chrome in browser mobile responsive emulator

  • Website page speed

    • Make sure the images are saved at a lower file size before uploading to your website. We use the free version of Pixlr to make image file size changes before we upload them to WordPress. Check out Google’s PageSpeed Insights to measure your website’s load-time. 
  • Age of domain

    • Unfortunately, if you just bought your domain, this is not going to help you. However, if you’ve been sitting on a domain for years, search engines may view your site more favorably.

While many additional factors that influence your website’s position, these will give you a good starting point and get you on the right track. Be sure to stay up to date on the latest changes in SEO through the Moz blog and others.