Let me put this straight: SEO is really tough in 2019.
Well, it never was easy. Maybe, a lot less competition back in 2009.
But, these days, practically all major niches and keyword clusters are occupied with strong sites, which are super hard to outrank. Especially for a small site, with a low budget, and when you are trying to bootstrap your SEO.
And by “bootstrapping your SEO,” I mean getting highest ROI with the lowest budget.
I recommend installing some free SEO Chrome extensions, which will significantly simplify this journey for you.
In this guide, I will go through main SEO strategies/hacks, which can help you build an effective SEO strategy and campaign in 2019.
Don’t Overthink Your Brand Name And Domain
The one thing to keep in mind when bootstrapping your SEO: do not spend a lot of time and money on brand and domain name research.
Don’t even think about spending $5K on some fancy domain name, prior to testing it. Especially, if you are trying to bootstrap your SEO.
In fact, it doesn’t matter that much. There are countless sites, with quite weird names, but amazing content — that is what matters.
How To Build Your Website
So, there are basically two ways to build your website:
- Use a CMS (content management system): e.g. WordPress, Wix, Hubspot, Shopify, Squarespace, etc.
It depends on your projects. Let your business needs guide what would be the best choice.
If all of your online business depends on the website, it makes more sense to custom build it. Otherwise, if your site is just a marketing platform for your main product or your site is just a blog – a standard CMS is sufficient.
WordPress is a most popular, well-supported CMS right now. So, for me it is a no-brainer.
Technical SEO Setup
After you figure out the way to build your site, things get a lot more straightforward.
First of all, you need to do a proper technical SEO setup. That is one of the most important elements of bootstrapping your SEO.
In the SEO game, one technical mistake can cause countless problems and your site just will never work out.
Take special care to focus on things like:
- Good Hosting
- Quality WordPress theme
- SEO plugins
- Mobile readiness
- Easy website architecture/structure
- Page Speed
A lot of your success with technical SEO will depend on having good quality hosting from the beginning.
By choosing a bit more expensive WordPress hosting, you can avoid a lot of headaches.
High-quality hosting will provide you with:
- One-click WordPress install
- Daily backups
- Higher page speed and faster website
- CDN – content delivery network
- Instant customer support
I recommend choosing between Bluehost, WPEngine & Kinsta. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Return On Now highly recommends WP Engine as our preferred option.)
Bluehost is probably the first option for personal bloggers – as it is the cheapest one.
When your site scales up in traffic, you can switch to more expensive options, such as WPEngine or Kinsta.
Another small but very valuable investment is your WordPress theme.
If you want to save money and go with something free or cheap – you put your Technical SEO at risk. An decent quality WordPress theme will cost in $50-200 range. I recommend you invest in one of these, vs. something free or dirt cheap.
Good themes provide many benefits, including load times, security, customization, and reliability.
If you choose a poor theme, you risk spending much more time and money on WordPress developers down the road when the problems begin. And it will be a constant pain.
Recommended SEO Plugins
It pays to have the right mix of plugins on your WordPress website. I recommend the following:
- Yoast SEO plugin
- MonsterInsights (for Google Analytics)
- AMP for WP (AMP pages)
- Tinify (image optimization)
- WP Rocket (caching)
- Akismet (anti-spam)
Don’t install too many plugins – they will slow down your site.
Also, constantly update your plugins and deactivate unused ones to avoid security issues.
SEO Strategy: Three SEO Whales
Now, after we are done with technical issues, it is time to focus on SEO itself.
As I mentioned earlier, bootstrapping your SEO is super hard. In my experience, we have managed to achieve success with websites pretty fast, but that was with a team of 5 people working on it. So, prepare for a hard work and patience.
If you are limited in time and/or resources, I recommend you focus on three main things in your SEO strategy I refer to these items as the “Three SEO whales”:
- Keyword research
- Amazing content
- Link building
In my experience, these are three fundamentals of any SEO effort. If you remove one of them – your SEO campaign will be much less powerful, or maybe even completely fail.
So, first of all, before clicking a “Publish” button in your WP blog, take time to do proper keyword research.
There are plenty of free keyword research tools. You can even start with Google’s own autosuggest tool or use Google Ads Keyword Planner.
Other favorite keyword tools of mine are:
I highly recommend writing your guest posts based on keywords and Google search data. These posts will perform much better than writing blogs based on your gut feelings.
This approach is very valuable, especially if you are bootstrapping your SEO.
You need to be really focused with every blog post. You can’t afford to push post after post without seeing them not perform well on Google and Bing.
Now, it is time to write content – the main component of your SEO strategy.
Content is one of the main ranking factors in Google’s algorithm. To succeed with SEO, you need to focus on creating something really valuable and high quality.
Let me repeat myself: these days, the competition in most niches is brutal. Your content needs to be of outstanding quality to be noticed by Google.
Also, Google really likes comprehensive content, which provides an ultimate answer to a search query. Instead of writing seven short blog posts per week, focus on two long form guides with 2,000-3,000 words each.
There are plenty of bloggers who only have 50 or so posts, but with hundreds of thousands of page views per month.
Create rich, visual content. Not just boring text.
Include visuals, infographics, embeded elements, videos, podcasts, click to tweets, quizzes, polls – anything which will make visitors stay on your site a second longer. Google likes long session times and low bounce rates.
Last, but not least – link building should be the core action plan in your bootstrapping strategy.
In my experience, there are plenty of sites with amazing content that don’t rank. Why? Because there aren’t any other websites linking to them.
Frankly, link building is one of the most complex and also misunderstood areas in SEO. Some website owners are just afraid of it, others consider it a spam activity, and a third category resort to all black hat tactics.
Surely, if you go in muddy waters with link building, you can completely ruin your online business.
But, high quality link building is the bread and butter of bootstrapped SEO campaigns.
- SEO outreach
- Guest posting
- PR campaigns
- Forums, comments
- Links from customers
- Steal links from competitors
There are plenty of link building ideas you can try.
The bottom line is: only focus on high quality backlinks (with high domain authority and low Moz Spam score). All these $10 offers to build 1,000 backlinks just don’t work. Believe me, I’ve tried. 🙃
Bootstrapping your SEO is as hard as it gets in 2019. Nevertheless, it is still possible and profitable, as content provides amazing ROI.
So, I wish you good luck!
Feature Image provided by the author under his or her own license.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions stated in this post are that of the author, and Return On Now may or may not agree with any or all of the commentary.