Professional SEO services are expensive – you’re looking at $1000 per month at least. Luckily, there are many SEO tests and optimizations you can do yourself – for free! If you’re new to SEO, start with these 8 actionable tips.

1) Test for speed

Page speed is a direct ranking factor for Google. 

If your site is slow, other SEO measures will have only a limited effect. 

So start by testing your load speed – for example, with tools like Pingdom, WebPageTest, or Google’s own PageSpeed Insights. Don’t focus on just one tool – use them all for more insights. 

For example, in this test with Pingdom the page is graded as D, or slow. 

Credit: pingdom.com

At the bottom it shows a list of possible measures to speed up the site. In this case, there’s an F grade for URL redirects. If you get the same result for your site, you’ll need to optimize your redirects

And here’s the same URL tested with WebPageTest: 

Credit: webpagetest.org

As you can see, the test has revealed that the time to the first byte is very long. This can indicate that the hosting server is slow to respond. In this case, you might need to choose a faster hosting provider


2) Research keywords

Before you write any content, you need to decide which keywords to target. Luckily, you don’t have to do all the brainstorming alone. There are great free tools out there to provide ideas.

Google Keyword Planner is the most famous, and you should definitely master it (see this guide). 

Another great free service is Ubersuggest. For any keyword you enter, it will give you many more:

Credit: neilpatel.com

Simply getting together a bunch of keywords isn’t enough, however. You’ll need a proper keyword strategy. 

What’s your target audience? 

Which keyword should go on which page? 

What do you want to increase – brand awareness or sales? 

Learn more about strategy here


3) Optimize for mobile

As most traffic now comes from mobile devices, Google is moving to mobile-first indexing. This means that mobile versions of pages will be used for rankings. So make sure that your site is fully responsive and loads fast on all devices. Mobile SEO is a huge topic, but here are a few tips to get you started:

– Test, test, test – try sites like Responsinator or Screenfly to see how your site looks on different screen sizes;

– Prepare to make lots of tweaks (this can mean quite a lot of additional CSS);

– Don’t use Adobe Flash – it won’t run on many phones;

– Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to serve pages faster – popular tools include CloudFlare, Incapsula, and Photon by Jetpack.


4) Publish fresh content

There are four key reasons why you need to add new content to your site regularly:

1) Google prefers fresh content about things that are trending or change often. 

For example, if your e-commerce site sells smartphones, you’ll want to publish reviews for new models. Who knows – you might even get into the Top Stories section.

Credit: google.com

2) Search engines will come back to your site more often to discover your new pages.

3) Other sites will link to your pages more if you keep publishing relevant, interesting content. 

3) You can cover more keywords – make sure to choose new ones for every new post.

You can also help your SEO by updating your existing content. But make sure that these changes are large enough because Google ignores small updates. 

Read more about freshness here


5) Use images

Image searches constitute over 20% of all searches on Google. Visual search is one of the biggest marketing trends right now – so don’t get left behind. Here are some actionable tips:

– Include at least one image in every post;

– Use keywords in image file names, separating them by dashes, like so: delicious-burger-new-york.jpg;

– Scale and compress images to reduce page load time;

– Add meta tags to all images – they should be relevant, descriptive and contain keywords;

– Use your own pictures whenever possible;

– If you don’t have a suitable image, there are many royalty-free collections out there – see this guide.


6) Monitor backlinks – and not just your own

Backlinks are links to your page published on other sites. They are extremely important for SEO, so prepare to dedicate lots of time to build them

Still, you shouldn’t just focus on getting new backlinks. Take time to check which sites link back to you – and to your competitors. These are the two types of backlinks you’ll need to monitor: 

1) Links to your site: make sure there are no bad links that could get you penalized, such as links form adult or gambling sites; 

2) Links to competing sites: discover high-quality sites where your rivals get their backlinks – and plan your own strategy accordingly.

For free monitoring tools, try Ahrefs (limited free version), MoonSearch, Neil Patel’s Backlink Checker or SmallSEOTools. Here’s a sample result from Ahrefs:

Credit: ahrefs.com


7) Add social sharing buttons

Social shares aren’t a direct ranking factor for Google. If they were, everyone would just start buying thousands of fake shares. Still, recent studies show that social signals CAN help your SEO by getting you more backlinks. 

To increase your chances, follow these rules:

  1. Add sharing buttons to valuable content that people might want to share. Practical guides, honest reviews, product comparisons all work well. But you don’t need social buttons on your pricing or contacts page.
  2. Place the buttons both at the top and in the lower half of the text – or at the end. Some people are impulsive: they like the first paragraph and share. Others only share after they read to the end.
  3. Only display the number of shares if you have a lot of them. Zero or a few shares act as negative social proof.

Is it possible to do your SEO yourself? Yes. It’s a set of skills that will take you some time to master. But with so many great free resources and tools out there, DIY SEO is totally possible. So don’t waste your time and money – start optimizing your site today!

Author BIO: Natalya Dyatko is a freelance writer and content marketing/SEO specialist. Follow her on Linkedin and Twitter for more SEO tips, tutorials, and analysis.