The dos and don’ts of simple SEO for freelancers and startups

What is SEO exactly? Search Engine Optimisation has been around pretty much since Google was created in 1998. As long as there’s been a way to rank websites, businesses have wanted to try and get theirs as close to the top as possible.

People overcomplicate it a lot, but SEO can be broken down into some basic, actionable ideas. Every freelancer and small business can learn good SEO practice when it’s this straightforward. Here are 5 simple dos and don’ts to kick things off.


DO have a keywords list

Before you get started with any kind of SEO, you need to know what keywords to target. Just like packing a suitcase, the best way to do it is make a big list.

To create your keywords list, note down all your product types and services, then group them together into similar categories. To organise it, write down different word combinations and phrases you think your potential customers would type into a search engine to find what you offer.

If you’re a website designer, you might have keywords like ‘Manchester website designer’, ‘find website designer’, or ‘freelance designer for website’.


DON’T feel like you have to spend loads of money

There are lots of SEO agencies and online services ready to take your cash. It might sound like a good idea to leave it to the experts, but it’s a big expense for a sole trader or small business, and it doesn’t always get you results.

Sometimes you don’t need an SEO expert, you need a copywriter to write content or a developer to keep the technical side up to date. It’s always worth getting up to speed yourself and identifying what your problems are before you start looking for an agency or SEO expert to take care of it for you.


DO make sure your website has the basics ticked off

SEO is complex. But just like every discipline, there’s a basic version. Anyone with a website can take care of the 5 essentials without too much effort.

Basic SEO includes:

Meta tags - The content people see when your site shows up in Google search results.

H1 and H2 tags - The main titles and subtitles on your website.

Sitemap - How your website is structured. The simpler and more logical the better! (e.g. Sofas > Leather > 2 seater).

Alt tags - Google can’t read and understand images without some help. Your Alt tags can describe the image and include keywords.

URLs - Your desired keyword should ideally be in the URL of the page you want to rank.


DON’T be sucked in by ‘black hat’ techniques

If a freelancer or SEO service makes big promises about getting you onto page 1 in a couple of weeks, be very wary. They’re either lying, or about to spam your site with dodgy SEO.

‘Black hat’ SEO involves going against search engine guidelines to try and trick the algorithmic system. It might work well for a while, but Google will notice eventually and will probably penalise your site (yes, they really can do that!) Your rankings will drop, including ones you’ve earned legitimately.)


DO add to your website content regularly

Google needs content, video, and images to crawl, or it won’t have much to rank you for. That doesn’t mean adding content for content’s sake though - the pages still need to work well for the site visitor and give them all the information they need.

If you’re stuck for ideas, think about what kind of questions your customers and site visitors have. You can add relevant, quality content pages to answer those questions.


You’ve got a lot on your plate and a to-do list as long as your arm, so keeping digital marketing simple is the best approach. These 5 strategies will keep you educated about SEO and on top of the principles that really matter.


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