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5 Things To Do Before You Start With SEO

Hey there! I'm Christy Hunter: photographer, educator, and self-proclaimed nerd who believes that any business owner can learn SEO to grow their business online.

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How to Start with SEO

Learn the first 4 steps anyone should take when starting to work on their Search Engine Optimization.

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So you’ve stumbled upon the world of SEO and you’re eager to get to work improving your Google ranking and organic traffic. Awesome! But before you start integrating keywords, adjusting heading tags, and getting up to your eyeballs in optimizing your website, I’d caution you to slow down. There is a small handful of things you should do before you start with SEO.

These 5 things will not only set you up for future SEO success, but also ensure you’re heading in the right direction from the very start. There’s nothing worse than doing a whole bunch of work only to realize later that you have to go back and redo it, right? So let’s avoiding having to redo our SEO work!

Sign up for a Google Search Console account

This free SEO tool is one of my absolute favorites! Google Search Console is a free service offered by Google that helps you monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google Search results. Search Console helps you understand and improve how Google sees your site.

getting started page for Google's free Search Console SEO tool

*An important note about this tool: it is not retroactive. This means that it can’t start collecting data until it has been set up and verified on your website. That’s why this is one of the first steps I recommend that every website owner makes before starting with SEO! Improving your SEO is done by making smart, informed, intentional decisions. And we need data to do that well.

Once your data starts to populate, you’ll begin to see how much helpful information Google Search Console has. While you might not start digging into all of the reports and numbers right away, you’ll be so happy that it’s all there waiting for you as you get more comfortable with SEO.

If you need help setting up Google Search Console, you can follow along with this helpful step-by-step guide. It should take you less than 5 minutes to complete!

Set up Google Analytics Tracking on your Website

Google Analytics is a platform that collects data from your website and turns that data into reports; those reports provide insights into your business allowing you to understand your site users’ behavior and demographics. All of this data lets you better check the performance of your marketing, content, products, and more.

About Google Analytics start up page

I’ll be honest here, I don’t use Google Analytics nearly as much as I use Google Search Console. But don’t let my saying that let you think that you can just skip this step! The insights that Google Analytics (currently known as GA4) gives you is unreal and insanely valuable. When you want to start studying the paths that your site visitors take or understanding if you’re website is converting well, Google Analytics will be exactly where you turn to.

If you’ve never set up Google Analytics before, follow along with this walkthrough video where I take you step-by-step through the signup and installation process! How and where you input the Measurement ID or tracking code varies by website platform, but Google gives you lots of detail if you need it.

Have a Website and Blog that You’re Proud to Share

This is probably one of the bigger tasks I’m giving you to do before you start with your SEO. Yes, having a website and blog is obvious when we’re talking about Search Engine Optimization and showing up online. But notice I didn’t just say “have a website.” That’s because, before you start the process of optimizing your business’s online home, I want you to make sure that you actually love it.

If you’re cringing right now thinking…
– How long has it been since I last updated my website anyway?
– Wait, I don’t even remember how to go in and change things on it anymore. Uh-oh.
– I’d be so embarrassed for someone to pull up my website right now!

Those are signs that you need a website refresh! SEO is about bringing valuable traffic to your website. Make sure you have a website that you’d be happy to show off to those new site visitors! If not, you’ll end up in the same predicament I mentioned earlier: You’ll do aaaaalll of this work on your website only to realize that you wasted your time and want to change everything. Don’t fall into that trap!

Gather Up Portfolio and Branding Images

While we’re on the topic of websites, I’ve got to mention photos. Having professional, up-to-date images is essential for any business owner, but especially for those who primarily market themselves online. You should be using photos that are up-to-date and reflect your current level of work and/or style.

pile of colorful photos on table with glasses sitting on them

I’m talking about all of the different types of images you should have on your website: a portfolio showcasing your best and/or most recent work, headshots or branding images of you (and your team members, if applicable) that are current, as well as any graphics that you use throughout your site. Don’t worry about what to do with these photos yet. We’ll get into that later! Simply have them all gathered together in a singular, easy-to-find spot.

Run these images through the same filter as your website: are you happy to use them throughout your site? If not, add this to your immediate to-do list. Book a branding session for yourself or schedule a product photo shoot!

Narrow Down your Specialty

Ok, it’s time for some tough love here. In order for you to rank well in Google search, you’ve got to be clear on what it is that you do and who you serve. Have you ever heard that phrase that goes something like “If you’re trying to speak to everyone then you’re really speaking to no one”? In terms of your business and its website, if you’re trying to talk to every single type of client that comes to your site, then you aren’t really standing out as THE service provider for anyone.

magnifying glass sitting on blue paper with small design

Not only can you confuse those who are coming to your site as to what it is that you do, but you can also confuse Google! Google’s crawlers and algorithms have gotten pretty advanced over the years, but they still rely on the words that you use to help Google understand your overall content.

Here’s an example:
– If you’re talking about home design, the home buying process, and home organization tips… what service do you provide?

You could be an interior designer… Or you could be a home builder, right?

– But if you’re talking about home design, home decor trends, and home organization tips, then it becomes much more clear that you’re an interior designer.

Niche down so that your website and its content have a clear focus. The example I just gave refers to two very different service types, but this concept should still be applied to your industry, too. Sticking with the interior designer example… Does that business design luxury home interiors, home interiors on a budget, or maybe even home interiors for large families?

The more specific you can get the easier it will be for Google to understand when and where it should place your business and your website in its search results!

Finalize Your Service Area or Location

Deciding what location or service area you want to work in is crucial for a great local SEO ranking. The type of business that you have will determine how important location is to your SEO. If you’re an online service provider and you work with clients all over the country, or even all over the world, location won’t play a very significant role in your SEO strategy. However, if you tend to work in a particular city or you have a brick-and-mortar storefront, then narrowing down your service area becomes ridiculously important to your SEO success. Please think about this before you start with SEO!

red heart cutout held over map to show zoomed in location

I’m all about giving examples, so here’s another one. Let’s imagine a custom cake maker who lives in New Haven, CT. We’ll call her Kate. Let’s say that Kate doesn’t have her own shop that people can visit. Instead, she relies on her website and word-of-mouth referrals to bring her potential clients.

I would then ask Kate where she’s willing to travel to to deliver her amazing, sweet creations? Maybe she tells me that she’s willing to travel anywhere in the state of Connecticut… Or maybe she says that she only wants to deliver in and around New Haven. Those two choices present two very different SEO approaches and how she wants to be found online.

Yes, larger populations are more likely to result in more searchers (aka potential clients) coming to your website. But if that larger location doesn’t align with your business goals or personal wants/needs, then the increased search traffic won’t be valuable to you in the end.


Do yourself a favor and work through these 5 simple tasks before you start with SEO. I guarantee that you’ll be happy you did when you start to implement SEO on your website. If you haven’t looked through my free guide “The First 4 Steps to Strong SEO,” be sure to grab it. A couple steps might look familiar to you, but I talk about some completely new ones, too! You’ll also get a series of emails from me walking through every single step. I want you to feel excited about making SEO work for you and your business, not stressed out or intimidated. I’ll always do my best to provide you guidance along the way!

list of more Beginner SEO Resources to help learn about SEO and where to start

SEO for Beginners: How to Start with SEO (Action Steps!)
How to Setup Google Search Console

5 things you should do before you start working on your SEO

Always cheering you on,

Christy

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