SEO: not just a buzzword. It can pack a serous punch for your digital marketing strategy and the upfront investment, although valuable, is mostly just your time. Still, it can take a little finesse. So welcome to this full guide on SEO for solopreneurs and creatives. This guide should have everything you’ll need.
The awesome thing about SEO is the sheer volume of opportunity in search engines.
That’s a lot of volume – and a lot of opportunity.
So I’ll be walking you through my exact process for SEO research and content creation, from start to finish. This really is a full content roadmap that will get you exactly to where you need to be.
No really, I cover it all. Keyword research: check. Topic ideation: check. How to write awesome click-worthy titles: check. How to outline, write and optimize content (so it actually ranks): yep, check.
So without further ado, let’s get into it!
Part One: Foundations for Success
Part Two: Your Complete SEO Handbook
- Step 1: Keyword Research 101
- Step 2: The Art of Writing A Great Title
- Step 3: How To SEO-ify Content
- Step 4: Creating A Content Plan + Map
Part Three: Looking Forward
Part One: Foundations for Success
Benefits of SEO
For Solopreneurs + Creatives
SEO is the gift that keeps on giving.
Once you implement an SEO strategy, you’ll reap the rewards over the long term in a compounding pattern.
And this makes sense.
Google alone process billions of search queries each and every day. In fact, over 40,000 search every second!
That’s a lot of traffic – and a lot of opportunity.
So if you follow this post, you should be all set with everything you need to hit the ground running, so to speak.
Alright, first things first, let’s get a clear definition.
SEO stands for search engine optimization.
It’s the process of:
- Finding specific phrases people are searching for
- Writing valuable content around those phrases
- Optimizing that content to rank in search engines, like Google
Although SEO can get pretty technical pretty quick, I prefer the minimal (but still very effective) approach.
Once you do get more confident and start ranking articles, adopting more advanced strategies can help.
I cover these advanced concepts briefly in the last section of this post (should you be interested in learning more).
Otherwise, let’s keep moving and look at some top benefits of SEO.
The big caveat here is that good SEO requires a lot of high quality, upfront work. But at the end of the day, SEO is getting you free, targeted traffic to your site. That’s a win.
It's Automation That Works 24/7 For You
Modern brands are active across multiple channels. But it’s difficult to be everywhere, all the time. So implementing an SEO strategy means we’re active, present and boosting our reach at all times – and it’s completely automated.
We don’t have to be present for SEO to do the long-term heavy lifting. We simply let our initial hard work run in the background and keep up with regular maintenance checks and updates.
It Builds Authority, Credibility + Trust
Ranking in Google adds a. lot of authority and credibility. After all, it’s not easy, so having articles ranking in Google fosters quick trust for your brand.
People Are Coming To Find You (Not the Other Way Around)
People visit Google to find for solutions to problems and answers to questions. So when your brand shows up, they’re coming to you first with a strong buyer intent. This is low-friction and is incredibly valuable traffic.
Ideation + Topic Discovery
Ideation and topic discovery is like a creative rabbit hole of research, realization and brainwork. It’s a springboard, or jumping off point, that gives direction to your SEO keyword research.
But what exactly is ideation and topic discovery for SEO?
Ideation and topic discovery is the process of using your brand identity, audience values and content or business goals to research and think of potential ideas for articles and topics.
Often, this process reveals many potential keywords and phrases that you can save and use later.
The ideation phase is pretty casual. It’s actually one of my favorite parts of the whole SEO process.
You’ll probably find it’s closely connected to basic keyword research. So I often find myself hopping back and forth between keyword scouting and ideation.
Either way, I’ve been doing keyword research and ideation for large companies and small businesses for the past couple years now, so I’ve learned a pretty solid process.
Essentially, we start by answering some core questions about our brand and our content goals.
These questions will guide your initial research. Naturally, topic ideation will come about.
What is your niche?
Obvious enough. But a good (nay, great) starting point for topic discovery is clearly identifying your niche. I actually fell short on this front when I first started this blog.
I was creating a lot of content, around the digital marketing industry. But digital marketing is not “niche”. It’s extremely competitive and pretty general.
Eventually, as I got better, I found my niche (digital marketing and growing a brand for creatives and solopreneur).
So be sure you have your niche clearly identified. If you need a little help, this article can help you narrow in on your niche.
Who is your audience and what are their problems and values?
Solving your audience’s problems and providing solutions is a hallmark to great content. And that’s value-adding content.
This is a great rule of thumb: if you’re adding value, and not asking for anything in return, you’re heading in the right direction.
A great way to clearly identify your audience’s problems and value is by making a buyer persona. Learn how here!
What are your main content goals?
We all have different goals for our content. Maybe you want to drive sales or maybe you want to build an audience through blogging and acquiring email sign ups with a lead magnet.
As for me, my primary goal is to add experience-backed value at scale. I want to develop passive traffic and income while fostering growth for creatives and solo entrepreneurs. I’m actively a part of this market and I love sharing what I learn along the way.
So hone in on your content goals, this can guide your topic discovery and ideation.
What type of content do you want to make?
Similar to content having different goals, content also comes in different forms. For starters, great content is always value-adding. But what kind of value is it?
Value is often split into one of (or a combination of) three types:
- Educational Value
- Inspirational Value
- Entertaining Value
Another content type to consider is whether you want to make evergreen content or topical article.
Evergreen content is content that does not expire or become irrelevant over time. It’s always valid. Topical content however is temporary, and is not relevant after a fell short amount of time without updating it consistently. For example: news organizations.
So unless your niche is related to news, most of your content will likely be evergreen (aside from seasonal or annual posts).
Are there any competitors or people you'd like to emulate for content style?
Using your competitors for inspiration is perfectly fine (and actually recommended). After all, researching what seems to be working for others makes sense.
We can simply improve upon what they’ve done and customize or adapt their ideas for our own brand and purposes.
What differentiates your product or service?
Differentiation is what sets you apart from everyone else. It’s an essential key to a successful business (unless you have a monopoly or local advantage on your niche).
So think about what differentiates your brand and this can guide your content ideation in turn.
Creating Content Silos
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of keyword research, an amazingly effective first step is thinking about your site’s structure and organization.
We can do this by creating content silos and content clusters, which will take your site from amateur hour to the pros.
Content silos, and content silos, are groups of related topics and articles.
I like to use a tree metaphor.
Think of your main niche as the tree trunk; your content silos are the branches; and your content clusters are the leaves.
Let’s use this site to further illustrate the concept.
My main niche is digital marketing for creatives and solopreneurs. But this is still pretty broad and I can segment this audience into various subset, or silos (which I did).
Some of my content silos are:
- Handmade jewelry makers and artisans/crafters
- Graphic designers
- Massage therapists
- Affiliate marketers and bloggers
- Artist and musicians
Each of these niche silos will have clusters of related articles specific to that audience (like leaves on a tree).
All of my longer “ultimate guide” articles are content pillars, belong to the main trunk of the tree. They contain detailed information that’s relevant for each silo that I have.
This SEO post is a content pillar.
Pillar articles are super important and become a key asset for your site.
You can easily reference or link back to these big posts from within your smaller, more clustered articles.
This is creating site architecture and is one of the most helpful things you can do (but it’s often overlooked).
So I want to save you the headache of trying to fix things later – build out content silos and batch your articles into organized clusters!
OK, now lets move on to part two, and learn how to do SEO!
Part Two: Your Complete SEO Handbook
Step 1: Keyword Research 101
After some ideation and mapping how we want to organize our content, we need to find keywords that are actually getting traffic.
Ideally, we should use keywords that have high search volume, but low competition.
These are often called long-tail keywords – and they’re the perfect strategy for newer websites or blogs.
Long-tail keywords are phrases that have lower competition, but still receive good monthly search volume.
As the name suggests, they tend to be longer and more specific, or niche.
Because of this, they offer a competitive advantage.
They are ideal for newer sites and blogs and even offer a higher conversion value since they match a very specific buyer intent.
The ideation phase above has likely given us some initial guidance on potential keywords.
Now, we need to see if those ideas and phrases actually have search volume.
So let’s do some keyword research. Here are 6 simple steps for effective, free keyword research.
1. Start With A Seed Keyword
This is your starting point. The first idea you have for what this new content will be about.
It doesn’t need to be fully developed at this point.
Rather, we just need something to feed into Google to get started.
This is the seed phrase, and is the first part of using the alphabet soup technique for keyword research.
Let’s see how that works now.
2. Use the 'Alphabet Soup' Technique
Whenever you start typing into Google, you’ve probably noticed the automated suggestions to finish your search.
This is incredibly insightful – from an SEO standpoint.
Essentially this is Google telling us “hey, a lot of people are searching for this related key phrase“.
We can use this to our advantage.
It’s called the alphabet soup technique, and it goes a little something like this:
- Type your initial phrase into Google
- e.g., SEO for…
- Notice phrases already being suggested
- Next, start typing the first letter of the next word
- e.g., SEO for a…
- Notice what’s being suggested now
- Look for topics relevant to your niche (like SEO for artists, for me)
- Now repeat the previous step
- …but for the letter b
- …then c
- …and so on…
- Rinse and repeat
This is especially helpful if you’re feeling stumped and need some inspiration.
So on to the next step we go.
3. Explore Google's Related Searches
Beside autofilling suggestions for search queries, Google also provides you with a collection of related topics, searches and phrases that “people also ask for…”.
Again, super useful for our SEO purpose. This is great for both inspiration and fine-tuning a key phrase idea.
Welcome to the SEO rabbit hole.
4. Analyze the First Page Results
Once you’ve found a keyword, you should analyze the sites that are currently ranking for that phrase.
Here’s how to analyze the first page results for low-competition keywords:
- Enter the phrase into Google
- Audit the website names on the first page
- Be wary of keywords that yield results only from well-established, big brand sites
- Click on some 1st-page results and audit their content
- Look for blogs that are short, not well-written or just have bad UX and design
- Use the skyscraper technique, where you simply write a longer, better post than what’s ranking
5. Stay Organized + Make A List
I have a Google doc, categorized by audiences and includes a list of keyword ideas for each of my content silos.
There’s not much else to say here, except that organizing your thoughts, ideas and keywords is super helpful and keeps things nice and tidy.
6. Use A Keyword Research Tool
All the steps above are totally free. This is fine – and definitely works. But what if we want to throw a little more weight behind our strategy?
Keyword research tools definitely do the job here.
They offer way more insights, clarity and quality to your keyword research.
Here are some of my favorite keyword tools that I use:
- A free, super powerful keyword research Tool from marketing guru Neil Patel
- It has a lot of features (some requiring payment), definitely worth checking out
- A super awesome keyword research tool that displays ideas and results visually
- Perfect for inspiration and ideation
- A gold standard, and one of the most effective and accurate tools I’ve used
- Perfect for finding related keywords, opportunities, competitive analysis and more
- I use this site because I get it free through my WealthyAffiliate membership
- It does a decent job and also offer related search, good for inspiration
- You can also organize things with lists
Step 2: The Art of Writing A Great Title
Click-worthy, not click-baity. That’s the key here.
Having a click-worthy title is incredibly important. It’s often the first thing people will see and is what sets you apart from the competition (in rankings).
So what makes a good, click-worthy title?
Below are a few ways to ensure your title is good. There’s definitely an art to it.
Consider the Title Length
There’s some debate to this. On one hand, title length isn’t a ranking factor.
It’s more important that your title clearly states what the reader should expect to find when visiting the page.
But on the other hand, title length could theoretically influence click-through rate.
Title’s that are shorter are more easily read and likely to be displayed “as is” (not altered or cherry-picked according to Google’s algorithm).
So if you can concisely state the purpose of your article and the value that the reader will get by reading it, this could be better performing than a long, clunky title.
Whatever side of the fence you’re on, there is general consensus that your title should be between 60-65 characters.
Actually, I like to keep my titles under 60 characters (I just like that clean, to-the-point look).
Include Your Target Keyword
This may seem obvious, but including your keyword in your title is important.
So be sure you have your target phrase show up in your title, preferably towards the beginning.
Use Power Words
Did someone say thesaurus.com? Yea, I spend a lot of time there.
Here, using power words essentially means opting for more emotional or uniquely compelling vocabulary.
This can really help your post stand out from the competition.
A great trick is to see what’s currently ranking for your target keyword, and simply improve upon it – but not use the same words or angles.
We want to stand out from the crowd.
Here is a helpful post that lists strong vocabulary for article titles.
Specificity is good.
A great way to be specific is by adding a timeline or some tangible temporal point.
For example, How To Find Customers Online In 6 Easy Steps is specific and the reader knows they’re only 6 steps away having their problem solved.
Communicate What the Reader Will Get
If you can communicate a specific problem that will be solved, your article will definitely stand out and be more attractive.
For example, consider these two titles:
- How To Find Customers Online
- Pretty generic, and kind of boring
- How To Find Customers Online (Without Breaking the Bank)
- Much better
- This solve a fiscal problem, such the high cost of acquiring customers
- How To Find Customers Online (the Easy Way)
- Another good choice
- This solves a practical problem or concern – that online marketing and lead generation can be hard
Another great way to think of inspiring titles is by using templates and title generators. There’s definitely no shame in using a plug-and-play title from a post like this one.
These templates will save you time and energy – and are super helpful when you’re having writer’s block.
Beside this, I just try to keep things short and sweet and to-the-point.
Step 3: How To SEO-ify Content
In the Title
As mentioned above, the first place you want to make you have your keyword is in the title. Makes sense.
While there is some debate, try to keep the keyword close to front of the title, as this may improve ranking and click-through rate.
In the First Paragraph
The next place we should include our target keyword is in the first paragraph or two.
This is simple enough as first paragraphs are introductory and echo, or explain, the title.
In the Content (Organically)
Once you’ve added your key phrase in the title and the introduction, should you put it anywhere else in the content?
It’s best to just write your article organically, your key phrase will naturally come up.
But you may also add it to your headline tags – if it makes sense.
Headline tags follow this format:
- H1: Your main title
- H2: Your main sections
- H3: The subsections within each main section
- H4: The sub-subsections with each subsection
I generally only use H1, H2 and H3 tags.
If you do decide to add your key phrase in more places, just be sure to avoid keyword stuffing.
This happens when you overuse your key phrase, stuffing it into places that don’t feel natural.
This used to work in the early days of SEO, but Google’s algorithm is much smarter now and will penalize sites that try this.
At the end of the day, your post quality will have stronger SEO value by simply writing truthful, high-quality, value-adding and relevant content for your audience.
In the Meta Description
Your meta description is the fell short preview snippet that shows up on Google search results, before people actually click on your link.
It tells potential readers what they’ll learn or get by clicking on the link and including your key phrase in this description is an important best practice for Google and search engine ranking.
In the URL Friendly Name
Finally, be sure that your friendly name has your target keyword.
This is the tail end of your URL, identifying the specific page or article the link is for. For this post, the friendly name is /seo-for-solopreneurs-full-guide.
You’ll want to be sure you include your target keyword here.
Step 4: Creating A Content Plan + Map
If we’ve put in all the work to finding amazing keywords and superb title, then we don’t want to just start writing aimlessly and all willy-nilly.
Content Length, Posting Frequency + Post Quantity
Longer articles rank better.
In a logical sense, it shows Google that there’s a lot of useful information, not just a fell short few paragraphs. And that’s the point.
We want to make high quality, thorough articles that outrank other pages for the same keyword.
And writing longer articles a simple way to do this (as long as we’re not just adding fluff that has no real value).
So how long is long?
According to HubSpot, an ideal blog post length is between 2100-2400 words. That’s pretty long!
They do go on to say that shorter blogs can – and do – rank.
Also, this data is based solely on their own content, so depending on your niche and keyword competition, this word target could change.
Still, the general consensus is that longer posts offer more SEO and ranking value.
This is especially true for newer blogs or for posts where the current competition for a particular keyword is full of longer articles.
How often should I post?
While there’s no “rule” per se, there are some key tips.
For example, you can’t expect to write 3 or 4 articles and just sit back and wait for rankings and amazing traffic to come in.
You need to create a lot of posts, and frequently.
This keeps your site active and – in the most practical sense – extends your reach by creating more chances to rank and be found.
So what should I do?
I would recommend an initial first-year goal of at 50 articles (100 if you can).
Having a regular posting schedule will help develop a good habit and boost your rank and authority.
Check out this interesting YouTube video from Income School, where they break down expected earnings based on the number of blog posts a website has.
Content Structure + Headline Tags
Content structure is how we organize our subtitles, main sections and overall article.
As I explained above, headline tags are simply the names of your titles, sections and subsections.
For example, this section is aptly named ‘Content Plan + Map‘.
This is an H3 headline.
My H2 is Part Two: Your Complete SEO Handbook.
Each number basically represents the next tier in a post’s outline hierarchy.
As mentioned earlier, I basically stick to only using H1, H2 and H3 headline tags.
I guess I just can’t be bothered with the other H’s…
Drafting An Outline
Having an outline can be super helpful.
It’s surprisingly easy to get off topic, or accidentally end up with a meandering, non-specific piece of content.
So if you’re the type person that like having an outline, this small step can go a long way for you. Here’s what I do.
- Describe what type of content it is (educational, inspirational, what’s my goal? etc.)
- Intro, Body + Conclusion
- Briefly describe what I will talk about in the intro, body and conclusion
- I label the main (H2 or H3) sections
- This gve your blog and each section clear direction and purpose
And that’s it! From here, we can simply write our content, add visuals and images and post it live.
Interlinking is another important piece of this whole SEO and content marketing puzzle.
It’s a pretty simple concept and we’ve already touched on it briefly when we discuss content clusters and site mapping.
Interlinking is simply linking to other pages and content on your website from a blog post. It creates a site architecture.
Linking to and between other articles on your site offers SEO value, as it helps Google to better understand your site’s architecture.
Also, it keeps readers engaged and staying on your site longer, which is another ranking factor.
Part Three: Looking Forward
Advanced SEO Strategies
SEO can get pretty technical, for sure. Although I prefer to keep things simple, there are a few (slightly more advanced) strategies worth mentioning.
Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive, but rather highlights some of the more popular methods worth exploring – once you’ve mastered the foundations above.
Backlinking can be incredibly helpful, and gives your site authority. So let’s start with a definition.
Backlinking simply refers to other websites linking to your site’s content.
So how do we get backlinks? Here are three popular ways:
- We reach out to website for backlinking
- We write guest posts, linking back to our site
- We just write really good content and wait for people to naturally link to it
Image SEO: Using Alt Text
SEO doesn’t stop at the content and titles. Images also have SEO value. We optimize our visuals using alt text.
SEO for images is done using alt text. Alt text is…
If you need some help finding images for your content, there are a lot of free libraries and resources online.
These are two options that offer royalty-free, no copyright images, videos and animations.
Hack: download the free images and customize them using Canva to increase their originality.
Using the Google Search Console
The Google Search Console is an incredibly helpful and insightful tool to have. It’s basically a dashboard for all your website metrics and management needs.
One big thing I use it for is requesting new articles be indexed right away (rather than waiting).
In order for our articles to actually show up on Google, they need to be indexed – sort of like a library cataloging a new book it has.
Google will (usually) index your new content…eventually. But this can take weeks, sometime longer.
Actually, after doing a recent audit of my site, I found articles over 2 years old that were never indexed into Google!
So any time I write a new article and post it onto Google, I always request it be indexed manually.
It’s quick and easy to do in the search console.
You can simply paste your URL into the ‘URL Inspection’ bar on top, then hit the ‘Request Indexing’ button.
After a minute, Google will submit your request, which will speed up the whole process.
Tracking keywords, clicks + impressions
It’s good to know where you stand and how your site is performing over time.
Every website host will have a slightly different way to post a new blog online, so if you have questions here, Professor Google should be able to help out.
Featured snippets are slightly newer, and are also called position zero.
They’re super helpful for the end-user and can get your site some great traffic, as you’ll immediately stand out in the search results.
Position zero is the fell short display of text and information that shows on top of the Google search pages.
These featured snippets offer readers a quick answer and site owners a new way to stand out and rank higher than the competition.
Optimizing for these spots is another advanced strategy to consider when writing and editing.
I won’t go into full detail (that’d make this post a bit too long), so here is a helpful article from Backlinko for further reading.
What's Next? Trends To Know
The digital marketing and SEO space is always changing and evolving. It’s a dynamic place.
So we want to be sure we’re keeping up with the latest trends and any major changes on the horizon.
I’ve included only a few trends below, but a great site to follow for the latest news is Search Engine Journal.
They’ll keep you updated on everything you need (and don’t need) to know.
Video is all the rage these days. And optimizing with and for video is a trend that’s been happening for a while now.
Actually, adding an embedded video on your blog posts can be another competitive factor to boost your rankings.
So don’t miss out on this trend, it’s an important one.
Voice Search SEO
Ranking for voice search is a concept that gets tossed around a lot.
But according to Search Engine Journal, this isn’t something we need to worry about too much.
But it’s something to think about moving forward.
AI is infiltrating everything. So it’s no surprise that it could influence how we do SEO.
AI-based solutions for SEO could bring about new software solutions for solopreneurs looking to learn what SEO factors are working and changing.
You can read more here.
Google EAT (+ Algorithm Updates)
Google periodically updates its algorithm and ranking signals. So staying “in the know” is important to keep your SEO strategy current.
EAT, while not technically an algorithm, is a recent update standing for:
However, as reported by Search Engine Journal, sites that need to worry more about EAT are YMYL (your money your life) sites.
So unless you’re writing about medical topics or financial expertise, you shouldn’t need to worry too much.
Just Writing Simply Good Content
At the end of the day, the most important ranking factor is genuine, value-adding, relevant content.
So be true to this and you’ll be fine.
If you’ve made it this far, congrats! There’s a lot of information in this post.
We covered it all, from ideation and topic discovery to exact strategies for optimizing your content for the search engines.
We discussed how to index our content into Google, upcoming trends and advanced strategies.
All of these things should provide you with a solid framework moving forward. So now the ball’s in your court.
You can start ideating and making a content plan right now. And when you’re ready, grab your website domain and start writing.
Anyways, thanks so much for stopping by today!
Let me know in the comments what your biggest question for SEO and keyword research still is?