5 Easy Ways to Improve Your SEO Before the New Year . / Credit: Google Image via Shutterstock

No matter what kind of business you own, search engine optimization (SEO) is essential to making sure your website ranks high in organic search engine listings.

While many companies choose to hire an outside firm to handle their SEO, there’s lots you can do yourself to improve your ranking.

Tim Gray, content strategist for Blue Fountain Media, a digital agency focused on results-driven website design and online marketing, offers five tips on how to improve your SEO before the new year.

Create quality content- More than ever, creating quality, original content is the most important factor in increasing your SEO performance. The majority of your content should be created with an eye toward being reusable and re-purposed - In other words, this isn't an advertising campaign so skip the product placement s and services announcements.

Use social media platforms more- Search engines want to provide users with the most relevant content among billions of interconnected pages on the web. So it only makes sense that each now relies on social signals to decide which content is the most popular, ( “shares” or “likes”), and rearranges page rankings accordingly. The more “shareable” the content, the higher up in the search engine results page it’s placed.

Set up Google+ authorship - Studies show that including a profile picture to accompany articles alongside Google’s (Google+ Authorship) search results can improve click-through rates up to 35%! This new feature is an easy way to attract visits and helps searchers associate you as an authority while improving your SEO efforts.

Create a Google Places for Business listing- Google Places for Business allows you to respond to reviews and comments about your business. Google's algorithm places a value to comments and reviews within its overall rankings.

Get one quality backlink- Search engines’ algorithms consider the source of inbound links, and low quality sources can have a negative effect on your rankings while high quality, relevant sources can provide a substantial boost. Get quoted in a publication respected in your industry, or volunteer to write some content that would be of value to their readers. Always ask for a link back to your website.