Guide to SEO strategy
Having a robust SEO strategy is a must if you want to drive traffic to your site and provide your target audience with a wealth of useful, informative, and relevant content that will turn them from a site visitor into a customer.
What is an SEO strategy?
An SEO (search engine optimization) strategy may seem like a mysterious beast wearing a cloak of complexity, but once you break it down, it’s actually pretty simple. An SEO strategy is simply a process that you can follow with the goal of maximizing the organic traffic (or number of visitors) your site gets from search engines.
One thing to note – implementing your SEO strategy does not mean instant gains. Good SEO takes time to mature. It’s a little like the snowball effect – tiny at first, but keep going at it, keep being consistent, and it will eventually turn into an avalanche.
3 steps to formulating an SEO strategy
Taking these three steps will help you create a broad SEO strategy and put you in a good place to build your organic traffic, and, in turn, your website conversions.
- Keyword research
- On-page SEO
- Off-page SEO
These guidelines will help you get started on each of these aspects and create an SEO strategy that’s tailor-made to your business needs.
Step 1: do your keyword research
Despite seemingly complicated and overwhelming challenges, getting leads through organic traffic still boils down to two main factors: high-quality content and backlinks from credible sources. This is what the keyword part of your SEO strategy should focus on.
Keyword research plays an important role in both. Your content is unlikely to rank well on search engine results pages (SERPs) if it does not contain the right keywords. It’s important to incorporate keywords into your content in a natural fashion, and avoid keyword stuffing.
Here are 8 ways to be strategic in your keyword research:
Understand your customers and their wants and needs
Have specific goals – they must be quantifiable. They could be page ranking, number of visitors or number of conversions, for example
Brainstorm related topics – make sure that your content is relevant to your products or services
Compile a list of main keywords – these keywords will serve as the basis for secondary keywords and topics
Understand the intention of the search queries you rank for – some people search online to get information. Others want to buy something. You must know their intent when they found your website
Pinpoint long-tail keywords – these are necessary for highly specific searches that are less competitive
Research your competitors – you should understand what your competitors are doing well in terms of their SEO strategy. Identify and use their best practices and develop your own strategy to out-compete them
Step 2: nail your on-page SEO
On-page SEO is crucial SEO strategy, and relates to where your pages and website as a whole are placed in search engine rankings. On-page SEO primarily includes ensuring your keywords are in the following pages:
- Through the content – naturally!
- Meta description
- Image alt-tags
Google and other search engines index your website based on your keywords – it’s how they know what your website is all about. There is a hierarchy in the way keywords are ranked based on their positions on the page. For example, keywords in titles are generally given more importance and are ranked higher.
There are usually SEO tools built into the backend of your website, such as WordPress’ Yoast plug-in for example, that will help you check you’ve appropriately used your keywords.
Aside from keywords, there are also other factors to consider:
- Length of articles – according to Hubspot, the ideal blog post length is 2,100-2,400 words
- Duplicate content – duplicate content will be penalized. You should definitely avoid this. Conduct an audit of your website to see if there is any duplicate content there and rewrite it
- Content updates – fresh content tends to rank higher in the SERPs. It is crucial to regularly update your content
- Outbound links – Including outbound links to authoritative websites can improve the credibility of your website both in the eyes of search engines and in the eyes of your target audience. However, you shouldn’t use too many (two or three per article is good), and you should make sure they are proportional to the length of your content
- Internal links – it is a good idea to interlink topically connected articles. This will reinforce their authority and lift your rankings for that cluster of content as a whole
- Mobile-friendly website – make sure that your website is compatible with mobile devices. In the last quarter of 2019, about 53% of global website traffic came from mobile devices
Step 3: don’t forget off-page SEO is important, too
Off-page SEO mainly refers to backlinking, which serves as a vote of confidence for your website. Remember that only quality, relevant backlinks are recognized as authoritative by Google and other search engines.
Here are some ways you can build quality backlinks for your website as part of your SEO strategy:
- Guest blogging – create quality backlinks through guest blogging on other websites. Just make sure that these blogs are authoritative and relevant
- Press releases – create a press release for each important update for your business. Press releases must be interesting and contain a hook, or something that will make people want to read them
- Directory links – list your company on relevant directories which include a link back to your site
- Create a Google My Business page – setting up a page for local Google search is important in driving local traffic, especially if you have a brick and mortar business.
Topic clusters as part of an SEO strategy
If you’ve been researching how to go about creating an SEO strategy, you may have come across the term “topic clusters”.
Topic clusters are groups of content all on one central theme. For example, if you sell children’s clothing, you may create content around summer clothes. You’d build one “core” page, also called a pillar page, called “Summer Clothing for Kids”, and then create a load of pages related to summer clothes, like “What to take on a summer holiday”, “The 7 best sun hats for kids”, or “How to protect your family from the sun”.
The idea is to link all of these pages together, so you’ve created a “cluster” of related content. This keeps visitors on your site as they click on the different pages, and it signals both to site visitors and search engines that you’re an expert in this field. In turn, this will hopefully boost your rankings.
Here’s what it looks like:
Tips for SEO strategy success
There’s so much around SEO strategy that we’ve listed our top tips for success:
- Analyze how your competitors approach SEO – see what they’re doing well, and what they’re not doing well, and implement ways of making your SEO better. There are some great competitor analysis tools that can help you do this.
- Audit your existing content – you may already have a lot of great content that just needs to be optimized for SEO. This could be website content or even sales brochures or other offline content. Figure out what to keep, update, and delete.
- Set KPIs – if you don’t take a benchmark and then measure what you’re doing, you won’t know how successful you are, or where you could make improvements. Goals for SEO include site visitors and organic revenue.
- Be consistent – the only way to make gains in any SEO strategy is to keep doing it, even if you don’t see any results at first. SEO takes time to work because it takes time to implement and time for search engines to understand what you’re doing. Don’t lose heart – this happens to everyone, but if you’re consistent, you’ll get there.
- Fix technical SEO issues – you may need to outsource this to an expert, because it’s easy to get mired down in technical SEO if you don’t know what you’re doing. We recommend doing a complete technical SEO analysis and making any necessary fixes, then keeping on top of this every couple of months to check whether anything’s changed (this happens all the time as search engines update their algorithms)