Sometimes it feels like search engine optimization (SEO) is all anyone is talking about. Everyone wants to appear at the top of Google. If you rank high enough on search engine results pages (SERPs), it’s easier for your potential customers to find you.
The problem: competition is fierce.
If you’re a marketer, an SEO expert, a blogger, or just someone who is looking to understand the world of SEO at a more in-depth level, this piece is for you. We’ll dive into what SEO strategy is, how to create a solid & effective Search strategy, and why it matters.
What is an SEO strategy?
Let’s start with the basics. SEO stands for search engine optimization. The goal of SEO is for a searcher, who goes on a search engine (most likely Google), to reach your website through an organic search (aka, you didn’t pay to be at the top of the page). Sounds pretty simple, right? The problem is that there is a lot of competition. There are approximately 2 billion websites out there and there are potentially hundreds or even thousands of sites competing over your niche. This is why it’s essential to build an SEO strategy to beat out the competition.
An SEO strategy is a process of planning exactly how you’ll get to the top of the SERPs. There are many factors at play that can influence your ranking and location on SERPs, many of which will be heavily influenced by how you shape and build on your SEO strategy.
Why is it important to set a clear SEO strategy?
Setting a proper plan in place is the first step to winning the SEO game. There are various areas that you’ll need to focus on when building a solid strategy including content SEO and technical SEO. Understanding each area will give you the ability to create an SEO strategy that boosts your chances of rising to the top of SERP.
If you don’t have a clear strategy and understanding of what needs to be done, there’s a good chance that you’ll waste loads of time and money on trying to improve your SEO, with no results. Before we jump into the most important steps in building your SEO strategy, let’s look at the importance of technical vs. content SEO.
Technical SEO is, unsurprisingly, the technical side. When setting up your website, the back end must support your hard work. What does this mean? You need to give Google’s algorithm and other search engines the ability to understand, read, and explore your site. If they can’t, they won’t know to promote you for being the best in your field. In technical SEO, the emphasis is on ranking factors such as crawl (scanning your site), index (the pages should the search engine show), mobile (how friendly your site is for people searching on their phones), hierarchy (how your site is organized), HTML (schema markup, readability, etc.), and speed (how fast your page loads, this is crucial). Many of these factors also contribute to a positive user experience.
As opposed to technical SEO, content SEO focuses on your content. High-quality content has a strong return on investment and is an essential tool for boosting your ranking and establishing yourself as the best in your industry. When Google crawls your site, it evaluates each piece of content, including landing pages. It checks for frequent new content and useful content, so a strong content strategy is integral to ranking higher and reaching your audience.
Ready to whip your SEO into high gear? This step-by-step guide will teach you how to create an SEO strategy to rank higher and reach your target audience:
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8 Steps to build an effective SEO strategy
1. Keyword research
Every SEO strategy starts with keyword research. First, you need to closely examine your site and identify the big topics and themes. Next, consider what keywords and phrases, or long-tail keywords, are related.
For example, a plant-based cooking blog will have different keywords than a Mediterranean cooking blog. The plant-based cooking blog will reach more people if there are long-tail keywords that are in line with what the target audience is looking for. For example, “whole foods,” “plant-based,” “plant-based protein,” and “animal protein vs. plant protein.”
This is why it’s important to identify the habits and interests of your target audience. Your short-tail keywords and long-tail keywords should match their search intent. Done right, you can reach your target audience and maintain quality search traffic to your site.
You can use keyword tools like Keyword Planner and Similarweb’s Keyword Generator. These can help you identify related words of interest to your audience and understand what locations are driving the most traffic. You can also identify search volume – the average amount of times a search engine receives a search query a month. This metric is crucial to evaluate how much interest there is in a particular keyword. You may even decide in some cases to go with a keyword with less search volume if there is less competition.
The next step: researching your competitors’ keywords.
Integrating competitors into your keyword research and SEO plan is a great way to discover which keywords are working in your industry. By looking at the keywords that your competitors use, you’ll be able to get inside information on which keywords convert best and which bring in the most relevant traffic. On the other hand, you may be able to see that certain keywords are highly competitive and not worth the effort. Or you may choose to focus on long-tail keywords with less search volume and less related content but offer a greater opportunity for you to rank higher on SERPs. All of this information will help you choose the right keywords to track and optimize when blogging, working on your on-page SEO, and developing your content strategy, and website as a whole.
2. Benchmark your current SEO performance vs. competitors
Ok, you’ve figured out your keywords. Now, the big question is what you need to do with this information. How do you take your keywords and use them to your advantage in creating a great SEO strategy? First, you’ll need to understand where your SEO efforts currently stand.
The second step to creating a high-impact SEO strategy is benchmarking your current SEO performance vs. your competitors, also known as an SEO competitor analysis. This means evaluating your SEO practices both individually for your site as well as against your competitors. What does your current organic traffic look like? What are your strengths and weaknesses? How do they compare to your competitors? This is called benchmarking and requires metrics and data insights.
The best and most effective way to do keyword research is by using a keyword research tool. Similarweb allows you to analyze keywords for both your and your competitors’ sites easily and with accurate data. You can even break down how much market share you have versus your competitors for particular keywords by location and over time. This valuable information will help you prioritize and optimize accordingly.
3. Website SEO audit
Now it’s time for an SEO audit. While this step might seem more monotonous than the rest, you don’t want to skip it. Of course, an SEO audit is only relevant for those businesses that already have an online presence. If you’re building a new website or brand, you can skip this step.
A site audit means reviewing your entire site both on the content and technical sides. In most cases, this is a team effort between the technical, content marketing, SEO, and digital marketing teams. You’ll need to crawl your website to check that everything is working as it’s supposed to, the site is indexed properly, internal and internal links and backlinks are intact and working, etc. In terms of content, check that all of your pages have optimized meta tags. You can use SEO tools like Serpsim.com to check the length and look of your metadata. You should also check for duplicate content and irrelevant information.
4. Build a solid SEO plan
It’s time to get down to business. After you’ve done the prep work, here comes the big moment: building your actual SEO plan. Don’t forget, SEO isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. You’ll need to build out your plan over time and continue building with more and more relevant high-quality content to improve your SEO strategy according to the market. Even when you’ve reached the top, it’s essential to monitor your metrics to keep improving and remain in the number one position.
Part of building your SEO plan is deciding which web pages on your site you want to optimize for which keywords from step one. Not only do you need to understand which target keywords you’ll need to promote, but you’ll also need to understand the search intent behind each keyword. This will help you choose the right content for each keyword.
5. Link building plan
What do links have to do with an SEO strategy? Surprisingly a lot.
Links equal authority. This involves two types of linking: internal links (when you link to a different page on your website) and incoming/backlinks (external links from a different website to your content). When a high-quality website links to yours, Google recognizes you as an authority on a specific subject and gives you extra points. However, link building doesn’t just happen on its own, you’ll need to create a plan.
It all goes back to keywords, when making a link-building plan, you need to first determine which keywords you want to optimize and then make sure to add relevant links to your content. Link building should be both from internal and external sources. One way to attract links is outreach. Find out who is linking to your competitors and reach out. These sites may be happy to link to you as well. Another method is broken links research – If you’re doing research and see broken links on another website, you can also contact them and suggest inserting your link instead. If your piece is good, many websites will be happy to agree.
The 3rd way is by far the hardest to succeed in, but it is also known as the best of them all. It is actually the real organic method of link building – gaining links. To gain links you must create top-notch shareable content, you must create content that others will want to link to as a source of information, or a discussion. This usually takes much more time and effort, however, it gains the most value both in links and in visitors to your site.
6. Craft new compelling content
Now the fun begins. Let’s make some new content.
Start by deciding which content topics you want to cover first. These are most likely important topics that are missing from your site. Don’t forget to check out your competition to see what they are covering to make sure that you stay relevant. Your content doesn’t have to be 100% on the same topic as your product but relevant to your target audience and the keywords you want to promote.
For example, if you’re working for a clothing company, you’ll post content relevant to style and current trends. But, you also may want to post general lifestyle content as well, such as date night ideas and gift guides for holidays. This is related content that your target audience will be looking for, and when they land on your site, they’ll be excited to see clothes that they can give as a gift or wear on their next date.
One way to frame your content SEO strategy is content clusters. Content clusters consist of grouping your content together around a similar theme and match. These should be related to the keywords you’ve selected, so after you come up with a topic based on your needs, you do another round of keyword research to check for search volume and intent. From there, you’ll create a pillar piece (hint: like this one) and then smaller pieces that go around it and support the pillar piece. The pieces link to one another and show Google’s algorithm that you’re an authority on the subject, pushing all of your content to the top. Clusters also make it easier for Google to crawl your site and find relevant information.
Pro Tip: The internet is so beautiful today, that even if your content is great, no one wants to read it if it looks bad. Get a designer involved, add some pictures and graphics to make the piece really pop. Let your readers enjoy the experience.
7. On-site SEO
Part of any SEO word plan is optimizing your website for Search Engines. The first step here is to decide which pages you need to optimize. These are typically the most visited pages as well as the pages that convert the most visitors to leads.
Here are the six steps to optimizing specific pages on your website:
- Decide which keywords you want to optimize each specific page for. Here user intent is of the utmost importance. Why? Because someone who is looking to buy NOW, most likely isn’t looking for background information on a subject. By understanding user search intent, you’ll be able to promote the correct keywords that match where a searcher is in your funnel.
- Update meta tags according to the main keywords. Don’t slack off on your meta tags. Google loves them. Writing meta tags should be like writing great copy for your website. You want to pull in a potential lead by writing attractive and descriptive meta tags (and URLs too). A meta tag should shout: “Hey, choose me! I’ve got your solution”
- Include the keywords in your content. Maybe this one is obvious, but we can’t stress it enough. Include the keywords in your content. Don’t keyword stuff, Google doesn’t like that either. But make sure they are in there and that your content is direct, to the point, and related to any given keyword.
- Write keywords in your H1, H2s, and H3s. Google loves seeing keywords in engaging and interesting headlines. This shows that the content is relevant and most likely helpful to those looking for the keyword.
- Use alt tags on images. Adding alt tags or alt text to your images sends more signals to Google that this text is relevant and high-quality.
- Internally link to your blogs and product pages. As we discussed in step five, internal links are an important part of your optimization plan. By linking to your other pages, you’ll build a relevant network within your site which is great for SEO. The key is to link from high-authority web pages to pages that need authority.
8. Measure and track your SEO content
It might sound exhausting, but SEO is never done, it’s a marathon, remember. You’ve built a strong SEO strategy plan, but you need to maintain it. This means continuously measuring and tracking your SEO content, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and always keep improving and creating more content regularly.
It’s essential to track the keywords that you are targeting, follow your rank progression, and identify any issues that may come up. One way to do this is by using Google Search Console. That’s if you’re only interested in tracking your website. However, keeping an eye on your own stats isn’t enough when operating in a competitive environment. Also, you’ll want to establish a rank-tracking routine and need tools that provide more options.
Similarweb’s platform gives you access to all the metrics you’ll need to analyze your content’s performance against your competition and your industry or niche. Find out what’s happening around you to keep up and beat your competition.
When checking out your SEO stats you’ll want to look at four main statistics:
- Visit duration or Time on page: How long does the typical visitor spend on your website and each page.
- Pages per visit: the average page visits for a selected time period
- Scroll depth: How far each visitor is scrolling on your site.
- Bounce rate: The percentage of visitors to your site that entered and left without visiting other pages.
- Conversion rate: The percentage of visitors who complete a certain goal (a sale for example).
You’ll then want to keep track of all your important keywords’ rankings. A rank tracker tool makes that easy – no need to define what to track each time. The rank tracker keeps track of the keywords and metrics that you specify. You can build dashboards to routinely check the metrics and keep track of how all your keywords rank within the competitive environment.
Get to work
In this guide, we’ve taken an in-depth look at how to create an SEO strategy.
Now what? Now it’s time to get to work and build the best SEO plan possible. It’s clear today, that SEO is no longer a nice-to-have. With the internet getting more crowded by the day, businesses that want to remain relevant must have a killer SEO strategy. If you haven’t created one yet, or you haven’t seen results, don’t worry. An SEO strategy is dynamic and you can always improve it as well as your website and content. It’s never too late.
Check out our SEO strategy checklist for all of the info you need. Get it here:
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SEO strategy FAQs
What is an SEO strategy?
SEO (search engine optimization) strategy is the process of improving a website’s search ranking in order to gain organic traffic.
Why is an SEO strategy important?
It is important to have an SEO strategy to effectively improve your search rankings. If you don’t have a clear strategy, there’s a high chance you’ll waste time and money, and end up with no results.
How do you build an effective SEO strategy?
You can build an effective SEO strategy in several ways, including conducting keyword research, benchmarking your performance against your competitors, and incorporating a link-building plan.