Developing an SEO strategy feels overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. There’s certainly a lot of work when it comes to optimizing your website and content for search engines, but with the right framework, it’s actually quite simple. You just need to be willing to put in the time and effort.
Even the simplest efforts, if implemented properly, will be enough to boost your rank and generate some additional organic traffic. SEO is constantly evolving, so you need to get the basics down as quickly as possible. Otherwise, by the time you do, your efforts will be outdated and the competition will be way ahead of you.
Below, we’ll outline the framework for getting started with developing an SEO strategy. As all marketing efforts do, it starts with understanding what tools you’re working with and who your customer is:
Step One: Understand What Search Engines Are Looking For
In order to get started with developing an SEO strategy, you need to understand how search engines actually work, and what they’re looking for in top-ranked websites.
Search engines work by crawling the Internet’s content, parsing through the code of each website and saving it to display to users. At that point, its algorithm goes to work and ranks websites automatically, displaying them to users in the order of most valuable to least valuable. That’s the key – search engines are always going to return the content that they think is most relevant and valuable first. Otherwise, why would users go back to the search engine in the future?
This means the very first step to making sure your website is optimized for SEO is by ensuring that it’s actually being reviewed by search engines in the first place. Using the Google Search Console, for example, allows you to ensure your website is being reviewed by Google and even submit an accurate sitemap.
Finally, you need to understand what matters to a search engine like Google. Why the algorithm is constantly being tweaked, there are some basic evergreen strategies that will always matter when it comes to SEO:
- Technical SEO.
- Strong user experience.
- Quality content.
Below, we’ll go over how to work on each of these one-by-one, but first, we need to figure out what we’re optimizing for in the first place.
Step Two: Understand What Your Customers Are Looking For
Once you understand how search engines parse through your website, the most critical step is understanding exactly what your customers are looking for. Otherwise, you obviously won’t be able to optimize your website for the right keywords and content.
The best way to get started is by brainstorming what the problems are that would drive a customer to land on your website. If you’re a Mexican restaurant in Austin, TX, the phrase ‘tacos in Austin’ would be obvious. For more niche businesses, you might have to brainstorm a bit harder. A good way to test your keywords is by simply entering them into Google. When you search for them, are they bringing up your competitors or relevant information that your customers could need?
If you’re going after keywords that are quite popular, you might want to narrow them down a bit. After all, if you’re just getting started, you’re simply not going to beat out major corporations for keywords that they have spent decades optimizing for. Ranking on the top page is critical, as your chance of getting clicks decreases dramatically once you’re on page two or beyond. It simply takes too much time for users to scroll through that many results. If you go with more niche keywords, you’ll be able to rank higher much quicker, albeit at a smaller volume. This is the tradeoff you need to consider as you determine your search terms.
Another good way to come up with the right keywords is using Google’s Keyword Planner. It’s designed as a tool for Google’s paid search platform, but it’s nonetheless useful for developing an SEO strategy. It’s totally free, and you can use it to do things like parse through your website or a specific web page and suggest the best keywords, look at the search volume of a particular phrase you’re considering, and even review trends of a specific keyword.
Step 3: Developing the Technical Aspects of Your SEO
Technical SEO sounds intimidating, but it’s really quite simple. Technical SEO is simply the process of ensuring that a search engine is able to crawl and index your website as painlessly and accurately as possible. There aren’t any cheat codes when it comes to SEO, but the following items will ensure that your website is technically optimized when it comes to SEO:
- HTML and XML sitemaps – helps search engines crawl your website (and helps users navigate them intuitively, too).
- Meta titles and descriptions – need to match the type of content that users will find on each specific webpage. Optimizing these for each page is one of the quickest things you can do to boost performance across the board.
- Broken links – broken links give search engines a bad impression of your website.
- Optimized URLs – the URLs of each web page should be clear and keyword-rich.
- Site performance – we’ll talk about this in-depth in the user experience section below, but generally, the better your site performs, the more a search engine will like it.
Step 4: Ensuring a Strong User Experience
User experience is critical to developing an SEO strategy for two reasons. First, search engines care quite a bit about the user experience. They won’t send users to websites that they’re going to struggle to navigate. Second, if you spend all this time and effort to build organic traffic, you need to make sure that once users arrive, their journey is intuitive.
Most search categories have a majority share on mobile devices, not on desktop devices. That means that if you want your website to rank well on a search engine, your website must be fully optimized for mobile.
HTTPS is officially a ranking factor when it comes to search engines. If your website isn’t secure, Google and other search engines won’t feel comfortable sending users your way.
Websites must load quickly in order to achieve a high page ranking. This means pulling back on heavy images and videos. Avoid flash whenever possible, as it loads slowly and makes it difficult for search engines to crawl a page. A simple, intuitive design will be the best for both performance and the user journey.
Step 5: Creating Quality Content
In the end, the best content for SEO will be the best content for your audience. If you want to attract people, you need to create content that is useful and relevant to their needs. Once you put that together, you can tweak it for keywords and handle the technical aspects that make it more desirable to a search engine.
Take a look at your keywords, which by now should represent exactly what your audience is looking for. Use that to create a map of all the content that your users would need when asking the questions that lead them to your website. Keep the types of content you create varied, for both search engine optimization and the benefits of your user experience:
- Blog posts – this is what most people think of when we talk about content. Keeping your blog updated is an easy way to generate a steady stream of SEO-rich content.
- Product pages – if you’re in the e-commerce business, detailed product pages will do wonders for your SEO.
- Guides – long-form content is starting to have a significant impact on SEO rankings. Guides will be incredibly useful for your users as well.
- Videos – even if your videos reside on YouTube, you can develop keyword-rich titles and descriptions to help them show up on search engines and YouTube searches.
Content is going to be the bread and butter of your SEO strategy, so you need to stay on top of it. Make sure to constantly analyze the performance of every single piece of content. You’ll quickly learn what’s working and what isn’t working. Use that to develop strategies to improve upon your content in the future. Add reminders to update and repurpose your popular content. If it’s still getting traffic, you’ll want to make sure it reflects the current state of the industry and your company.
Step 6: Building Authority
One of the most difficult aspects of SEO is building authority. It’s easy to update your own website, since you have full control over. It’s a bit more tricky to convince other authoritative websites to send people your way. However, it’s incredibly valuable and a great way to boost your website’s search rank, so it’s key to developing an SEO strategy.
Start off by preparing a list of authorities you should target. First of all, consider their actual authority. Low-quality links to your website won’t help a great deal. Quality over quantity is key. You’ll also need to consider their relevance and the context in which the links will be presented. Natural, conversational links are best.
Next, you need to figure out how to actually generate backlinks. One simple way is by offering to prepare content for the website in exchange for a quick author bio and a link to the website. In other words, writing a guest article. Developing useful infographics are always a great way to generate backlinks. Depending on your product or industry, you could even consider giving products or samples away so people can write guest reviews, or asking some of your higher profile clients for testimonials.
SEO is a critical digital marketing strategy for any company. Organic traffic is inexpensive and incredibly valuable. Getting the basic framework in place will immediately boost your performance and set you up for both short-term and long-term results, as long as you’re willing and able to constantly analyze and iterate your efforts.