How to build an SEO strategy in 4 steps
What is an SEO strategy?
An SEO strategy is the process of identifying, creating, and publishing content and technical implementations in order to increase organic traffic to your website.
Already know what an SEO strategy aims to do? Skip to how to build an SEO strategy here.
This blog post will primarily focus on ‘on-page’ SEO strategies, namely content ideation and creation. An SEO strategy may also be focussed on off-page efforts (link building, authority and reputation management, and PR practices) or technical SEO (page speed, mobile UX, site security).
When it comes to SEO, keywords are the fundamental tenet. Text queries - and this includes voice search - are word and phrase based; it’s how search engines operate. Even as search engine algorithms become increasingly complex, content remains an indisputable must-have for any website.
So, how do you start to write SEO-informed copy? You conduct keyword research.
This is the most important step in forming an effective SEO strategy and must not be skipped. Assumptions are dangerous in SEO!
Whilst you know your services and products and the proper terminology used in your industry, do you really know how your potential buyers search for your offerings? Are there double meanings that you are unaware of? Have terms evolved, changed, become more specific, or has a competitor genericized an important term? Do you have oversight on all of the ways your personas describe their pain points, across every stage of the buyer’s journey? The latter can be particularly illuminating with regards to the awareness stage.
Starting Keyword Research
Using tools such as Google's Keyword Planner (free), AnswerThePublic (free with premium services), and AlsoAsked (free with premium services) you can identify search queries with a high monthly volume of searches. As well as finding highly competitive primary keywords, you need to identify long tail searches for your blogs.
Start by searching for monthly search data around keywords you use for your services and/or products. Your keyword tool should then provide you with keyword variations, phrases containing your keywords, similar searches and so on. Collate these keywords into a list - AnswerThePublic is a particularly useful tool as it provides long-tail query data, perfect for blog articles.
You’ll need to repeat this step for every service or product you have, for example a legal firm would need to research search volumes around “family law” as well as “criminal law”.
Creating a Content Plan
Aligning Content to the Buyer’s Journey
Review your entire list of keywords and identify which are appropriate for your service pages - these are usually your head terms, such as “SEO services” - and which are better suited as blog or pillar page titles: these may include questions, lists, or templates, usually targeting longer tail keywords.
Now, you need to ensure that you have copy distributed across the entire buyer’s journey for each key service type you offer. This is not an overnight job! If there are any noticeable gaps, these will need to be addressed; ensure you have content spread across each stage equally.
Next, determine which CTAs are appropriate for each blog, service or pillar page. You’ll need to be mindful of the buyer’s journey here too: an awareness stage blog will not convert well with a decision stage CTA: your customers aren’t there yet.
A spreadsheet is a helpful way to compile and store this information.
Schedule time to write the content, ensuring as you write you regularly refer to your keyword list! You’ve done all of this research and if you don’t mark out time to action it, it’ll be time wasted.
Top tip: Do not set every blog post live at the same time: a regular and sustainable production of content is far more efficient and effective.
Whilst not strictly part of an SEO strategy, it is important to utilise social media. Share your blog content as and when it’s live on your site to broaden its reach.
Metrics & Measuring
The next important step of your SEO strategy is determining which metrics to track, so you can understand the success (or otherwise) of your content. Without this data, you will be unable to understand how to improve your SEO strategy.
It's paramount that you avoid vanity metrics.
Example SEO Metrics
Google Search Console is a useful tool here.
Benchmark your website’s organic performance before enacting your SEO strategy.
- Total clicks: these is the total number of clicks a URL has received. Factors that can influence this include: page titles and meta description.
- Total impressions: this is the number of times the URL appears in the search results page for a user. This can be impacted by your on page keyword targeting, page titles and domain authority.
- Average CTR: this the click-through-rate or percentage of impressions that resulted in a click. Influencing this metric is best approached by reviewing the validity of the impressions - are you getting lots of impressions for irrelevant search terms? Or are you appearing for relevant queries but are your competitors receiving the traffic?
- Average position: this is the average position that your website appeared in the search results. Of course, the smaller the number, the better!
You can filter this data by search term, URL folder, and so on. If you offer distinct services or product categories, collecting service specific data is useful to understand the success of your content strategy by subtopic.
Looking at your branded organic performance - these are searches for your brand and company name - is another practical benchmark to note.
Review and optimise
You’ve scheduled your content, you’ve identified your KPIs and metrics, now what?
SEO is a long game by nature. Not only do you need to wait for search engines to crawl and index your content, you also need to wait enough time to collect data on its performance. How long this will take depends on your buying cycle, personas and so on.
Elements to Optimise
- Headings (h1, h2)
- Page title
- Calls to action
- On-page copy
An important point: don’t change a multitude of elements in one go. You won’t be able to assess what had a positive impact.
Additionally, don’t assume what worked for one blog will work for another! Replicating successful tactics is important, but this is different from copy and pasting!
Once you’ve made your edits, schedule your updated posts to go live and book in time to review the performance: what worked? What didn’t? Revert any unsuccessful edits and revel in your successful ones.