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The disappearance of Amelia Earhart, the enigma of Area 51, and the current state of the Bermuda Triangle each rank among the greatest unsolved thrillers of all time. Another distinctly modern mystery is Google’s algorithm. Similar to the others, we may never truly discover the answer. Google occasionally shares hints and clues related to optimizing for the search engine. What we’ve learned is the importance of an effective SEO strategy. In short, it has the potential to make or break your website.
What is SEO strategy? Essentially, it’s a mixture of keywords, links, user intent, and data to create and organize site content in the most appealing way to a search engine.
The biggest takeaway is a better SEO strategy results in better placement for your website. In fact, research shows 60% of clicks are made on sites in the first three positions on a search engine results pages (SERPs) — so it’s important to get your SEO right. Here are ten steps to help you do just that.
For a template to help you get started on your SEO journey:
When crafting a unique SEO strategy, an easy place to start is choosing the right keywords. Jot down short words and phrases associated with your brand and then use an SEO tool to research the search volume and competitiveness of each. The top ten or so short-tail keywords should comprise a list of content topics.
However, if some of these short-tail keywords are particularly popular, they may be too difficult to rank for, according to HubSpot. In those cases, find related terms that are less competitive — perhaps by drilling down and getting more specific. Instead of “dress,” for example, you could consider “black cocktail dress.” Remember to be sure that the variations of popular short-tail keywords on your list are still relevant to your target audience.
Next, you’ll expand that list by brainstorming long-tail keywords related to each topic. These longer phrases are essentially more nuanced versions of the short-tail keywords — or perhaps even questions prospective customers might have about that topic. Again, use an SEO tool to zero in on the longer phrases you’ve listed that also have decent search volume. And, finally, use these long-tail keyword topics to figure out what kind of content you should create on your blog or website.
Ultimately, by creating niche content, you’ll target a broad swath of consumers with a range of interests in your product or service. Webpages that dissect topics are generally those Google determines to be the best answers to related queries, therefore ranking higher.
Google is obsessed with user intent, so it’s important an SEO strategy aligns content topics with the wants and needs of a given audience. That means understanding who exactly is the audience and what their pain points are.
Google has referred to these so-called micro-moments for years. They include:
“In these moments, consumers want what they want, when they want it — and they’re drawn to brands that deliver on their needs,” according to Google.
As a result, Google’s recommendation is for brands to “be there” by anticipating customer needs, to “be useful” by providing a relevant digital experience, and to “be accountable” by creating a seamless experience.
For more on the different types of content you should explore:
Defining your target audience and gauging their needs also helps determine what content to create — and may even spur additional ideas.
SEO and content marketing don't yield immediate gratification. Instead, it’s a slow boil as you serve consumer needs and build relationships until they’re ready to buy. The Hoth, an SEO and content marketing company, outlines this clearly in a blog post about its own SEO strategy, in which the platform answers audience questions through a series of blog posts to build authority and trust as site visitors move down the purchase funnel.
It’s also a smart idea to conduct a content gap analysis before you get too far along. Here, you’ll complete a competitive analysis by researching what keywords other brands in your industry are targeting that may not be on your list yet. However, you’ll again have to figure out search volume and competitiveness with an SEO tool to ensure the keywords you’re adding make sense for your brand.
Another component of SEO strategy is site construction. This ensures visitors aren’t clicking on your site and then clicking right back off, which is a negative signal to Google.
Make it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for by creating a site taxonomy. The best way to do this is to organize pages by topic and keep content no more than three clicks away, according to SEO platform BrightEdge. It would help if you also linked to your own relevant content, helping to answer additional questions site visitors may have and ultimately nudge them down the sales funnel.
You’ll also have to optimize on-page elements, such as title tags, meta descriptions, URLs, header tags, and images, according to Hoth. Consider implementing schema markup, too, which is a coding element that helps search engines understand what exactly is on each page and how it should be classified. Google favors this, so pages with schema markup tend to rank higher and have a greater chance of being featured in Google’s Answer Box atop the SERP, per BrightEdge.
Because this can get quite technical, it’s a good idea to partner with an SEO platform or bring in a professional SEO expert to do the heavy lifting.
Now you’re ready to start building out your website. You’ll want a page for each of the short-tail keyword topics you identified above that also weaves in your long-tail keyword topics. This is sort of like an introduction to each topic on a high level, which should be followed by more granular analysis in blog posts, HubSpot says.
An effective SEO strategy should include a blog section. This way, you can continue to publish unique, relevant content and give yourself additional opportunities to rank and be discovered. If done right, this also helps signal to Google that your brand is an authority on a given topic, which will also help you rank higher. So will posting on a regular basis.
But be careful not to riddle your posts with keywords, which is known as stuffing. Google doesn't like this tactic and may even penalize your site.
Use this checklist to make sure that you're optimizing SEO while blogging:
Links are another valuable component of any SEO strategy. By attracting more links to your site, you’ll increase your site authority and boost your rank. There are a number of ways to do this, such as guest blogging on other sites, sharing news posts on social media, and even asking local businesses to share links to your site.
The last major component of an SEO strategy is measuring organic traffic, which is the number of visitors you’re getting as a result of your efforts. Find a tool that tracks both organic traffic overall, as well as how each page ranks. By tracking metrics like traffic, links, keywords, and ranking, you’ll get a better sense of what is resonating with your target audience and where you can improve.
To be fair, being patient is another component of any good SEO strategy as it may take several months to see improvement.
With nearly 88% market share, Google is the dominant search engine in the U.S. Its primary goal is to “organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.” It wants users to find whatever they're looking for as quickly and easily as possible. That’s why it continues to build out features that highlight answers without any clicks at all.
Though Google remains coy about precisely how its algorithm works, these clues can still inform a powerful SEO strategy that gives users what they are looking for and catapults your site to the top of the SERPs.
Originally published on August 25th, 2020, last updated on June 16th, 2022.