When you first dive into search engine optimization, you’ll get overwhelmed. There’s so much information (from backlinks and keywords to technical optimization) that it becomes hard to filter and prioritize.
So today, I’m using my 10+ years of experience as a search engine optimization professional, as well as best practices from SiteGuru customers, to show you how to create an effective SEO strategy.
The Three Core Pillars of an Effective SEO Strategy
Leave keywords and backlinks to the side for a minute. At the heart of your SEO is connecting your audience with your product(s). To do that through search engines as a channel, let’s translate marketing goals to SEO terms:
|Marketing Goal||SEO method||The connection|
|Knowing what your target audience cares about||Keywords||Keywords help you discuss the specific topics your audience is interested in.|
|Market share & discovery||Backlinks, on-page optimization, technical SEO||You must appear in front of your audience. Backlinks from other websites increase your rankings and topic positioning.
At the same time, you also need to technically optimize your website to ensure that search engines crawl your website and you earn more qualified traffic.
|Increasing awareness & conversions||Authoritative content||Once you’ve reached your audience through topics they care about, you have to convince them you can resolve their issues.|
Combined, these SEO factors will give you:
- Stable foundations to grow your audience through SEO.
- Relevancy and authority, so your target audience trusts your content and has enough proof to convert.
- A long-term and cost-effective marketing channel.
A Step-by-Step Blueprint to Achieving Your Marketing Goals with SEO
Step 1. Lay the Groundwork for Optimization and Tracking
Ensure your technical foundations and analytics are in place, so you can start measuring from day #1.
- Sign up for Google Search Console
- Sign up for Google Analytics
- Set up your site tags
- Set up your conversion tracking and conversion goals in Google Analytics
The latter is crucial. You’ll want to know how many conversions you get from specific keywords and content pieces, so you can double down on what works.
For example, I often analyze the Reverse Goal Path report in Google Analytics for SiteGuru to understand which content leads to conversions (and how often):
At this point, it’d be good to start using an SEO technical prioritization tool like SiteGuru. Not to toot my own horn, but I built it because I didn’t want to have to check every technical item one by one. Instead, SiteGuru crawls your website weekly and prioritizes on-page optimizations for you.
For example, it’ll tell you which optimizations you need to make and help you keep track of your engagement, keyword performance, and more.
SiteGuru is the most straightforward tool for SEO monitoring and optimization.
Step 2. Which Topics Is Your Audience Interested in?
Once you’ve laid the foundations, it’s time to start thinking about your audience. Depending on their characteristics and your industry, you should make a list of 10-15 key topics that are significant to them and that your company can help with.
Suppose you run a hiking eCommerce store. Your topic list will look something like this:
- Hiking basics
- Hiking skills
- Hiking gear
- Hiking trails
- Hiking health
- Hiking culture
Find ideas for the basic topics in your niche by looking at the online publications or magazines your audience reads. For the hiking example, I looked at Outside.
These will be your seed keywords. Create categories and category pages on your blog for them, so you centralize and connect them with internal links.
Step 3. Generate Long-Tail Keywords and Analyze the SERPs
Next, take your key topics (seed keywords) and insert them into a keyword research tool to generate long-tail keywords.
You can use Google or tools like Moz, SEMrush, LowFruits, or AnswerThePublic.
When I analyzed keywords with LowFruits, I found plenty of specific suggestions for long-tail keywords I would write content around.
Focus on long-tail keywords with lower search volume and fewer competitors to rank faster. This is an excellent approach if you’re first starting because your Domain Authority will be low.
Analyze the Search Engine Results Pages
You can’t write just any kind of content and expect it to outrank your competitors. Instead, prepare detailed briefs for yourself or your team:
- What did other pages in the SERP do right?
- What are they missing? Are there any questions they haven’t answered for the audience?
- Is the content engaging? Can you add more visuals, examples, or anecdotes into your content to make it more unique and helpful to the searcher?
- How will your content stand out?
Include your team’s expertise and experiences to boost your EEAT score.
For example, our example hiking store could work with writers who are passionate hikers, interview well-known hikers in the niche, etc.
Step 4 to an Effective SEO Strategy: Create Content with Backlinks in Mind
Google will index and crawl your content, but you can boost your visibility to increase your rankings by getting backlinks from other websites in your niche. The higher their Domain Authority score, the better.
- Start thinking about link building early in the content creation process:
- What will make your content different from other SERP competitors?
- Can you include new research or perspectives?
- Do you have a strong hook?
Keep your backlink pitch angle in mind before you start producing content. For example, content like statistics round-ups often gets backlinks, as do case studies and other forms of original research.
Prepare a Backlink Outreach List
The best ways to get backlinks include:
- Guest posting
- Outreach for editorial backlinks
- Appearing on podcasts
- Become an industry source with HARO
An effective SEO strategy has a bit of everything. For example, you might guest post on big websites in your niche (in our hiking example, we’d see if Outside offers guest posting opportunities).
Then, you could analyze your competitors’ backlinks using Ahrefs. For example, if a prominent website in your niche gets links from Site A, you could create better content and pitch it to Site A to get an editorial backlink.
Because I found Backlinko’s article so useful, I included an editorial link (link within the content) to their website.
Finally, don’t forget about your digital footprint. Appear on podcasts, get social media mentions, and spread the word. Even unlinked mentions help Google evaluate your website's authority within the niche.
Step 5. Optimize Your User Experience
You can target all the right keywords and write content that would put Hemingway to shame, but if your website user experience isn’t up to par, leads will still leave your website.
To create an effective SEO strategy, ensure you’ve ticked all the technical optimization boxes, plus:
- Think about your eCommerce product pages - Are they engaging? Is the copy unique and helpful to your ideal customer?
- Navigation - Are you using the suitable types of navigation and internal links that connect pages?
- Speed - Are your pages quick to load?
Visuals - Do you use formatting and content presentation that engages visitors, or do they have to battle with chunks of text without emphasis?
Include a table of contents, comparison tables, examples, and other visuals to make your content more helpful.
Run the PageSpeed Insights test or crawl your website with SiteGuru to get notified immediately about any UX problems. Once you correctly set up the website hierarchy and navigation, it’ll be much easier to maintain.
Step 6. Measure and Improve Your SEO Strategy
It can take a while for the first SEO results to kick in, but you should see an increase in traffic within 1-2 months, especially if you start by targeting long-tail keywords.
However, remember to keep your goals in mind. Analyze your conversion paths to understand how SEO is affecting your revenue. Are you targeting the right keywords, or is your audience searching for something else entirely?
Update Your Content Regularly
Keywords and search intent change often, so keep an eye on your Google Search Console and Google Analytics to spot any reduced rankings. If you use SiteGuru, connect your accounts and check the Insights tab to learn:
- Which content needs to be updated
- Keywords that are in danger of losing their position
- Low-fruit keywords you’re ranking for (and could rank for even higher)
- Competing pages
Spend less time on SEO maintenance with SiteGuru.
Publish Content Regularly
You don’t have to go ham and publish hundreds of pieces weekly. However, if your niche is dynamic, you’ll want to check for new keywords and topics periodically. Make sure you cover them in depth; it’s much better to publish one in-depth piece monthly than twenty thin content pieces.
Create a monthly content plan and stick to it. Then, periodically review metrics.
The Secret to Creating an Effective SEO Strategy
…is in treating SEO as a channel.
You still have your marketing goals - make sure your SEO activities support them. Since Google is here to stay (and most buyers prefer doing their own research than talking to sales reps), crafting an effective SEO strategy is essential. Still, it doesn’t have to be painful:
- Set up the initial tooling and conversion tracking.
- Discover the topics your audience cares about (and that you can help with).
- Produce content you’re proud of.
- Spread the word.
You’ll be ranking faster than you can say “search engine optimization!”