How to Define Your SEO Strategy
Search engine optimization, or SEO, has played an important role in most digital marketers’ efforts for the past 20 years.
It’s a complex, continually evolving field that requires a balance of technical understanding, persuasive ability and content marketing. There are plenty of SEO tools and tactics available, but before committing time and resources to tactics, start by creating a compelling SEO strategy. If you don’t, you risk wasting a lot of time and effort for a minimal amount of return.
You can define your overall SEO strategy by asking five high-level questions. The first question to ask is: What is our main objective?
Here are some common examples:
- Increase traffic to pages across the entire website
- Increase traffic to a single page on an existing site
- Improve ranking for your brand name
- Improve ranking for general search phrases
- Improve ranking for specific search phrases
- Evaluate the optimization level in an existing website
- Prepare to optimize a new website
- Plan to transition existing SEO equity to a new website
- Begin ranking for long-tail keywords
After determining your objective, ask yourself What tangible goals do we want to achieve? Examples could be:
- Rank for <keyword or phrase>
- Increase our domain authority to <x> by <date>
- Increase long-tail keyword traffic by <x> by <date>
- Increase ranking for <keyword or phrase> from <current position> to <desired position> by <date>
The next question to ask is about your audience: Who is searching for the content we offer?
- Think about your audience. Just generating traffic isn’t enough.
- Think about the person behind the search phrase. What are they truly seeking? What is their buyer persona? Could this person become a follower, prospect or customer? This will help you determine if this is truly a phrase you should optimize for.
Then, think about conversion. What content are we going to deliver to each person who searches for <keyword or phrase>? Your landing pages should provide high quality content that matches the search phrase and user intent. Listen to almost any Matt Cutts video talking about Google’s algorithm and how they rank sites and he talks about the importance of quality content and user experience. Don’t get overly focused on traffic if it doesn’t convert; this is the most important digital marketing metric.
Then, consider the current state of your website and ask What do we need to do to get our website to match our objectives and goals? (Since a significant portion of overall site SEO is handled during a website build, the best time to address SEO is while planning the architecture of your new website; however, you can also complete this task with an existing website to determine how to optimize it for future traffic.)
- Determine if your existing website is optimized?
- Build a new website?
- Optimize your entire existing website?
- Add new content?
- Optimize a single page for a specific search term?
- Build links to generate long-term organic traffic?
- Raise your domain authority?
- Hire an SEO vendor?
- Recover from a drop in traffic?
Once you answer these questions and define the direction for your SEO strategy, you’ll have a better understanding of which tactics to address throughout the year, and be better able to select the ones most likely to provide long-term ROI.
After Defining Your SEO Strategy
Once you get into your tactics, don’t fall prey to the 4 most common SEO mistakes we see:
- Failure to include SEO during the site design / architecture phase. This typically occurs when the site design and architecture is led by a team without much SEO experience. It’s very common when they’re working with small agencies, because so many will tell their clients that they’ll implement “full SEO” for their build. But in reality, most just install a Yoast plugin during the individual page builds and do what they can with the content that’s already there. And many times, the design doesn’t allow for good on-page optimization.
- Missing out on the most important metric. For most, this is conversion, either to leads or sales. This can occur when overly technical people handle SEO, focusing on gray hat or black hat techniques and detailed ranking reports, irrespective of the audience or user movement through the funnel. Good SEO is about a balance of providing the right content for user while ensuring that the search engines understand that content. Plenty of SEO people can move specific pages up in the rankings, but they don’t affect the overall business.
- Forgetting about key on-page elements. Even seasoned SEOs can miss out on some of these. Missing out on these fundaments, from page titles to H1s, H2s, filenames, image locations and alt text doesn’t give the search engines a complete picture of what the page is about and will dilute future SEO efforts.
- Not committing to the long-term investment. SEO is a long-term investment, like branding, and should be treated as such. It requires upfront work and continuing work throughout the year, AND new content and/or promotions. Those who expect a quick ROI are often disappointed and abandon the efforts that can provide very high long-term ROI.