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Before we jump right into how to plan SEO strategy, let’s first talk about why you need a solid SEO strategy + how to measure results.
Why You Need SEO Strategy
Trying to get traffic to your website without a solid plan is like driving around with a destination, but no directions on how to get there. You may eventually make your way to where you want to be, but it will take a lot longer + require more effort than if you had your route mapped out.
The same holds true with website traffic + search engine optimization. With a solid strategy, you have a goal in mind + a plan for what to do to get there.
Even if you’re new to SEO + you don’t quite understand what it takes to rank a keyword, or even what a realistic keyword goal is for you, it’s good to have a plan.
You can always tweak + adjust your plan + strategy as you go along.
When you have a workable strategy with defined goals + a way to track the results you are getting over time, it becomes easy to determine if your strategy is working.
Without either, you’re guessing + that’s not good business. Search engine optimization takes time + effort. If you’re hiring someone to help you, it can involve quite a bit of money.
So where do you start?
Learn the basics of how SEO works.
Set up a good Website Analytics program so you can start to measure what traffic you’re getting now + where new traffic is coming from.
Google Analytics is a great program that will grow with you. Install it, look through the reports, start to learn to use it + expand your knowledge as you go.
Next, you need to formulate a strategy.
5 Steps for How to Plan SEO Strategy
- Determine your ideal target audience.
- Figure out what they are looking for + what keywords + key phrases they use.
- Generate high-value content around those terms.
- Implement on-page + on-site optimization.
- Track results + adjust as needed.
From there you can expand on what’s working, identify more audiences, more terms, create more content for what is working + reduce content for what isn’t working.
One important thing to keep in mind is that search engine optimization takes time — you’re building your site’s reputation with the big search engines over time.
Don’t give up on your strategy too soon + don’t give up altogether.
Keywords: A Glimpse Into Your What Your Target Audience Wants + Needs
Let’s talk about keywords.
These are the words your target audience types into their favorite search engine (think Google), to look for more information on topics you can help them with.
It’s the cornerstone of any SEO strategy.
Keywords + Key Phrases
Before we go any further, it is important to note that we’re not talking about single words here.
You’re not going to rank for “butter” for example, even if you are a dairy farmer + that’s what your customers are looking for. Instead, what you want to go after are longer key phrases that give you a good indication of what your people are looking for.
For example, let’s say you are a small dairy farmer who sells fresh milk at the farmers’ market. You’ve been hearing people say they are interested in figuring out how to make butter.
A key phrase you may want to look at for a blog post or informative article could be “how to make butter at home with fresh milk” or something along those lines.
If I’m blogging about SEO + trying to find people interested in a training program or a short guide to help them find out what their customers + readers are looking for, I may use a phrase like “best way to find targeted keywords” or even “how to discover what people are searching for online.”
How To Find These Keywords
The next question is where do you find those keywords. How can you find out what your target audience is typing into their favorite search engine?
It starts with a guess.
You know enough about your topic + niche to come up with a list of several words + phrases you think your readers may be using.
One of your best free tools is Google. Start to enter one of your keywords + see what the autofill options are.
Play around like this with different terms + start making a list. Once you have that list, search each term + scroll down to the bottom of the search results page.
You will see a list of related searches. Add those to your list of keywords + key phrases. Choose several that make sense for the type of content you want to create.
Another option is to use a keyword tool.
If you use Google AdWords, or have an AdWords account, you can use Google’s free tool, which gives you quite a bit of information on search volume + more. Other paid keyword tools are also available.
What to Do With Keywords
Use your keywords + keyphrases where it makes sense in the title + content of your blog posts, articles, video descriptions + other content.
Don’t force it, though.
Always write for your reader first, search engines second.
If you can use it in the title + use it within your content, multiple times or several variations of your main keyword within the content depending on length.
Don’t overdo it, but help both your readers + the search engines see what your content is about.
Simple Ways to Boost the Trust Factor That’s Important For Ranking
If you do an audit of various websites, you can quickly see that not every page that does on-page SEO ranks. Even sites that chose keywords wisely + optimized their content are still buried deep down in the search results.
Meanwhile, other sites rank with the bare mention of the keyword.
The trustworthiness of one website over the other has a lot to do with it. Show the search engines + readers that you have a website that can be trusted.
- Install an SSL certificate. You want your website to be accessed through the more secure https protocol. Speak to your host about installing this + the steps you need to take to make sure your entire site is secure. Most hosts have a fee for the certificate, though some of them will offer it as part of their standard package.
- Improve your website’s load time, make sure it is mobile accessible + mobile responsive. These technical details are important for ranking. If you are using WordPress for your site, it can be as simple as choosing the right theme to help you accomplish this.
- Set up social media profiles for your site. Social signals are another important part of trustworthiness. We are social creatures who look to others for cues on who we can trust + who we should avoid. Build your audience on social platforms + share your content regularly. As others like, comment + share, your credibility will start to go up.
- Create credible content.
Boost Your Authority
Site authority is another big factor in how well your site ranks.
Let’s look at what you can do to boost your website’s authority.
Internal + External Links
Your site authority is largely determined by the quality of natural, high-quality incoming links your site has.
How do you get those?
By sharing great content.
How do you do that?
Social media is a great option, which also brings us to my next point.
When you post on social media sites, others will start to share your content.
That gives you incoming links + sends what is called “social signals”. As your post about your latest blog post or article gets shared around + liked, your content + your site gain authority.
Many things get better with age. The same holds true for a website. As your site ages, its authority increases.
Don’t obsess or worry over the age factor. Building search engine traffic takes time + not just because of the age factor. Instead, continue to work on your site, knowing that ranking will become easier as time goes by.
This is in part because of your website’s age + authority, but also because you have more content on your site that will rank for a variety of keywords. As you grow your audience they will help you spread the word, creating more social signals + incoming links for you.
This is not an exhaustive list of what improves site authority. These are the ones you can control.
How to Plan SEO Strategy so it Levels the Playing Field
Large websites (think Wikipedia) + those that have been around for a long time, often have a leg up in the competition for the top search result spots in search engines.
That doesn’t mean you don’t have a shot though.
Google wants to provide searchers with the best results possible. To accomplish this, the relevancy of your content weighs heavily as a ranking factor.
You can use this to your advantage, no matter how small your business or site is.
Be Specific: Go After The Long Tail Keywords+ Niche Down
Don’t go after a top keyword for your niche. Instead, narrow it down to be more specific.
Let’s say you’re selling blue widgets. Don’t go after the term “blue widgets.”
Yes, it gets the highest search volume, but not everyone searching will be ready to buy blue widgets from you. Maybe they are looking for blue widget images because they are curious about how they look.
Maybe they are looking for instructions on making their own blue widgets, or they want to find someone who can manufacture a lot of these blue widgets for their own shop.
Instead, go after the long tail.
Use key phrases like “where to buy blue widgets online” or “best place to buy blue widgets in Springfield.”
Even better, find a way to set yourself apart from the competition by becoming the place that sells blue widgets for bicycles. Make yourself the expert.
Stay on Topic
Relevancy is all about staying on topic. A small website dedicated to sharing great content exclusively on one topic can rank higher than larger sites that share everything.
That’s why despite its huge authority, Wikipedia doesn’t rank for everything, even though there’s a page on just about everything on that site.
Let’s say you decide to build a site about gardening. Pick a niche within gardening + build out content that is all about that specific gardening niche.
That’s how you may become one of the authority sites about something like rose gardening, or building a year-round herb garden.
Each time you work on a new piece of content ask yourself if it is on topic. Don’t try to be everything to everyone.
Go Local, When It Makes Sense
Instead of becoming one more seller of yellow widgets online, you could become the seller of yellow widgets for your state or your town.
Of course, this doesn’t make sense for every site.
But let’s say you are great at email marketing. Instead of putting up yet another site + offer yet another course to everyone in the English-speaking world on the topic, go after the small businesses in your area.
Become the expert for email marketing in Springfield. Not only can it be much easier to rank for this longer tail keyword it also opens up all sorts of new options for local marketing.
Don’t forget about higher-priced products + services that you can offer locally like in-person workshops + consultations.
User Behavior + What It Has to Do with SEO Rankings
The best SEO campaign + high search engine rankings are meaningless if you don’t consider user behavior + preferences. It starts with things as simple as what keywords + phrases you choose to rank for.
If you pick something that your ideal customers + clients aren’t looking for or your content + offer don’t match the keyword, then ranking for the keyword isn’t doing you any good.
But it goes much deeper than that.
What the search engines – Google in particular – want is for someone to click on a high-ranking search result, spend some time on your site consuming your content
What does that mean for you as a content provider?
Always create your content for your target audience first. If you’re looking at a list of keywords that you want to create content around, ask yourself if a particular search term matches your audience + the content you share.
If so, go ahead. If not, make a better keyword choice.
Write your content for your readers first.
Once it’s written, go back to see if you can work your keyword into the:
- Meta description
How to Build a Solid SEO Strategy
The first step of any good strategy is to set a goal of what you want to accomplish. Without a goal, you won’t know if you’re succeeding.
You also can’t gauge what it will take to reach your goal. Decide how much search engine traffic you want from your content by the end of the month or the quarter. Then get to work.
Choose Topics + Set a Publishing Schedule
Next, it’s time to make a list of topics that you want to write about + come up with a publishing schedule. This doesn’t have to be set in stone, but you’re much more likely to get it done if it’s on the calendar.
Commit + do your best to stick to it.
Then it’s time to start writing.
Find Your Keywords
Do research to find the keyword you think will have good results. You can tweak + change or create more content based on other keywords. Remember, you want to rank for keywords that people want but match the content you provide.
Publish + Monitor Rankings
When you publish content, monitor rankings + traffic for the content. Make a spreadsheet of your keywords + look at the rankings – using an incognito web browser – once a week or so.
Install Google Analytics to monitor the traffic you have from organic search.
Work On Social Signals + Incoming Links
Each time you publish a new piece of content, spend some time sharing it on social media +send it to your email list.
Rinse + Repeat
Keep writing. Keep publishing. Keep sharing old + new content on social media.
Track, Test + Adjust As Needed
Last but not least, take some time to stop every once in a while to examine your data.
Is your SEO strategy working?
Is it working as well as you’d like?
If not, what could you try to do differently?
Maybe it’s publishing less frequently, but writing longer blog posts instead. Maybe it’s using more social media-friendly images. Or less.
Maybe it’s taking the time to create five new pinnable images each week. Keep learning about SEO + tweak your strategy as you learn to try more techniques.