Search engine optimization (SEO) remains alive, and organic results can still deliver traffic, revenues, and conversions. But a lot has changed, and your strategies should keep up with those changes.
This article shares a three-step effective SEO plan you can execute today. If you need help at any point, reach out to a digital marketing agency.
1. Understand How SEO Works
The first phase in building a reliable, adaptable SEO strategy is to know it by heart. What is it, and how does it differ from other terms like “algorithms” or “indexing”?
When users input keywords in search engines, they are making a query. These search engines then scour their massive databases for matching content and display the most relevant results.
How do they determine which pages are more useful? These engines use algorithms that rank websites based on several factors. Many of these revolve around SEO.
SEO is a technique that improves site visibility in search engines, such as Google and Bing. It accomplishes this by:
- Getting the site’s pages indexed (or added to the database)
- Improving keyword ranking
- Encouraging search engine bots or crawlers to visit the website often
SEO also specifically refers to the practice of improving a site’s ranking within organic (i.e., unpaid) search results through its three pillars:
- On-Page SEO: This type of SEO optimizes a site’s individual pages for better search visibility. Strategies include keyword research, title tags, and meta descriptions.
- Off-Page SEO: This SEO type focuses on building a website’s authority and reputation to improve its ranking. Techniques include link building and brand engagement.
- Technical SEO: This is a kind of SEO that improves a site’s infrastructure to make it easier for search engines to crawl, index, and understand its content. It also covers all the “behind-the-scenes” aspects of site building, like site structure and site speed.
Algorithms often change, so SEO should be an ongoing process. It should be part of your website’s DNA.
2. Know Your Marketing Goals
Hopefully, you now have a better idea about SEO and how it works. The next stage is to determine your marketing goals. Why are you doing this in the first place?
Online marketing objectives can vary from generating leads to increasing brand awareness. They may also include increasing conversions, generating revenues, or improving customer retention.
Regardless of the reason, your marketing objectives should be specific, clear, and measurable. Otherwise, you’ll struggle to identify the essential metrics and gauge success.
Here are some tips to know your online marketing goals:
- Define your target audience. As noted by Digital Authority Partners, knowing your target audience helps you identify the SEO keywords to use and the type of content to produce. Conduct market research to understand your audience’s needs, wants, and pain points. Know where they are in the sales funnel.
- Choose one or two primary marketing goals. Trying to accomplish everything will only lead to subpar results. Identify the buyer’s journey for your product or service. What are the steps involved? What’s the goal for each stage?
- Study historical data. Track your site traffic and conversion rate over time. Doing so will help you understand what works and how to replicate your successes. If you don’t have these numbers, set a baseline before starting a campaign. Refer to industry benchmarks to compare your progress or even analyze your competitors.
3. Focus on the Foundations of SEO
SEO is broad and complex. It’s easy to get confused and overwhelmed. If you find yourself in this position, pay more attention to the foundations. Get these right, and you’re well on your way to a strong SEO strategy.
A. Write Valuable, Compelling, Tight Content
You’ve probably heard it a million times, but content is still king when it comes to SEO. That’s because search engines are in the business of delivering high-quality, relevant results to users.
They need great content.
If you want your website to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs), write great stuff. This means creating content that’s:
- Valuable, so it should answer the user’s questions or solve their problems
- Compelling, interesting, and engaging
- Tight, which means it is well-written, error-free, and focused on a specific topic
Of course, great content is easier said than done. But you can write better copy:
- Use keyword research to find the right topics to write about.
- Think like your target audience. What are their needs and wants?
- Outline your content before you start writing.
- Edit ruthlessly. Don’t be afraid to delete or rewrite entire sections.
- Diversify your content. In addition to blog posts, create infographics, videos, and podcasts to cover different stages in the marketing funnel and audience.
B. Promote a Better User Experience
A great user experience (UX) is essential for SEO. In fact, one study shows that over 85% of online shoppers will avoid a site after a bad experience.
Why? Think about it from the perspective of a search engine. It wants to deliver the best results to users. That means websites that provide a poor experience won’t rank as highly as those that provide a good UX..
Many factors contribute to a good UX, but here are a few key considerations:
- Site speed: A slow website will frustrate users and hurt your SEO. Google recommends a load time of two seconds or less. You can use tools like Pingdom or Google PageSpeed Insights for data and find ways to improve your number.
- Navigation: Users should be able to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. Keep your site structure simple and intuitive. Be consistent with icons and typefaces.
- Mobile-friendliness: More than half of all web traffic comes from mobile devices, so your site needs to be optimized for smaller screens. Use the Mobile-Friendly Test under Google’s Search Console. It will display a score and offer recommendations to enhance your mobile performance.
C. Diversify Link-Building Strategies
You can’t do excellent SEO without creating a solid link-building plan. However, many tend to focus on generating backlinks and they forget about other options:
- Internal links, which connect one page on your website to another. They help users navigate your site and find related content. They also spread link equity around, which is beneficial for SEO.
- Outbound links, which you make to other websites. They demonstrate your expertise and credibility and help search engines understand what your page is. They can also add more value to your content.
Diversifying your links is essential for two reasons. First, it helps avoid over-optimization. If all your links come from the same source, it looks fishy to Google. Second, you never know when a particular link-building strategy will stop working. Diversification gives you a safety net and makes it more likely that you’ll always have links come in.
D. Identify SEO Issues and Fix Them
Even “minor” errors or issues can derail your overall SEO strategy. Routinely check your site for these and fix them as soon as possible. Here are a few things to look for:
- Broken Links. These are links that no longer work. They can potentially hurt SEO since they make it difficult for users and search engines to navigate your site. Use a tool like Screaming Frog to find broken links.
- Duplicate Content. Content that appears on more than one page on your site or other websites confuses crawlers. They may end up indexing and ranking pages you don’t want. Consider canonical URLs or 301 redirects to fix duplicate content issues.
- Poorly Optimized Images. Large images can slow down your website. Optimize them by compressing them and using descriptive file names.
- Unsecured Website. Google ranks HTTPS sites higher. Request an SSL certificate and renew it before the expiry date.
You succeed in SEO when you have a sound strategy or plan. The three-step process outlined above provides the basis for putting together a solid one. You can then experiment with different tactics and strategies to see what works best for your business.
Don’t forget to measure and track your progress along the way. Use tools like Google Analytics to see how your traffic and conversions change over time, so that you can adapt your methods to trends fast.