How to create an SEO strategy in 7 steps

SEO is an essential part of marketing your business.

Your customers and target audience leverage the web in their everyday life and they use their computer, mobile device and in-home smart devices (Alexa, Google Home, etc.) to assist in making decisions that range from where to live, what to eat, what to wear, which car to drive, how to entertain themselves, and so on.

Regardless of the business you’re in, you can benefit from a solid search engine optimization strategy. If you’re not at a point where you’re ready to outsource your search engine optimization to an SEO company, here are some simple steps to create a your own SEO strategy that will help you make the most of basic SEO best practices for your business.

7 things to include in your SEO strategy

Define your objective and audience

The goal is to get found by your target customers. And after they find you, you want to then convert leads into sales. But, how are you going to make that happen?

Whether you sell something from a website, provide a home service, or simply want people to be able to step foot inside your brick and mortar shop, defining your objective and your audience will help you formulate an effective SEO strategy.

What types of problems do they need help with? What questions would they be asking themselves, or Google? How can you be their go-to resource or solution?

Do some research. Define your goals and a strategy, then implement it, and then assess results continuously so you can determine what to tweak, what to replicate, and where to spend your time and efforts.

And, beyond getting found by your audience, we also want to ensure your company appears to be the best resource for your niche or industry. Paying attention to SEO isn’t just about your business. Competitive analysis is a big part of this so be sure you not only know what your customers want, but also what your competitors are doing (and are not doing) to meet their needs. More on this below.

Look at your website closely

What sort of website do you have? What sort of website do your biggest local competitors have? Your goal is to get to the top of the rankings wherever possible and to illustrate why your company should be considered the best option by potential customers who will do some comparison shopping.

Things like quick load times, ease of purchasing products, simple site navigation, and an obvious call to action are all important aspects of good web design.

Run through a few scenarios of what your customers might be looking for when they land on your website. Even better, set up a UX test through one of many sites online or host a focus group and ask them to run through scenarios and collect realtime feedback from people who aren’t familiar with your website or offerings.

CRO (conversion rate optimization) can be beneficial if the site and basic information is there, but you need some guidance on where to place things and what to add. If you’re pretty savvy with updating your own website or have someone on staff that can help implement the changes, you can request a CRO audit to gather the ideas and recommendations.

Learn the basics of SEO

Learning the basics of optimization in terms of layout, content structure, keyword research, and keyword optimization are vital. Perhaps your website needs a few tweaks to help it function better as a lead generation tool. Or, maybe it’s time to give it a complete overhaul.

The bottom line is your website needs to be accessible and friendly to search engine bots. They will crawl each page and determine how to index it—or where to rank it. They consider many factors in their crawling efforts, including metadata, backlink profile and domain authority. They also consider what your visitors do on the page once they arrive, such as bounce rate, pages per session and time on page.

User experience and engagement is equally important to the more technical aspects of optimizing your website. You want that traffic to convert to a lead, a buyer, or to opt in to your email list so that you have an opportunity to market to them in the future. And the search engines consider what their traffic does upon arrival in determining whether or not to send you more of the same sort of traffic.

Hop into your Google Analytics and make sure everything’s tracking properly, spam filters are added and the website traffic looks accurate. Check in on your analytics each week and start comparing month over month, even year over year, to find trends and insights on where users might be getting stuck or where you could spend more time optimizing, such as a blog post that continues to see visits five years after it was published.

Be prepared to continually work on SEO

Search engine optimization isn’t an exact science. There are so many factors to consider and they are ever-changing.

After you’ve optimized your website, continually check your conversion rates so that you can understand what sort of experience your visitors are having with the site.

Are they being converted into buyers (if you’re an online business)?
Do you have a high bounce rate (the traffic sources never dig deeper past the page they entered on)?
Are you getting quote requests or leads from your website?
If your business isn’t eCommerce, are rising website traffic levels equating to an increase of in-store purchases?

Off-page and on-page SEO
SEO is made up of many things, and implementing both an on-page and off-page strategy are important.

Off-page techniques, such as link building and business citations, that direct traffic your way from high authority websites will help your site appear relevant and this can drive qualified traffic to your website.

On-page SEO techniques such as content optimization will help your content, including blog posts and main service pages, rank higher in search results.

While optimizing your website, you’re trying to make it easy for search engine spiders to crawl it, understand it, and you want to make it crystal clear that your site is relevant to your industry. Not only does the content and link building improve your online visibility, but so will your mobile friendliness, user experience and pagespeed.

SEO takes time and is essentially a never-ending process as search engines continue to evolve. And, as soon as you start to make progress, a competitor may come along and nip at your heels.

Keyword optimization
The right keywords in the right places are important. Some keywords may feel impossible to gain traction with. There could also be low-hanging fruit that you’re able to capitalize on with great success.

On-page optimization

Keyword placement in the URL, page title, subheadings, image ALT tags and metadata is necessary along with building internal and external links with the keyword as the anchor text. Also consider the length of your content and what gaps you may be missing out on compared to your organic competitors. SEMrush and Ahrefs offer tools to help you find what content you should consider adding to improve rankings.

Avoid keyword stuffing

Quality is more important than quantity in terms of keyword density. Every page of your website has the potential to draw in traffic and resulting business, but if the quality of the user’s experience is poor, not only will they leave without buying, but the high ‘bounce’ rate will force search engines to assess whether or not your site is worthy of traffic based on your target keywords.

Off-page SEO

Depending on your business type, an off-page SEO strategy could include content marketing, social marketing, video marketing, and more. Look at what your competition is doing, know your target audience, and read up on SEO strategies related to your niche for extra help.

Competitive analysis

Other things to consider:

What will people search based on in order to find you? They aren’t all using a computer. Voice search terms as well as local identifiers are important, too.
Which social media sites are your target customers most likely to use? Certain target audiences spend more time on Facebook, others on Instagram or Twitter. A solid social media strategy can augment your SEO efforts. Split test and measure results to determine if you’re on the right track.
Beyond organic SEO, how can you get more traffic to your website? Some use paid ads. Others write more on-site content and leverage inbound marketing practices to drive traffic to their website. Email marketing or newsletter marketing can also help as can posts on social media sites about specials, discounts, new products. In addition to SEO, search engine marketing and other paid advertising campaigns could pay off.
Reviews / online reputation are paramount in certain businesses — restaurants and home services, for instance. Monitoring your online reputation is an important part of your SEO and online marketing strategy. Don’t just optimize for the word ‘Best’, work at gaining a reputation as being the best, too.
What is your competition doing right? How do you stack up? What are they not doing that you could fill a gap for? If you don’t have a whole lot of local competition, have a look at other areas or national companies to help you devise a good SEO strategy.

Tip: Just because you don’t have a lot of competition today doesn’t mean that won’t eventually change. It’s important to continually assess rankings, conversion rate, and competition to ensure you not only do well with SEO and online marketing but that you continue to appeal to your customers for repeat business as well as target customers doing comparison shopping.

Analyze your competition, SEO, and analytics continuously

Read your website traffic reports religiously to see what’s going well, what needs improvement, and to keep your finger on the pulse of your industry as far as trends, competition, and SEO techniques go.

If you are planning to do your own SEO, you’ll need to allocate time to it on an ongoing basis. At some stage, it might also be advantageous to hand it over to someone else. As for beginners to digital marketing, new and small businesses, and entrepreneurs, learning the basics of search engine optimization will serve you well and there are many SEO learning resources out there to help you.