How to Create a Successful SEO Strategy

Youa��ve Heard the ClichA� a�� a�?If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Faila�?

When people talk about SEO, they tend to talk about the great outcomes it can offer: improved rankings, increased traffic, more links pointed to the website and a�� hopefully, if you execute well a�� more sales.

Thata��s the exciting stuff.

But what about the plan to get you there? If you want to achieve the kind of success that makes your competition jealous and your bottom line explode, it wona��t happen by accident.

You Need an SEO Strategy

Some would have you believe creating an SEO strategy is as simple as choosing a few keywords, giving your website a quick once-over for any major issues, and then hitting the ground running. And 10 years ago, they mighta��ve been right.

But today, SEO is much more complicated.

Creating a solid SEO strategy means employing a thoughtful, multifaceted approach that covers everything from the tech-heavy aspects of your websitea��s infrastructure to creative, targeted approaches to content marketing.

You need an SEO strategy that not only outlines your basic plan of attack, but lays out the goals youa��re trying to achieve, profiles the audience youa��re trying to reach, and digs into the competitive landscape youa��re trying to win in; and therea��s a lot more to it than even that.

That might all feel a bit abstract and overwhelming a�� but it needna��t be. Over time and thousands of client projects, wea��ve developed and refined a comprehensive approach to creating an SEO strategy that considers every major component in a way thata��s easy to follow and execute on.

Ita��s built on five a�?pillars,a�? or key components:

  • Strategy
  • Conversion
  • Content
  • Optimization
  • Authority and Trust

For the remainder of this piece, Ia��m going to do a bit of a deep-dive into each component, explaining our approach, why it matters, and the specific steps we consider along the way.

1. Strategy

Better information leads to better outcomes, so the first step in any successful SEO strategy is to gather the intel youa��ll need to make informed decisions. Before you move forward, you need to get a clear understanding of:

  • Your Goals and Objectives a�� What is it that you want to accomplish? How are you performing now, and what specific benchmarks would you like to achieve?
  • Your Audience Segments a�� Who are you trying to reach? What are their pain points? What does their buyera��s journey look like?
  • Your Competitors a�� Who are you up against, and how are they competing? Your offline competition may not be your online competition; you need a clear picture of the competitive landscape so that you know what ita��ll take to compete.

In order to determine all of these things, some of the tasks required at this stage include:

  • Keyword Research
    Choosing the best targets means analyzing not only traffic levels, but searcher intent, competition level, and stage of the marketing funnel.
  • SEO Audit
    An SEO audit takes stock of items like how well your website is built, whether there are any infrastructural issues impacting crawling or site speed, whether youa��ve been hit with any penalties, and how well youa��re currently performing in search.
  • Backlink Audit
    Because links are an enormous factor in both how well you rank and how liable you are to be hit with a penalty, ita��s wise to do an assessment of how many links you have, where theya��re coming from, and what the anchor text says.
  • Content and Conversion Audit
    Driving traffic to your site is only the first step. Nurturing that traffic with compelling content and setting up your pages to convert is critical. These audits look for gaps in your content that are keeping people from converting and also examines how well youa��re currently converting.
  • Business Goals and Performance Assessment
    If you dona��t know where youa��re going, you may not like where you end up. Setting smart goals and benchmarking current performance gives you a barometer of how well your SEO is performing down the line.
  • Strategic Project Plan and KPI Creation
    With all of these things assessed, everything is documented and KPIs are set.

2. Conversion

Ita��s not enough to get traffic to your website. It makes little sense to make a large investment in SEO if your website isna��t built to sell. Thata��s why conversion rate optimization becomes a key consideration when laying out an SEO strategy.

During this part of the process, youa��ll need to analyze critical pages on your website where people make first contact, buy, sign up, or ask questions, determining how well the copy, design, and overall user experience are working to transform leads into customers.

Then, take these insights and build out your plan based on the strategy outlined during the first stage and begin optimizing, testing, and measuring.

  • Conversion Audits
    Begin by taking stock of how well your pages are performing, looking at key metrics like traffic, bounce rates, time-on-site, micro-conversions, and actions taken.
  • Content Strategy
    Mapping out your content across the marketing funnel is the best way to identify gaps and opportunities for improvement. Once youa��ve done this, you can then lay out a prioritized strategy to address.
  • Content Optimization and Split-Testing
    Content must be optimized not only for SEO, but to earn the greatest returns. To find your best variants, youa��ll need to split-test alternatives, choosing key elements to test against one another based on best practices.
  • Landing Page Optimization
    Just like the above, you must focus on landing pages to find opportunities for improvement across all elements of copy, design, layout, and call to action.
  • Wire-Framing
    Collecting all of the knowledge gained so far, ita��s time to create mock-ups of proposed changes to make it easy for every stakeholder to understand.

3. Content

Another pillar of a solid SEO plan is your content. Wea��ve talked about content as it pertains to keywords and conversions, but therea��s more to it than that. Content is what will nurture buyers through the marketing funnel; ita��s what will help your site rank well in search engines, earn you traction on social, and, ultimately, communicate who your brand is to the world.

Part of this pillar is turning your attention to the specifics of creating and optimizing content to keep customers on your site and search engines happy. To succeed with content, youa��ll need to work to enforce consistency in brand voice and tone across all channels while crafting channel-specific strategies to boost engagement and increase conversions.

The channels you should consider include:

  • Blog Content
  • Whitepapers, E-books, Guides, and Educational Resources
  • Viral Content
  • Landing and Sales Pages
  • Product Copy
  • Visual Content (e.g. Infographics, Photos, and Memes)
  • Video Content (e.g. Explainer Videos, How-Tos, and Vlogs)
  • Webinars and Slideshares
  • Podcasts
  • Press and Media Releases
  • Text and Display Ads

4. Optimization

When we talk about a�?optimizationa�? as a pillar, wea��re referring to the tasks of optimizing your website in a way that search engines can categorize and rank accordingly. This is a data-heavy, analytics-fueled part of SEO; time must be spent testing and fine-tuning, updating as the campaign progresses, and keeping everything in line with best practices and Googlea��s own recommendations for webmasters.

The goal is a well-built site thata��s fresh and relevant, loads quickly, and is easy for search engines to index and crawl a�� whether thata��s improving an existing site, removing a penalty, or both.

  • On-page SEO
    A plan must be set in place to optimize not only the content of the page, but the title tags, metadata, and internal links.
  • Content Optimization
    As wea��ve covered, content must be optimized to not only rank well, but to persuade your audience and improve conversions across every stage of the marketing funnel.
  • App Optimization
    If youa��re running on-site apps or other interactive features, ensuring theya��re optimized for the best user experience, as well as critical data collection, is an important step.
  • Paid Social Management and Profile Optimization
    Social media will help to fuel your owned and earned marketing efforts, tying back into the content you create and the site youa��ve built. As part of your overall presence, ita��s important profiles be consistent, active, and well-maintained, with clear guidelines for interaction.
  • Penalty Removal
    If your site has been hit with a penalty, priority one must be recovery. Penalty removal levels the playing field, working to not only restore lost growth but open up a clean slate for new progress to be made.
  • Backlink Removal and Disavow
    As part of penalty removal, cleaning up hazardous, toxic links must be done before your site can perform optimally in search.

For an in-depth look at SEO ranking factors, check out our blog post from just a few weeks ago.

5. Authority and Trust

The final pillar of an effective SEO strategy is authority and trust. Google needs to see your site as trustworthy and authoritative; and since ita��s using an algorithm to calculate these metrics, steps can be taken to improve how search engines see your site.

But ita��s not just algorithms a�� your audience wants to see you as trustworthy and authoritative too. Through an integrated strategy that includes thoughtful link building, publisher outreach, content marketing, public relations, and social promotion, you can raise your businessa�� profile in the market and build the authority and trust you need to rank well.

  • Authority Strategy Development
    Youa��ll need to look at your site and marketing efforts on the whole as a means of building authority, laying out the specific steps necessary to become a trusted player in your niche a�� not just ranking well.
  • Link Acquisition
    Building authoritative links from relevant, trusted websites will not only improve rankings, but drive referral traffic and increase your visibility in the places that matter. Set out a plan for acquiring links that will move the needle using whitehat, Google-approved means.
  • Guest Posting
    Guest posting can be used as a means of acquiring trusted, relevant links a�� but ita��s also a means of tapping into audiences and expanding your reach into markets where you otherwise may have gone unknown. Identifying worthy targets and relevant topics to cover are just a few parts of the strategy you must consider when incorporating guest posting; the goal must be to get placement where an audience of those who will either buy from you or link to you, hang out. The closer you can tie your guest posting sources to your niche, the greater the benefit.
  • Digital Media Relations
    Relationships fuel everything online a�� from the links you can build to the traffic you can acquire, and beyond. To succeed, youa��ll need to work to establish mutually beneficial partnerships and open lines of communication with those who can cover your business and help you achieve your business goals.
  • Content Syndication
    Syndication is just one more tool at your disposal for getting your content in front of a receptive audience. Be sure to consider the what, where, when, and how of effective syndication to maximize returns.
  • Social Promotion
    Use social channels to connect with your audience and expand your reach. Youa��ll need to be consistent and deliberate, using methodical targeting to establish yourself as a trusted authority. Doing so helps to drive all sorts of other important metrics, from referral traffic to quality links.

Effective Strategies Are Measured Strategies

Even the best laid plans can go sideways if therea��s no plan in place for measuring the impact. As a critical part of your SEO strategy, you must determine how success will be measured and establish a process for reporting and communication with whomever is responsible for implementing.

You can only improve what you can measure, which means setting KPIs that actually reflect your success and tie back to your business goals is vital for the long-term.

In each of the five pillars Ia��ve discussed, there will be KPIs and success indicators you need to keep track of. Be sure theya��re well defined before you launch the campaign.

Who Should Implement?

Wea��ve outlined what a solid SEO strategy looks like. Now the question is a�� who should take the reins for implementing? When you have the choice between hiring an agency and doing it in-house, there are some considerations to be made:

  • Time: Does your team have the time to handle the SEO campaign on their own, or will it be just another series of tasks theya��re adding to an already busy workload?
  • Expertise: Does your in-house team know enough about SEO to competently handle implementation? While some elements of implementation are easy, unless your in-house team has been part of the strategy formation, they may not know how to execute on certain items a�� whether technical or otherwise.
  • Budget: Do you have the budget to hire out for help? Another interesting question is a�� do you have the budget not to? In-house implementation may seem cheaper on its face, and if you have all the expertise and time already allotted, it may be. But that scenario is rare; and if thata��s not the case, then having your staff struggle through implementation may actually cost you more internally than hiring professionals who know exactly what theya��re doing.

A great strategy can be bungled by poor execution, so honest reflection is due.

The importance of Brand Guidelines

What are brand guidelines, and why are they important? When do you need them and what should be in them? a�� This article aims to try to answer these fundament questions about brand guidelines and help understand how they create a stronger brand and business model, so everyone can be singing off the same hymn sheet so to speaka��

What are Brand Guidelines?

Brand Guidelines or brand books, style guides, brand standards, however you want to call them, are a guide to how your business communicates to its customer base. It sets out fundamental rules and guides about the business principles, ethos, the logo, colour palette, typography, imagery, photography, visual device, advertisement, stationery and wording. It acts as a flexible yet robust guide to helping you maintain a strong personality to your brand that will involve and aim your businesses interests at your intended audience.

Why are Brand Guidelines important?

Every company already has there own brand, even if they dona��t know it, but without a guideline to help define it and keep it consistent among employees and outside sources it is difficult to maintain a brand which is strong and recognisable in the noise of today saturated markets.

Consistency as noted above, is important to maintain a strong brand, keeping everything with a similar tone, or design making sure ita�?s more recognisable, with set rules and guides in place means its harder to stray off target.

It allows for more time, as without a guideline there is no substantial material to help with designing, time can be wasted on redoing design work or designs may go off on there own direction, weakening the overall brand. Templates save time as well, with a lot of the basic design work already set out, it can be a simple as just filling in the gaps with new content.

Brand Guidelines also give you something to support your argument with and something tangible to check back with and making sure the brand is being used correctly even if work is outsources.

When should you have Brand Guidelines?

Sooner rather then later is the simple answer, in a smaller business it might be okay without a�� say if your just the one person then its probably less essential because all the communication is coming from the same person so essentially its your personality adapted for your business. However, if the business grows to have more staff and as your business opens up to more channels of marketing communication, it becomes more and more apparent to have a brand guideline in place, to lay down the ground rules of your overall communication.

What should be included in a brand guideline?

First and foremost, a good guide is, well a guide; you have to make rules and some boundaries, but also keep it flexible enough to move forward and change and develop as the company changes and develops. This said here are some of the key areas a brand guideline will include:

Business Overview a�� its vision, personality, values and history.

Mission statement a�� include what your business wishes to achieve and maintain and promise to its customers.

Tone of voice a�� a brief description to how the company should represent tone of voice, this may also includes associating words (word banks), to help keep a consistency across different written content.

Logo Usage a�� how the logo should be displayed, size restrictions, space restrictions, colours to use and how it displays on different background and on different colours, as well as what not to do with the logo.

Colour palette a�� what colours are used in the brand with breakdowns and even hierarchy of colours.

Type style a�� the fonts and styles of elements such as headers, sub headers, paragraphs, small text (copyright text for example) and quotes should be considered, along with size ratios to each other.

Image styleA� a�� The style of images should be explained and examples of photography or illustration provided to get the general feel of the style. Usually Brand Guidelines are accompanied with a band of general images that may be used along side the literature.

Templates a�� usually starting with business stationery such as business cards, letterheads and compliments slips, these should be designed with the logo and brand in mind and set out as examples on the guidelines.

Additional templates for other literature such advertisements, posters, brochures, leaflets, POS, and even web based layout can all be included depending on the type of business and complexity you wish for your templates. But keep in mind, ita��s a guide and it needs to be flexible, rules can be adapted and creativity still needs to play a key part to make sure your brand shows its own individuality.