How To Create an SEO Strategy

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To craft an effective SEO strategy you need to follow a process. Outlining your steps and tailoring them to your needs will help you to create a strategy that works towards your organization’s goals. 

What is SEO?

SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization”. This is the process of improving your website to increase it’s visibility when people search for products or services related to your business in search engines such as Google and Bing. As your visibility increases in search results your website’s traffic will increase and therefore give you more potential customers. 

What is an SEO Strategy?

SEO strategy is a detailed plan to improve a website’s search engine rankings in order to capture more organic traffic. This plan should draw from several foundational pillars, including technical SEO, content strategy, on-page SEO, link building and user experience.

What are the benefits of an SEO strategy?

Working with an SEO Strategy will provide you with the following: 

  • A clear direction in the required work and progression
  • An understanding of your web presence
  • An understanding of your competitors web presence 
  • A measurable goal and KPIs to provide stakeholders with insights they understand
  • A foundation to perform testing and analysis 

Creating an SEO Strategy

To set up an SEO strategy, there are many elements that are considered essential when you are creating an organic search strategy. 

STEP #1: Audit Your Current Website’s Search Performance

To understand where you need to go, you first need to understand where you currently are. That is why it is important to audit your own SEO performance before you do anything else. Using tools such as SEMRush’s Organic Research Tool or Moz’  Domain Analysis you can see how your website is performing.

organic search traffic tool

When assessing your website’s performance  you should be looking to understand a few things. 

  • Your overall search visibility 
  • Your keyword rankings
  • Your branded vs non-branding search term split

As you start to collect and assess these insights you will begin to understand where you are succeeding and where there are opportunities. You will be able to start setting your goals and objectives accordingly.

STEP #2: Analyze your competitor’s SEO tactics

Once you understand your current web presence you will need to assess how well your competitors are performing. When choosing your competitors, be sure to choose organizations that are similar to yours. For example, if you are a local small business you will want to choose other local small businesses that provide the same services as you. But, if you are a national manufacturer you would compare yourself to other national manufacturers in the same industry. 

One of the best ways to understand how you perform against your competitors is by using a keyword gap analysis. Using a tool such as SEMRush’s Keyword Gap Tool you will be able to see where you perform well against your competitors and where you do not, these are the “gaps” in your search presence. You may want to address these gaps if they align with your goals. 

Another gap analysis you can use is a backlink gap analysis. This assesses your competitors backlink profiles and will show you where they get backlinks from. Like the keyword gap analysis, this will show you where there are gaps in your current presence. If you see that the majority of your competitors are receiving links from a certain domain while you are not, you may want to consider trying to get a backlink from here.

STEP #3: Set Your SEO Goals

When developing your strategy it is important to set your goals and KPIs. These will guide you developing your plan of action while providing a measure of success to track against. 

Goals are the results you want to achieve, while KPIs are the metrics you will use to track your progress. For example, your organization’s goal would be to generate $100,000 in sales and you could use KPIs such as impressions and organic search traffic to measure your progress towards this.

STEP #4: Choosing Your Keywords

Choose Your Primary Keywords 

Now that you have an understanding of what you need to achieve it is time to choose your primary keywords. Generally, they are keywords around your organization’s products or services. You will want to select keywords that are broader in terms of their topics as they will serve as your pillar page. 

Pillar Pages

Pillar pages will serve as the center of your content clusters.  Content clusters are a group of pages that cover different sub-topics related to the topic of the pillar page. This allows for each page to target a specific keyword and have content that is highly relevant to it.

graphic showing pillar pages

Identify Long-Tail keywords 

Once you have your main clusters mapped out, you will need to identify long-tail keywords around your topics to find additional sub-topics and content pieces. 

Long-tail keywords are keywords that have more than 3 words. These keywords may have low search volume but are very specific and generally have higher intent.

A great tool to help find long-tail keywords is SEMRush’s Keyword Magic Tool. By using your primary keyword for your pillar page, this tool will help you find related search terms. These can be used to create your additional sub-topic pages. 

Step #5: Creating Content Clusters

Once you have identified your keywords, topics and sub-topics you will be able to map out your content clusters. This will help you understand what content you need to produce. But before you start writing your content you need to conduct an audit of the content you already have.

Audit Your Existing Content

To ensure you don’t needlessly duplicate content you should conduct a content audit of your own website. You will need to determine which content you should keep, update, or delete all together. Usually, you will want to update content related to your clusters and then delete content that is duplicated or thin and serves no purpose.

An excellent tool you can use to collect your content is Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider. This tool can crawl your website and allow you to export a comprehensive spreadsheet of all your URLs.

content audit using screaming frog

Building Your Topic Clusters

Once you know what you need to write you should consider using SEMRush’s SEO Templates. This tool helps you create content guidelines that tell you things such as: 

  • Required content length 
  • Semantic keywords/topics 
  • What the top 10 search results are 
  • Readability

These provide a rough framework for your content and provide your writer with additional insight into what needs to be written.

Step #6: Optimize

On-page SEO 

As you start to produce your content you will need to ensure you are optimizing it for your keyword strategy. Basic on-page SEO elements include: 

  • Title tags 
  • H1, H2, H3 tags 
  • Image titles and alt text 
  • Meta descriptions
  • Internal linking

A good tool to use for this is Yoast, a WordPress plugin that checks your page in real-time and provides you with feedback and suggestions for improvement. 

Technical SEO

It is important to monitor your website’s performance. If you produce all of this great content but your site has technical issues, causing a poor user experience, you’re going to lose your audience. No one is going to wait for a slow-loading page. 

gtmetrix page speed audit

One of our favourite tools is GTmetrix. This tool tests pages quickly and provides you with information on how to fix any issues. You can even set up and monitor domains with scheduled reports.

Off-page SEO

There are a number of different methods and strategies to acquire backlinks and depending on your needs one may be better for you than another. 

One thing is constant though, backlinks are an important ranking factor and should not be ignored.  One of our favourite tools is SEMRush’s  Link Build Tool. This tool can discover opportunities, and simplify outreach all in one place. You can save email templates and quickly send out multiple emails to your prospects.

STEP #7: Analyze and Test 

“There ain’t no rest for the wicked”

Seriously. Once your campaign is created and you have started to work through everything it is important to check in on your progress. 

Use your KPIs and determine if you are on track. If not, find out why and what you may need to change. Then test it. 

Using tools such as Google Optimize, you can split test different elements or whole pages to find out what performs the best in terms of your goals. 

By creating an SEO strategy you will be able to track your progress towards your goals and make educated decisions as you move forward. You will also be able to provide key stakeholders with a clear and understandable report on the strategy’s performance. 

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