3 Initial Stages of SEO:
If you want someone other than your family members to find your business, blog, or landing page, you’re going to need guidelines. Now these aren’t set in stone and they certainly aren’t exhaustive, but the following tips can help you obtain successful SEO.
At The Content Group our SEO process is broken down into three core stages:
- Asking questions about you and your target market
- Using tools to figure out what is going on with your website or blog
- Competitor analysis
- Seed list of keywords
- Tools for search volumes
- Selecting top focused keywords
- Mapping keywords
- Write long form, high quality content
- Optimize content for both SEO and usability
- Promote and link build
- Reverse engineer success and repeat
Take Your Time:
Before you even begin your SEO journey, we have to remind you that it’s important to take your time. Successful SEO campaigns do not happen overnight.
We see it over and over again. Companies are eager to start writing content and so that is exactly what they do. Someone sits down in front of their computer and starts cranking out a bunch of blog posts. Great! Except they end up spinning their wheels because they didn’t take their time to formulate a strategy.
Don’t make the mistake of going into SEO blind. IT WILL NOT WORK. It’s really important to establish a solid process so that when you write content it is fully optimized and targeting your audience.
The processes that we are going to cover today is something that we utilize for our own website and for our clients. It’s the same process we have used for several years and we continue to stick by it because it works. By the end of this post you will be able to see how a strong strategy makes for a lasting foundation on the road to successful SEO.
Asking the Right Questions:
Why is it important to ask questions about your business and your market? I mean, you know your own business right? The truth is sometimes businesses misjudge exactly who their target demographic is. Or they might have a skewed vision of their customer base. It happens more often than you’d think and this can be absolutely self-defeating.
You should evaluate exactly what your business is, what you offer, and how this applies to your target demographic. On the opposite end, you should evaluate who they are, what they need, and what challenges they may be facing. Again, you need to identify their pain points. This is really the best way to target a particular group of people with successful SEO.
Pain Points and Questions:
By identifying your customer’s pain points, you can begin targeting keywords. But keep in mind, you don’t want to target just the keywords around your service or your products. While this can be a great start and needs to be utilized, you also want to hit questions they may have before acquiring or purchasing.
For example, maybe our client doesn’t know what SEO is by name, but they can identify what they need for their business. So we have to target questions that may lead them to learning about search engine optimization. When they are ready to make an acquisition, they are already on our site because we took the time to lead them there.
If you are a blogger and you’re not really selling anything, it is the same kind of process. Maybe a reader isn’t looking to buy a pizza, but they’d be open to making their own. You can lead them to your blog by answering questions they may have and possibly convert them to subscribe to your newsletter.
Using the Right Tools:
If research can be considered fun, this is the place it most likely resides. There are so many paid and free tools out there for you to use that you’re bound to find something you like.
Off the top, you should look into using the following free tools:
If you utilize them correctly, they offer oodles of information for any budding search engine optimization campaign. Google Analytics will tell you what’s happening on your website when people show up and Search Console will tell you what’s happening on the Google search pages. Bing Webmaster Tools, does the same things but for their own search engine results pages.
Once you are a little more serious about SEO research, you may want to look into the following paid tools:
We have used both Moz and SEMrush on different occasions and we totally feel they are worth every penny. The caveat is that we use them for our own business and our clients. If you are using them for your own business they may be a little overkill. But thankfully they both offer trials where you can get a feel for their services.
If the paid tools are indeed too much for your business, than use the free tools to extract information. All three are powerful enough that you should be able to use them for a long time.
When you are so focused on your own business, sometimes it is easy to forget to look at your competitors. Analyzing your competition is a great way to see what they’re doing and what success they are achieving.
Using tools to your advantage, you can begin to truly study your competition. With some research you can examine:
- Where your competitors are ranking
- What their top pages are
- What their top keywords are
- Where their traffic is coming from
- Social media
- SERPs (search engine result pages)
- Paid search
- Organic search
You need to have this kind of information to determine which of your traditional competitors are also your online competitors. A lot of times your traditional competitors are not influencing search engines and it may be someone completely different. That’s why tools are such a vital component of data acquisition.
Your Keyword List:
Now that you have research out of the way, you should begin planning your execution. The first step in planning is identifying your potential keywords.
We mentioned briefly that businesses and bloggers tend to just start writing their content without any kind of plan behind it. This is also true of keywords. Many mistakenly believe that if you write content and throw a bunch of keywords at it, something will stick. That the search engines are going to figure out what’s the best content for a given keyword. As lovely as this sounds, it doesn’t work that way.
You have to make it very clear for the search engines and create a roadmap for them to identify the best content for a given keyword phrase. But it’s not just about the roadmap. It’s also about making sure those keyword phrases translate and resonate with your visitors. You can identify this by tracking your conversion rates through Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager.
Long Tail Keywords:
Sometimes going after long tail keywords can lead to your best content. While it is important to target exact phrases, don’t get lost in it. You want to target phrases that users are going to look for during their own research phase. An example of this is targeting “SEO” vs targeting “the best tips for successful SEO.”
Someone researching SEO probably has an idea of what it is, but maybe they don’t know the best practices or how to achieve successful SEO. This is where targeting the long tail phrase “the best tips for successful SEO” is useful. You answer their question, you have them on your site, and you can potentially convert them.
Keywords Need to Be Authoritative:
Before adding any keywords to your website, you should take the time to identify which keywords you’d like to be the authority on. You don’t want to add a bunch of keywords to your site if you don’t plan on developing quality content for them.
Keep the following in mind when targeting a keyword:
- Will this add value to my website or another keyword I am targeting?
- Will this lead to more conversions for my business?
If the answers to these questions are a resounding no, your time, for now, is best suited elsewhere. Only add content if it is going to be of value to a potential customer or reader. I’ve said it a number of times, but you are not generating content for you – you are developing content for your audience.
You are now taking your plan – your keyword list – and creating high quality, long form content for those phrases. This can be either new content or existing content you’re updating.
Quick aside – high quality content is not going to be 300 words. The average word count for page one Google rankings are around 1,600 words. Sometimes it went over 2,000 words and sometimes it was slightly less than 1,200 words, but the point is you can see long form is actually long.
Another thing to keep in mind is that what you write needs to be high quality and written for human visitors – not just search engine crawlers.
Optimizing Content for SEO and Usability:
What makes content usable? Well for one it needs to be readable. If your content has a lot of mistakes in it, visitors and bots are going to pick up on this. Keep paragraphs to a reasonable length, use bullet points when applicable, utilize sub headers, and use your targeted keyword appropriately.
Your keyword should be found in the following:
- Post title
By placing keywords in these areas, you are helping your consumer identify that this is indeed the content for them and it also helps search engines crawl your content with ease.
Promoting and Building Links:
Just because you hit publish, don’t get the impression that your work is done. You have to build links and generate buzz surrounding your content. Please don’t think that people will randomly stumble across your content and your business will grow.
Submit your post to social media, networks in your area, and other third-party websites where your content will see the light of day. This is mainly for two reasons:
- It helps bring in traffic
- It builds valuable incoming links
This allows both users and search engines to see that people other than yourself care about your content and website. These data points and triggers provide a valuable service – brand exposure. Successful SEO is built upon the value of content and links are one way to measure this value.
Reverse Engineering Your Process:
Once you’ve exhausted every other step and your content is booming (hopefully it is), the last step is to reverse engine your content.
- What made it successful?
- Why was it successful?
On the other hand, maybe it wasn’t successful at all. Now you can dial in on what works, what doesn’t work, and how to fix issues that arose.
Every formula is going to be different and it depends on a variety of factors. The important part is that you are learning how to build better content and you do this by analyzing the data. This is why you go through the pains of researching and planning – so that you have everything laid out before you.
Last Words on Successful SEO:
You have to make your content, your research, and your data your own. Every single market is unique and there’s no cookie cutter way to fake it. If there was you’d already be at the top of the search rankings alongside every single competitor.
The largest problem, it must be stated again, is that people neglect the research and planning phases. Don’t forget about your target demographic, existing success rate, conversions, and identifying what is working and what is failing.
Lastly, make sure you are producing content that has keyword focus and you are taking the right measures. Don’t jump into anything until you have the processes and roadmaps in place. If you follow these steps and your content is valuable, you will achieve successful SEO.