With this post about SEO Strategy I want to provide you with some applied context, so that you can understand a fully structured SEO strategy template, that will work with virtually any website in any niche. People will often just randomly throw links at a website and wonder why it doesn’t get them the results they expected. By creating a sound, well structured strategy and taking a holistic approach to your SEO, not only will you get more traffic, you will also get more leads and sales.
SEO Landscape in 2019
I’ve probably heard it a million times from Search Engine Marketers (and I confess to saying it myself once or twice in the past), that the SEO industry is hard to keep up with because it changes so rapidly and frequently, in particular the Google Algorithm Updates that we have all grown to love (or hate). However more recently this landscape has settled down considerably and it’s quite easy to understand the really important and impactful aspects of SEO these days.
The BIG SEO SECRET!
The BIG SECRET that isn’t really that big of a secret is that, what is REALLY driving rankings in organic search today is largely the same things as it has been for the last ten or so years: Links and Content.
As I say this is not much of a secret to some of us, although the view has been somewhat blurred by agencies and self titled SEO Experts, bringing a million different factors into play and assigning them the title of “Most Important SEO Ranking Factor”.
There are indeed many, many factors to consider, yet focusing on these two main organic ranking factors for SEO alongside speed and security, will save you a whole lot of time, money and energy in the long run.
Organic SEO Ranking Factors
Here is a neat infographic showing the results of a study done by ahrefs that shows the correlating factors of high search engine rankings. It is clear to see that links are still the number one driving factor behind rankings:
So for all the talk about how SEO strategy is always changing, it turns out the basics are still where it’s always at. There is data to prove it, we don’t like to rely on theory here. White Rabbit looks at what is really going on in the SEO realm and what is actually having an effect on search results.
Prepare For The Future With SEO
With that said, we want to prepare for the future and what might change in SEO. In the last few years, we have seen Google put a big focus on trying to understand content, search intent, and topics. With their algorithm Hummingbird, they tried to understand the connection between entities, topics, subtopics, and synonyms.
The goal of Google’s algorithms is to match a user query to the best answer. So if Google can rate a web page based on the likelihood that it will answer the user query better than any other, then they have a new way of ranking documents. That is why there isn’t just a focus on the “voting mechanism” (links) anymore, but also on the actual content within the page.
UPDATE: Our most recent research has shown that this is fact very relevant right now. We are seeing more top spot web site across more industries now displaying this approach and strategy to their SEO.
Synonyms and LSI
Search engines are getting way smarter than ever before. They are no longer looking at searches on a keyword by keyword basis, they are looking at the intent behind the user’s search and understanding that some searches (with variations on the keyphrase) have the same intent. That is why you no longer need to build out new pages for each keyword variation, but focus on building high quality web pages based on topics.
For instance, when you look at old school search engine optimisation that used to build out pages for each keyword: e.g. guest post service, guest post packages, guest blog post packages, etc. Now Google understands those are all near enough the same thing, so you can just create one good quality, well optimised page and you will rank for a ton of these type of variations.
How To Rank High In Google Search
Overall, the best way to rank high up in Google search results for 2020 and the future, is to become an authority in your niche. When you do this, Google will basically unlock the floodgates of traffic to your website. So what is an authority website in Google’s eyes? You need to align what we like to call the “Authority Trinity”:
- Topical Depth
Build long articles that fully answers any of the questions a user would have about that subject or niche area.
- Topical Breadth
Build out lots of articles on your website, answers to all the trending topics and types of questions your customers have.
- Authority Links:
Links are still the biggest ranking factor, but quality is much more important than it used to be. SEO is always a long term game, so we always recommend focusing on getting long lasting, high quality links to your site.
By combining these three things, you will definitely see massive increases in your ranking and traffic, just like White Rabbit clients do with our Fully Managed SEO Package.
Before You Start Your SEO Campaign
We like to start with a quick SEO audit on your website, to see if there are any underlying issues. There isn’t much point in building your castle on the sand. If your website has dropped organic ranking in the past, check and see if you have any penalties via Webmaster Tools, Google Analytics (sudden drops in traffic), etc.
Checking For Google Penalties
One cool tool we like to use is this Google penalty checker which will match up a SEMRush graph of your traffic to all the major Google updates. You can easily see if there have been any big drops in traffic at the same time as an update roll out, this can help to signal what you might need to fix.
Some penalties are much harder to recover from than others. Don’t spend a lot of time trying to recover a doomed website, as some just won’t recover regardless of what you do. Check the Google penalty checker, compare your dates and check out these tools and guides on penalty recovery for Penguin or Panda. If your website is in big trouble, follow these instructions, start a new site in the meantime, or maybe do both!
Your SEO Battle Plan
Now with that said, here’s the SEO battle plan to get you started with your SEO Strategy for 2019 and the near future:
1. Define Your Target Audience
Before any marketing campaign kicks off, you have to define the target audience. With most industries you have some dream customers that spend a ton of money with you, don’t ask for much, and are generally really easy to deal with. There are other customers that are a right pain in the *** asking a million questions and demand a million things, they want everything at a discount and generally make your life miserable.
You can of course sell to and service both of types of customer, but do you really want to? Probably not. I expect you would rather take one of the good customers over 10 or even more bad customers.
So defining your specific audience and who you want to target, will ultimately define and help to determine what keywords you want to rank for and what kind of content you should create. Understanding your audience better will help you to generate tons of ideas of what you want to rank for. Listen to your customers, look at the search statistics and listen to your market.
By understanding your target market, you can answer their questions and help them solve their problems. Which in turn makes you more money. Once you understand who you’re going to target, then it’s time to find some keywords to target!
2. Competitive Research / Keyword Research
Keyword research doesn’t have to be hard, it is actually really easy as long as you keep it simple! You can divide your keywords into two main groups:
- Keywords that you are targeting
- Keywords that you are not targeting
Easy Win Keywords For Quick Gains
To get some easy wins in the early days of your SEO strategy, you can use research tools to find keywords with good search volume, that you are already ranking for on spot 4 or below (including as far down as page 2 of the search results). Google already sees you as fairly relevant for these search terms, you just don’t rank in the top 3 for them… YET. By optimising these web pages and sending more links and SEO authority to them, you can increase your organic ranking a lot faster than with a new keyword that you’re not ranking for already.
Find Your Competitors Keywords Using Content Gap Analysis
After the quick wins, you need to find out keywords you are not targeting yet, and you can do that with something called a competitive gap analysis. Basically, you want to go out and find all your competitor’s website URLs. Once you have a list of your competitors, establish a list of all the keywords THEY rank for and then filter out the ones that YOU already rank for.
Now you should have a huge list of keywords to target and build out quality content (like blog posts)! You will need to apply some filters to this list, like excluding very high difficulty and competition keywords (unless you have a very powerful domain). Making sure they all have good search volumes and weighting the CPC to above 50p to exclude any useless keywords, that really aren’t worth investing in targeting.
Hey Presto, now you have very some valuable keywords that are well worth targeting! Next you need to either optimise your current content for those keywords, or create some new content!
Top Tip: Don’t be afraid of using long tail keywords here. They often have greater search intent and convert more frequently!
3. On-Site & On-Page SEO Strategy
Firstly you want to build great content and make sure your web pages are optimised with your keywords and to cover the topic in depth. You will need to optimise your meta tags: Title, Descriptions, URL, Header Tags (H1, H2, etc.), Image ALT Text and more.
Your focus here should be all about building out in depth content (that’s what Google likes to see), that answers your users’ questions. Focus on creating long content of 1000 words or more, this tends to rank better in organic search. You should have a huge list of target keywords from your earlier keyword research. Simply create content focused on those keywords and add internal links on your site to that content.
Optimise Existing Content
If you already have a lot of content in an existing blog or large product catalogue, you can re-optimise old blog posts and product pages to get the maximum value out of your existing assets! As a side note here, you can also promote this content through channels outside of SEO like email marketing, social media, content syndication, paid ads etc. After you have built out your content, then you will need links to drive the search ranking.
User Experience Signals
You will also want to make sure that your landing page is easy to navigate and get the user what they are looking for without much trouble. Take a look at what is ranking in the top spots and try to model that in terms of different types of content, layout, etc. If web users are landing on your page and immediately bouncing back to the search results, that is a negative “user experience signal”. You need to make sure people are staying around on your pages and continuing through your website.
Link building has been given a bit of a bad name, but if you look at the data that has been collected, it is basically what’s driving rankings. One of the most common problems that most people face when embarking on a backlink strategy for their site is quite simply, under estimating the number of links they need to rank well.
The bad name has come from link building techniques that aren’t particularly White Hat SEO. On top of that, many sites can get penalised for over optimising their anchor text and creating an unnatural profile. There are a few pitfalls to avoid, so when you start on your first link building campaign, this is the plan we suggest:
Start with Branding / Diversity:
Because the biggest issue we see is sites that get hit with over optimisation, we want to start with giving your website tons of backlink diversity. Use only natural anchor text on your links (yoursite.com or your brand name as the anchor or keyword) and don’t you any exact match keywords or commercial anchors (money phrases).
Build up your social portfolio: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc. This signifies you are an actual brand. Start with the ones that you will actively use as they are right for your business model, to find out which ones these are read our post on Which Social Media and Why. When you create content on your site, post it to the main social properties to keep natural links flowing and your social accounts active.
Then get as many of more these diversified social and branded links as you can. It’s important not to build exact match anchors here, just use your brand name or naked urls (https://www.yoursite.com).
Top Tip: One of the quickest, easiest and cheapest ways to get quality social profiles done for you, is our Brand Lockdown.
Get In Content Diversity Links
The next stage is to get more powerful diversified backlinks with in-content links. You can build web 2.0 type properties for this, using a mix of branded, natural, low competitions keywords / long tail phrases and variations. A great source for these types of links are online form builders, some social platforms and free website builders like DoodleKit and Strikingly.
Now Get High Power Links
After you have built a substantial base of low power diversity and stronger web 2.0 links, start adding in quality high powered links with close or exact match anchor text (here is where you can start using your money phrases). Don’t use the same anchor more than once, just switch it around to something slightly different each time. A good way to get these types of links is to do guest posts on high authority blogs and news articles.
Quite often we see sites that have a fair amount of links, but still aren’t ranking very well. A lot of the time that is because they don’t have the quality of links they need to be ‘trustworthy’ in regards to the search engines like Google. They haven’t got a lot of high trust links to their domain or pages. If this is the case with your site, you will need to focus on getting in-content links from high trust publications.
Top Tip: Continue adding these types of links month on month, while changing your anchor each time to different long tails / variations.
You will also want to try and avoid these big mistakes we see a lot:
Anchor Text Ratios
The main problem we keep seeing is people over optimising their link anchor text. The trick here again is KEEP IT SIMPLE! Stop worrying about planning and targeting specific anchor text ratios and just go all out on brand signals, naked URLs, etc. Get a load of natural links and only use a handful of exact match anchors.
You should be looking at around 95%+ brand / naked and less than 5% exact match. Google is never going to penalise a domain for having too diverse a link portfolio, but it will for having too many exact match anchors.
Don’t Give Up Too Soon!
The other biggest problem we see is people giving up on their link building campaign too soon. Google can take quite some time to fully index and categories your site. It can take several weeks after building powerful links for you too see any movement, not forgetting that based on bounce / click rates and other factors, your site can jump around in the search results and keep moving up for months.
If it gets stuck, don’t stop and wonder why it’s not working. You will need to continue building more diversified links. Our best ranking clients have ongoing link campaigns, even when things are going well (you never know when one of your links on third party sites might get de-indexed). Too many people fail in their backlink campaigns and strategies by building a couple of links here and there and then stopping.
6. SEO Strategy For Local Sites
If you are a local business or have bricks and mortar locations and you want to increase web traffic and foot-fall, you’ll want to do a few extra things. As local search queries now bring up the map pack on most of the major search engines, you should make sure you rank well there too.
Here are some tips on how you can do that:
Set Up Google Maps / My Business
First of all you want to set up your Google My Business page for each of your location, so you can rank in the top 3 of the local map pack. This can even be done if your business doesn’t have a physical address that customers can visit. If this is the case, add a Service Area to your listing when possible, this should help you to appear in the local pack for areas that may not be in your immediate vicinity.
Audit Your Local Citations
This is the number one thing that will hold you back in local search results. Make sure you always do a citation audit before doing anything else for local SEO. This will also help to tell you which important citations you are missing. Don’t forget to clean up, fix and update your existing local citations where and when needed. Make sure your current NAP (Name / Address / Phone) is correct, up to date and the same across all citation platforms.
Copy And Crush Competitor Citations
Try to emulate and reproduce the same local citations and links that your top ranking competitors have from your industry sites and directories. Keep on building these until you have crushed your competitors in the localised search results.
Conclusion & Video Summary
You can clearly see exactly how effective a well rounded and competitively structured SEO strategy can be, if you take all of these things into consideration. By following this fail-safe SEO strategy template, you will soon set yourself up for massive search result success.
This detailed and thorough process is the exact same one that we use for our fully managed SEO service, along with many other ways to amplify and maximise your content marketing and SEO strategy.
As usual, if you need help with anything please get in touch.