Finding satisfying answers about SEO can be tough. Every SEO publication writes headlines about things that seem too far down the rabbit hole when you’re just looking for a frame of reference to get started.
I get it. You want to understand the handful of SEO elements that really matter—not a bunch of talking heads debating “the value of nofollow social media links as they pertain to reviews and the local search. algorithm”
Oof. Too much, too soon.
That’s why I created this post to cover the fundamentals of your SEO strategy—because that strategy underpins your entire pipeline of traffic (and therefore sales).
Let’s get to it.
Conducting Competitive and Gap Research
Clients on lean budgets often sometimes want to skip this part, but that’s not really a great idea.
It informs the direction you take for your broader strategy, as well as which tactics to pursue.
You want to gather things like:
- Known and unknown competitors
- Which keywords they’re using to gain traffic
- How to one-up their content
- Which websites link to them
Competitive research can go deeper with things like conversion mechanisms, design inspiration, and even influencers, but we’ll keep it to the scope of SEO and content for now.
It’s important because it shows you where to start. If your competitors found success with certain tactics, then you can as well—and claim a slice of their own proverbial pie in the process.
Calibrating for Technical SEO
Technical SEO doesn’t need to be reinvested in, but it does take some careful planning. It encompasses things like:
- Server response time
- The size of your theme code
- Website caching
- SSL certificate
- Mobile-responsive design
- Site speed
- XML Sitemap
- Accelerated Mobile Pages
- Search Console integration
You might be thinking, “but Andrew, that looks like stuff developers should handle.” You’d be right in some cases, but not all. Most things on that list can be achieved by a professional SEO, but some can only be achieved by a trained developer, depending on your setup.
For example, an SEO can help you pick a cost-effective hosting service to get good a good server response time, but setting up a new server for one directory of a franchise’s WordPress multi-site would be a bit more complicated. Still doable, but some things require corporate resources (and therefore corporate buy-in) with multiple stakeholders, including developers. But for small and medium businesses, a straightforward hosting plan is by far the most cost-effective solution.
Besides, who wants to pay an external development agency $200 per hour?
Creating a Crawlable Site Structure
Long gone are the days of publishing thousands of posts right under the top-level domain of your website.
That worked 8 years ago because—when Google was less sophisticated—its programmers told it to pay more attention to pages that lived closer to the top of the URL path. Posts and pages nested under directories or subdirectories didn’t get as much attention, all other things being equal.
But that’s changed. Google wants quality over quantity (more on that below), and it wants to understand how all of that information relates and differs from one area to the next. That’s what it’s looking for when it crawls your pages.
And that calls for a vertical site structure.
It’s simple in concept. You just divide your site’s content (main pages, service pages, and blogs) into different buckets for Google’s crawlers to read.
- Lawyers would divide a site by practice area
- Handymen would divide a site into electrical, woodworking, cabinetry. etc.
- Financial advisors would divide a site by investment vehicle, insurance, and estate planning
The point is that you or your business can produce bodies of knowledge with sub-specialties, and that’s how you should organize your content.
Concerned that you’ve been producing hundreds of blogs without grouping it into categories for years? We can help you clean that up, too.
Growing with a Data-Driven Content Strategy
You do need a fast and crawlable website, but all of that’s relative to the search terms for which you’re competing. So how do you expand the scope of terms that will point to your website?
That’s where SEO and content marketing come in.
You’ll grow awareness for your brand name through general inquiries (called a branded keyword or a branded search), but it’s actually a remarketing avenue. That’s because the person searching for your brand already had to know about your company to search for it in the first place.
That’s a good thing, because it shows that those people have made progress down your sales pipeline.
But you can leverage content and organic search to broaden the acquisition area of your sales pipeline with a data-driven strategy. This is where you build out your content around the body of knowledge in which your business specializes already.
Earning organic search traffic can net you thousands of visits per month, and that’s not even with top-tier keyword rankings.
Most people won’t buy from you on the first visit to your website this way—it takes multiple positive brand touches to build enough trust for a sale in any industry, after all. But a portion return to your site to learn more about their problems and your solutions to those problems.
Then they start searching for your brand—and that’s when they become ready to buy from you.
It’s a classic sales pipeline in which the top, middle ( and possibly even the bottom) of the funnel takes the form of content interactions instead of cold calls. It allows you to attract interested leads at scale when you pair it with lead capture mechanisms.
Earning Future-Proof Backlinks
Links are like votes on the Internet, and they’re important to grow your domain’s authority.
They’re also not created equal. That’s why earning a link from a respected, oft-referenced, and authoritative website counts for a lot more than a link from some random food blog with 10 monthly visitors.
What do those links do? Great question.
They lend authority to your website, which has the aggregate effect of boosting it in the search result pages. Yes, you’ll rank on the first page for your own brand name without links, but that comes with two major caveats:
- It’s near impossible to rank for competitors’ brand names
- People only search for your brand when they already know you
That means you’ll need to use backlinks to boost the overall authority of your website, both for your own brand-name keywords as well as the “acquisition” keywords in your content strategy.
It works on a page-by-page level too, although Google has adjusted the scales to account for a domain’s level of expertise on bodies of knowledge in the last few years, too. It’s less common to have a single “breakthrough” post without a host of authoritative content to support it today than it was 2-3 years ago.
And that’s good, because it solidifies you as an authority and makes it harder for competitors to encroach on your digital territory. You just need to play the long game.
Those are the key factors to get your SEO strategy started. Drop a quick line below and we can shoot some ideas back and forth over a coffee to get the ball rolling.