WHAT BASIC BENEFITS DOES SEO PROVIDE?
Outside of access to an enormous audience, what other benefits does SEO provide?
- Build Trust – brands that consistently appear high up on Google are seen by searchers as more likely to have valuable, authentic information.
- Create Better Content – SEO-optimised content is invariably easier for the reader to consume. This is because the content is designed to target specific knowledge that the reader is looking for.
- Cheaper Marketing – SEO is a budget-friendly form of marketing. You don’t have to pay to be placed in the same way you do with paid advertising.
- Improve Your Site – an SEO-optimised site doesn’t just function better in the eyes of search engines; it is also easier to navigate for your audience.
- Understand Your Audience – Part of a good SEO strategy involves researching what your target audience is searching for. This will help you to serve their needs and desires in a targeted fashion.
SEO strategy isn’t an isolated aspect of the digital marketing process. It needs to be executed in tandem with a variety of other actors, such as content creators and website designers. This is because everything you create needs to be optimised for search engines – be it your content, website or social media platforms.
As a result, SEO strategy can get pretty complex. In this article, you will learn the basic tents of a good SEO strategy, but you should understand before we begin that the practical execution of your strategy will be heavily influenced by how your other digital marketing efforts are designed and implemented.
Step 1 for Creating A Basic SEO Strategy: Keywords
Before you implement anything, your priority should be in-depth keyword research. A firm understanding of the keywords that are popular for what you are targeting is crucial because it allows you to understand your audience’s language, desires, and needs.
Google Keyword Planner
The ultimate tool to discover what keywords people are searching for is Google Keyword Planner. This tool, which forms part of the Google AdWords utility, is incredibly useful since it lets you know how many searches different, relevant keywords are getting.
All you have to do is enter one keyword into the planner, and it spits out the most popular, valuable keywords that are relevant to the initial one.
For example, if you sell shoes, you could type in ‘shoes.’ Some of the results include:
- Shoes online
- Shoes for women
- High heels
- Men’s shoes
As you can see, these are all relevant to your initial keyword. However, each of them branches out from the more general keyword, ‘shoes.’
Which keywords you want to target out of these depends on your specific situation. Do you sell luxurious, formal shoes? You’ll probably not be targeting sneakers. Rather, you’ll want to target keywords like ‘high heels.’ On the other hand, a casual shoe outlet will want to target ‘sneakers’ assuming that they sell them.
An additional bonus is that you can see how popular each keyword is. You may have considered targeting ‘evening shoes,’ but this keyword only gets 10-100 searches per month, whereas ‘formal shoes’ gets 100-1000 searches per month. (That said, you could still include ‘evening shoes’ on your page once or twice to secure the small group of people who do search for that phrase).
The Purpose of Keywords in Your SEO Strategy
Keywords serve a multitude of functions. First of all, they will educate you about the sorts of things your audience is searching for. This is great audience research and will help you to understand their needs and desires.
Secondly, as we will get to later in the article, you can use keywords to create targeted content that serves specific needs and features for popular search terms.
Thirdly, (and we’ll get to this too) your SEO will be better informed when you structure, design and develop your website.
It’s worth noting that Google Keyword Planner isn’t the only keyword tool you can use in your SEO strategy. There are a variety that will provide different benefits later on.
Step 2 for Creating A Basic SEO Strategy: On-Site SEO Optimisation
Once you’ve done your keyword research, you should be informed enough to begin the process of optimising your website.
Your website is the structure that your various social media platforms will link towards and will be where the vast majority of your content, offerings and information will be hosted. As a result, you should want as many as possible to find it when searching for relevant keywords.
The best way to implement your SEO strategy is to deal with your website structure first, then optimise your pages, before finally looking at specific content pieces.
SEO Optimisation: Website Design
Your website structure is a crucial aspect of a good SEO strategy. Your site needs to be designed in a way that makes it easy for search engines to both navigate your website, and prioritise it in search results.
There are a wide variety of elements that your website needs to do well in order to do well at SEO.
- Page Speed is a crucial element of SEO. Google doesn’t want to show people websites that take a long time to load. The faster your page loads, the better it is for your SEO strategy.
- Website Structure will allow search engines to navigate through your website. If search engines struggle to work out how to navigate through your website, they’ll assume that the same is true for your audience and will penalise your website as a result.
- Mobile Optimisation is incredibly important for your SEO strategy. In fact, Google uses a mobile-first indexing algorithm, which means that they actually check your website on mobile first when they execute their SEO algorithms. As a result, it is crucial that your mobile website is fast, and structured well. We are in an age where people use cell phones more than their desktops, and your SEO strategy should reflect this.
If you use WordPress or other reputable CMS platforms for your website, the chances are that most of the above are already optimised. If you’re a relatively small business, you probably don’t need to go into too much depth when it comes to website design, perhaps with the exception of considering using WordPress plugins that do helpful things like optimising images.
Something to keep in mind, though, is that the more plugins you use, the slower your website will load – and as we’ve already discussed, page speed is a significant factor in optimising your SEO strategy. What this means is that you should only use the WordPress plugins you actually need.
SEO Optimisation: Page Optimisation
Your pages need to be optimised if you want good SEO results.
Here are some of the elements of your pages that need to be optimised.
- Page Titles should involve keywords that you are looking to target. However, this should be done subtly so that it doesn’t appear forced to the reader.
- Meta Descriptions will help people who find your pages on search engines to know what they’re about. They’re also a sneaky opportunity to advertise yourself to someone scanning through the search results. Beyond this, meta descriptions will help you to place higher on search engine results pages.
- Accurate URLs that include keywords can help people to find your webpages easily, as they will immediately be able to identify the point of the page. For example, nike.com/mens-sneakers would let people know that this page has men’s sneakers on it, and so anyone looking to buy men’s sneakers would be more likely to click on it.
- Calls-to-Action allow you to push your audience to the next page you want them to visit and make website navigation significantly easier.
Beyond this, ensure that your website is easy and enjoyable to navigate. Well-designed webpages provide a host of benefits that indirectly improve your SEO.
For example, a good webpage is likely to capture the reader’s attention for longer. Increased page viewing times generally implies… a good page. Since search engines are looking to share good content with searchers, a good page is more likely to show higher up.
If your page is designed to funnel them to other pages or articles, then a good page will have a low bounce rate – again, leading search engines to believe that this is a good, valuable page that is encouraging readers to continue consuming more content on your website.
Ultimately, ensure that your webpages are simple to navigate and attractive, and half of your page-level SEO strategy will take care of itself.
Step 3 for Creating A Basic SEO Strategy: Content SEO
One of the most valuable forms of SEO is the production of keyword-targeted content. The more people your content can reach, the more brand awareness you create. Additionally, all of these people can be retargeted after visiting your website.
Content marketing can take various forms, such as written articles, podcasts, videos and infographics. With all of these forms of content, however, the goal is the same – to provide your audience with content that they are specifically interested in, while you generate brand awareness and leads that can be retargeted.
The more people that find your content through search engines, the more awareness and leads you can acquire. This is why your SEO strategy should heavily focus on optimising the content you create.
In fact, your content should primarily be informed by keyword research. It shouldn’t be you that chooses what you create content about; it should be your audience that informs your content topics based on what keywords and phrases they are searching for.
If we return to the earlier example about shoes, this keyword research can inform your choice of articles. If we sell formal shoes, we could create a piece of content that targets ‘high heels.’ You can use your creativity to craft an article around this keyword, but there are also some tools out there that can help you to think of more specific articles.
One of these tools is Answer The Public. This tool allows you to enter a keyword, and it generates a huge list of potential article topics.
For example, if we type in ‘high heels,’ we get the following:
That’s a lot of content ideas! As you can see, Answer The Public sorts them by ‘question words’ such as ‘who,’ ‘which,’ ‘where’ and ‘can.’
There are other tools you can choose from – if you would like to use one, it comes down to personal preference as to which one you pick.
Let’s say we choose ‘What High Heels are in Fashion?’ What’s next?
Why headlines are important in content and SEO strategy
First up, your headline is already sorted. But, if you’re not using a tool like Answer The Public, ensure that you craft a headline that entices your reader. Additionally, it is very important that you include your keyword in your title.
A good headline will entice people to click on your article. The more people that are clicking on your article, the more Google will see it as a good piece of content and prioritise it on their search engine results pages (provided that your audience doesn’t consistently bounce quickly).
Once you’ve got a headline, it’s time to ensure that you have all of your keywords. I’m not just talking about the main keyword – in our case, ‘high heels.’ You should find some secondary keywords that complemented the main keyword. This shows search engines that you know what you’re talking about. Search engines are clever enough to notice if you’re using a bunch of words that are related to the main keyword, and if you are, they take that as an indication that your content is extensive and valuable.
Tips for including keywords in your content
There are a couple of tips you should keep in mind when it comes to including keywords within your content.
- Your main keyword should feature a lot and should be spread out across your article (around 10 uses of your keyword in a 2000-word article is a good target).
- Your secondary keywords don’t need to feature as much – just make sure they are there.
- Search engines are clever enough to pick up subtle variations – such as ‘high heel’ and ‘high heels’ being the same keyword, just in different forms.
A key thing to note is that you absolutely should not keyword stuff. Keyword stuffing is the practice of forcing keywords into places where they stick out as unnatural. Your keywords should flow with your content.
Herein lies the art of content marketing – combining SEO keywords and good writing techniques to write content that works for your SEO strategy and your audience’s experience.
Why backlinks are important in SEO strategy
Keywords aren’t the only way to improve your SEO in your content pieces. Another aspect of your content SEO strategy should be backlinks.
Backlinks involve getting other websites to publish links to your content. Search engines view this as an indication that other websites and people are endorsing your content.
Backlinks are so popular that an entire ‘black-market’ of backlink banks has developed. This allows websites to buy backlinks, which these websites hope will turbo boost their SEO rankings.
Don’t be tempted to fall into this trap. It is strictly against the terms of service of all search engines to use techniques such as these, and if you’re caught by a search engine, you could be completely blacklisted from showing in any search results.
Rather build backlinks organically. Create good content, and you can accumulate authentic backlinks that are significantly more valuable than the black-market links.
Don’t be shy to get in contact with people whose content you build upon. For example, if someone writes an article about SEO strategy, and you create a content aggregation article that includes one of their infographics, get in touch with them, showing them how you’ve used the infographic and asking them whether they’d be willing to link back to your article.
Content should form a huge part of your SEO strategy. We live in an age where customers expect to gain value out of any attempts you make to market to them, and content is the perfect sweetener.
Step 4 for Creating A Basic SEO Strategy: Other SEO Strategies
There are other ways that you can boost your SEO strategy. One of these involves your social media presence.
Social media is used by search engines to gauge who has authority or popularity within their field. If you sell formal shoes and have a relatively large social media following, this can influence your website’s SEO capabilities.
You should look to share your content on your social media platforms. This creates a clear link between your content and your social media platforms.
An often-underrated social media for your SEO strategy is Google +. Since Google + and Google searches are run by the same company, Google + tends to be a great place to post your content for SEO purposes.
While Google + might not be the most popular social media platform in traditional terms, it still has a significant impact on your SEO efforts.
Another indirect element that you should consider implementing in your SEO strategy is a particular focus on offline marketing.
Yeah, that sounds weird. But it actually makes sense. If you can generally improve on your brand image, it’ll help in a variety of ways. One of these will be an increase in people searching directly for your brand. This will mean increased traffic, which in turn will help your SEO rating.
Additionally, if people know about your brand, they’re more likely to click on an article coming from your website than from another. Obviously, this only applies if you are known as trustworthy – if you’re known for the wrong reasons, it’ll actually hurt your SEO efforts.
Hiring an SEO Specialist
With all of this in mind, you quite possibly feel overwhelmed. Particularly, the technical stuff can be pretty complicated. You could consider hiring an SEO specialist. It is their job to ensure that all of your digital assets are optimised for SEO.
They have extensive experience in working their way through the SEO strategy process and will be of huge benefit to your business. A good SEO specialist will know the latest tips and tricks to making your pages and posts feature higher on search engines.
SEO specialists are a lot like plumbers. You could try to do all of your SEO set-up yourself; the resources are there to teach yourself. However, you’re probably going to make some mistakes, and it’s a much better idea to simply hand over the proverbial wrench to someone who does it for a living.
If you do take this route, it’s still incredibly important that you understand the basics of SEO strategy. Hopefully this article has helped you to develop a foundational knowledge of how SEO works and will help you to implement SEO well into your business – at least where you are capable.