SEO is one of the best and fastest-growing digital marketing strategies in the world. 57% of businesses now invest in SEO, up from less than 30% only two years ago!
If you want to grow your organic traffic to your website, build brand awareness, and reduce your dependence on paid ads, then SEO is for you. However, it does require somestrategizing. Let’s talk about how to develop an SEO plan that works for your business!
Lay the Groundwork
Before starting your SEO strategy, there are a couple of aspects you will need to understand, and both are specific to your business. Here’s what you’ll need to do before getting started.
Keyword research is one of the most important aspects of any SEO strategy. You need to find a diverse list of keywords to let Google match your content with the most relevant users. You need both short-tail and long-tail keywords for the best results.
Short-tail keywords are the obvious ones in every industry. Think “new car”, “laptop”, or “pizza”. These will have the highest search volume but also the most competition.
Long-tail keywords like “2022 Subaru Outback near me” will have significantly less search volume than “new car”, but it will also have much less competition. The traffic a dealership will draw from this is also far more relevant and likely to convert. Spread your eggs across as many baskets as possible for both short-term and long-term SEO gains!
First of all, competitor research is a critical part of keyword research, but it can still teach you more. Without researching competitors, there’s no point in developing a plan. In that case, you’re the only one running an obstacle course with a blindfold on.
All of the information you need from your competitors is available online. You can easily plug their URLs into backlink checkers, keyword checkers, and other online SEO tools. Also, you can simply scroll through their website.
Understanding which websites are linking to theirs, what topics they write about, and which keywords they are ranking for are essential. Otherwise, you don’t know what you’re up against.
You also want to get a feel for their website’s usability. You can run it through Google’s PageSpeed Insights or Mobile-Friendly Tests, but simply interacting and engaging with their content will help you understand what you need to beat.
Break Up Your SEO Plan
We like to say that there are 3 main components of an SEO strategy. One acts as the foundation, the other is the building upon that, and the final piece ties it all together. Here’s how you can break up these pieces for the best results!
Web Design and Development
Your website is, without question, the foundation of your SEO strategy. Google is looking for relevant, high-quality, credible content on a user-friendly site. That’s the entire point of their algorithm, nothing more.
For this reason, SEO strategies can be severely hindered before even launching their strategies if they don’t take care of their websites. Your SEO plan will only go as far as your website will let it. This is because Google uses over 200 ranking factors directly related to the quality of your site, most notably:
- Page loading times
- Page structure
- Linking structure
- Meta information
- Server and security issues
- Errors and redirects
The list goes on for a while, but getting on top of these issues will likely help your SEO strategy hit the ground running. These simple fixes will go a long way.
Content marketing is the “house” in our analogy. This is what you build upon the foundation to begin ranking on search engines. Think about it.
Without a content marketing strategy, you’ll only have 5 to 10 pages. That’s 5 to 10 weak chances of ranking for titles like “contact us” or “about us” like every other website has. However, with a blog (or other content marketing strategy), you can have endless opportunities to rank for whatever keywords you want to rank for.
For example, let’s say you are running a mechanic shop. Without a blog, you’re competing with many other mechanic shops in your area and around the world, likely for the same keywords. With a blog, you can write about topics like:
- “How to change your oil on a 2010 Corolla”
- “Why are my brakes squeaking?”
- “Why is my check engine light on?”
- “Can I change my rotors myself?”
The opportunities are endless, but remember, users search for information, not brands they’ve never heard of. If you want to build new, organic traffic, you will have to offer content that answers their questions.
From there, it’s easy to redirect users to become paying customers. With a strong call-to-action (CTA), you can answer all of your users’ questions, discuss the pain points involved in the process, and position your services as the solution. It’s as simple as that!
However, your content marketing strategy needs to be consistent and high-quality. More on that later.
This is the aspect that ties everything together. It’s not something you need to worry about as a brand new website, but it is something to plan for later on. While this is the aspect least in your control, there is still a lot you can do to build your off-page SEO.
Primarily, Google uses backlinks to establish a website’s authority or credibility. Backlinks are the links from other sites to yours.
Google’s algorithm is impressive, but it can’t fact-check everything and establish whose information is accurate and whose isn’t across hundreds of billions of web pages. For that reason, they rely on other websites. Some will offer more authority than others.
For example, if a small newspaper like the Worcester Telegram & Gazette gets a link from The New York Times, that’s going to perform a lot better than from your neighbor’s cooking blog. The NYT gets links from nearly every news outlet in the world every single day, so in the eyes of Google, their authority is off the charts.
However, there are other off-page factors to consider that are even easier than building backlinks. More on that later.
Draft Your Plan
First, you will need to start with a website strategy. Talk to your web design team or hire a professional web developer and start making the necessary improvements to your website. From there, your plan should include the following!
Develop a Clear Schedule
You will need both a content schedule and a timeline. When do you want to see results for your SEO strategy, and how will you change your strategy if you don’t see it by then?
Let’s say you have a newer site and you want to see yourself on page 1 for a few long-tail keywords in 90 days. That should be feasible for most industries, especially if you choose keywords with low competition.
Develop a regular posting schedule with a diverse set of keywords, and stick to the plan for 90 days. Do not deviate or change course during that time. If you don’t see the results you want after 90 days, reevaluate your strategy and make adjustments as necessary.
Also, just because you need to upload new content often doesn’t mean you should simply churn out content with AI tools. Quality cannot suffer.
Develop an Optimization Checklist
Before posting any new content, there are questions to ask. Most importantly, you want to know if the content is informative and engaging for the reader and eliminate any fluff. From there, before posting, review your page for:
- Keyword usage
- Meta information (SEO title and meta description containing keywords)
- Internal and external links (with link titles)
- Image alt descriptions
- Page structure (header tags, etc.)
Every post needs to be optimized for search engines, but remember that you’re creating content for readers, not Google.
Create a Sitemap
Google has a difficult time finding every page on your website, especially if some of them are isolated. To help Google crawl and index your site more quickly, create an XML sitemap and submit it to Google through your Search Console property.
If you’re unfamiliar, sitemaps are exactly what they sound like; a map of your site. It’s simply a list of URLs for each page of your website. If this sounds like a daunting task, it isn’t.
On CMS tools like WordPress, there are usually automated options for creating a sitemap. If not, download a plugin that will give you one for free. It should only take you 2 minutes to take the file and submit it to Google!
Use Off-Page Tools
While social media and directory links don’t offer the same authority as backlinks, they are still worth your time. They’re free, you can do them yourself, and they will help your strategy. This is especially true in the early days, as Google needs a way to find your site.
First, claim your Google Business Profile, formerly known as Google My Business. From there, optimize your listing by filling out every applicable prompt and uploading plenty of relevant pictures. Answer any questions from users and check back in at least once every 2 to 4 weeks.
Google wants to see activity on your business profile, so keep everything updated and verified over time. If your business is location-specific or has a physical store, you should also get listed on Google Maps.
Second, get on other applicable directories or business listings. This could include Yelp, your local Chamber of Commerce, or industry-specific listings. This is another easy way to help Google and users find you.
Finally, share your posts on social media when you upload them. This is a mutually-beneficial relationship with your social media marketing strategy. It will help you post new content consistently, build new traffic to your site, and help Google find your new content!
Develop a Backlink Strategy
You can’t just log into other websites’ CMS and link to your own site. You will have to get a little creative when it comes to building backlinks. Fortunately, there are several ways to do this.
For example, you can run your competitors’ URLs through backlink checkers and find referring domains. By creating better content that’s more engaging and informative for users, you can then reach out to those domains and ask them to link to your content instead.
Also, try building content that serves as “link bait”. Think of online mortgage calculators, statistics pages, or in-depth how-to guides. This is a great organic approach that Google’s algorithm will love.
At the start, simply reach out to affiliates and ask for links! Local and industry-specific affiliates may offer a lot of authority. Offer a link in exchange, too.
From there, if your strategy isn’t working, you can always buy links. However, this is a risk. Google can penalize sites that sell links if they find out, which could be a waste of your money.
If you decide to buy links, make sure you’re buying from the right sources. Many “black hat” SEO services can harm your strategy rather than help it.
Get Professional Help
Finally, if you want to eliminate the “guessing game” that comes with a new SEO strategy, DIY won’t cut it. Consider hiring professional SEO services like LIVID to help bring your strategy to the next level as soon as possible. SEO is only becoming more competitive, so take every advantage you can get!
Put Your SEO Plan to Use
Now that you know how to develop and implement a successful SEO plan, why wait? SEO takes time to come to fruition, so the sooner you get started, the sooner you will see results. Building organic traffic is always worth it in the long run!
Get started today and keep reading our blog for our latest digital marketing tips!