SEO Strategy

Have you ever wondered in times of calamity why some panic while others remain calm and prepare in readiness to navigate the rocky road ahead? There is no doubt we are living in uncertain times, indeed. Unless you have been in a state of hibernation of late, you would have no doubt heard plenty of talk around the subject of cutbacks. It’s understandable in challenging times to start feverishly slashing away at those expenses we perceive to undercut our bottom-line. All too often, search engine optimisation—for all the wrong reasons is well-favoured on the business trim-list.

Although cutting costs makes perfectly good sense—cutting back in areas which ensure business sustainability and growth would seem somewhat unwise.  Like many others, rather than dwell negatively on current events, we’ve taken some time to consider what we can do as individuals and business owners, to lessen the short-term impact of the current crisis and emerge stronger. It is my hope this article inspires you to take some decisive action and get your business ranking in 2020.

So in our discussion today, we are going to take a birds-eye view at the critical components of the search engine optimisation process and how each one of these components plays a vital role in the successful outcome of your SEO strategy.

What is SEO and How Does it Work?

To fully appreciate the benefits of SEO, it’s essential to develop a grounded understanding of the fundamental basics and recognise indicators which, when correctly isolated and optimised, deliver consistent returns on your investment dollar.

Search engine optimisation is the process of enhancing the visibility of a website in the search results by improving a webpage’s underlying code, on-page content, internal links or backlinks to increase website traffic and conversion rate.

An optimised website is the result of a combination of checks and balances. In essence, every page is crafted to provide an enriching experience to the target audience—to inform, answer questions and allay fears.

These checks and balances are part of a fundamental process referred to as search engine optimisation.   So what are the essential components which solidify the SEO process and form the overall foundation of your SEO strategy?

How to Improve SEO.

The SEO process consists of several interrelated components which individually impact the performance of every component within the process.  So it’s crucial to understand the time you invest in research, analysis, planning, implementation, collaboration and marketing each play a role in determining the success of your website’s search visibility, traffic and conversions—now and into the future.

Shortcuts only succeed in short-changing your outcome. Below we have itemised the primary building blocks of a balanced SEO strategy;

SEO Tools

As with any industry, there are tools which greatly assist in the delivery of the end product and search engine optimisation is no different.

Below I’ve included some indispensable tools to help you, more easily isolate faults, errors and missed opportunities to help you get back on the path to pandemic recovery, they are;

As a side note, the tools recommended are, I believe, to be the baseline minimum you need to plan and monitor your SEO strategy objectively.  For those on limited budgets, you could delay using Ahrefs and use solely Ubersuggest; their premium plan is just ten dollars a month and is becoming increasingly more useful by the day.

SEO Audit

The SEO audit is a website analysis intended to ear-mark any technical,  structural and on-page issues which impact the performance of your website in the search results.  The purpose of the audit is to provide a roadmap of actionable recommendations—outlined into two primary, top-level categories consisting of;

  • Technical: server-side or website issues which impact the indexation, speed, crawlability, performance and visibility.
  • On-Page: these are issues which impact the audience experience, visibility, and search ranking of your website; such as website structure, navigation, on-page content, keyword use, internal links, outbound links and backlinks.

Priority: Look for quick wins—for instance, identify pages which, with a little tweaking, may quickly climb to page one in the search results; a great place to start is Ahrefs top-pages.  Often, careful competitor analysis will reveal winning on-page characteristics such as word-count, answering the needs of your audience and getting those all-important backlinks to your content. Collaboration, which we will discuss in more detail later, is the key.

Keyword Research & Competitor Analysis

For an SEO strategy to be impactful requires a thorough understanding of your target market to determine what drives your audience’s purchase decisions and the keywords which reveal customer intent. Intent determines your customers’ intrinsic value and directly impacts conversion. So it makes sense research weighs heavily in the optimisation process. We delve into more detail on this very subject in a recent article.

Priority: Again, look for easy wins by targeting keywords relative to your website domain authority and keyword difficulty. Look for keyword opportunities with reasonable traffic volumes, a healthy click-through-rate, and an easy to medium keyword difficulty. Keep in mind your website domain strength and that of your competitors. In short, you want to target keywords where there is a reasonable expectation to rank high in the search results—focusing your efforts in this manner will deliver the best return for your time and effort.

Topic Research

Topic research is a similar process to that of keyword research, the objective here is to identify the consumer questions, concerns and fears which impact their decision process, preventing them from purchasing your product or service. As topic research is weighted around keyword research, so it’s essential to have a good snapshot of your industry keywords before trying to identify topics your customers are likely to engage, share and action.

By identifying what sparks, your audience’s interest will empower you in formulating an effective content marketing strategy and strike the right note with your audience every time.

Priority: It is vital to consider the return on the investment you are making by ensuring there is an audience to consume and action every piece of content you create. The preparation work you do in finding the right keywords and targeting the right topics for your audience’s needs will reflect in the results you receive.

Remember this simple formula: Volume, Clicks, CPC = Opportunity.  Keyword volume reveals interest; clicks reveal involvement while a keyword’s intrinsic value (CPC) reveals intent. Your intent with every piece of content you create is to funnel your audience to the next stage of their purchase journey.

On-Page Optimisation

On-page optimisation is a term which involves altering a page’s HTML source code, and it’s content to increase its visibility in the search results.  Surprisingly on-page optimisation is something easily corrected but often most neglected.

As mentioned previously, a site audit is the best way to identify problem areas which directly impact your website, however, let’s take a quick look at the typical areas which many websites fail to address, they are;

  • Your message
  • Headline tags
  • Bullet-points
  • Sentence length
  • Paragraph size
  • Images
  • Videos
  • Schema
  • Interlinking
  • Outbound links

The above is not an exhaustive list, but it does address the crucial areas you can target with relative ease as part of your SEO strategy.  We’ve listed each component in the order of difficulty and importance.

Priority:  Probably one of the easiest and impactful ways you can influence your audience’s purchase decisions is your message—and, sadly, it’s an area where so many businesses fail. Whether you run an e-commerce or services website, your message is everything. How you communicate your message, through compelling headlines, content, readability and accessibility is paramount. One of the biggest mistakes most businesses make is thin content.

Simply put, thin content is just another way of telling your audience you don’t care.  The time you spend, educating, convincing and answering your audience’s questions surrounding the products or services you provide, not only encourages audience engagement but nurtures trust and helps build your reputation as an industry authority.

Every headline, word, image or video you place on your page helps reinforce your message and your audience’s perception of your brand, and by failing to hit the right note with your audience diminishes results.

SEO Copywriting

Copywriting is one of the most important on-page strategies which directly affects audience participation and engagement. Put simply, copywriting is your on-page message, it’s your opportunity to connect with your audience, build trust in your brand, answer questions and talk about the benefits of your product or services.

Although the underlying principles of copywriting remain unchanged from pre-internet times, there are significant differences in how copy is structured, so it resonates with readers and is more easily located in the SERPs.

SEO copywriting is the art of crafting content using targeted key phrases in a manner which helps online content rank higher in the search results while resonating with your audience.

Put another way—content should be meaningful to your audience, while also incorporating relevant and targeted keywords which make your content easily found in the search results.

Priority:Your homepage is arguably the most important page on your website. Convey your business why, how and what concisely. Use competitor analysis to determine if there is a reasonable expectation to rank for targeted terms, custom your message to target terms you can rank high in the search results page based on your domain strength.

Next, you want to ensure your primary service, category or product pages have a compelling message which invokes action, whether that call-to-action is to pick up the phone, subscribe to a newsletter, fill out a form or purchase your product. Use your keyword and topic research to help you focus your marketing efforts to attract the audience more likely to become customers.

Content Marketing

Content marketing involves the creation, sharing and distribution of online material—focusing on educating audiences and stimulating interest in a website’s products or services.  Examples of content marketing include blog and social media posts, videos, infographics and images, all essential, interconnected components of the marketing process designed to maximise audience engagement.

Content marketing differs from its copywriting counterpart; rather than focusing on brand, it seeks to answer audience needs while building trust through engagement.   Although considered to be a ‘soft sell’ when compared to copywriting, intent should drive every facet of the content creation process, its purpose; to filter your audience to the next phase of the sales process.  It’s for this reason that content marketing has become an invaluable tool in every SEO strategy.

Priority: Develop a content strategy based on your keyword and topic research; validating your ideas through competitor analysis. Analyse your competitor’s pages to isolate those which have been successful in ranking for keyphrases you are targeting—Ahrefs is an invaluable tool in this area.

Analyse every competing page for your target keyphrase for metrics such as word-count, keyword density, backlinks and the website’s domain authority. Your focus should be to build a page which answers your audience needs better than your competitors.  Page structure, infographics, videos, readability, all play a crucial role in leveraging your pages search visibility. Above all, make every word count and don’t forget to include a call-to-action.

Backlinks

Backlinks are links from one website to another. Correct link etiquette as stipulated by Google guidelines permits links acquired through a ‘natural’ linking process. What Google deems to be ‘natural’ are links you earn rather than those you seek. In other words, links acquired to boost website search visibility artificially are not permitted.

Linking etiquette is a hotly debated issue and goes beyond our article focus; however, you might like to read one of our recent articles on the subject.

What’s important to remember though, backlinks are crucial to website visibility, every backlink you earn boosts the competitiveness of your website in the search results.  Backlinks to internal pages leverage a pages ability to rank for your targeted keyphrase.

Priority: Forming or becoming part of a collaborative network, whether it’s through existing business channels, your social network or cold-outreach is essential for generating buzz to every piece of content you produce. The broader the audience viewing your content, the greater chance your content will earn those all-important, ‘natural’ backlinks Google views so highly.

It is important to understand though; not all backlinks are equal. The only links which offer SEO value are Follow links. Follow links can be contextual keyword-rich, branded or naked. Moz has a great read that’s easy to digest, which explains the different types of anchor text you can use with some useful examples, while Neil Patel reveals 12 tactics you should know to attract backlinks.

Collaboration

Coming from the old-school mentality, “if you want anything done, you gotta do it yourself”, I’ve learnt going it alone, is not a sensible marketing strategy.

Let’s face it; working solo is about as hard as it gets, and surprisingly, as interconnected the world is today, with the endless discussions around the topic of collaboration, it’s shocking how few of the internet community practice what they preach.

So, nudge, nudge, wink, wink; let’s talk about how we go about earning those ‘natural’ links by way of collaboration.

As with any strategy; action is the key. But, let’s not overlook the all-important aspect of giving. Before you start down the path of collaboration, the right mindset is crucial. Business relationships, like any relationship, are built on trust, understanding, acts of selflessness and above all, patience.

Just like the adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, neither are relationships, so getting your approach right is paramount for successful outreach. Our outreach guide details how to identify prospects and offers tips on how to pitch your ideas and secure those all-important site backlinks, essential for your SEO strategy.

So to be clear, make collaboration about what you can do for others, rather than what others can do for you. By all means, seek to find mutual benefit where possible, but consider giving is a big part of the collaborative mindset.

Priority:  Ensure your sites key landing pages and pillar content convey what it is you do, how you do it and why. Your pitch has a greater chance of success if your target landing page message is on-topic and useful.

Identify key individuals in your industry with whom you can collaborate. Look for opportunities where you can add value to their business by producing content with link appeal.  Your content will be more linkable if it is deemed beneficial to another website’s audience.  Be prepared to go the extra mile to create alliances and get the results you need.  Although it may not seem profitable in the short-term, the time and effort you put in right now will return remarkable dividends.

How Long Does SEO Take?

Just how long it takes to see results will depend on your budget, goals and approach.  As a guide, outcomes are better assessed over 12 months as budget limits will impact how quickly results can be achieved.  Significant gains can be recognised in as little as six months in some circumstances.  As there are varying factors unique to each business and industry, setting KPI’s is best determined after a thorough website analysis and discussions on objectives and marketing budget.

What is the Cost of SEO?

Search for SEO pricing on Google, and you are guaranteed to receive a bundle of attractively priced SEO options under $1,000 per month. We all like a bargain—however, accepting the lowest possible bid is unlikely to produce any results other than a penalty from Google. In Australia, consultancy fees range from as little as $90-$250 per hour (although COVID-19 has brought considerable downward pressure on pricing of late).

There are, of course, valid reasons why SEO is considerably more in Australia when compared with someone employed in an offshore digital marketing sweatshop. With over 50% of Australian businesses failing within the first five years of business; how do you calculate the true cost of an ineffective SEO strategy when compared with the value received from a campaign with a path to profitability?

When clients ask how much do they need to spend to see results, the answer lies in your expectations. Every business is different, and, for small businesses, in particular, we find the best approach is to analyse strengths and weaknesses. We prioritise areas where quick gains are achievable, building on existing strengths and take a structured approach to transform weaknesses into new revenue streams.

So when considering your advertising budget, we found a monthly commitment of around 20 hours for small businesses offers the best balance between affordability and measurable results over 12 months.

Although SEO is by no means cheap, when done right it provides the best return for your marketing dollar than any other marketing strategy.

Last Thoughts

Six months ago, no one could have predicted the global uncertainty gripping financial markets, prompting government lockdowns and business closures could have unfolded so quickly.

Current circumstance has forced us to make changes to the way we communicate and interact with others.  All businesses big and small have had to take stock of their situation and evaluate how they market their products and services in a vastly reduced and restricted business landscape.

As we adapt our thought process to navigate the road ahead, it makes sense strategies like SEO, which lay the foundation for continued growth and business sustainability, is something we all need to embrace with new-found enthusiasm.