An SEO strategy only becomes effective when all the actions/tasks it involves aim to significantly improve the overall quality of a website or a brand’s web presence (for the long-term).
- How to develop SEO strategies
- SEO strategies that work
SEO strategies come in different forms, as the focus of approach will always vary depending on what the site/business actually needs to?address to be able to compete. But basically, strategies can be simply classified into these principles/categories:
But why is it crucial to invest in [these strategies] when there are so many channels out there that you can tap into?within the digital marketing realm?
First off, Search Engine Optimization is one of the most powerful marketing channels for businesses, because the practice specifically targets people who are already in need of a product, service or information (through search).
Secondly, let these stats do the convincing:
- 6,586,013,574 searches per day (InternetLiveStats)
- 4.5 billion searches in Google per day
- 91.4% of all searches happen in Google web properties (Google Search, Maps, Images & YouTube) – according to JumpShot
- 94.95% of searchers click on organic search results – SimilarWeb
- Though recent studies suggest that there’s a dramatic change in Organic CTR in 2017 (vs. 2015): -25% of click share on desktop, and -55% on mobile.
- The top spot’s (position #1) CTR for non-branded search is 35% – Smart Insights
- Google accounts for 62.6% of visitors referred all over the web – Jumpshot
- The SEO Industry is estimated to be worth $72 billion by 2018 – Search Engine Land
Lastly, a lot of people, businesses and organizations are genuinely benefiting from it over the past 2 decades. Whether it’s through revenue generation or brand strengthening.
For instance, this site makes millions:
Because of SEO:
And over the years, this blog also had its fair share of success, thanks to SEO.
SEO, as an industry, is huge! But as a marketing discipline, it continues to get even more difficult.
Many of the world’s most successful SEO campaigns are in line with what Google is mostly framing to be the most important aspects of optimization – basing from their Webmaster Guidelines and Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines:
- Architecture: Making it easy for Google to find, crawl, index and understand your site’s important pages.
- Content: Establishing Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
- Links: Building a positive reputation for your website.
How to develop effective SEO strategies:
Most seasoned SEO consultants typically start a campaign with a thorough audit of the website.
And there’s a good reason for that, since a technical site audit allows us to genuinely understand what is needed to be done in order for the site to achieve it’s intended goals.
But what sorts of processes does an SEO audit entail? Here’s a quick breakdown:
- Keyword and SERP analysis
- Competitor research and analysis
- Technical and sitewide analysis
- Page and content-level analysis
- User Experience (UX) analysis
- Link analysis
In short, auditing a website can help you get the answers to the following key areas of strategy development:
1. Understand the site, business, target market, current situation and actual needs.
The first step to any successful SEO campaign is to understand everything about your client’s website. This phase establishes your campaign’s objectives, through determining:
- Type (and Size) of Website – is it an ecommerce, SaaS/app, publication, community, enterprise or a small business?
- Nature of Business – which industry or business category do they belong to? Is it a highly-competitive one? Who are their top competitors? How long has this industry/niche existed? Will it still be there in the next 10 years?
- Target Market – which demographic group? Are they targeting local, national or global audience?
- Current Situation – How long have they been in the business? How’s their sales/revenue generation? What are their top competitors doing right (and wrong)? Have they been hit by an algorithmic penalty?
- Actual Need(s) – Recover from a penalty? Grow organic traffic? Improve Sales? Or is it just to build awareness for branding?
2. Identify problems and challenges
It becomes easier to determine these areas as soon as you’ve completed your initial audit.
- Site issues – which you’ll mostly uncover through the audit using checklists. Below are a few technical SEO checklists you can start with (depending on your client’s profile/needs):
- Technical SEO – Distilled, Webris, Annie Cushing
- Local SEO – LocalSEOChecklist, Moz, BrightLocal, Moz’s Local Ranking Factors Study
- Ecommerce SEO – Backlinko, BigCommerce
- International SEO – Aleyda Solis, Martin Kura
- Mobile SEO – Bruce Clay, Moz
- Link Audit – Distilled, BuiltVisible
- Penalty Diagnosis – Google Algorithm Change History
- Budget – is the allotted budget substantial enough to build or execute a competitive SEO campaign? How many hours (per month) will the team need to be able to perform all the necessary tasks?
- Competitiveness -– From 1-10, how difficult do you think it is to rank for their top target keywords? Are they directly competing against big brands? Do their top competitors invested a lot in SEO and link building? What do the competitors do? Can we outdo and/or outsmart them?
3. Finding Opportunities
Once you’ve weighed in the problems, challenges, as well as the resources that you’re certain are at your disposal, it will be easier to find and identify opportunities you can take on through these processes:
- Keyword research – which sets of search queries do the site have better chances of ranking well in a fairly short period of time? What are the keywords that you’re competitors aren’t ranking well? Useful guides on Keyword Research:
- Competitive Intelligence – What are the categories that your competitors are not focusing on? What are the topics they excel in creating content around on? Can you do better? What sites/publications are linking to most of your competition? Which sites/publishers they haven’t built a relationship with yet? Useful guides on Competitor Analysis:
- Content gaps – make an inventory of the site’s key content assets, are they lacking any foundational/cornerstone content pieces, non-existent content types, or relevant topic areas that haven’t been covered? What topics or content are missing from your competitors? Can you beat your competitors’ information-rich content assets? Useful guides on Content Gap Analysis:
4. Coming up with solutions
Common SEO and traffic-related problems are often easily solved by stringing the following results from your audit and assessments together:
- Actions we should take to address what the site actually needs.
- Fixing the site’s major issues.
- Knowing the opportunities we can take advantage of to build a momentum.
Make sure that you heavily prioritize on items that will hit both quick wins and the long-term success of the campaign. Combining all these insights together should allow you to design and develop result-driven SEO strategies.
5. Set the strategic goals you want to achieve for your campaign
Every task and action included in your strategy must be aligned with your client’s business goals.
Make sure all your weekly goals will positively impact your campaign’s long-term objectives (build on small wins to get big wins).
- Make more money (or build awareness) through a robust search visibility.
- Improve organic traffic by significantly improving the site’s overall quality and experience.
- Significantly improve the site’s overall quality through optimizing its architecture, content, and reputation (links).
- Implement all the crucial tasks to effectively optimize the site’s architecture, content, and reputation.
With the right mindset, approach, and strategies in place, no matter what the goals are, they should be well within reach.
SEO Strategies that Work
Below are the strategies we’ve focused on implementing for several of our clients in the past couple of years.
Although, we strive to continuously refine and polish each approach to SEO, given that you need to be really adaptive in this line of business.
1. 10X Content Campaigns
It’s basically providing content and experience that’s 10x better than what is currently ranking for a certain topic.
The core of this strategy is to create content around the keywords that really matter for your business, and are:
- Genuinely useful and/or educational
- 10x better than the ones currently ranking
- Have high chances of attracting & earning links
- And you can confidently promote on a massive scale through outreach (or paid social campaigns).
You can also check out this guide on 10x content ideation & creation process.
Here are some prime examples for each content type that can be used for10x content campaigns:
Search Traffic: 16.1K/month
Social Shares: 3.1K
Ranks #1 for “free email templates”. Ranks #2 for “email templates”
Search Traffic: 37.2K/month
Social Shares: 1.4K
Ranks #2 for “website builders”. Ranks #2 for “best website builders”
Guides & Tutorials
Search Traffic: 279K/month
Social Shares: 22.5K
Ranks #0 for “how to make money”. Ranks #0 for “how to make money online”
Checklists & Visual Content
Search Traffic: 49.8K/month
Social Shares: 27K
Ranks #1 for “packing list”. Ranks #1 for “travel checklist”
Case Studies (data-backed) & Success Stories
Search Traffic: 1.4K/month
Social Shares: 1.2K
Ranks #3 for “viral content”. Ranks #2 for “buzzsumo”
Now, imagine if you have 10 or more of these assets – that can help your site consistently generate traffic, natural links, and conversions over time.
- 50-page website
- Acquired?700+?links?in the past 3 years
- From 50K to 360K monthly organic visits
- From DA 40+ to DA 73
Process and Action Items:
- Identify mid-to-high search volume informational keywords you can build content around on.
- Check if the topic is really linkable (validate your content idea by checking the number of links of the top ranking pages for the topic).
- Review your top competitors’ approach to content development.
- Build something (10x) better.
- Reach out to those who have shared and linked to your competitors’ content.
- Promote your content through outreach (via guest blogging, broken link building, resource link building, and/or social/PR).
2. Crawl Budget Optimization
Every website has an assigned crawl budget from Google, which is mostly based on the site’s popularity/authority and its size.
Optimizing your site’s crawl budget typically boils down to how you prioritize what pages to be crawled & re-indexed regularly by Googlebot.
The best way to initiate this process for site optimization is to revisit your site structure. And to make sure your site’s key pages are easily accessible to users and search crawlers.
1. Compare the # of indexed pages vs. # of pages from your XML sitemap vs. the average # of pages being crawled by Google on your site daily.
This will help you understand if your site is having crawling/indexing issues.
2. Build more internal links to pages that you want to be crawled regularly (so they’d rank better as well).
3. Make sure that the site has a sound information architecture and topical organization (navigational silo).
4. Build up the site’s overall link authority to improve crawl rate (higher PageRank = higher crawl frequency) – through building more trusted links to your site and its deeper pages.
5. Block crawlers from accessing/indexing low-value-add URLs and poor-content pages on your site. According to Google, these pages may fall into these categories:
- Faceted navigation and/or session identifiers
- On-site duplicate content
- Soft error pages
- Hacked pages
- Infinite spaces and proxies
- Low quality, outdated, and spam content
Here are some of the ways to stop passing link equity and ranking value to these pages:
- Using the rel=”noindex” directive
- Blocking access to folders/pages by disallowing crawlers via Robots.txt
- Nuking low quality and spam content (404)
- Use of the rel=”canonical” tag
- 301 redirecting broken or outdated pages to topically relevant stronger pages of the site.
6. Improve site speed (as it can also increase the site’s crawl rate).
- 200+ page local small business website
- 891% increase in sales within 3 months (from $1,200/month to $5,000/month)
- 475% increase in organic traffic in 3 months.
- Links built: 5-10 new linking domain per month.
Process and Action Items:
- Compare # of pages on XML sitemap vs. # of indexed pages.
- Compare # of pages crawled vs. # of indexed pages
- Make your site is easy to navigate. Ensure all the key pages of the site are at least 2-3 clicks away from homepage.
- Build more internal links to pages you want to rank.
- Build high-quality links to pass on more link/ranking value to the site.
- Block crawlers from accessing & indexing duplicate & poor-content pages (using “noindex” or via Robots.txt).
- Improve site speed.
3. Content Re-optimization
The process for a content-level optimization usually starts in creating an inventory of the pages/assets of a site that can tremendously impact its branding, traffic generation, link earning and conversions when further improved.
These pages could be:
- Low-performing pages (in terms of organic traffic and engagement rate) but targets mid-to-high search volume keywords.
- Content pieces that cover important topic areas for the business but are already outdated.
- Robust and information-rich pages, but aren’t able to attract or earn high-value links.
In updating/improving older content and turning them into valuable assets, here are some of the areas that we focus on:
1. Revamping the entire content – with the main purpose of creating a more logical sequence for its structure.
And try to answer as many questions as we can,?related to the topic.
2. Optimize title tags for better SERP CTR.
3. Build topically relevant (contextual) internal links.
5. Improve targeting for secondary keywords. Review and analyze each content’s keyword data from Google Search Console to figure out which secondary keywords are driving more quality traffic to these pages.
The idea is to implement these optimization processes across as many pages as necessary, to immensely improve a site’s organic visibility.
Test Page #1:
- 142.81% increase in organic traffic in 30 days
- From 80+ visits per week to 500+ organic visits per week (in 7 weeks)
Test Page #2:
- 79.47% increase in organic traffic in 30 days
- From 180+ visits per week to 410+ organic visits per week (in 5 weeks)
Test Page #3:
- 252.8% increase in traffic in 30 days
- From 18+ visits per week to 200+ organic visits per week (in 6 weeks)
Test Page #4:
- 193.6% increase in organic traffic in 30 days
- From 100+ visits per week to 750+ organic visits per week (in 3 weeks)
Process and Action Items:
- Update/upgrade your site’s older content in terms of depth, quality, readability, & experience.
- Optimize your content’s title tags for better SERP CTR.
- Build new internal links
- Optimize content for TF-IDF
- Target more secondary keywords through meta data and content.
Other recommended actions:
- Implement Schema/Structured data on your key pages
- Improve site speed
- Provide more content formats and rich media (ex: branded visual content, videos, infographics, etc…)
- Optimize content layout for mobile users.
You can also check out this comprehensive guide to content optimization.
4. Featured Snippet Optimization
Featured snippets in search (or Rank #0) essentially display direct answers to specific or detailed queries, and is prominently placed above the search results.
The snippet usually shows the summary of the answer in paragraph, list or table form (which is extracted from one of the top pages ranking for the target search term).
Process and Action Items:
1. Make a list of search queries that you are already ranking between position #1 to #20.
Note: Google mostly pulls featured snippet results from the top 10 ranking pages for the search query. And results from featured snippets are typically the ones that are served to users using voice search (which basically makes this particular strategy one of the best approaches for voice search optimization).
You can use tools like Ahrefs (via Organic Keywords feature).
2.?Identify the queries that display featured snippets – as well as the pages from your site ranking for those terms.
3.?Restructure your content to compete for the featured snippet result:
- Optimize your content for better engagement (improve readability, page speed, user experience, etc…).
- Provide snippable & accurate answers for the target query. Make this section of the content very visible to users (to be easily extracted by Google).
- Write a better copy than what’s currently ranking for the featured snippet result
- Build more links to your content (using partial match anchor texts).
- 138.95% increase in organic traffic to the page since getting the featured snippet.
- From 55K organic visits per month, the page is now driving?180K+ organic visits per month.
5. Easy Wins – Rank More Long-Tail Keywords
Building your campaign’s momentum is very vital, especially when you’re working on a site that’s in a highly competitive industry.
One of the best ways to do it is through targeting low-hanging opportunities to get quick wins – and eventually build on from there.
The core of this particular strategy is to basically create or optimize existing content assets covering topics that have less competition.
And the entire process will heavily rely on your keyword research, SERP analysis, and opportunity discovery phase. Here’s a brief overview of the process:
1. Keyword Research:
Find low competition keywords in your space using Keyword Planner, Search Console data and Google Search Suggest.
2. SERP Analysis:
Validate if it’s doable to rank for the topic/keyword by analyzing the top ranking pages for the target search terms.
If more than half of the competing pages (within the top 10) are coming from relatively weak domains, you’d have better chances of ranking well for it.
3. Opportunity Discovery:
Prioritize those that you can easily steal. Then find more of them.
Build on small wins to create a steady momentum in growing your organic traffic (through long-tail searches).
These small steps will eventually help you rank for the more highly competitive search terms later on as you progress (as Google gradually sees you as an authority on the topic).
- From 1K?organic visits to 40K+ organic visits per month.
- The site’s in a very competitive niche.
Process and Action Items:
- Find 10 – 20 long-tail keywords you can easily rank and compete for.
- Build content to specifically target those topics.
- Build strategic links to each new content you create.
- Internally link them to top-tier pages you eventually want to rank higher.
Google is getting better at understanding entities and relationships.
And link development is a huge fraction of how Google understands and matches queries, sentiments, and reputation with websites and brands (considering that links is one of the top 3 most important ranking factors for Google search).
With all the link graph-related algorithm updates they’ve implemented over the past decade, Google has surely become smarter in assessing links.
It’s now more capable of only counting links from high quality sources (in which many are content-based and/or relationship-driven) – and ignoring, instead of demoting, spam/low-value links.
Which brings us to the question, what’s the best way to approach link building these days?
The answer is rather quite simple. Every time you try to acquire a link, ask this to yourself:
Will this link help our business if Google didn’t exist?
Because in the first place, having the right mindset has always been the best way to approach link building. This way, you’ll be able to consistently invest your time and effort on prospects that are:
- Topically relevant
- Well-branded and authoritative
- Have high/substantial traffic
If you’re new to this blog, I’ve written dozens of guides and case studies related to link building in the past. Below are some of the most effective link building strategies we’ve tried and tested:
- Link building in 2018: Audience-first link building strategies
- Email Outreach Tips: +22 link building email templates
- Enterprise link building case study: From 50K to 300K/month visits
- How to consistently build 40+ contextual links every month
- 12 scalable link building tactics
- 10 types of links that really matter for SEO & how to get them
- How to develop conversion-oriented link building strategies
- Ultimate guide to link building using images
- Scalable link building tactics
- How to get natural and in-content editorial links
- 9 easy ways to build links
- 22 link building tips from Xight Interactive
Other Actionable Walkthroughs, Processes & Case Studies on Effective SEO Strategies:
- How to increase website traffic by 250K monthly visits – Seige Media
- How we scaled a Startup from 0 organic traffic to 100,000 visitors/month (in 1 year) – Optimist
- Increase search traffic case study [44% increase] – Kaiserthesage
- SEO case study: Zero to 100,000 visitors in 12 months – Andrew Dennis on SEL
- SEO content strategy: How to grow visits by 300% in one year – Andrew Dennis on SEL
- White Hat SEO case study: How to get a #1 ranking – Backlinko
- This SEO Checklist = 48.7% more organic traffic – Backlinko
- SEO case study: 313% more organic traffic with real examples – IFTF
- Featured Snippets: New insights and opportunities – Stone Temple
- How to Rank #1 for a High-Volume Keyword in Under 3 Months – Dmitry Dragilev
Need help with SEO?
We specialize in Technical SEO, Content Marketing and Link Building. If ever you need help, you can check out our SEO services: