5 Steps to a Better SEO Strategy

web traffic seo

When most people talk about search engine optimization, they make it sound like you just need to do a little keyword research, get some links coming to your site, and boom! – you have traffic.

But having a great search engine optimization strategy goes beyond the basics. It actually starts from the very beginning.

While there is a lot of advice out there, most of it misses some, if not all, of the steps I’m going to share with you.

Step #1: Assess how search-friendly your site is

Before you make any changes to your site, you need to know where you stand. You need to know if your content is visible to search engines so that they can index and list your site.

Now, if you have everything in HTML text format, then you are probably good. However, images, Java applets, Flash files and other types of non-text content are practically invisible to search engine spiders. Although they claim they can crawl some of it, even the most advanced crawling technologies cannot see this content accurately.

When all your content is HTML, search engines will see it. But if you want to use the other formats for your content, there are ways in which you can make it visible to search engines. For example:

  • You can assign alt attributes to images in gif, jpg or png. This gives search engines something to crawl when it comes to the visual content, which helps in ranking the relevancy of the page.
  • You can also use CSS styles on images as a replacement for text.
  • You can simply repeat any content on a page that’s in Flash or Java plug-ins.
  • You can provide the transcript for any audio or video files. This is another great way of allowing search engines to crawl content, helping you rank.

Even if you think you’ve got all your content in HTML and don’t think you have any significant problems with content that’s indexable, you should still double-check. Here’s how you do that.

Tools like Google cache or the MozBar can help you see what elements are visible to the search engines.

Here’s a snapshot of Quick Sprout on Google cache. This is the text version:

quick sprout html

You can see all the text, which is a good thing. That means all the search engines are crawling this site and ranking it based on the content.

Here’s a site that’s all flash:

flash quick sprout html

Yikes!

Even though there was very little content on this page to begin with, even that isn’t showing up. That’s not good because search engines cannot index any of the content, including the links.

If you want to go a step further and evaluate what terms and phrases search engines can see on a website, you can try SEOMoz’s tool Term Extractor.

It shows words according to their frequency on the site. Here’s my blogs’ most frequently used words:

quick sprout keywords

So, how do you use this information? Good question. Well, these terms should reflect the words and terms you are targeting. If not, then you’ll want to make changes to the text on the page. Don’t forget to change the title and header tags too.

Step #2: Evaluating your competitors

After you do a general evaluation of your content on your blog, another meaningful way to see where you stand SEO-wise is to find out how you measure up to your competitors.

Use Raven Tools SEO Competitor Analyst checklist to help you identify and track both broad and niche competitors, check on-site competitive rank with keywords and see how you measure up to off-site factors.

So, why is keeping tabs on your competitors important? Well, for one thing, it’s kind of like getting a free SEO insight. Your competitors, especially if they are big brands, will probably have spent tens of thousands of dollars to achieve their rankings. You can then see what works and what doesn’t work without having spend all the money.

Also, if you want to dominate, then you have to know what your competitors are doing. Here are a few tools you can use:

  • Spyfu – Find and capture profitable opportunities by spying on your competitors’ AdWords campaigns for $79 a month.
  • KeyCompete – This tool allows you to identify keywords your competitors are using in their PPC campaigns and tells you who is bidding on your keywords.
  • PPC Web Spy – This free competitive analysis tool will show you the Google AdWords keywords your competitors are using.

Step #3: Generate profiles of your target audience

The next step you have to take to improve your SEO is to figure out who your target audience is. Do you know its age, sex and pain points? Do you know where these people live?

To learn how to develop a persona based on the data of your target audience, go over to usability.gov and read the persona descriptions. They’ll even tell you how to do task analysis and scenarios to develop the personas.

What you are trying to do is focus your SEO strategy on your audience’s pain points. What is it that your audience really needs? Are you meeting its needs? Understanding this information will help you develop a plan for your content that zeros in on these pain points.

You may wonder why I’m jumping into your target audience before I reach the keyword research part. Well, there are two reasons:

  1. Content strategy – The content you publish on your website/blog needs to be focused on your target audience and its needs. In fact, when you start developing content based on your audience’s problems, that automatically makes it linkbait. For instance, on this site, I provide information on web analytics, blogging, running a business and SEO. When I learn that entrepreneurs don’t have the time to figure out how to use social media, I write an article for them to help clear the clutter like I did with 57 social media resources for entrepreneurs. A good content strategy depends on knowing exactly what your audience wants…and giving it to them.
  2. Keyword research – Just as you want to write content that’s targeted to your audience, you want to add keywords that are centered on your audience’s pain points (without stuffing, of course). Knowing exactly who my audience is, I can eliminate all the keywords that appeal to the general population and bring my narrowed-down group of readers the content that will help them solve their problems using keywords that resonate with them.

Step #4: Generate seed keywords

This is why it’s important to analyze your keyword content like you did in step one because you want to take those keywords, put them into a spreadsheet and then look at how many searches are being conducted on those keywords within a certain period of time. Score the keyword to see how important it is to your site.

You’ll also want to determine how competitive those keywords are. If I analyze the keyword phrase “search engine marketing,” I’ll discover there are 45.5 million results.

sem google

If I narrow that search to “search engine marketing strategy,” I get 36 million results.

sem strategy google

Interestingly enough, if I analyze “search engine marketing strategy steps,” the number of results jumps up to 65 million! (The more results there are, the more competitive the term typically is – this doesn’t hold true in all cases, but it does for a lot of them.)

sem steps google

The lesson here is that just because it’s a long keyword phrase doesn’t mean it’s going to be less competitive. You have to analyze all your keywords/phrases and never assume anything.

Use the normal tools to do keyword research, like Keyword discovery or Word Tracker. Then figure out your conversion rate on those keywords.

A quick way to figure out which keywords convert the best is to do quick queries on Google’s Traffic Estimator. The higher the cost per click, the more likely that the keyword converts.

Just because the keywords you’ve chosen are popular and send a lot of traffic to your site doesn’t mean they’ll exactly convert. In other words, your ROI will be low.

Step #5: Become a great writer

Great search engine optimization boils down to writing great content and SEO friendly blog posts. That’s pretty common advice, but I think too many people think about it after they launch their SEO campaign.

That means either you need to train yourself to write well or hire someone.

Hiring somebody is not cheap, so I can understand why you would want to do it yourself. One of the ways you can become a great writer is by following my advice on writing popular blog posts, which breaks down why you should:

  1. Use simple words.
  2. Use the word “you.”
  3. Write how-to posts.
  4. Write detailed posts.
  5. Hook your readers.
  6. Create a conversation.
  7. Prove your points.
  8. Show your authority.
  9. Care about your readers

These tips have helped me to write blog posts that are easy for my audience to read as well as rank well in the search engines. I hope they help you too!

Conclusion

Creating a new search engine optimization strategy can be very lucrative in the long run. You just have to be patient and not try to rank for your prized keyword right off the bat. If you follow the steps I talked about above, you’ll place yourself on the path to SEO success.

What steps do you take before launching a new SEO strategy?

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Comments

  1. Nice one, but i want to ask on thing?
    Why you didn’t search competition with double quotes? That will give you real competition results!!!

  2. Great stuff Neil! If you do #5 superbly, you really don’t have to do much of the 1-4 :)

    • Content is definitely most important of all. That is why becoming a skilled writer is necessary. The other steps are there to make sure you get the most exposure you can for your writing.

  3. I love the fact that the Raven Tools’ 1 month trial is free, with no need to put in credit cards, as opposed to SEOMoz. Also, like point 5 alludes to, creating link worthy content is the most important part of SEO, and can create a positive feedback loop where one gets more traffic which earns more links which gets more traffic etc.

  4. One really interested on SEOmoz last month went into detail about how smart search robots really are. In particular it mentioned how search robots are really smarter than people think they are – aka they might be able to see Flash, AJAX, Javascript, and more. Here’s the post – it’s kinda epic so make sure to get some coffee/tea before you sit down and read it: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/just-how-smart-are-search-robots

    What do you think about that Neil?

  5. It’s a phenomenal post as always Neil. Great read!!!

    I have a question for you. While launching a strategy for a website, we look towards both on-site and off-site optimization activities. So if you have to prioritize both the activities, how would you do that?

    Also, thanks for covering usability.gov link in the post, it’ll help.

    • Thanks Pratik,

      On site is the first step. Once you have accomplish on site optimization your website will be ready for off site linking and optimization. Depending on the complexity of your webpage you’ll have to allocate the appropriate resources.

  6. Excellent piece, Neil. Many people forget about step #5, but it’s crucial. Even though it’s not short term, great content attracts viewers. It really doesn’t matter to have a flawless SEO accessible page with great keyword work if there’s not fresh, really great content to create leads and generate engagement.

  7. Thank you, Neil. Great advice like always. I did not think about using keywords that way.

  8. do you think blog commenting works for SEO?

    • The comments need to be insightful and valuable to the blog, utilizing the correct anchor text is essential. You must also engage with the blog topic. Canned messages are easy to spot.

    • I’ve found it can be pretty useful if you are link building for smaller or medium sized businesses. Low rank backlinks (as blog comment sections tend to be) don’t mean a lot in competitive areas. But for small biz, you can get a ranking boost with some well executed comments.

      I’ve found blog comments work well if:

      a) You read the actual post and try and post something insightful and relevant “Nice Post” spam typically doesn’t get approved.
      b) Determine whether or no the comment section attaches nofollow tags (95% of blogs do). You can do this easily with mozbar.
      c) Be aware that as blog posts get more stale, the link juice from your comment will mean less. So you need to keep it up.

      I’ve got a few more, but I’m rambling :D

  9. Something I tell all my clients when invoking an SEO strategy: The effect of any changes made to your website, no matter how small they may seem to be will not be fully realized in terms of their organic search rank for 4-6 months. Thus, make sure any changes are made with precision and track-ability so if something goes wrong you can revert course, or if its a success you can monopolize on the change.

    • Thank you Nick for sharing. That is solid advice. It does take time to see the effects, that is why patience is such an important quality to have. Being able to see what works and what doesn’t is also extremely important.

  10. New to SEO myself, I am struggling everyday to understand this science. Another helpfull article to bring some light on my learning process.

  11. Hey Niel,

    Excellent stuff, as always. I love the #5 “Become a great writer”.
    If you can do the #5 effectively, than 1-4 aren’t necessary.

    Thanks for sharing this fantastic stuff.

  12. Steps are very nice to use i thoughts two things are play very huge role in that the 1st one is learn from our competitors what are the tactics they are using and 2nd one is the content which is most important part of any site and it should be original which attract to many readers or visitors.

  13. Thanks for sharing this Niel. One thing I find very important in my everyday SEO life is to build awesome relationships with blogs, sites and partners in general. When you create a true relationship, everything is more easier. With “true” I mean a relationship based not only on commercial purposes, but on mutual respect.

    Have great holidays!

  14. All the SEO strategies are excellent. Most of the people know that content is the king in the SEO but now after the update of Google panda quality content with regular update is most important part for a website, many of the site’s ranking dropped because of low quality content and backlinks.

  15. #5 is king. I’m a big fan of good content, and I must say, once you develop a powerful link bait on your site, the traffic will just keep on coming in.

    Good content are the once that are evergreen, those stuff that will still be useful over the years. An extensive guide, an accurate and detailed post explaining something, or even infographics that provide people with what they need and what they can pass on to others through linking can be a very valuable asset to a website.

  16. Thank you for all the great tips, Neil. I’ll be slowly working through the list as I am very new to this. :)

    Perhaps a silly questions, but for Alt tags, is it OK is the images in the same post all have the same alt tags? I have a lot of images in one post and I tend to name them all the same thing (with a # after the title), and would just wanna do the same for the Alt tags, but is multiple alt tags with the same name OK?

    Thanks in advance!

    Renee

  17. Keyword research is not easy and is best left to experts.

  18. first time read your post fully, i got the reason why people loves you..awesome writing..thanks for the tips. its worth to read your post. great post great going! all the best! :)

  19. George Geroulias :

    Well to succeed in search engine optimization is very easy if you have unique and quality content on your site. This factor among will bring you visitors who will increase the page rank factor of your site and this way (but not the only) you will achive higher rankings in search engines.

  20. when it comes to creating content and getting good search engine results, I focus on the people first, and build meaningful online relationships for long-term success on the World Wide Web. This way, every new piece of content I put out on my site will automatically convert people, based off of the strength of me meaningfully connecting with people in a down to earth fashion to my website content. Wishing the good people of quick sprout a blessed Christmas and a happy new years :-)

  21. Hey Neil,

    I am really agree with your all of the points but the thing is that what ever your competition is, you have to make back links and you have to do a lot of Social media marketing so that your name can becomes a brand. You have missed that point that every competition is achievable but you need to look at your budget before going for heavy keywords.

    You need to have a good and authority back links method to achieve rankings..!!
    These are quite basic things, you have explained a lot these in your other blogs, Now please come up with some really heavy method to rank website. Tell the people new methods..!!
    Every one is placing this kind of basic in their blogs.

    Thanks

  22. Thanks for the post. Wish I would of did more research before I lunched my site, it was all pictures and hardly no text, even when I found it on Google we had no descriptions to let the searches now what are site had to offer. It would just give the name of the site and for the description it would say like “product # …” Why would you click on that? Know I found myself going back and adding in the basics that should have been in there when we first launch the site.

  23. Content is the king as everyone knows.

  24. Hey Neil nice points. Personally I believe that point 1 and point 5 holds great importance because if website is search engine friendly then definitely it can do wonders in search engines and if website is having a unique and informative content then there are the great chances of higher conversions. So everybody should concentrate on making search engine friendly website and better to provide informative content to the search engines as well as visitors to get more exposure and of course monetary benefits.

    • I am with you. One thing to also do that I didn’t talk about in the post is that once you have the traffic you can always figure out ways to make money from it…

  25. like point 5 alludes to, creating link worthy content is the most important part of SEO, and can create a positive feedback loop where one gets more traffic which earns more links which gets more traffic etc.

    • I agree, but I think SEO and website design are pretty important as well (if not as important). If your readers can’t stand looking at your site, they will subscribe to rss and that’s it. I think people don’t recognize the importance that SEO has on website traffic sometimes – regardless, content is always key.

    • And if you write evergreen content, you are a lot more likely to get more links.

  26. I had a website on page 1, and upgraded my search engine optimisation plugin and a plugin to enhance the speed of the website. I’m now at the bottom of web page 4 :( It’s like I’ve been slapped. I don’t assume it is a coincidence how I used to be climbing steadily up the rankings, change a few plugins and out of the blue drop. Can anyone please make clear this situation? Is it all the way down to me changing the plugins? Is it solely momentary and my website will comeback stronger? Fortunately I have not modified my other websites but – I am scared to do so after my first experience. Many Thanks

  27. It really doesn’t matter to have a flawless SEO accessible page with great keyword work if there’s not fresh, really great content to create leads and generate engagement.

  28. Once again a great articles. Here is my question. I have used a flash banner in my home pages will this considered by search engine or not?

  29. I feel like Ive tried everything, nothing works for me. The website is still new though..

  30. Remember when you’re writing content to use the rel=”canonical” tag to let search engines know that you’re the originator. :)

  31. Thanks Neil, for this awesome post!

    How about spending money on backlinking? I mean do you prefer automated software or you suggest to consult a freelancer for it?

    Thanks in advance.

  32. i would join the tool of competitor’s adwords campaign for US$ 79/month, can we have a trial first then we pay. looking forward to hearing from you soon.

    Kind regards,
    DEDY

  33. great post! I just start to blog thank you for sharing these information. I maybe utilize some of these techniques.
    Best regards,
    Winn

  34. quite a different strategy for seo you have highlightd here,i might just give it a shot

  35. I am also new to SEO, these points are very interested to me, basing on this points i will improve my website

  36. Do you go to the end of your google search and see how much competition is left? You just keep clicking the next button until there is no more, then you look and see the number sometimes it is quite surprising.

  37. Such a great article! It is going to help me a lot, I guess.
    Thank you for the post. I love your blog. :)

  38. Most important is titles and headings. Dont overlook metrics like bounce rate and user behaviour as well as social sharing. It does not matter how good the article if no one reads. Why did all those sites with great 500 word articles on indoor lighting or bamboo chairs lose out in Panda. Build it great for the user.

  39. I find that it is very hard to compete with the big boys in search – better to go for the long tail or basically everything else. The social media thing is tough to break – people still dont always click the Like button even if they Like it.

  40. Hey Neil,

    Really decent/solid strategy which should work across any genre. However I would be interested to hear whether you really think that the more search results there are the harder it is to rank for that term? I’ve seen some very competitive search results with less than a million results.

  41. I like the style in which you write and present your blog. I’m sure there is quite a bit of “SEO” thought behind it, but you have a way/gift/knack of writing so that you’re writing *totally* for your visitors, and the SEO stuff comes naturally for you!

  42. Definitely content plays the major role. But, to spread the content on the internet one must have the very good internet knowledge to get positive results for that good content.

    • Definitely,

      Having the ability to distribute your content throughout the web is important. As long as the content is of quality, because if it isn’t then no matter how knowledgeable you are in spreading your content no one will want to read it.

  43. You make some great points, code validation is also a factor in SEO for onpage work. Valid code helps the site get crawled quicker and doesn’t hinder the bots in anyway/

  44. Good Stuff! I have been trying out SEOMoz this month for keyword tracking—loving it!

  45. I like your approach in replying to each and every comment Neil, keep it up. it’s really hard for me to maintain my blog

    • Thanks,

      I like to respond to each comment to show my readers that I appreciate their support. I also enjoy their input as well as try to help answer any questions they have.

  46. I want to purchase some backlink services for my site but there are so many! Most seem to be absolute BS like 50 cents a link for a hundred links….Does anybody know some good ones?

  47. Market Samurai is also a good tool to come up with quick competitor analysis. Also if you have SEOquake add-on installed in your browser, you can easily gage the seo stats of websites that appear in search results in Google.

  48. Some of the SEO extension you can install with in chrome always very helpful – particularly like MozBar

  49. Yeah. I fully agree that alt tags really helps a website/blog get a nice SERP on the desired keyword :)

  50. How much does it influence the ranking to register a random domain name or an exact match domain name?

    I mean, can you get a better ranking for the keyword “wooden playhouse” even if you don’t have that keyword in your domain?

    Some SEO experts say that it is possible. What do you think?

  51. Hi Neil,

    Instead concentrating for high competition keyword we can focus on less competition first to cover most of the keywords for our websites

  52. I’ve found that creating unique Alt Text for multiple images on one page works better when that alt text directly relates to the text wrapped around the image.

    Another tip i would like to add relates to unique and fresh content. If you can be the first to write content on a subject or update then get in quick.

    Example: Like writing about a new tool that a major company has just released that solves problems and saves time and effort

    I find ‘being the first’ ranks higher

  53. Great articles! Are there any all around great SEO tools you would recommend? I have been using Market Samurai and Web CEO but if there is something else you could recommend that would be great!

  54. It never ceases to amaze me how some people are *still* building sites with flash, whose presumed customers are adults. Does anyone really want to see all of that moving nonsense, really, I don’t think so.
    Good list of important steps here, thanks Neil.

  55. Just like in any business, competition keeps one on edge, makes it keep up and the SEO industry is not exempt. Strategies in content (articles), keywords, search-friendly and SEO-friendly website, all of it are fundamentals but several degrees higher. A great list, thanks Neil.

  56. Interesting perspective on how to SEO your website. I was quite shocked to see how much search engines crawl on text that exist on Flash websites. Realizing this really makes me have from now on doubts about using this language on my websites. You gave on this post a lot of useful resources that i had no idea existed. I have only been using Adwords keyword search tool to realize the best keywords to target my websites and i never thought about the converting ROI aspect. Really interesting… I only gave attention to the number of searches, targeting high traffic keywords but never having a lot of conversion…

  57. Every SEO web site says that one good strategy in order to rank better in Google is to write a lot of articles containing the keywords a couple of times. However, there are two completely different points of view on how important the content is.

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  59. Thank You Neil Patel, please could you write some tricks how to separate keywords on the title tag? which in good for SEO ( , |. – ) ?

  60. Neil, i am very new to SEO, what are the best websites for blogging ?

  61. hey neil,
    i appreciate that you have discussed all the important aspects.
    really found this article useful.

    Thanks

    Matt

  62. I always wondered why people used image alts. Finally makes (somewhat) sense.

  63. Hi Neil,
    Telling you that I am your reader who truly needs these piece of tips and guidelines. Thanks

  64. Even though it’s not short term, great content attracts viewers. It really doesn’t matter to have a flawless SEO accessible page with great keyword work if there’s not fresh, really great content to create leads and generate engagement.

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