How to develop an effective SEO strategy for long-term results.
If you’re new to SEO, it can be tempting to dive straight into making changes to your site to try out every new thing you learn.
Whether it’s jumping into keyword research, editing all your page titles or going searching for backlinks – it’s easy to get caught up in trying anything without having any method behind it.
But if you want to get solid and consistent results from your SEO efforts, taking a little time to develop a basic SEO strategy will help ensure your energy isn’t wasted – getting you the results you want.
What should I expect from SEO?
SEO won’t suddenly make your website an overnight success.
It takes time for sites to reach a bigger organic audience and for search engines to recognise the merits of particular pages.
Effective SEO involves methodically going through a series of steps, analysing the results and adjusting and repeating as necessary.
It’s often time consuming, which is why many organisations turn to a digital marketing agency in order to outsource the work to experts.
Whether you’re doing SEO yourself or contracting an outside agency, you should expect it to take several months before significant results appear.
If you’re looking for quicker results than that, paid advertising (PPC ads) on search engines or social media can reap quicker results.
But if you’re wondering whether SEO is worth it, consider the long-term benefits of search engine optimisation.
SEO is all about attracting organic traffic. That’s free traffic, coming to your website, where you can build a relationship with your audience and entice them to take the next steps towards becoming one of your customers. Improving your SEO can have a significant impact on your cost per lead as well as getting a larger audience into your marketing funnel.
People subconsciously (or not!) have a lot of trust in search engine results. If your site link appears high up on the list for their query, visitors will view your site as an authority to trust. This can have great benefits for your brand development and awareness.
So SEO should absolutely feature on your marketing strategy as a long-term investment in your business.
Before we get stuck in – have you heard of ‘topic clusters’?
If it’s been a while since you’ve been involved in SEO work, you might have missed some of the more recent updates to how Google views your site.
Search engines are constantly updating the algorithm of how they rank search results, in order to show the most suitable result to the viewer.
User intent is now a huge part of these ranking algorithms, and websites are expected to show an understanding of topics in depth in order to rank well for them.
Back in 2017, Hubspot Research coined the terms ‘topic cluster’ and ‘pillar page’ to describe the site structure that Google rewards.
Rather than choosing a list of keywords you’d like to rank for, and developing separate content to cover all of them, best SEO practice is now to interlink these topics in order to provide in-depth understanding of a given subject.
What’s a topic cluster?
A topic cluster is a collection of pages covering different aspects of the same topic. For example, if you were creating a topic cluster on running, you might have different pages about training schedules, strength exercises, nutrition, recovery and overcoming setbacks.
What’s a pillar page?
A pillar page is a page providing an overview of the topic, where you bring all the content of your topic cluster together. The pillar page won’t include a copy of the text on your separate pages – and it’s important not to do a straight copy and paste for duplicate content issues – but instead it’ll have a short overview to each subtopic. You then add links to your separate subtopic pages, turning your pillar page into an in-depth resource.
This model leads to a better user experience for visitors to your site. It gives an overview of all the essential information about a particular topic, whilst providing further reading and resources on the subtopics to allow visitors to find out more.
Pillar pages demonstrate your coverage of a topic to Google, but they also have benefits beyond that. Providing links to the subtopic pages can help improve bounce rate, as you’re leading website visitors to other pages on your site. It can also help improve audience engagement, as well as placing you as an expert on your given topic.
Creating your effective SEO strategy:
Step 1. Define your goals
Well defined goals are an essential part of both giving direction to your SEO work and measuring its success.
To be most effective, your goal should be directly tied to your business bottom line.
For example, your goal may be to gain 50 new leads in a certain timeframe. This has a real impact on your business as those leads may be converted to customers.
Whereas goals such as increasing web traffic or gaining new social media followers don’t directly impact your business in the same way. They can however still be part of the process of reaching your lead generation goal, as they increase the number of people in the ‘awareness’ stage of your marketing funnel, who you may then be able to convert into leads.
Make your goals as specific as possible. Do you remember the old ‘SMART’ adage they teach in schools? It might be a bit retro but it’s a great place to start creating specific, actionable goals.
S – Specific
M – Measureable
A – Attainable
R – Relevant
T – Timely
This outline can be used to create specific goals that you can measure progress and success against. For example, your goal may be to gain 30 new leads in the next quarter.
Step 2. Write it down
It’s not enough to just come up with your goals – research shows that if you write them down, you’re more likely to actually achieve them.
Mark Murphy’s study found that vividly describing a goal in written form made people between 1.2 and 1.4 times more likely to achieve that goal.
Have a written goal to serve as a reminder of what you’re aiming towards and a note of accountability to help you get there.
Use this step as a time to note down which metrics you’ll be using to track your progress – whether it’s lead forms completed, website traffic or click throughs to certain pages. Make a note of what you’re currently achieving in this area and have done in the recent past (or in the previous season if it’s a seasonal item you’re promoting). This will give you a clear benchmark to measure your progress against.
Step 3. See how your existing content can help
If you’ve already had a business blog for a while, you most likely already have content that is converting customers. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, use what you’ve already created to build on. For example, you might have certain web pages which are already doing a good job of converting customers, and aim to increase the traffic to these areas of your site.
A basic content audit can also help you spot if there are any gaps in your content, which when filled could provide additional benefit to website visitors and a greater depth of information to your main pages.
Step 4. Develop topic clusters and pillar pages
You may have discovered during Step 3 that you already have a number of blog posts on a given topic, which with a little work could be pulled together into a pillar page – possibly with the addition of some new content to fill in any gaps.
If you’re starting to create a pillar page without any existing on-topic content, begin with brainstorming ideas around the main topic you’d like to cover. The topic could be based on services you provide, products you sell or areas of knowledge or expertise that your customers need.
Use your ideas as the basis for keyword research, aiming for a collection of around 5-10 long-tail keywords. Create a separate page for each of these long tail keywords answering the search query and providing interesting content and benefits for the visitor.
Then create an additional page with an overview of the topic, writing a section for each of your long-tail keywords and linking to the page for visitors to find out more information on a specific topic.
If you find your list of essential keywords growing beyond 10, you may need to question whether you can split the topic up into two pillar pages – one for the main topic, linking to another for the subtopic.
Continuing to build internal links between different pieces of content on your site both enhances the user experience and enables the search engines to see your content as a useful page to link to.
Step 5. Ensure you’re using SEO best practice
Despite frequent changes in search engine algorithms, many aspects of longer-term SEO best practice remain important.
To make sure your pages are performing as well as they could, make sure you’re covering basic aspects of SEO such as:
- Using the target keyword in the relevant points of the page (title, h2 and h3 tags, image alt text, in the body text – ideally near the start – and in the metadata).
- Ensuring images are compressed. Page speed is an important aspect of search engine ranking, and file sizes can add up over time and eventually slow your site down to a crawl.
- Using alt-text for all your images to describe what they show. Aim to include the keyword in some alt-texts, but don’t create them entirely of keywords or it will look like keyword stuffing.
- Add new pages using an SEO-friendly URL structure. Rather than long strings of numbers, use a URL structure that follows clear categories.
For example – www.yoursite.com/products/particularproduct rather than www.yoursite.com/2019/september /particularproduct-1239520159
We’re able to provide help and support with more advanced SEO techniques, for example using tools to find content gaps covered by competitors. Get in touch to find out more.
Step 6. Consider if you could add a different form of media
The Google algorithm rewards websites which use multiple forms of media. It adds more interest for the website visitor and can allow you to cover content in greater depth – for example, by using an infographic to highlight statistics on your chosen topic and recording a short video to explain an aspect of it.
If you’re struggling to get a page to rank higher, consider whether you could offer any additional forms of media to make the page more useful and interesting to your website visitors.
Step 7. Review, improve, repeat
One of the most important aspects of your SEO strategy is reviewing how well you’ve progressed towards your goals.
Measuring against your initial benchmarks (Step 2) will demonstrate your progress towards your goals. But additional website analytics such as bounce rate and time spent on the page can show which areas of your website are working well and if there are any pages which require further improvement.
And there we have it. 7 simple steps to a basic SEO strategy to help you manage, review and improve your website’s search engine optimisation.