SEO is a deep, complicated and convoluted industry, but it is unique in that industry players are willing to discuss tactics and ideas with one another for mutual benefit.
This is a very rare occurrence as compared to other industries where information is rarely shared and kept in a safe place for individual benefit.
Despite this gregarious nature of the SEO industry, there should be more time invested in the creation of individual SEO strategies that are uniquely directed at a company, and just that company alone.
Every individual SEO strategy is unique and different from others, but there are some basic shared tenets that every strategy adopts, and you shall start of by getting to know about them.
A: Five Basic building blocks that every SEO strategy must have
1. Create a Mind Map
As the name suggests, a mind map is a tool that helps you think about how your strategy will be laid out. It is not a visual representation of the final strategy, but a first step towards fleshing out of the final strategy that you create.
This is the foundation on which you build your SEO strategy from the ground up.
A mind map starts with a central category and then branches outwards into other categories as ideas start becoming clearer.
A mind map is a feature that enables you to visually organize your thoughts such that you are able to combine ideas and see how they fit together as a whole.
With a mind map, your working memory does not have to think about the different facets of your SEO strategy, but concentrate on each and effectively brainstorm and think about the different categories.
You could say that a mind map creates small snackable categories so you can fully address them without exhausting your working memory.
There are several tools that you can use for the creation of a mind map, but if you do not have access to them, you can simply create a PowerPoint presentation and come up with a credible mind map.
A mind map will help you to think in a nonlinear pattern without getting confused. It is similar to the Information Architecture that content developers or creators use in order to keep the ideas flowing seamlessly in the content they create.
A mind map will enable you to see everything at the same time, and give you a bird’s eye view of the structure of your SEO strategy. Do create one if you want to come up with an effective SEO strategy.
2. Create a deeper visual representation
Once you have created the mind map, and your strategy has become more concrete, you need to create a professional, deeper representation that goes beyond the scope of your mind map.
A strategy is a plan, and you have to flesh out the plan visually.
The visual representation will enable you to realize what the goals of the strategy are, and what tasks will be required in order to achieve those goals.
You also have to see what tasks will have to be done first before others, and if there are repeated tasks, then how will they be iterated and refined.
This visual representation will also identify sub-tasks, within the main tasks, and these will be given a time for implementation.
This kind of visual view of the full strategy makes it easy to work as a team, or even present to a client. All parties will be on the same page as far as the development of the strategy is concerned.
There are several tools that you can use for this purpose, including Microsoft Excel.
Remember that the main purpose of the visual representation is to present a deeper view into the flow of the SEO strategy and the tasks that need to be accomplished and the order in which this will be done.
You must make it clear:
- Who will the tasks be assigned to? This is when you are working as a team
- What is the order of the tasks? Which ones come first and how do they follow one another?
- Which tasks are planned, still in progress, are recurring and those that have been completed.
3. Have an intimate knowledge of the company
It does not matter whether you are outsourcing your SEO or doing it in-house; it is imperative that you have an intimate knowledge of the company in order to come up with an effective SEO strategy.
You have to identify the strong aspects of the company, which can be used to propagate a powerful SEO strategy that will give the most value.
You also need to see how the SEO strategy will lend itself to strengthening the brand identity.
Finally, you need to address the challenges that may stand in the way of getting a powerful strategy and how you plan to overcome them.
3 crucial aspects that you should consider when addressing the core values of a company
In order to have a deeper understanding of the company, there are three main issues that you should consider:
a. The unique selling proposition of the products or service being offered
Here you look at whether you are dealing with a single product or services, or multiple ones.
Whatever the case may be, you have to find out what EXACTLY makes the company unique and stands out from the competition. This is the only way you can get an SEO strategy that will be unique.
Knowing the USP of a company will deeply affect the kind of channels that you use to market the product, and therefore the SEO strategy.
It will also dictate the kind of audiences that you will want to address and what keywords to use in order to capture their attention.
b. The current SEO needs and challenges of the company
In a manner of speaking, you need to know where the company is hurting right now.
If this is not addressed properly, it can ruin any strategy that you have requires you to overhaul it in the short-term which is not a good way to go about your SEO.
You need to look closer and see what you could have missed out and need to address before you commit to any particular strategy.
4. Understand your target audience
In this case, this understanding has to go beyond the creation of user personas. The creation of user personas is important when you are coming up with your SEO strategy, but a deeper understanding is crucial if you want to really address their needs in a manner that will resonate with them.
You should go to the relevant internet hangouts, talk and interview some of your existing customers, visit your competition and so much more. Here are some of the issues you should address:
a. Does your target audience mind the type of marketing tactics that you use?
If you have ever tried to upsell your products and services on forums, then you know about how much that is frowned upon. You are supposed to be giving tip and information that will prove useful to other members of the forum, and not try to sell your products and services to them, or promote them in any manner.
On the other hand, if you do look at some experts and the way they create their landing pages, you will see that they blatantly upsell their products and service, and their target audience gleefully eats it up.
These so-called “gurus” spend a lot of time and resources creating content that is primarily targeted at marketing and upselling their products and services.
When developing your SEO strategy, you should keep the target audience in mind, and realize what kinds of information they are looking for.
b. What is their knowledge level?
When creating your SEO strategy, you need to know how much the target audience knows about your products or services.
Are you addressing people who are knowledgeable about your offering, or are you addressing people who do not have an inkling about your products or services?
This knowledge will help you know what type of content you will be including in your SEO strategy and what keywords to use.
c. What is their “familiarity” with your industry like?
You need to know whether your audience is close to the industry or outside. Are they B2B or B2C customers?
This will help you address the challenge of whether you should educate them on the industry, or simply concentrate on telling them about the products and services that you offer.
5. What are the goals of the company?
A goal that is not precise and focused is a goal that will not work for the better of the company.
You need to carefully look at all the functions of the company and how they fit in together, rather than think about the monies that it earns.
This means taking a lot of care when deciding on the Key Performance Indicators and Metrics that you should address in your SEO strategy.
Obviously, one of the goals of any venture is to make sure that earnings are much higher than costs. It is a no-brainer that you should set financial goals as well. And yes, you should have a time limit on the achievement of these goals.
However, when creating an SEO strategy, you need to focus more on goals that have certain effects on the performance of the company, the direction it should immediately take, in order to meet future aspirations and functions of the company.
Therefore the metrics to be addressed in the SEO strategy are those that show how the different functions of the company are working together.
Some of the metrics that are important at this stage include
- Linking and authority
- Current Search engine Rankings
- The type and volume of organic traffic that the company is getting
You and your team have to agree on which metrics would lend themselves better to creating an SEO strategy and why.
Task-oriented goals are the best way to approach this because the effect on KPIs, caused by inbound marketing and SEO is somewhat indirect.
This is why you should set goals for certain projects, make sure you attain these goals and then measure their effect, so you can adjust the SEO strategy as you go along.
With this method, you will get a better insight to the SEO and the results will be much better, as opposed to manufacturing means in which to change the KPIs and lose sight of the long-term effect of your strategy.
These five elements are the basics that every SEO strategy should be built upon. You can add more items, depending on the kind and size of business that you are in.
B: SEO strategy tradeoffs to look out for
When you focus more on one SEO strategy, then it definitely means that you will focus less on another.
You also cannot choose a path down two or more SEO strategies since this will send a mixed brand message and identity to your targeted audience and this could make you lose potential business.
Keeping this in mind, it is time to look at the main SEO tradeoffs that you may have to consider when it comes to making an SEO strategy that will perfectly address your optimization needs.
Most of you are probably thinking that relevance is the main tradeoff that must be made. Obviously, if you create a strategy that does not adequately address relevance, then your strategy is faulty.
If you get traffic from people who are not directly interested in your products or services, then you are definitely misusing and misdirecting your resources.
Tradeoff Number 1 – Relevance versus traffic
There are several scenarios that come into play when you consider relevance against traffic. Here are some of them:
Advantages of having a high traffic, low relevance strategy
- You will earn more natural links to your website when you get a higher traffic volume.
- When you have high traffic, there is a chance that potential customers who actually need your products and services will get to hear about you from those who visit and share on social media or word-of-mouth.
- It will be much easier to undertake A/B testing and other data-driven tests when you have a higher traffic volume.
- Although the relevant visits may be lower than expected, there is some degree of increased relevant visits when you have a high traffic volume.
- When you have a high traffic volume, you increase your chances of reaching people who are further up the sales funnel. They will unpredictably get interested in your products and services due to the high traffic volume that the site is getting.
Disadvantages of having a high traffic, low relevance strategy
- There is stiff competition when you consider high traffic keywords. This can only be mitigated when you target keywords with low traffic potential but have a high audience specificity.
- High traffic strategies have a tendency to have poor conversion rates because most of the traffic is not interested in buying at that moment. They are just browsing out of curiosity.
- When you choose topics to generate high traffic, you may end up weakening your brand identity and people will be skeptical about your products and services.
What if you put more emphasis on relevance and less on traffic?
Advantages of a high relevance, low traffic strategy
- You will get higher conversions rates for both sales and lead generation efforts.
- The keywords are more targeted and have low competition
- There is an enhanced emotional effect on site visitors, who will easily buy your products as services, and this will strengthen the appeal of your brand.
- Your customers will enthusiastically act as tour brand messengers.
- You get more relevant anchor text on all links coming into your site, and this enhances your ranking on the search engines.
Disadvantages of a high relevance, low traffic strategy
- The keywords that have high relevance can also have stiff competition especially if they have a high conversion rate. Do not expect high audience relevance to convert to the high product or service relevance.
- Strategies that are of high relevance can be challenging when it comes to scaling up – you could end up alienating your existing customers or audience.
- The perceived personality of your brand may be affected when you concentrate too much on a small set of relevant topics.
If you are having a tough time deciding on which of the above to choose, you can also decide to choose a strategy that very few businesses actually implement, but one that is very effective.
Tradeoff Number 2 – Consumer interest versus Influencer
In B2C scenarios, a “set of interests”, “Consumers”, “Industry” and influencers are different but there is some kind of overlap here.
In B2B, a “consumer” refers to a business which is using your products or services, an “influencer” is a thought leader in your particular industry, and may also refer to businesses offering the same products and services as you do, but are somewhat more established in the industry.
Advantages of an Industry targeted, influencer strategy
- When you write for blogs, magazines and industry channels in your niche, then you will get a high number of authoritative links back to your site.
- These are the sites that most internet users think of as being authoritative, and they will cite their sources in their content – when you write for them, you will be viewed from an SEO point of view, as being an industry leader.
- Producing content for these people will lead to more social sharing and hence more traffic and conversions.
- When you have an SEO strategy that is focused on influencers, you open up prospects to collaborate on content, new unforeseen business opportunities and even earning mutually-beneficial links.
It goes without saying that you should ideally target people who will eventually end up buying your products and services.
However, you should appreciate the fact that when you link to influencers, who create links to your site and share on social media, then you will be exposed to a wider and targeted audience.
You should also decide on whether your content will be about the industry as a whole, or for certain interests within the industry.
Disadvantages of an industry targeted, influencer strategy
You and your competitors are fighting for a chance to have the same influencers endorse your businesses. This can be quite challenging, especially for new businesses.
Your target customers may not necessarily be looking for information about the industry and would like certain interests in the industry addressed.
Advantages of a consumer, interest strategy
- Your business will seem more realistic and down to earth when you write specifically for consumers – these are the people who will buy your products or services in the end.
- Consumers will be more likely to trust you and buy your products or services when you have a direct and practical approach to addressing their challenges pain points and needs even before they buy from you.
- You get more traffic when you write directly to your consumers.
Disadvantages of a consumer, interest strategy
- You and your competitors will be competing to have the SAME influencers endorse your businesses. This will bring about some challenges especially for new entrants into the industry.
- Information that is too targeted at the industry may end up alienating your customers, who may want you to address certain interests within the industry.
You need to understand that consumers have very little control over sites that may offer you links, and therefore may have no direct assistance to your SEO, and cannot connect you to a wider range of audiences.
Content that is overly focused on consumers may seem to be introductory to influencers and will have little benefit when you try to pass it on, especially if you are not targeting the super powerful consumers.
Tradeoff Number 3 – Trending versus Evergreen
It is quite difficult to select between content that addresses current novelty issues, and that which will stand the test of time.
As you spend more resources on one you will spend less on the other.
So how do you know which is the best for your business?
Advantages of a trend-only strategy
- When you create an SEO strategy around trending topics, it means that you will be included in all conversations concerning that topic. This will tend to increase your conversions, links, and engagement, which in turn will make you an authority on the search engines.
- When you identify a trend and start talking about it before your competitors do, then you will always be ahead of them until the topic dies down.
- When you write about emerging topics, which have not been referred to by the large sites in your niche, then the keywords that you use will have little or no competition.
SEO will be leaning towards the freshness of the topic rather than the authority that your site exhibits, and this will give you a better chance at ranking above your competition, big or small.
Disadvantages of a trend-only strategy
- There may be a tendency to dwell on trending topics that others have already tackled, simply because your target audience is currently interested in them. This means that you will not be the first to come up with the topic and may not necessarily improve your ranking.
- Trending topics and short-lived and will only give you a temporary increase in traffic – they do not have long-term SEO benefits.
Advantages of an evergreen-only strategy
- Evergreen content is always fresh and continues to bring in increased traffic, month after month. All you have to do is keep creating new content around the evergreen topic, instead of looking for trending topics all the time.
- You have more time to test, experiment and optimize the content for conversions, traffic and relevance because it is a repeated source of traffic.
- Evergreen content is great for products and services that are created to solve problems that will continue to exist. This makes a direct relationship between the evergreen content and continuous sales for a long period of time. It also addresses issues that may be far up the sales funnel.
Disadvantages of an evergreen-only strategy
- Evergreen content tends to favor those who write about it first. When you write evergreen content that has already been covered by others, you will probably not get the attention that you desire. And since this is an ongoing topic, then the resources spent on that topic may not bring in the desired traffic and conversions.
- You may have to invest more resources in creating evergreen content for SEO since the topics require more comprehensive and in-depth research, structure and flow.
All brands are unique, even when operating in the same industry or niche. Implementing an SEO strategy that tends to mix all the above aspects in moderation will not be specific enough.
You MUST consider the tradeoffs listed above in order to come up with an SEO strategy that will be effective and bring about the desired results.
C: Implement the SEO strategy in a sprightly manner
You cannot implement a great SEO strategy when you are acting like the lone ranger!
If you are working in a company, then you will need some acknowledgment from the suits who are in management.
Now, most of these higher-ups may not be a savvy as you are when it comes to SEO strategy and how to implement it.
You simply cannot get across to the suits, when you present a fully detailed SEO document that goes on for 30 pages or more, outlining your objectives, competition, keyword research, target audience, etc.
Most of all that stuff is rarely read in full.
You do not have to create a very detailed SEO strategy report for the higher-ups to give you the resources that you need to implement it.
Long reports take time to create and read, and certain facets of SEO may change, even before you finish the full report, making your efforts futile, and the report obsolete.
Dexterity is very important when it comes to implementing SEO strategies.
SEO should be flexible on a weekly, or monthly basis – it should be in a constant state of flux.
Do not waste too much time writing long SEO strategy documents – spend more time getting things done.
The reasons why sprightly SEO strategies work best
Flexible SEO implementation requires frequent but small iterations. You should break complex, predominant tasks into small snackable, but frequent changes.
This will allow you to have continuous progress which you can easily measure, and alter if required, for lasting success.
According to Google, the only constant feature about SEO is that it is not constant at all
You cannot expect to get it right the first and only time that you implement your SEO strategy.
All you need to do is get the minimum viable product into the market and then keep a keen eye on the metrics.
When you have the metrics data and analyzed it, you can then move on to the next iteration in your strategy.
Here is an example to illustrate this flexible approach to SEO strategy implementation:
Imagine that you are tasked with overhauling the architecture of a huge magazine website. You are to change all URLs, Titles, Meta Descriptions, Categories, etc.
There are two approached to this.
1. Old-fashioned approach.
Here you will go and create a full SEO strategy implementation document for the full project, saying that you want a full picture laid out before you start any task.
This may lead to a higher ranking of the website and a strong effect on the organic traffic volumes to the site.
However, the document that lays out the tasks to be implemented will be too long for proper communication of what is required and why the changes are required in the first place.
Such a long document might serve to confuse the development team and you will overload them, leading to poorer results in the long-run.
2. Flexible Approach
In this case, you can start off with a small task, such as optimizing the title tag and Meta Descriptions on .just the home page.
The documentation required for this will not even flow over one page in length. This is what is referred to as snackable content, and since it is easy to implement, it will get you up and running within a short time.
Now if this quick change brings in a positive change, such as a 4% increase in the organic traffic that the site is getting, then you can go ahead and select another of the features to optimize.
The argument will be that you are aiming at getting another 4% increase in the KPIs, as you did when you optimize the home page.
You already have a tested and proven method and your development team will be happy to implement another small change that will bring in tangible results.
Now you can continue in this same manner until the full site has been overhauled.
Documenting a flexible SEO strategy
Get it right! There is no need to create lengthy SEO strategy implementation documents.
So how do you create snackable SEO strategy implementation tasks?
Start off by understanding:
- What has been done in the past?
- What is being done at this very moment?
- What needs to be done in the future?
Once you have a keen understanding of the above questions, you are ready to create a flexible SEO strategy implementation map.
The information must be put across on the simplest terms, be flexible and easily accessed by all members of the development team.
One of the simplest and direct methods of doing this is to create an SEO implementation calendar
Structure of a basic SEO Strategy implementation calendar
Here are some of the most important features of an SEO Strategy implementation calendar.
This should be matched to any changes in the IT cycles. You do not have to really tie the implementation to IT cycles, but when you need the development team to be involved in the implementation, then you need to do this.
You can set it to every two weeks or so, so the SEO team can make the necessary changes and have them done at the same time.
This is a column that has a single sentence detailing what has been changed and what should be changed in the next iteration
This is where you place all ideas that have been put forth by the team but have not been thoroughly thrashed out. This allows you to revisit ideas on a regular basis and update or implement them.
4. Tactic summary
This allows you to link to any detailed information with respect to the implementation of the full strategy.
5. Sign off
This is where the strategy has to be passed on to other people who evaluate it and reduce the risk of errors. These are easy to read and assimilate making the process fast and efficient.
6. Final outcome
A description of how a particular implementation task has affected the KPIs.
Using an SEO strategy implementation calendar is time relevant and flexible. This allows you to change priorities with ease, by simply moving unimportant tasks to the backlog.
If anyone wants to know why certain KPIs changed at a particular date or time, they can easily access the information in the Outcomes column.
They can also get to the detailed reports or information with a click of a button, and this is great when troubleshooting errors.
Team leaders will also be able to view gaps in the implementation calendar, enabling them to make the requisite changes on time.
Little Itsy Bitsy Snackable Tactic Summary
This is another great method of creating an SEO Strategy implementation document, which comes with two different benefits:
Pre-launch Benefits – The document will address five key questions about the implementation of the SEO Strategy. This is great especially if you want someone else to implement the strategy.
Post-Launch Benefits – The summary will show what has actually been changed, the impact that it had on the KPIs, what was learned, and what steps, if any, should be taken next.
The summary should ideally have 5 distinct sections
- SMART Goal
- Lessons learned & Next steps
This is where you outline the basics of the implementation.
Who is the leader when it comes to the implementation of the strategy?
When will it be launched?
When did the changes go live?
What are the results of the post-launch assessments?
Who proposed the particular SEO changes that have been implemented?
Who agreed to the implementation of the strategy?
2. SMART Goal
This is a very high-tech approach to the overall implementation of the SEO strategy.
Here you have to align your main goal to that of your investors before any documented strategy can be implemented. This means that your implementation will be aligned with your core business goals.
This part will be flexible depending on the specs that you want to monitor.
You have to be clear about the change and what is expected from it.
In the future, it will be easy to go back and reference any change, in case it is required.
All you need to do is have all the key specs listed in the list.
It is advisable to use tables which are easy to scan.
You could create a single table if you are changing a title tag or a table that is complex and addresses several issues at the same time.
Note: you should avoid having long sentences or paragraphs. Simply define the outcome, how it used to be and how it became after the change. There is no need to detail the methodology used.
Here is where you document the percentage change, in a single, easy-to-read table, from a full funnel perspective, between the benchmark weeks and the SEO change that was made.
You may add some more tables if you want to go much deeper into analyzing and documenting the results.
5. Lessons learned & Next steps
This is where you concisely analyze the results of the implementation.
You already have the data in the results section above, so you do not have to repeat it. All you have to do is to analyze it to a deeper level.
You have to explain what the data means and what action should be taken, depending on the data.
Take a breather
When you are working in an environment where you use flexible SEO Strategy Implementation tactics, you begin to appreciate the benefits of making changes through these small snackable iterations.
You can easily understand what the full team is doing, and when you see changes in the KPIs, you can easily get to follow through and comprehend why.
It is crucial that you create an SEO strategy, which will guide you on how to make the requisite changes so as to optimize your website, get more traffic and convert them into paying customers.
The way that you create your strategy should be done in such a way that it does not dilute the brand identity that you have created.
Basically, SEO is all about strengthening your relevance, authority and trust on the search engines, so you get more targeted and loyal customers.
These three aspects are mostly ignored by many businesses and the end result is a poor SEO plan, which does not bring in the desired results, especially when you consider the investment made.
After creating a great SEO strategy, you should embark on creating an implementation plan that will help you get the desired results, and not overwhelm your SEO and Development teams.
Even when outsourcing your SEO to a freelancer, you should appreciate that he or she should implement the SEO strategy in small its which can be measured and altered quickly and effectively.
All in all, SEO is the one and only way that you can get low-cost traffic to your website. You do not have to rely on paid advertisements.
Generally, most users today have ad blockers, and relying on paid advertisements alone will be a futile exercise.
SEO is not a tactic that will propel you to the first position on Google search results within a day. It is a continuous process, and when done properly, will eventually get you to the coveted #1 position.