Why have an effective SEO strategy and how to do it
Visibility, Engagement, Conversion, Profit We like to see our business develop like fresh yeast left alone, but actually, the scale of this progress is often far from our expectations. And our growing frustration with this prevents us from objectively assessing the reasons for the poor results.
It does not have to end up with blaming external factors or customers' behaving contrary to out expectations, and assuming we have prepared everything with the top quality.
Let us start with ourselves instead and ask at which stage of our activity something went wrong, not according to the plan. Ah yes, assuming we do have a plan...
A SEO strategy requires solid preparation, it is like a business plan, which – if prepared beforehand – can lead us through a well thought out pattern of activities to achieve the goal, verifying the assumptions at every stage.
On the other hand, in the case of agency-client cooperation, it also requires high involvement in the initial phase of studying the client's business regarding the current state of affairs, problems, expectations and objectives so as to set the appropriate KPIs to verify the assumptions of the plan.
Unfortunately, this element is often ignored, and the study process is often carried out individually, without a detailed discussion with the client. The principle of limited trust should definitely be at work even at this stage, which, however, does not mean a negative attitude. To the contrary, this way the client shows that he is engaged in the process of strategy building, which is his potential springboard to better sales results
One of the most important things is to explain the technical aspect of possible solutions, the related costs and estimated values the client can expect from the implementation of the assumptions in a way that is comprehensible for the client.
Then we can be sure that the conscious client will make conscious decisions concerning the proposed budgets, and he business effect will result from conscious decisions made together
Why does everybody want to have phrases ranking high in Google?
It's a simple question with a simple answer. But do we really know how to use the potential of highly ranking phrases in the process of achieving conversion? Or is it only an empty need of somehow existing in the search engine, without further insight on how it affects our business? After all, we have achieved our main goal: we are in Google TOPs.
We like to deceive ourselves, true. But it is very superficial, we have to understand that getting to the first page in Google in itself cannot be the main strategy, taking into consideration the opportunities now offered by the Google search engine, including its many analytical tools to be used in the SEO process.
We pay for high ranks, sometimes more, sometimes less, but it is always some cost that we will actually never see repaid if we remain conscious ignorants of the occurring changes in the methods of effective use of the potential of search engine traffic.
Hence, the new concept of SEO does not follow the old principles
A strategy? It's a waste of time; it's good only for the weak ones. I have my tested ways: some spam links to bid, some non-engaging content to saturate the text, and we are among TOP Google results.
Yes, there will be some results. To make a long story short, the result will be lower quality.
Each potential mistake or the lack of awareness we have done something wrong in drawing up the SEO strategy triggers more mistakes on out way to success, the final step of which is the conversion of organic search results.
What mistakes should we avoid in a SEO strategy?
- Copywriting without thorough recognition of the subject
- No plan of long-term development of the contents on our website
- Insufficient connections between phrases and the proper target pages
- Directing traffic to pages that are difficult in terms of conversion
- Non-appealing rich snippet contents resulting in low CTR in organic search results
- Improper architecture of information on the site
- No long tail search optimization
- Link building based on spam instead of on the subject
- No use of social network channels to share the created contents
- No interest in extending brand consciousness and management of brand recognition
I will now present 6 steps to help you adjust your SEO strategy to your needs
This list will help you achieve the factors you have set as objectives.
Step 1 – Define the target group for your campaign and their possible interests
Each industry has a specific target group that can become our customers. Although we want it very much, we often fail to reach them because of our improper activities.
Then we need to learn their ways of thinking and their expectations of the Google search, and provide some added value to make us unique among the competition. Otherwise, we will only generate empty traffic that will nor translate into any business effects.
By learning the profile and preferences of our target group, and taking into consideration elements such as age, sex or location and the needs we are going to meet as part of our business model, we will create the image of the customer we want to attract. You can read more on the concept of persona here
We can get information on our target group and their interests e.g. from
- paid/free industry reports often published for statistical and educational purposes
- community interview in the certain trade by means of participation in thematic groups
- monitoring TOP trade topics which evoke the greatest interest
Taking this activity into account in a brand strategy will not only let us understand needs better but also automatically supplement the next strategy step – content marketing.
Step 2 – Discover a list of keywords on the basis of potential interests
At first sight, preparing a list of phrases on the basis of defined target group seems to be an easy task. But it first of all requires understanding the user's intentions, because using the right word is not all: the important thing is what the user wants to find by typing this word.
How can you find out what is the real goal of searching the phrase "bmw 520d f10"?
- Technical specification?
- Purchase of a used car?
- Purchase of a new car?
- Finding the nearest car dealer?
The same word typed by different people can have a completely different character of search.
Only studying user behaviors will provide you with the answer to this question. And a simple test can even be performed at the level of direct Google search results, which are an underestimated source of information.
Look from the practical point of view at the example below.
The results of a general query led to varied target pages. The first and third result indicate opinion leaders, so they will suit the intentions of people who wanted to learn the opinions of owners of this particular car make/model. The second result is a direct reference to the sales category 'a specific model of BMW', so it will suit the intentions of people who are determined to buy a specific car and are looking for the best opportunity.
For most websites, using such general phrases is not proper, because it can generate empty traffic at best, without any micro conversion, and this is definitely not what we want.
A good practice is to divide the phrases per persona into specific groups and subgroups.
Each group of phrases can be the main category of products, and the subgroups can be subcategories.
Use all the possible sources to build a complete list of key words
- Google Adwords provides a free, practical keyword planner (link)
- A Google Search Console attached to our website will let us know what phrases have directed users to the site (link)
- On the basis of the contents of your site and the knowledge gained in step 1, prepare a list of phrases that can potentially be searched for. Then check the efficacy of these phrases using the keyword planner.
- Do it yourself: enter the key phrases directly in the search bar and see what additional hints Google suggests.
- Study the automatic hints provided by Google during the typing of a phrase.
- Check what key phrases your competitors use in the metadata by looking up the website source.
- Be up to date with social media and Google Trends, which can extend your phrase field and become a valuable source of information.
- Directly ask your target customers how they form the search phrases.
- Use paid tools which can e.g. analyze the phrase strategies of your competitors.
Step 3 – Learn from your competitors. What strategy elements do they use?
Ok, now we know who we want to reach with our offer and we have prepared a list of grouped phrases that will be responsible for properly directing traffic to our site.
Let's go one step ahead, prepare a list and check the activities of our competitors.
What we need now is just the Google search engine and queries oriented at the main phrases used by the competitors to obtain organic traffic. The range of our analysis and gathering the database of competitors' websites depends on how complex our website is and what phrase list we have. Simple, isn't it?
Don't build a huge database of competitors' addresses, only choose the sites which recur when using certain phrase categories and use them in your analysis.
Study technical factors
Study the frequency, quality and distribution of link sources and any other key elements available from the crawling tools (e.g. ahrefs.com, majesticseo.com)
The order of sites we have analyzed is not accidental. When using the phrase "pluszowe zabawki" (plush toys), "pluszaki.com" ranks #1 in SERPs, "gonzo.com.pl" is #3, and "kolor-plusz.pl", #7.
As we investigate the number of Ref Domains between sites ranking #3 and #7, we can see that the much greater number of links redirecting from other domains to "kolor-plusz.pl" than to "gonzo.com.pl" does not mean its better position.
Even at first sight we can see big differences in the attributes of directing links (Nofollow and Do-Follow) and the number of the very referring pages, which may seem to be more important than the number of Ref Domains.
The next example will let us see a pattern that looks obvious regarding the SERP positions of sites, from the ones that rank the highest to the ones that rank the lowest. The sites found using the phrase "producent okien" (window manufacturer) are: "drutex.pl" #1, "oknadarek.pl" #3, "vidok.com" #7.
Simple? And they say there are so many different factors, even Off Page, which influence the positions in Google search results. Don't be easily deceived, it's not as simple as it seems. We only applied 4 values in our analysis, values that are a very small part of the elements we should analyze in order to obtain the full image of competition and relations between the data we have found. This step requires a lot of effort and many tests involved in a long-term strategy.
- Try to gather the same data from many tools (e.g. ahrefs.com, majesticseo.com, google search tools), which can complement each other.
- Study the distribution, saturation, varieties and naturalness of phrases.
- Analyze the phrase references per site/page (linking depth) in order to build a vast range and transmission of “strength” within the linked domain.
- Check link attributes (Nofollow/Do-Follow) as well as their quality and thematic accuracy.
- Using historical data, check the decrease/increase of links for websites and its influence of SERP results.
- See what is the impact of Sitewide and NotSidewide links.
Study the feedback from potential customers
Every target group specified in the strategy expresses their opinions on the way of operation of a company. We can also learn a lot about the problems users encounter during a standard session on a competitor's site.
It seems such elements go far beyond SEO, but are you ready to give up on the monetization of traffic obtained from this channel?
Not really. A modern SEO strategy is one that not only aims at obtaining traffic but also at directs people to the goal and helps avoid abandoning as much as possible.
Form queries which will find threads that can give you information on the advantages, disadvantages and mistakes of your competitors. Then you can avoid those mistakes.
(don't like) + [name]
Why do users conclude this platform is boring? How to use this information?
(cheaters) + [name]
How to avoid similar problems in your solution? Are your solutions safe for others?
(opinions) + [name]
How to improve the range of your services so that customers would not complain about their quality? Have you thought about an effective customer service department?
For this, ask and search manually or use the tools designed for gathering such information which automatize the processes. In the latter case, you will always be up to date if some new threads appear in response to our queries.
As I mentioned in step 1, we always need to have some added value that will make us stand out against the competition. It's the only way to achieve better results.
Experimenting with data, testing and discovering more and more elements and relations in this step will make us closer to the achievement of our indices.
Step 4 – Proper optimization of target pages as the key to success.
We can do a lot of work described above, but when we start to create a strategy, we consciously build relationships between its elements. It's a typical domino effect: if one element is missing, the goal is not fully attainable.
Prepare a page adjusted to your keyword, ensure the keyword is used in the crucial places such as the title, meta or headers with accurate saturation, and Google will appreciate that and give you high ranks in return.
Don't try to smuggle the keyword everywhere, it's enough to concentrate on valuable contents concerning the issues that the users are interested in. And the proper phrase will become a natural complementation of the content.
Each target page containing some content we want the user to see should be:
- Closely related to the searched phrase, a ready solution/response to the user's need
- Optimized in terms of the expected action the user may want to do (e.g. a purchase, downloading a guide, etc.)
- Free from any contents saturated with keywords that immediately suggest the lack of naturalness and lead to leaving the page
- Interesting enough for a satisfied user to share it in the social media
If you are able to start with contents that you can draw up for the purpose of proper optimization and its development, do it! In the beginning, it's good to work on the contents that already exist, and then plan the follow-up on the subjects directly related to your website.
Focus on mobility, recognize the potential
Nowadays, it's not the matter of choice but the standard we should conform to.
Remembering the impact of mobile use of our site as another factor that helps build our SERP position, we do not only have to ensure responsiveness but also the proper UX of our site on all mobile devices.
When referring to responsiveness, I don't mean adjusting the desktop site to the screen so that it requires enlarging and burdensome scrolling. And as regards UX, don't go for pretty colorful call buttons without a reasonable action.
Mobile users' engagement is quickly growing year on year.
- Simplify the mobile version and make it lighter to allow your users easy and quick navigation.
- Hide desktop elements which are unnecessary in the mobile version, such as complex footers or large photos.
- In the case of e-commerce, try to reduce the sales path to one page to ensure conversion.
- Do your best to highlight quick, direct contact with you.
Ok, we have worked on the content and adjusted the website to mobile devices, remembering about the usefulness of the applied solutions. And what about the architecture of information on the site itself?
Don't forget such crucial elements as
Optimizing the titles of pages, description, and content formatting with tags
Each page should have a unique title which will immediately let the user know what kind of content is there. For example, if you run a shoe shop for women, the title “High heels size 42” is a better one than “Women's shoes”.
Description, in turn, allows us to elaborate on the title and site content a little bit and additionally motivate viewers to click our search result instead of the results of competitors. At this stage we can successfully call for action = clicking.
The use of h1-h3 tags, bold print and underscoring will allow to divide the content into proper heading and subheading sections and mark the most important elements Google should take into consideration when crawling.
Proper optimization of photos will let others find you quicker in graphic results
Always remember to optimize the weight of photos. It's an important factor that directly affects the loading speed.
Try to assign unique ALT attributes that agree with the photo; this will surely be appreciated by Google
Avoid random physical names for photos, e.g. zdj_ęcie_1.jpg, and use unique names that agree with the photos instead, e.g. duza-fototapeta-kolorowy-slon.jpg
If you include a great number of photos on your site, store them on an external server (storage hosting); this will speed up the loading of your site.
It's also worth taking care about the factors that are often ignored or left for later stages
- Proper URL optimization
- Using breadcrumbs
- Creating the full site map
- Internal linking in order to transfer strength between pages, indicate the most important pages within a domain or direct the reader to further related topics
- that can prolong his stay on the site.
- Proper 3xx redirecting
- General speed of site loading
Of course, apart from the above-mentioned elements on the part of the site, we have to make sure any “external” problems are solved, too.
Let's use Google Search Console (GSC) for this. The tool will allow us to test out website in terms of any indexation errors, accessibility problems and any other significant errors that can affect out visibility in Google results.
Step 5 – Create, disseminate, engage (link building)
Does link building still play an important role? Does it still exist in its original form?
Along with the development of online marketing, some changes have occurred that we definitely have to apply in our own strategy if we want to stay in the game fighting for the main prize: valuable high ranking in SERPs.
Link building is no longer an independent entity, now it is rather a component of the significant process of "Content Marketing", i.e. a form of building relationships by engaging contents exchanged among users, who thus naturally link our target pages.
In addition, along with the release of many updates such as Google Panda or Google Penguin algorithm, which make this work much more difficult and at the same time clean indices of spam results, a change of the technical formula is necessary.
Studies also show that this form is not only effective in obtaining traffic but also ensures much higher quality of the generated traffic and conversion.
The very name "Content Marketing" shows what matters here: "Content" and "Marketing", which must be understood as optimized and properly prepared contents for our target group (the first part) and effective ways of disseminating them (the second part, equally important as the first one), which is actually link building.
Dissemination can occur in many different ways, e.g.
- Guest entries on blogs
- Forum discussions
- Personal participation in comment systems
- References in website catalogues of the trade
- Interesting infographics
- Social media
What is essential is that the sources of the target links should
- Be of high quality and appreciated by our target, and not violate Google guidelines
- Be thematic, referring to the subjects connected with our industry
- Generate traffic, which should be the effect of the first principle of quality
You may say it is the old idea of building natural links, and this is true. The difference is that now each obtained link provides some added value to the main value which is obtaining a business contact through sharing content connected with the issues our potential customer is interested in.
Moving to a higher level of link building requires much more time but offers higher efficacy, too.
Why is it worth a try? Organic results remain an excellent channel to gather leads even in the process of content marketing.
Follow this principle:
If the content we have provided on a site is useful for the user, we have a better chance to obtain some valuable links and achieve mutual benefits.
Stage 6 - Where is the meat? Analyze, Implement, Test
As we already know, an efficient strategy is not only a strategy based on key phrases with appropriate saturation of pages, combined with obtaining a few “dead” links.
It is first of all learning about your target group, the real goals, and the elements which make our services widely available and thus attractive for a wide group of recipients.
Knowing the quick pace of development and constantly changing conditions in the digital world, we cannot stick to a one-time preparation of a strategy without returning to the above-mentioned steps and updating them with new data resulting from our analysis.
Don't give up if your effects are not satisfying at first. The efficacy of activities is a consequence of implementing the process, constant changes and tests which will lead to obtaining the effects we wanted to achieve
Test the quality of the traffic from direct entries, from references, and directly from search engines in different time spans
This will allow you to evaluate the situation generally, with consideration of time spans, and to exclude the weak points of your original concept. If your strategy assumes an increase of organic traffic, but what is actually increasing is traffic from another channel, the assumptions will not be met.
Test the validity of the keywords that generate traffic on the site. Don't they need re-analysis?
The quality of traffic in the first stage results from the phrases we have chosen after the evaluation of interests of our target group. We will not benefit from very high traffic characterized by a high bounce rate, short visit time, or no interest in contacting us or buying our products. Then we should think about the legitimacy of the selected key phrases.
Analyze the number of pages visited during a session. How much does our website engage the user?
It may be that the traffic is indifferent to our site when directed there, which generates a high bounce rate at the very beginning. Then it is worth thinking about why our site and the contents on it are not engaging for the users we have reached as we wished.
Control the conversion rate. Maybe the poor results are the consequence of a poor strategy?
Learning the conversion rate will help you make the right decisions concerning the selected key phrases and apply proper optimization in order to enhance the rate. If a phrase generates a high conversion rate at a position beyond the top 5, try to achieve a better position for this phrase and check whether the rate will also rise.
Apart from Off Page activities and learning which target page brings conversion as a result of using a certain phrase, try to optimize the process on the very page to increase the usefulness and the number of leads.
This is only a small part of what we should do. The more elements we analyze and test, the more effective our strategy will be.