Have you been implementing an SEO strategy? More importantly do you have an SEO strategy for this year?
I want to make sure that you have the most RELEVANT info available on what is currently working in the world of SEO.
I’ve based this off the dozens of clients we’ve worked with, and case studies into this post. I’m laying out the strategy laid out here has generated tons of traffic for our clients.
Today I want to provide you with context as to what you can do to create a full-fledged SEO strategy. We see a lot of people randomly placing links at a site and wondering why it doesn’t work. By crafting a sound strategy and taking a holistic approach to SEO, you’ll not only get more traffic, you’ll get more leads and sales.
With that said, let’s jump in..
How To Rank in Google TODAY: Search Engine Ranking Factors
The SEO industry is constantly changing but one thing that will never change is simple.. Creating quality content and having contextual backlinks will increase your organic rankings over time faster than any other strategy.
I’ve heard from many SEO experts that the industry is hard to keep up with algorithm changes, and it can be daunting to keep. Yes – Google updates all the time and we do monitor and document all changes.
But what REALLY drives rankings when it comes to organic search today is largely the same as it has been for the last 10+ years: QUALITY links and Content
Check this study done by ahrefs that shows the correlating factors of high search engine rankings:
It’s pretty easy to see that LINKS are still #1 driving factor behind ranking organically in search.
So when you hear people talking about how SEO is changing, in reality the basics are still where it’s at. PLUS we have the data to prove it. We don’t rely on theory here, we look at the data and what is really happening when it comes to changes for search results. With that said, we are always wanting to prepare for the future.
In the last few years, we have seen Google put a bigger focus on trying to understand content, search intent, and topics. With their algorithm Hummingbird, Google has tried to create an understanding of the connection between entities, topics, subtopics, and synonyms.
In simplest terms, the goal of Google is to match a user query to an answer. So if Google can rate a document (or web page) based on the likelihood that it will answer the question, then they have a new way of ranking documents.
This is why there is now not just a focus on “ranking mechanism” (links) but also on the actual content on the page linking to your site.
Use Synonyms and LSI
Search engines are getting smarter every day. They are not looking at just searches on a keyword by keyword basis, but at the intent behind the search. By understanding that some searches have intent will factor your ranking.
This is why it’s no longer necessary to build out different pages for each keyword, but focus on building pages based on topics.
For example: old school search engine optimization used to consist of building out pages for each keyword: guest post service, guest blog packages, guest packages, etc.
Finally, Google understands that all those are really the same thing, so you can just create 1 page and you’ll rank for a ton of variations, like we do.
If Google can understand content better, then they won’t need to rely so heavily on links as the main ranking mechanism. This isn’t necessarily 100% true today, but we’ve seen evidence of it going this way.
That’s why pages with longer content typically rank better – There is a greater chance that the page will fully explain the answer to the user’s search query.
Generally speaking, the best way to rank on Google’s search engine is to become an authority in your niche. By doing this, Google will “unlock the floodgates” of organic traffic to your site.
What does an authority look like in Google’s eyes?
There are key things you need to gain authority in Google’s eyes.
- Depth of Content
Creating longer articles that fully answers any of the questions a user may have about that particular topic/subject.
- Breadth of Content
Building out lots of articles on your website that answers a variety of questions your customer might have
- Authoritative Back-linking
Links are still the biggest ranking factor, but not like in 2012. While links matter, Google is focusing more on QUALITY over QUANTITY. Making sure your site has contextual backlinks will significantly increase your rankings and increase your authority in the eyes of search engines.
By putting these 3 factors together you will see a massive increase in your traffic, just like our clients do when choosing Pattern Managed SEO.
Search Engine Optimization Advice: What people Usually Need To Hear to Achieve SEO Success
Old school SEO was really focused on 2 things: Stuffing keywords and getting backlinks to increase your site.
I know this because I used black-hat SEO tactics, until Google’s PANDA update in 2014, which started giving authority based on quality of links. So all those spammy web2.0 backlink properties you added to your site 10 years ago.. Actually had a negative impact on your site today.
If links are the biggest factor, it’s going to be much more difficult to have any traction because NO ONE wants to link your product/service to your product pages. It’s hard to get link equity to your site if you don’t have anything cool to link back to.
The New Way & Improved SEO
With updates, come change. Newer SEO strategies are more about traffic (instead of rankings), and topics (instead of keywords).
Search engines now take into consideration the customer journey – meaning that while it’s great to rank your product page for the end-buyer cycle keywords, MOST the time traffic is actually a mid or beginner cycle keywords.
What this means is that keywords people are searching for before they are actually ready to buy. People have more access to information than anytime in the history of mankind. Consumers now have more resources to shop, research, and educate themselves before purchasing.
So by building out quality content, you can capture more traffic, not only more traffic, but more targeted traffic people who are actively researching and looking for information about your product or service. This allows you to build better relationships of trust and transparency with your audience making it easier to nurture them through your sales funnel.
That’s exactly what this plan is meant to do. If you follow it to correctly, you will see massive gains in targeted traffic, leads, AND sales.
You are probably wondering “what is enough context in links in order to get more organic traffic?” Or maybe “what steps should I be taking to create an effective SEO plan?”
Before Your SEO Campaign Starts
Before we start any campaign we like to run a quick audit on your site that identifies any underlying potential problems your site may have when it comes to ranking. Your site could already be penalized by search engines already and you may not know it. You don’t want to build your castle on sand.
If your website has dropped in rankings in the past, check and see if you have any penalties via the Google Webmasters Tools to see if your site is currently penalized. Identify what is causing those penalties and get them removed. If you don’t know what is causing your site to drop in rank, you can schedule a free seo consultation where we can help you identify if your site is being penalized.
One cool tool that we use internally is this Google Penalty Checker which will match up to your SEMRush graph of your traffic to all Google Updates. You will be able to easily see if there have been major drops in traffic at the same time as an update came out which can give you the signal on what you need to fix within your site.
Some penalties can be harder to recover from than others. In 2014, my first eCommerce site was basically black-listed by Google because I was creating spammy backlinks that before the update, caused my site to rank on page 1. However, after the update, my rankings dropped to the 60TH PAGE of Google, making my traffic overnight come to an absolute halt. This can be defeating, and my best advice is, do NOT spend a ton of time trying to recover a doomed site as some just won’t recover no matter how much fixing you do. The best advice here is, start a new site and don’t use that strategy again. (That’s what he had to do)
With all that said, here’s a great plan to get your SEO campaign started:
1. Define Your Target Audience: Who Do You Want To Attract?
Before any marketing campaign, you have to define your target audience. This seems rudimentary but is often overlooked by even the best SEO companies out there.
You probably already have some good customers that give you tons of money already, they probably don’t ask for much, and are generally easy to deal with.
Then you may have customers that are a royal pain in the ass and ask for a million things, and are typically wanting everything done at a much cheaper price than you usually offer those services.
You can sell to both of them, but the real question is, do you really want to? More than likely, you don’t. If you are like us, you would take 1 good customer over 10 bad customers.
So by defining who you actually want to target is going to help determine what keywords you want to rank for, and more importantly what kind of content you will curate for your marketing campaign.
By understanding who your audience really is will help you generate a lot of ideas on what to rank for. Listen to your market but most importantly, listen to YOUR customers.
When we start to curate content, we think about what prevents our customers from ultimately buying our services, and we attack this question from every angle.
Customers come to us and say, “I am just not quite ready to buy yet, I want to make an SEO strategy” and this is where we can go “we actually just wrote an article that is about what SEO strategy you should follow!”
They then go “Great, I have a strategy, but I don’t know what keywords to target?”
We then send them another article on “How To Do Easy Keyword Research”
They then say, “OK but how can I stay safe if I building links?”
We send em’ another article to read on “How to Stay Safe in SEO”
This may go on and on, but we will continue to provide content that we already built out that will answer their questions and nurture, create authority and trust, so when they are finally ready to make a purchase, we already established a relationship by providing valuable content.
When you understand your target market, it makes answering their questions and solving them easier, which in turn makes you more money.
Once you understand who you’re going to target, then it’s time to find keywords to target!
2. Competitive Research / Keyword Research: How to Find Profitable Keywords Without Spending Hours Researching
Keyword research can seem overwhelming but it really doesn’t have to be hard – It’s actually really easy, but as humans, we have a tendency to overcomplicate things we are unsure of.
Starting out, we recommend you divide keywords into two groups:
- Target Keywords that you’re already ranking for
- Target Keywords that you don’t rank for already
Take advantage of the “Easy Wins” Keywords for Quick Gains!
To get easy wins in SEO, get a keyword research tool like SEMRush to find keywords with good search volume that you’re ranking for on spot 4 or below (including page 2). Google already identifies your website page as relevant for that keyword. You just don’t rank in the top 3 for any of them.
When you optimize these pages and create more contextual links to them, you can increase organic traffic a lot faster than targeting a totally new keyword.
Use your keyword tool like SEMRush to identify and target the easy wins first.
Find What Your Competitors Are Ranking for With A Content Gap Analysis
Essentially, you’ll want to go out and find all your competitors websites that are ranking for keywords you want to rank for in search engines. You can use both direct and indirect competitors.
Once you have created this list. You make a list of all the keywords THEY rank for and then exclude the ones you rank for.
This will net you a large list of keywords to target, and build out quality content for in your content marketing strategy.
Now you are staring at a huge list of potential keywords, we recommend the next step is to filter the keywords that are worth targeting, this means excluding very high difficulty keywords (unless you have a very powerful domain), making sure there is enough search volume, and we like to place a CPC > $1 to exclude useless keywords.
BOOM – now you have a valuable list of keywords worth targeting! You’re going to either optimize existing pages for these keywords or you need to curate new content targeting these keywords.
Don’t shy away from long tail keywords – these often have greater search intent and convert higher!
3. OnSite & OnPage SEO Optimization: Optimizing Content Strategy For SEO
You want to curate content and make sure your web pages are optimized for your target keywords and make sure they cover the topic in depth.
Optimizing your meta tags: Title Tags, Meta Description, URL, Header Tags, Images, and more.
You can learn more about OnPage SEO with our blog: How to Optimize Your OnPage SEO
The main focus should be about building out in-depth content (this is what Google is really looking for) that will answer your users questions. We recommend focusing on creating long content 1000+ words which tends to rank better.
By now you should have a huge list of keywords from your earlier research. Begin to build out your content strategy based on those keywords and add internal links to that content.
Content Marketing Strategy
When you create content that actually helps your target customers with their problems, and questions. You are attracting them to you. This is called Inbound marketing, and it will get more leads into your funnel.
You can learn how that works in this blog post, How To Attract More Inbound Leads To Your Business. You can also put your blog on autopilot with the Pattern Blogger Package.
If your website already has a lot of content, and can re-optimize old blog posts to get the maximum value out of your existing pages!
Always remember, you can also promote this content through channels outside of SEO like email marketing, Social Media Advertising, Google Adwords, etc.
Once you’ve build out the content, you need to get quality backlinks to increase the rankings.
User Experience Signals
You’ll also want to make sure that your page is easy to navigate and get the user what they are looking for. Take a look at what is currently ranking, and model what works. Don’t try to recreate the wheel here.
If users are landing on your page and immediately bouncing back to the SERPs, that’s a negative user experience signal. You want to make sure people are staying on your pages and continuing on your site.
Optimized Product Descriptions
If you are an eCommerce site, it’s imperative that you optimize your product descriptions are optimized in effort to rank and bring traffic to your site.
Pattern SEO can get this done for you with eCommerce Product descriptions with Pattern eCommerce PD.
This will help you separate you from your competitors with fully optimized, and unique product descriptions for your online store.
4. Link Building Strategy
Link building can often get a bad rap, but when you look at the data, it’s really what drives rankings.
One problem we see often with most sites is they underestimate the number of links they will need to rank.
Plus, often times sites get penalized for over-optimizing their anchor text and creating an unnatural backlink profile.
When you first start your back-link building campaign, this is what we suggest:
- Start With Branding/Diversity
Since often times the biggest issue can be over-optimization, start out by getting your site a lot of diversity. Using only natural anchor text, and no exact match or commercial anchors.
Build up your social properties too, this signifies you are an actual brand. Get as many of these as you can. You can get quality social profiles done for you from Lock My Brand for cheap. When you create content on your site, post it to these social properties to keep the links flowing and your social accounts active.
- Get In-Content Diversity Links
Having in-content links allows you to build out web 2.0 type properties, using a mix of brand, natural, and low competition keywords or long tail variations.
- Move on to High Power Links
After you’ve built out your foundational base, start adding in quality high powered links with close or exact match anchors. Never repeat the same anchor twice, just switch it up to something slightly different each time. A great way to do this is by guest blogging on authority blogs.
Sometimes we have sites that have a decent amount of links, but still aren’t ranking. Most of these cases are because they don’t have QUALITY links they need to be considered ‘trustworthy’ in search engines eyes. They don’t have a lot of high trust links. If this is the case, you’ll want to focus on getting in-content links from high trust publications.
Ongoing link building continues to add these types of links month after month while cycling your anchor texts each time with different long tail/variations.
A word to the wise, these are 2 big mistakes we often see when doing SEO for clients:
- Anchor Text Ratios
Biggest problem we see is people still over-optimizing anchor text. Stop worrying about anchor text ratios and just go all out on brand signals, naked URLs, etc. By obtaining a lot of natural links, and only a handful of exact match anchors. (95% brand/naked and 5% exact match. Google will never penalize for having too diverse of a portfolio of links)
- Move on to High Power Links
The second biggest problem we see our clients running into is stopping or giving up on link building. Google takes time to judge your site. It can take weeks after building powerful links for movement. But based on bounce/click rates, etc your site can jump around and keep moving up for months.
The keyword is “stuck” don’t stop and wonder why it didn’t work. You need to keep building diversified links. Our best ranking customers have ongoing link building campaigns even when they are doing well. Often times people fail in their SEO campaigns by building a couple of links and stopping.
As your link building and content increases, you’ll want to track it to understand how it’s performing.
5. Measuring Your SEO Results
First, You’ll want to understand that SEO definitely takes time. It would be nice if you could build links in one day, and see results the next. Unfortunately, that’s not how Google works. Make sure you set your expectations that this is a long-term strategy and don’t be alarmed if it takes a few months to start seeing results.
We suggest using a combination of traffic reports from Google Analytics and SEMRush. Our managed clients also have a client dashboard where they can track their SEO progress in real time.
Fluctuation is normal, just like the stock market fluctuates, rankings will fluctuate on a day to day basis, but over time you will see increases in your organic traffic and rankings.
Extra SEO Strategy For Local Websites
If you consider yourself a local business or have brick and mortar locations, you’ll want to do a few extra things. Now that local search brings up the Google Map Pack, you want to make sure you rank there. Here’s how:
- Set up Google Local/Google My Business Page
Set up your Google Local Page Correctly so that you can rank easier in the 3 pack
- Audit Citations
This is usually the #1 thing that is going to hold you back when it comes to appearing in the local search. Make sure you always do a local citation audit before starting any directory submissions. This will also identify what citations you are missing and point out directories that you need to update your information in.
- Build Citations and Links
Get local citations and links that your top ranking competitors have from industry sites, and ego directories. Keep building these until you have crushed your competitors.
As you can see how effective a balanced SEO strategy can be if you take all these things into consideration. By following this plan, you’ll set yourself up for massive success. This process is the exact process we use for our managed SEO services, With our managed SEO service you get your own account manager, client dashboard, and monthly reporting.