5 Must-Haves for a Winning SEO Strategy
Search engine optimization, aka SEO, is the art of optimizing your website to increase its rank and visibility in search engines. In other words, foundational SEO is how you get Google (and other search engines) to show your website on the first pages of search results.
And getting to that first page is super important since less than 1% (.63%) of searchers will click beyond the first page.
And yet, only 5.7% of web pages will rank in the top 10 results. In fact, 90.63% of web pages get no organic search traffic at all. Part of this is because people don't know how important SEO is. But the other part is that too many people are too intimidated to implement SEO on their own.
And there's a good reason for that. SEO experts tend to use lots of jargon, throwing out complex terms and concepts. It can be downright dizzying and make you feel like doing any SEO work on your own is impossible.
However, this just isn't true. As long as you understand the fundamentals of SEO, you can start moving your website up in the ranks – no expert required.
In this in-depth guide, we're going to share the primary elements of a winning SEO strategy, including what they are and how to get started.
The 5 Foundational SEO Components of Search Engine Optimization
An SEO strategy consists of five essential components: keyword research, content creation, on-page optimization, link building, and technical SEO. Let's take a closer look at each of them now, so you can start building an SEO strategy of your own.
1. Keyword Research
Keyword research is the process of finding terms and phrases (aka keywords) that your target audience may use to find what your website offers. For example, if you're a small business app developer, your target audience may use the following keywords to find what you have to offer:
- "App developer"
- "Mobile app developer"
- "Android app developer"
- "App store developer"
- "App for my small business"
- "Hire an app developer"
- And more
Keyword research generally has two different steps: keyword brainstorming and keyword selection.
The first step in keyword research is brainstorming a list of relevant keywords that people would use to find what you have to offer. It's all about thinking like your target audience.
Free tools like Soovie and Answer The Public are terrific resources for getting started. Additionally, Google's results can give great insight. Simply search for a relevant term and check out the "People also ask" and "Related searches" sections for some quick ideas.
Additionally, if it's within your budget, SEMRush has a terrific competitor analysis feature. Simply enter your top five competitors, and SEMRush will give you a list of the organic keywords they rank on. Then, all you have to do is sort through them and add the relevant ones to your list (more about how to pick keywords in a second).
Ultimately, your goal is to create a massive list of potential keywords for you to analyze and select your keywords.
Keyword Analysis and Selection
Once you have a list of potential keywords, you can analyze them to determine their search volume, competition, and relevancy to determine which keywords are best for targeting your audience and getting results.
Tools like SEMRush (paid) and Google Ads Keyword Planner (free) are great options for getting this information. Other alternatives include MOZ, Ahref Keywords Explorer, and the Keyword Surfer Chrome Extension.
If you're a new website, try to find those keywords that have lower competition with decent traffic. Often, long tail keywords (which means keywords that are comprised of three or more words) are ideal for newer websites.
2. Content Creation
Next up is content creation. SEO content creation is the practice of creating content that's optimized for search engines. In other words, it's content that includes your keywords in relevant and interesting ways. Some examples of SEO content include:
- Web Pages
- How-To Guides
- Landing Pages
Each piece of SEO content will have at least one keyword focus.
For example, you might write a blog with the hope of ranking for the keyword "best app developer." In this case, you'd aim to include that keyword a few times in the blog, making sure to include it in a couple of your headers, the first sentence of the blog, and paragraph bodies.
However, be aware that Google doesn't like "keyword stuffing," so be sure to only use the keyword when it's relevant and makes sense for the flow of the content.
Sometimes, you'll have secondary keywords as well. Generally, secondary keywords just need to go in the content piece a couple of times as relevant.
If you aren't sure which secondary keywords to select, consider LSI keywords. LSI keywords are "Latent Semantic Indexing" keywords. Essentially, they're just secondary keywords that are conceptually related to your primary keyword.
So, for example, some LSI keywords related to the primary keyword "best app developer" include"
- Best app developer in the US
- Best app developer near me
- Best app developer software
The easiest way to find LSI keywords is to type your primary search term into Google and see the suggestions it populates as well as the "related search terms" section.
3. On-Page Optimization
On-page optimization is all about optimizing your content and website structure for better search visibility. It's really about helping Google and searchers understand what your website is all about.
You can break on-page optimization into two categories: keyword utilization and non-keyword-related stuff.
Keyword utilization is ensuring you use the right keywords in the right places. For example, you want to place your intended keyword for each page and piece of content in the following locations:
- Title tags
- Header tags
- Meta descriptions
- Alt attributes (for images and videos)
However, it's important to note that keyword placement is less important these days. Search engines have gotten better at understanding user intent (i.e., what users actually want when they search for something). As a result, it's equally important that your content is:
- Trustworthy – your content should be reliable and honest. Linking authoritative sources in your content can help establish this.
• Unique – you should only include content that isn't anywhere else on your website or the web because duplicate content can impact your website's ability to rank.
- In-Depth – longer content with good information tends to perform better than "thin" content.
- Readable – you want to make sure your content is scannable and clean. For example, avoid littering your pages with unnecessary ads and affiliate links.
- Aligned with Search Intent – your content should align with searchers' intent. For example, if you have a webpage with the keyword "Men's athletic shoes," your page should talk about or sell men's athletic shoes.
Keyword utilization used to be the do-all, end-all of on-site SEO, but not anymore. These days several other factors contribute to on-site SEO. They include things like:
- Page load speed – you want your page to load quickly – between 1-2 seconds for optimum results. (You can check your page speed here).
- Mobile optimization – your website has to be optimized for mobile because 92.1% of internet users access the web with their phones. (Bonus tip: Use Google's Mobile-Friendly Test to see how your website stacks up).
- Page URL structure – Do your URLs include your keywords, and do they play well together within your page structure?
- Links – you want to ensure you have plenty of internal and external links and that there aren't any broken links on your site (more on this in a minute).
All these factors contribute to ensuring your on-site SEO is up to par.
4. Link Building (aka backlinking)
Link building is the process of getting other websites to link back to your website via a hyperlink. Link building helps tell Google (and the other search engines) that your content is valuable and worth showing to searchers.
Every backlink is like someone else on the web voting for your webpage to be shown to other people. While it isn't as diplomatic as that, pages with more backlinks tend to outperform those without – even if the content and other ranking factors are similar.
The best way to get backlinks is to ensure you create high-quality content that's worth linking to. If you have informative or valuable content, other websites will be much more likely to link to it in their own content.
Other ways to get external links (links from outside sources) include:
- Listing yourself in relevant business directories (Yelp, Google Business, etc.)
- Linking your relevant web pages in industry forums
- Creating social media accounts that link back to your website
- Guest blogging (and linking back to your content)
- Ego-baiting, aka mentioning someone in your content in hopes they do the same
- Participating in link exchanges
- Creating PR pieces that link back to your website
In addition, you want to be sure to have an internal linking strategy as well. Internal linking is when you link back to yourself on your own website. So, for example, you might link back to one of your previous blogs in a new one.
The most important thing with link building is to ensure the anchor text matches closely with the keyword or content topic of the blog you're linking back to. (FYI, anchor text is the text that is linked in a hyperlink).
So, for example, if your keyword is "mobile app developer," you'd want the anchor text to include that keyword, e.g.,
Are you looking for a talented mobile app developer near you?
5. Technical SEO
Now, technical SEO is where things can get really complicated. Technical SEO is the process of optimizing website and server architecture and infrastructure to make it easier for search engines to locate, crawl, understand, and index your site.
It includes things like optimizing the code and structure of web pages, enhancing the setup and configuration of web servers, and making sure you're using the proper URL structure and redirects.
To get quick insight into your technical SEO, you can use tools like Google Search Console, Screamingfrog, SEMRush, or Yoast SEO. While all these tools offer different features, they can all help identify issues with your technical SEO, and in some cases, walk you through fixing those issues.
Getting Started with SEO
SEO can seem overwhelming at first. But, once you understand the fundamentals, it becomes much more manageable.
- If you're just getting started with SEO, be sure to begin with the first fundamental and work your way through the list, taking it one step at a time.
- If you've been doing SEO for a while, consider using this guide more as a checklist or tool to ensure you're on the right track.
Ultimately, as long as you stay consistent and incorporate these SEO fundamentals into your strategy, you'll be on your way to more organic traffic in no time – and who doesn't want that?
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