Since the ultimate purpose of an SEO strategy company is to generate leads or revenue for its clients, we build every campaign within a strategic framework aimed at maximizing the quantity and quality of the organic website traffic it generates. What follows is a detailed, step-by-step look at the methodology behind our SEO strategy services.
1. Identify the Target Audience(s) and Build Personas
An upcoming step in the SEO strategy process, keyword research, requires an understanding of the target audiences a company seeks to have visit its website. The more clearly this is understood, the more effectively one can identify keywords these audiences are likely to use. Important attributes of each target audience to consider include:
- Job title/area of responsibility
- Geographic location
- Demographic information such as male/female, age, education level
- Common benefits your products and/or services offer
- Common problems your products and/or services address
Frequently, this data — while far better than no data at all — is insufficiently granular to support strategically sound keyword research. What if your company targets customers in multiple geographic locations or with varying areas of responsibility?
Audience targeting is made more precise by creating buyer personas for the target audience. A persona is a detailed representation of an ideal website visitor — i.e., the type of individual highly likely to place an order or submit an inquiry. For example, within its broad target audience, a company could define two personas:
- A purchasing director in the Midwest with a Bachelor’s degree, 35-50 years old, interested in job security and reducing costs
- A purchasing manager on the West Coast, with an MBA, 25-35 years old, interested in job advancement and creating a more sustainable production process
2. Keyword Research Based on Personas and Intent
Armed with personas, keyword researchers from an SEO strategy company can begin to identify keywords consistent with the attributes of each persona within the target audience. For example, for the first persona described above, keyword themes would include “in KZN” and “cost savings”, where as for the second persona, themes would include “in CT” and “environmentally friendly”.
In this way, a target list of keywords highly relevant to important segments of the target audience is developed. The more relevant the keywords, the more likely your organic traffic will consist of highly qualified prospects.
Considering criteria such as search volume and user intent further narrows target keywords for the campaign. User intent is very important but often overlooked. A keyword such as “environmentally friendly cleaning chemicals” could be used by target persona #2, but could also be used by a student doing research. In contrast, a keyword such as “environmentally friendly cleaning chemical suppliers” reveals buying intent — and for that reason may be the more desirable term.
3. Keyword Strategy: Selection and Page Mapping
The keyword research phase of SEO strategy delivers a lengthy list of potentially viable target keywords, but the list must now be narrowed down further into a set of keywords that represent the highest potential value and can be optimized within your budget. Budget is always a key consideration: A local SEO campaign for a startup may not have the budget to support 5,000 keywords; whereas an enterprise SEO or e-commerce SEO campaign may not be able to move the dial with anything less.
Primary keywords — the keywords judged to have the highest traffic-generating and conversion power — are a subset of the target keywords selected for the campaign. Primary keywords must have unique pages of website content; these are the website pages where organic search traffic will land when visitors click through from the search engine. Frequently, these pages do not exist on the website or need to be heavily edited — which leads us to something quite important in the next phase of SEO strategy, the on-site strategy audit.
4. On-site Strategy Audit
A company’s website must be made SEO-ready in order for ongoing off-site and on-site campaign activities to have maximum effect and value. An on-site audit delivers a checklist of items to be addressed on the website in the initial stages of the campaign. Focus is typically divided into three areas: technical SEO, content and blog strategy.
Content issues include:
- Do website pages need new or reworked content to support primary keywords (as mentioned above)?
- Do title tags need to be reworked to support target keywords?
- Do META descriptions need to be written or reworked? (Descriptions with calls-to-action generate higher clickthrough rates.)
- Does unique, keyword-optimized content need to be created for target website pages?
- Do H1 tag headlines need to be optimized on website pages for target keywords?
- What will the internal linking strategy look like, including what pages will be linked to, how often, where on the page, and with what anchor text?
Blog strategy issues include:
- Who is the target audience (sometimes different from the main SEO campaign target audience)?
- What will the process be for developing topics and producing content?
- How will blog content be promoted to the target audience (e.g., social media, e-mail marketing)?
Technical SEO issues include:
- Do 301 redirects need to be set up?
- Does a custom 404 error page need to be created?
- What duplicate content issues need to be resolved?
- Will canonical pages resolve duplicate content issues?
- Is the website’s URL structure sound?
- Is the proposed internal linking structure sound, or are there broken link, naming convention, link value flow, and body content link issues?
- Is the website’s page-loading speed sufficiently fast?
- Is the website mobile friendly? (This is fast becoming a major on-site issue.)
- Is a robots.txt file in place to properly guide Google crawlers to the pages you want them to see?
- Is an XML sitemap in place, to further guide Google crawlers and help them understand the nature of your content?
A comprehensive on-site SEO audit requires input and review from strategists, content marketers and Web developers. Leave out any of these three areas, and fatal flaws may plague the ensuing SEO campaign.
5. Off-site Strategy Development
The off-site SEO strategy is defined at the final stage. In general, the off-site strategy is aimed at increasing domain and page authority, addressing Google penalty recovery (if needed), and determining how much and which types of activities are needed in the campaign month-to-month.
Commonly used methods to achieve these objectives include creating selective entries for major directory listings, creating online business profiles, publishing guest blog posts, initiating sponsorships and acquiring local citations. Relevant, natural links are earned by leveraging content assets such as infographics, white papers, e-books, videos and research reports; evaluating these assets and considering whether additional ones should be developed are also important. Analyzing a competitor backlink profile can be a useful input in determining the off-site strategy, because it reveals areas where your website has a competitive advantage on which to build, and areas where you fall short and need to make up ground.
As you can see, an SEO strategy is highly customized around the specific needs of each company. This is why “cookie-cutter” SEO campaigns are destined to fail. A canned strategy that fails to account for the inevitable variations in target audience, value propositions, on-site SEO readiness and off-site SEO position cannot generate a set of monthly campaign tactics that are coherently focused on producing high-volume, high-quality organic website traffic. SEO strategy takes time, but the payoff in campaign ROI is enormous.