How to create an SEO strategy

This SEO strategy guide will walk you through the various steps to producing a successful plan, from defining your target audience to producing exceptional, link worthy content. Many years of trial and error have gone into this strategy guide and although SEO has undergone significant transformation, these fundamental principles remain the same.

Before you think about keywords and content, we first need to cover the absolute fundamentals of search marketing, context.

Who is your target audience and their personas?

If you’re just starting up online we would always recommend defining your target audience. Your target audience will define the types of keywords and content you will look to produce. Furthermore, it will help you understand the content’s tone of voice and wider branding, user journey and sales funnels.

Tone of voice

Let’s assume that your target audience are “french wine connoisseurs”, the wine experts who like to understand the different wine appellations, wine regions and their history. Wine connoisseurs understand wine, their enthusiasm for knowledge and understanding helps them make informed decisions about their next purchase, They are typically big spenders. The style of writing and tone of voice needs to be informative, articulate and enticing. For the average wine drinker, it’s probably not going to spark the same level of interest. The average wine drinker just wants to know which sweet wine to buy. Understanding the different audiences will help guide the content strategy and keep them engaged. The more engaged your readership is, the more likely a conversion will occur.

What if a keyword is relevant to more than one target audience?

The user experience is crucial for both mobile and desktop users, but it also helps the different target audiences navigate to deeper pages on your site. If the wine connoisseur and the average wine drinker land on the same page, navigation becomes a vital part of separating the user funnels.

Product tags, filters and sub-categories will help to guide the different personas, FAQs and hotlinks (links that take users to the relevant part of the same page) can also act as support for both users and search engines.

Keyword Research

Keyword research will help you determine individual search volumes, identify competitors & wider content strategy. But before you get carried away with targeting keywords with the highest search volume, it’s worth noting the following.

Search Intent & Context

Keyword research will help you determine individual search volumes, identify competitors & wider content strategy. But before you get carried away with targeting keywords with the highest search volume, it’s worth noting the following.
  • Glasses – 2000 monthly searches
  • Wine Glasses – 1400 monthly searches
  • Buy Glasses – 1100 monthly searches
  • Buy Wine Glasses – 900 monthly searches

As a wine retailer there is only one of these we would focus on, and it’s not the top 3.

“Glasses” could be spectacles, “wine glasses” although high in search volume, could be those researching the best wine glasses and therefore not looking to purchase at present.

“Buy Glasses” could be your grandad looking to replace his broken reading glasses, and that leaves just one left.

“Buy Wine Glasses” is likely to serve the users search intent the best, but it’s by no means optimised.
Assume that you have different types of wine glasses, made from glass or crystal etc. Creating sub-categories and targeting those keywords to the relevant products will yield even better results (more conversions).

If you’re unsure about a keywords search intent

It’s not always easy to understand a keyword and the search intent behind it. Search the keyword in Google and analyse the results it returns, this is a simple way to understand search intent but it’s by no means an accurate representation of click through rates or conversions.

If you really want to know if a keyword is worth targeting, setting up a Google ad campaign targeting variations of that keyword will give you some vital data. Click through rates (the number of people who saw the ad divided by the number of clicks) and conversions can be tracked through Google Ads, you will have a clearer picture as to which keywords to target (and which ones to avoid).

Categorise your keywords

Once you have a nice list of keywords group them by categories or topics, that way you can start to visually see how the content plan may play out.

For wine retailers, break down the keywords by wine types, countries, regions, grapes, guides & FAQs etc..

We would recommend using a tool like SEMrush for this, as it will help you to find closely related keywords, questions and most importantly, competitors. It also allows for easy exporting of keyword rankings and competitor backlinks. Majestic and Ahrefs also provide good backlink data.

Competitor Analysis

Competitor analysis should help you identify the different pages, categories and posts that make up their SEO strategy, you can very easily find out what keywords they are targeting and any backlinks (links from other websites pointing to theirs) they may have accumulated.

Screaming Frog

A tool like Screaming Frog can extract information from your competitor’s websites that will benefit your SEO strategy. Screaming Frog simulates a crawler bot by following all of the links on your competitor’s site and extracting key information such as URLs and site structure, page titles and much more.

By understanding your competitor’s sites, you can start to match up keyword data to pages, laying the foundations for a content strategy.

Content Silos

Content Silos will help to group certain topics under one main theme. There are two distinct types of content silos:

Physical Silo

A physical silo relies on URL structures to group core topics under a unified directory, this makes it easier to manage content, navigation, and internal linking. Here are some examples of physical silos:

/boots/ankle-boots/
/red-wine/french/product-name/
/gallery/bedrooms/

By structuring your site this way, it helps search engines and users better understand a website’s core themes. Additionally, any backlinks you acquire at these deeper levels will filter up the silo, helping the core topics to rank better.

However, if you have a website with multiple topics or lots of deeper content, it can become quite messy to manage. We would never recommend a physical silo with a depth level of more than 3 (/page1/page2/page3) due to lengthy URLs. Furthermore, deeper pages are harder to access for users and search engines.

Virtual Silo

A virtual silo relies on internal linking to help search engines and users understand the context of a site. A virtual silo will typically have flat URL structures and rely on navigation, sidebars and content maps to help build the internal link relationships.

Wikipedia is a good example of a virtual silo.

There is a lot of speculation as to which silo type is better, we have seen clients rank well using both types.

However, having simplified URL structures looks cleaner on mobile devices, and having the keyword in the URL may also benefit click-through rates too.

Content Production

By this stage, you will have a clear understanding of who your target audience is and their personas, competitors, keywords and a complete picture of what your content plan should look like. But before you put paper to pen or hire someone to do it, you need to know what to write for each page

Skyscraper Technique

Although not an exact science, the skyscraper technique allows you to extract the common themes and headers of the top performing pages for any given search term.

For example, if you’re a local locksmith and you want to produce content around “emergency locksmith”, complete a search in Google and analyse the top ten results for that keyword.

You can use a tool like URL Profiler to extract all of the headers and analyse them for common themes.

Once you have a list of common headers and topics, create the page plan around those common themes. To improve the page, use the SEMRush keyword magic tool to find related keywords and questions, build out an FAQ section for even better contextual relevance.

Technical Writing

Technical writing is the ability to understand content through the eyes of a search engine, or more specifically, a natural language processor (NLP).

We will cover this subject in more detail later, but once you have created the page template and the content is written for each section, head over to text razor – https://www.textrazor.com/demo – and paste your content into the box.

Text razor emulates an NLP and looks to identify and understand words and sentences on the page. Any words it picks up (known as entities) will produce a topic score.

The topic scoring is important with a score closer to 1 indicating the certainty in which a machine can understand the context of the page.

Run your competitor pages through text razor to get a feel for what topics they score highly for, look to replicate a similar score for these topics (if not better).

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to get caught up in trying to rank for generic terms with high search volume (and typically much higher competition). Don’t be afraid to produce content around longer tail keywords which typically serve the users search intent much better. Make sure you consider your sales funnel when producing content. Each page should act as a stepping stone to the treasure.

And lastly, don’t rule out keywords that are loosely related to your product or service, a great example of this can be found in the hospitality industry. If you’re a hotel, consider producing content or a directory for things to do in the area. That way you capture an audience who may be in the research stage but has now been introduced to your brand.

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