Want more traffic from Google?
While doing your research, you must have seen this…
A business which has just started a few months (or a year) ago eventually gets to the top of a Google search and makes a lot of buzz on the internet.
How did they do it? Do they know some secret SEO strategy? Or maybe they bribed Google’s employee to give them an advantage?
Fortunately for everyone, bribing is not the secret to their success.
It’s a simple, solid SEO strategy they adopted to make it possible.
In this post, I’m going to expose the full SEO plan that growing brands follow to skyrocket their ranking on search engines.
It’s a six-step process, and I’ll explain everything step-by-step.
Warning: If you’re lazy, want some kind of shortcut, or think SEO is a one day game, I’d suggest you leave this page right now. It’s not for you.
- SEO tool setup (Monitor performance and growth)
- Keyword research
- Content strategy
- On-site optimization
- Off-site optimization
- Technical SEO
Let’s get into each section one by one.
Step 1: SEO Tool Setup (Monitor Performance and Growth)
An important thing you need – before anything else – is a proper system in place so that you can easily measure your website’s performance and growth from day one.
SEO is a long-term investment. You can’t afford to run the whole strategy and end up with no metrics to measure your ROI.
Though there are many tools available in the market, the following two tools are essential when you start.
Add your website into Google Search Console
Google Search Console a.k.a. GSC (formerly known as Google Webmaster tool) is a free web service by Google for webmasters that helps you monitor and maintain your site’s presence in Google search results.
GSC has many valuable features including:
- indexing your content fast
- knowing which queries your site appears in the search results
- monitoring backlinks
- fixing website errors
- Submitting your sitemap (more on this later)
- and lots more
Here’re the steps to add your site to Google Search Console:
#1. Login to your GSC account and click ‘Add Property’
#2. Next, add your homepage URL into the given textbox.
The last step you need to do is verify your website.
Here’s a detailed guideline on how to do it:
Setup Google Analytics
Another tool from Google’s family is Google Analytics. It allows you to monitor your website traffic and analyze the visiting pattern and behavior of your readers.
Here’re some cool things you can do with Google Analytics:
- Determine the source of your website traffic
- Identify your top performing pages
- Identify your worst performing pages
- Determine where your best visitors are located
- Find out where people abandon your site
- and much more
Again, adding GA to your website is simple and straightforward. Here’s the process:
#1. Login to your GA account and click Admin
#2. In the left panel, select the account in which you want to add your website, and then click “Create Property” button
#3. Fill in your website details and click “Get Tracking ID”
Now you need to add that tracking code to your website. Refer to this guide for more details.
Pro Tip: Integrate your Google Analytics account with Google Search Console. You’ll get a whole lot of useful SEO information inside your Google Analytics account.
Step 2: Keyword Research
Keyword research is the first step of any SEO strategy.
You can’t rank well until you know what words or phrases you want to rank for, and what content you need to develop for that.
The purpose of keyword research is to find the right keywords for your business, to know what it’ll take to rank for them and come up with some content ideas as well.
Let’s see how to do it effectively.
Collect core keywords
A common mistake most businesses do is jumping straight into a keyword research tool from the beginning.
And it can costs them big sometimes.
They end up wasting hours and found nothing suitable. Or worst, come out with a wrong targeted list of keywords.
The first thing you need is to brainstorm and jot down some words and phrases that you think relates to your business goals.
For example, if you’re a sports shoe manufacturing company, you may come up with terms like jogging shoes, sportswear, running tips, buy running shoes, and many more.
It’s basically your brain dump process. And these words and phrases will push your keyword research process in the right direction.
At this stage, some unrelated terms will come to your mind but don’t worry about that. Just jot down everything. You’ll filter those irrelevant terms later on.
Pro Tip: Think of angles and demands you want to cover and then think of possible search queries people may use for that.
Discover long tail keywords
Okay, now you have a list of some keywords. But obviously, these aren’t the words you want to target.
Most of them will be useless to you. And some of them will be so competitive that ranking for them is almost impossible.
For now, you need to use these terms as a base to go further in your keyword research process.
You have to find some long tail keywords that are less competitive and have the potential to bring you the moderate amount of targeted traffic.
If you don’t know what long tail keywords are, these are phrases (3+ words long) that are highly specific, and the people using these keywords are more targeted to their problems and tend to buy more often.
Though broad keywords holds huge amount of traffic, long tail keywords have a much higher conversion rate.
And the best part is, long-tail keywords account for 70% of all web searches.
In other words, long-tail keywords are how people actually search the internet.
To find long tail keywords for your website, there are many tools available online. Here are a few of them:
- Google keyword planner
- Keyword tool
- Answer the public
- Google Auto Suggest
Study your competitors
Every story has a villain.
And SEO is no exception.
Many other websites are targeting the same keywords that you have in your list. And some of them already rank on top.
To beat your competitors, you must know them well. You must know their strengths and weaknesses. You must know exactly where they stand so that you can make a plan to beat them.
So the question you may ask is how can I spy on my competitors.
The right question is what to spy. What information you should look for when studying the competitors.
When you enter your rival’s website address into an analysis tool, you may get bombarded with random numbers and complicated metrics. You may feel overwhelmed.
That being said, to know what to find is more important than knowing how to find.
Initially, you should be interested in only 3 things.
- What keywords are your competitors targeting?
- What content do they have based on those keywords?
- What are the sources of their backlinks?
Use any of the competitor tools listed above to spy on your competitors for the metrics I’ve listed. You’ll have a better understanding of how you measure up against them.
Identify the intent and context of each keyword
An important part of your SEO strategy – that is often overlooked – is finding the intent of your target searchers, and then understanding the possible contexts so that you can develop specific content that will solve a very specific problem.
When people start searching, they may have a specific goal in the mind. Or maybe they’re just looking for general information about the topic.
For example, when someone searches “interior house paint,” are they looking to buy the paint, tips on interior house paint, or design ideas for the phrase interior house paint?
Once you get the intent of your target searchers, you have to find the context of their search.
For example, a searcher looking for design ideas for interior house paint may want to brighten his kitchen, while another one may want to make his living room look bigger.
You see, that is two different context behind the same search (intent).
You have to brainstorm possible context for each keyword so that you can develop the specific content for the user.
Group the keywords and create a final list
The last critical part of your keyword research process is keywords grouping.
When you generate a lot of keywords, things become chaotic. Everything looks random and difficult to grasp. You need to organize the list and create metrics that you can easily understand and make a plan out of it.
Map out what keywords belong to what pages so that you can avoid creating pages that compete against each other for the same keyword.
It may feel tedious and boring, but this step is necessary.
Step 3: Content Strategy
You’ve figured out what your target audience is searching, and you’ve finalized the keywords you want to target and the intent and context behind each search.
Now it’s time to develop content around these topics.
Write Crazy, In-Depth Content
More than 2 million articles are published every day. And most of them are dreaming of ranking on the first page of Google search results.
But that doesn’t happen.
You can’t just churn out some random articles and expect results. That’s like throwing a dart at a bullseye… blindfolded.
You need to be strategic, aware of the existing top content, and able to find the gap you can fulfill.
Here’s the process:
#1. Enter your targeted keyword in Google and open the first result (not sponsored)
#2. Carefully look at the content and analyze everything. Content type, the structure, content length, keyword density, angle of coverage, usage of tags, and more. The more information you get, the better it is.
#3. After analyzing the content, ask yourself what more you can add to this. Are there any gaps that needs attention? Or maybe you can cover this topic from a different angle.
#4. Repeat the same process (from 1 to 3) for the next 9 search results.
#5. Now after analyzing the top 10 pages based on your targeted keyword, it’s time to write your content. And aim to write 10x better than all the existing content.
Add an ascension path to each page you publish
So what is an ascension path?
An ascension path is the next step that you’d like your readers to take after consuming your content. Whatever that next step is depends on your goal.
If your goal is to generate leads, then you can offer a lead magnet in the form of an easy to consume checklist. Your reader would need to enter their contact information in order to gain access to this valuable piece of content.
The most effective form of lead magnet aligns with the content they are currently consuming.
For example, if your article is about “11 Best Vegan Weight Loss Foods”, then you can offer a lead magnet called “The Vegan Diet Checklist” to generate qualified leads for your business. After reading your article, the next ascension path is crystal clear.
Regularly publish new content
SEO isn’t a one day game. It’s a long-term capital investment. And you need to be consistent with publishing new content.
The more quality content you publish, the faster you’ll grow. Search engines will get the impression that you’re active, and readers stick with you, too.
So, is there any standard or mark for how often you should publish?
Fortunately not. It varies depending upon your niche, business model, and market demands.
For example, if you’re an online publishing brand who writes about businesses, you may need to publish dozens of articles in a day. On the other hand, if you’re a small company providing website designing services, publish one post a week would be enough.
So, is it necessary to write long, in-depth content only?
You don’t need to write something groundbreaking every time. You can also try some short posts – not to rank for search engines but improves your authority.
What matters is that you’re consistent.
Update the old content
Some businesses make a mistake of focusing more on producing new content but forget their old content along the way.
Unfortunately, search engines don’t forget your content. It stays indexed in Google’s database for as long as it’s accessible on the internet.
As the time passes by, your content becomes old. What is fresh today, becomes outdated and stale tomorrow. And neither search engines nor your readers would prefer old, musty information.
You should keep your content updated because…
- It gives the impression to search engines that you care enough to provide updated information to your audience, which gives a performance boost to your ranking.
- Updating existing content is much easier than writing it from scratch
- It gives you another chance to promote and reach to the new audience
Pro Tip: When you update your content, show “last updated” date instead of “published date.”
Step 4: On-site Optimization (a.k.a On-page SEO)
Writing great content is just one part of the deal. You have to optimize the web pages, too, so that the search engine algorithm can understand your content with ease.
Make SEO friendly URLs
Look at the following URL:
Does it make sense? Can you guess the content of the page by reading these numbers?
It’s complicated. For both, humans as well as search engines.
Now look at this:
Easy. Isn’t it?
It’s short, clear, and you can get the idea of what the content is about by reading the URL.
Google prefer URLs which is:
- short and easy to understand
- have the primary keyword
- Use a hyphen to separate the words. For example, https://yourwebsite.com/seo-strategy
Read more about URL structure here.
Write an SEO friendly title
I won’t sugarcoat this.
The title (headline) is the most vital part of any web page. It’s even more important than the actual content.
The headline is the first thing people read on a web page. If you fail to get the reader’s attention there, you’ll lose a potential buyer. And the fewer clicks you get, the more your position will go down in search engines.
Here’re some of my tips for writing headlines:
- Keep the headline under 65 characters. Longer than this will cut in the search results
- Include your targeted keyword in the title. Earlier the better
- Make sure your headline awakes curiosity or promise something
Create an optimized meta description
A meta description is an HTML tag that summarizes the page’s content. Search engines mostly show the snippet of meta description below the headline when someone searches for phrases.
Here’s how it looks:
Search engines examine the meta description to get the idea of page’s content so that they can serve the best results to the user’s query.
Keep the following points in mind while writing a meta description:
- Keep it around 155-160 characters only
- It should contain the focus keyword
- It should contain the call-to-action
Link to authority sites in your content
When you mention some facts and figures in your content, you refer to the sources.
These external (outbound) links help to increase your credibility because
- It shows you’ve done your research and have expertise in the subject matter
- It builds your relationship with other domain experts
- It makes visitors want to come back for analysis on future topics
Create internal linking
Internal linking is cross-referring to different pages of your website.
It’s as significant as external linking because a well-structured interlinking distributes link juice between the pages and enhances the site’s overall authority in search.
Create an excel sheet (or some other system) to archive all the important pages of your website and categorize them according to the topics and keywords so that you can easily find and refer to a relevant page when needed.
Fix broken links
Over a period of time, some links get broken in your website. It happens because the web page you have linked may not be available anymore. It might have been deleted or redirected to some other address.
Broken (non-working) links annoy users and discourage them from using the website which gives a bad experience to the user, and it’s not good from the point of SEO.
Search engines take broken links abnormally as it restricts the flow of link equity throughout your site. The more you have it, search engine robots mark you as a low-quality website.
To find broken links on your website, you can try any of the following tools.
Pro Tip: Look at your content archive and check if you have a related page that you can replace to fix that broken link.
Use ALT and H tags properly
ALT tag is used to give names to images.
Search engines are unable to identify images accurately, so a proper name is given to them in the form of text. If an image doesn’t load on the browser for any reason, the ALT tag description associated with that image will be displayed on the screen.
Another influential HTML tag is H (or heading).
It indicates the priority of the text as H1 for the main title, H2 for the subtitle and so on.
A breadcrumb is an internal navigation scheme that reveals the user’s current location on a website.
If your website is small or the structure is pretty simple, you don’t need breadcrumb. But if your site’s structure is complicated, you have to guide the users through the website in a logical way.
Again, it generates a better user experience which means more points from search engines.
Use schema markup
It’s a technique to structure and optimize your content in such a way that it stands out as a rich snippet in the search result.
For example, you search “best tools for SEO” on Google, and you’ll get the following result (things change with time so you may see a different image).
As you can see the result on top is coming from a website that ranks on position number 3 in the actual list for this keyword.
This is the rich snippet, and you’re seeing this result from “Oberlo” because they’ve optimized this page using schema markup.
For those who don’t know what schema markup is, Schema markup is code that you put on your website to help the search engines return more informative results for users.
It helps your website to rank better for the variety of content types like articles, local business, reviews, and more.
Learn more about it here.
Did you know when viewing a website, it takes users less than two-tenths of a second to form a first impression?
Of course, users couldn’t read the content in such a short time. They get a sense of how your website is designed and structured.
If they see a page with a long wall of congested text, full of distracting images or ads, they’ll quickly click the back button.
Content matter but if the design and appearance of the website aren’t good, even your great content can’t help you.
You have to present and design your pages in such a way that it appeals to your readers, instead of pushing them away.
Here’re some of my tips to enhance readability:
- Write short paragraphs and use bullets whenever possible
- Give proper white spaces between words and paragraphs. Let your content breathe
- Don’t use non-relevant images or other graphics that distract the users
Optimize your website load time
How long do you wait before you leave a website if it doesn’t load on your browser?
Let me guess …
Is it 3 seconds?
Or, if you’re a man of patience – like me – you still couldn’t wait more than 5-7 seconds.
No, I’m not making up these figures. A study says that consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.
In fact, Google has also confirmed that they take website speed as a ranking factor.
To get Google’s love, you need to speed up your website. Optimize the code, compress images, and kill anything that makes you slow.
Following are some free tools where you can check your web page speed:
Create liquid pages (mobile friendly websites)
Your web pages should be like water.
You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot.
In other words, you should have a responsive website that has the ability to restructure itself according to the screen size of the user.
Because the number of people browsing the internet on mobile has already surpassed the number of people using the internet on desktop.
A study found six in 10 internet users start shopping on one device but continue or finish on a different one. People are constantly switching between devices and expect a website to give a soothing experience across all the platforms.
Note: Don’t create a separate version of the website for mobile users. This will steal authority and link equity from your primary domain.
Step 5: Off-site Optimization (a.k.a Offpage SEO)
This is probably the most challenging part of an SEO strategy. Here you take actions outside of your website to impact your rankings in the search results.
Let’s learn about this.
Create a link building strategy
Link building is so important that some people call it off-site optimization. This is the most influential part that affects your search engine ranking.
In fact, I wouldn’t mind saying the difference between a website that ranks well and the one that doesn’t depend on the quality of your backlink profile.
You can’t just rely on your quality content and on-site optimization techniques to get SEO traction. You have to generate some quality inbound links to see the actual results.
Though I can’t cover everything in this post, the following are some tips:
- Simply ask your colleagues, partners, clients that have a website or blog to give you a backlink
- Guest post on other related blogs and add a link to your web page
- Find where your competitors are generating links from, and reach out to those websites.
Here’s a detailed SEO link building strategy that you can follow.
Create your social media strategy
Almost half of the earth’s population is on social media. That’s the biggest market in the world.
Your content is a waste if it doesn’t reach the right audience. Social media is an opportunity to reach the maximum number of people at any given time.
You need to develop a social media plan so that you can reach maximum people in a more efficient way.
The more people know you, the better your brand will be. The better your brand, the authority will boost. The more the authority, your ranking will increase.
Here’re the steps you can take to use social media to amplify your message:
- Get crystal clear on who your audience are, their demographic, their interests, and the social network they like to spend their time online
- Create a business profile on each social network
- Create a social media calendar to share your content, quotes, tips, and your industry expertise
- Engage with every person that interacts with your business’ social media account
- Build a community
Participate in the top industry forums
What do you do when you can’t find an answer on Google?
You ask a friend, or you get into a related industry forum and post your question there.
A whole lot of users are browsing related forums, searching new information, tips, reviews, and much more. There you have a chance to participate in the discussion, answering questions, and leave a backlink to your relevant page for more information if needed.
You’ll get new readers which means more traffic and ranking.
Here’re some big Q&A platforms where you can find industry-specific boards:
Register a local business in Google map (Local SEO)
Let’s do a task.
Open up Google on your mobile and ask “Thai food near me.” Magically Google will display you the location of a nearby restaurant where you can enjoy Thai food.
So, how does Google know about these businesses? It’s because these businesses are listed in Google’s database.
If you have a brick and mortar business and you want to target a particular area, you should add your business to Google business listing so that local users can find you easily.
Here’s the guide of how to add your business to Google map
Collect positive reviews about your product and services
People read reviews before they take a purchase decision. What others think about you does matter to people and search engines, too.
So, encourage your users to write reviews about your services so that you can get some SEO boost.
Here’re a few tips from Google on how to write great reviews.
Step 6: Technical SEO
Besides on page and off page SEO, there are some technical aspects that affect your search ranking. You have to consider them on the website.
Run your website on HTTPS
Security is a top priority for Google.
And Google wants all other businesses and webmasters to make sure they secure their website with HTTPS.
HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol over SSL) creates an encrypted link between a server and a browser so that all your data and communication happens coded and securely.
In short, HTTPS is a ranking factor. And Google has already confirmed it on its website in 2014.
Create and submit your website sitemap
A sitemap is an XML file containing a full archive of all the webpage’s URL of your website.
It helps the search engine crawlers find all the web pages and index them faster.
If your website is small (just a few web pages), generating XML sitemap is not necessary. But if your site is big (have hundreds or thousands of pages), you must create an XML file.
If you’re using a CMS like WordPress, chances are your sitemap file is already there. Enter the following address, and you’ll get it.
Though Google will find this XML file by itself, you can submit it manually, too.
#1. Login to your GSC account
#2. Navigate to “Sitemaps” from the left pane
#3. Submit URL where your XML sitemap file exists
Create a robots.txt file
A robot is a text file at the root of your site that tells Google what not to crawl and index from your website.
You may have some data (or files) on your web server that you don’t want to share in the public domain. It could be personal profiles, internal database information, or any other sensitive data.
And you want the crawler to ignore a specific directory or page from indexing into Google search database.
Is it important for SEO?
No, it doesn’t impact your SERP. It’s just that you help search engines to crawl relevant pages but not waste time indexing unrelated data.
Creating robots.txt file is quite easy.
#1. Create a text file and rename it to “robots.txt.”
#2. Enter the following code into the file (modify according to your need) and save it.
#3. Upload this file to the root directory of your website.
Read more about this here.
Create a custom error page (404 page)
If you open a page on your website that doesn’t exist, you receive an error with a message like “Page not found.”
The problem with this type of soft 404 error page is, though it says the page not found, it sends a success code (200) to the browser. Now search engines get the impression that this page exists and they index these non-existent pages in the search.
So, you should have a custom 404 error page on your website, and redirect all the ‘not found’ pages there so that users and search engines can figure out what has happened.
Define a preferred domain (WWW or non-WWW)
Define a preferred domain (WWW or non-WWW)
You may have noticed that some websites don’t have ‘WWW’ in the domain name while others have. It is because of the domain preference they set.
For search engines, “www.example.com” and “example.com” are two different pages. It’s your responsibility to tell Google what domain version of your website you want to use in the search results.
To set domain preference, follow these steps:
#1. Login to your GSC account
#2. Click “Site Settings”
#3. In the preferred domain section, select the version you want.
It doesn’t matter what you choose (WWW or non-WWW), but the significant point is you choose.
Set the website language
Do you have multiple versions of your website for different languages or regions?
If so, you should tell Google so that it can fetch the appropriate version of your page depending on the language and region of the searcher.
Though Google is smart enough to find the alternate versions of your websites, it’s better if you specifically direct search engine in the right direction.
Here’s the complete guide of how to do it.
Bonus Step: Keep Updated With SEO
SEO is evolving. What’s is working today may fail tomorrow. New updates and techniques are coming up regularly.
That said, you can’t rely on one technique permanently. You have to stay on your toe and stay updated on the latest SEO trends.
Here’re some useful blogs you can follow to keep updated with SEO:
Over to You
I won’t bore you anymore. You’ve seen all the steps, and it’s your time to take action.
See you on Google!