SEO Beginners Guide – 9 Steps to Build an SEO Strategy that Works
If you’re new to SEO and want to figure out how to build an SEO strategy that can help you rank higher in search engines, then read my SEO beginner’s guide.
Throughout, I guide you through how to create an SEO strategy and what you should be doing and provide you with SEO tools online that can help you achieve your goals and set you up for success.
What is an SEO Strategy?
An SEO strategy is a set of rules to follow that will help you rank your website’s content higher in search engines like Google. Following these SEO rules will give you a good foundation to drive more organic traffic to your website and help with brand awareness and conversions.
An effective SEO strategy takes time to implement. The results for a new website can take time to be seen, typically around 6 – 8 months, with a website that already has a decent amount of traffic only taking a few days or weeks for any content changes to be reflected in the search engine page results (SERPs).
What SEO Strategies are there?
- Content Marketing – the creation and promotion of online content like pages, articles, and videos, to help diversify and maximize your online presence.
- Site Optimization – the optimization of on-page, off-page and technical SEO elements like headings, keywords, links, and structured data to help improve the presence of your website in search engines.
- Link Building – the building of links back to your website through email outreach, social media, and guest posts to help strengthen your websites authority in search engines and increase brand awareness
What types of SEO are there?
- On-page SEO – also known as on-site SEO, on-page SEO is the optimization of content related elements including headings, meta title, meta descriptions, keywords, content structure, and internal links.
- Off-page SEO – this type of SEO typically refers to inbound links from other websites, which can help show your website as a trustworthy source of information to search engines
- Technical SEO – this refers to everything to do with your site that is not to do with the content like setting your site to use HTTPS, schema markup, canonical tags, and robots.txt to help with crawlability.
Benefits of an SEO Strategy for Websites
- Increased website traffic
- Increased brand recognition
- Better ROI than other marketing channels
- Your SEO efforts can be tracked
- Improves user engagement
- Affordable for small business
- Generate leads
1. A Good SEO Strategy Starts with The Right Content Topics
Like any project you work on, you want to be working on the right subject to get the results you want. So your first step in your strategic SEO plan to get your content marketing off on the right foot is to pick some good topics.
If you’re writing a blog or doing content marketing for your business, you’re going to want to find 2 – 3 topics to focus your content creation around.
These are the topics that you’ll start writing content about. Doing this will help you gain authority in each area and become a go-to source of information on those topics.
That means you will want to develop new ideas and dive in-depth into each one before adding more topics to your content schedule. Aim to write 15 – 20 posts each to encompass a topic thoroughly.
Make sure you don’t go too niche with what topics you pick, as you don’t want to run out of content to write about in 5 or so posts. Do a quick Google search to find out what others are writing about for your chosen topics, and write down all your ideas.
If you’ve chosen well, you’ll have way more than 15 post ideas for each topic. But don’t start celebrating yet, cause a good content strategy for SEO must include the next step.
Related: Tips on Writing Content for SEO.
2. Do Keyword Research
While you’ve been finding your top-level topics, which ultimately are your top-level, short-tail keywords to try and rank for, you’ve no doubt come across various other long-tail keywords that you can rank for.
- Short-tail keyword = ‘SEO’
- Long-tail keyword = ‘SEO for bloggers’
- Even longer-tail keyword = ‘SEO for bloggers using WordPress’
Before you write any content, you’ll want to perform keyword research to determine the search volume for the posts you’ve identified you could write about.
Using tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, Ubersuggest, and Google’s Keyword Tool will let you see the potential search volume for your chosen keyword. Some even give you an SEO difficulty score, letting you know whether or not it’s possible to rank for it, given how much competition there is on the subject.
Don’t get too bogged down in the values. Just be sure to find keywords with high search volume for your overall topic. These keywords will then become the posts you’ll write about on your site.
Performing keyword research can seem daunting for many SEO beginners at first. And knowing where to start and which ones to choose can sometimes seem overwhelming. I’ve been there. These keyword research tools for SEO I’ve mentioned above help you distinguish high search and low competition opportunities that will give you a good starting point on what keywords to focus your content marketing.
After that, it’s time to research what content is already ranking for the terms you’ve chosen.
3. Do Competitor Research
Once you’ve found your list of long-tail keywords, it’s time to see what content is already ranking for those terms. SEOs call this part of an SEO content strategy Competitor Research.
Using many of the same tools you did for your keyword research, you’ll be able to type in your keyword and do a competitor analysis, resulting in a list of websites and pages that already rank for that keyword.
Your task at this point is to go through the top SERPs and analyze their content to find out why they rank where they do. Again, it seems daunting if you’re just starting to learn about SEO, but you’ll quickly find that many top sites use the same keywords in their main page title, subheadings, and image labels.
Write these down to create a skeleton outline for your post or page, and take note of any anchor text they are using on their internal links, as these can be a valuable source of keywords for future related posts.
If you can replicate but not plagiarise or exactly copy what they are doing, it will give your content a better chance of ranking higher.
Of course, just having well-structured and well-written SEO content isn’t always going to get you to the number one spot. Other SEO aspects can hinder your page’s overall performance, including backlinks and site speed. But it’s a good start.
Related: Benefits of SEO for small business
4. Create Content Based on User Intent
When writing content, you want to try and focus your content around what the people are searching for in search engines to try and match the subject better. At its most basic, your content needs to answer their question or show the content they expect to see.
Writing content around user intent will help you drive more traffic to your site, as well as get your content shown at the top of Google’s search pages in special areas called featured snippets.
There are four different types of content that you could write to capture various people based on the intent of their searches.
These types of search intent include:
- Informational Content – some looking for an answer to a question, or more information on a subject – ie. ‘How many SEO professionals does it take to change a lightbulb’
- Transactional Content – someone looking to perform a purchase – ie. ‘Buy VW Beetle’
- Navigational Content – someone looking for a specific website ie. ‘TuffYeti’
- Investigative Content – someone looking for more information on a product before they buy – ie. ‘Semrush Reviews’
Try and structure the content and language of your posts and website pages to the type of search intent you’re focusing on. It’s also common practice not to let your site visitors guess or make it difficult for them to find the answer to their search.
Add the answer to the search query you are answering in a paragraph at the top of your posts, and it can help you snag that featured snippet at the top of Google, even if your content doesn’t rank high up the first page.
It might seem counterproductive to do this, but it can help you get more website traffic, and your site be seen as a valuable resource of information.
5. Optimize On-Page SEO activities
After doing your keyword research and writing your searcher intent-focused content, it’s time to put step five of your new SEO content strategy into play.
Optimizing your content for search.
You can do this while writing or after, but it’s best to do it before you press the publish button.
How do you optimize your content? Here’s a brief on-page SEO checklist:
- Add keywords to your headings
- Add sub headings with keywords and keywords within your content (don’t keyword stuff)
- Structure your article correctly – add an answer area to try and snag that featured snippet
- Add optimized images and media to your content (file size is important)
- Add keywords to your image alt tags
- Add meta titles (max 60 characters) & meta descriptions (max 160 characters)
- Add keywords to your post URL
- Add internal links to related content using related keywords for anchor text
- Make sure your post is responsive works on mobile
Thankfully, if you’re new or want an advantage over the competition, many SEO tools can help you with your on-page SEO optimization.
Tools like Surfer can help in many areas of content SEO, like post planning. It can help you with:
- Keywords based on query intent
- Plan content
- What content you need to add to your posts, how many headings & images
- How long your content needs to be to rank higher in search
It can take some time to learn, but well worth the $49/month price tag.
6. Technical SEO – Improve Site Speed
A good SEO strategy combines many of the facets for an overall improvement of your rankings. Without good technical SEO, your on-page SEO will be affected, as will your offline SEO factors.
If you’re building a website for business, then be sure to get your site structure in place, with the top-level pages (often called pillar pages) internally linking to the suitable sub-topics. Structuring your site will help search engines crawl your site and find relevant content quicker and easier.
If you’ve already got a site, be sure to do a technical SEO audit of your website, as this will point out any issues or errors, along with actionable hints on how to fix your SEO issues.
Here’s a quick technical SEO checklist to get you started:
- Make sure your site is running on HTTPS. I.e., has an SSL certificate to offer a secure area for your visitors to browse.
- Make sure you redirect to a singular instance of your domain, whichever it is. i.e., if you pick https://www.tuffyeti.com as your main URL, then redirect https://tuffyeti.com, http://www.tuffyeti.com, and http://tuffyeti.com to https://www.tuffyeti.com
- Optimize your images for speed. Use image optimization tools like TinyPng to reduce the file size of your images. Also, pick appropriate file extensions for your content.
- Setup your Robots.txt file to ensure you have no blocked pages or no no-index pages you want to be indexed and make them easier to crawl.
- Make sure you have no broken links or 404 pages
- Make sure your website is mobile friendly, responsive, and loads fast on mobile as well as desktop
- Check canonical tags to make sure you don’t have duplicate content
- Add structured data/schema markup to your site, posts, and articles to help them appear in search better
7. Link Building SEO Strategy – Outreach
Once you’ve optimized your content and pressed that publish button, it’s time to start promoting it and building backlinks.
Depending on the type of content you’ve created, it will be easier to build backlinks to it. Typically data-led content, infographics, how-to posts, ebooks, case studies, videos, and reports can quickly make links naturally without much effort on your part.
These types of content are also highly shareable, so promoting your quality content across social media, if you’re building or already have a following, can bring more backlinks to your website or blog.
Here are a few ways to get more backlinks to your site:
- Competitor Research – find websites that link back to your competitor’s websites and then reach out to them to see if you could also be listed.
- Email Outreach – email a few new websites each month that have content that could be beneficial for their readers if they linked back to your content
- Guest Blogging – write high-quality content for other websites’ blogs as you’ll often get a website mention and link back to your site in the bio of the piece. Try and build a relationship with these websites to get more opportunities for guest posts in the future.
- Testimonials – provide testimonials of products or services you’re using, as you’ll often get a link back to your site from them. Or at least a brand mention which can still help with SEO.
- Sponsor an Event – if you’ve grown your site to the point at which you can sponsor an event, this can be a great way of getting brand exposure and links back to your site. It could be a conference, webinar, live event, or whatever is related to your audience.
- Find Broken Links – if you can, finding broken links on other people’s websites that are relevant to your content is a good way to help them out and yourself at the same time. Reach out to them and let them know they have a broken link and give them your link to replace it with.
Related: The Majestic SEO tool focuses on checking link quality, and helps you find new links.
8. Do SEO Audit & Repeat
Performing a regular SEO Audit against your site and its content is a great way to keep on top of your on-page and technical SEO, especially if your website has hundreds or thousands of posts.
As part of your SEO strategy, you’ll want to perform one once a week or once a month, depending on how much content you create. An audit will point out any errors on your site plus let you know what you need to do to fix the issues.
Auditing will help keep your site in tip-top shape, and if you schedule it to do it regularly can save you time in the future.
9. Analyze & Update Content
Suppose you’re just creating and publishing content without analyzing how it performs or not keeping the information up to date. In that case, you’re not getting the most out of your site’s SEO potential, and you could see your website drop in rankings compared to the competition.
Two key steps in your SEO strategy should be:
- Analyzing the data – check page rankings, page views, click through rates, bounce rate and time on page. Doing this will show you what type of content you rank for, what content needs improvement and what content might need to focus on a different target keyword to the one you’re currently trying to rank.
- Keeping your content up to date – to keep up with the competition, you want to make sure that the information you provide is always up to date and fresh. A few examples include: changing the pricing on products, updating your best lists to reflect the best products on offer now, adding new products, or changing content to reflect your audience. Changing your content helps show that it’s worth ranking higher in the eyes of search engines and can give you a ranking boost.
As a rule of thumb, I tend to go through a 3 – 6 month cycle of refreshing old content. However, due to time constraints often only focus on the content that has the potential to rank higher or, I know, has some quick wins available, like adding more images or expanding on content that I might have glanced over when first writing.
Your content refresh schedule might differ depending on how often you post new posts and how much time you have.
Focus on doing something to each post, as you can always come back to them at a later date to refresh them some more.
Setting up your own SEO strategy can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially if it is something new to you. However, if you plan on getting the most success from your blog, website, or online business, it is one area in that you will need to spend some time and resources.
Thankfully, even though there is still some guesswork and luck to succeeding with SEO, there are many online SEO software and tools that can make your life easier and save you time.
Tools for SEO Optimization
Here’s a recap of a few tools that can help with on-page SEO, technical SEO, SEO content, and link building.
- Moz Pro
- How to Create an Online Store
- Traditional Marketing vs Digital Marketing
- Best Online Project Management Tools