Search engine optimization (SEO) is a critical element of an effective digital marketing strategy. It involves many different moving parts that must be optimized and combined in a cohesive plan: keywords, content, link building, and more.
What is the best way to combine these concepts to attract your target audience and convert organic traffic into sales? How can you use these SEO elements to your advantage when designing a website or making changes to existing web pages?
The intricacies of an SEO strategy can be challenging to parse, even for highly experienced marketers and business owners. But the effort is worth it—understanding everything that goes into SEO can be the key to long-term business success.
This comprehensive guide breaks down how to plan an SEO strategy so you can create an SEO plan of action that will help you reach your business goals.
A Strong SEO Foundation Matters
SEO is the practice of improving the visibility or ranking of a website in search engine results. It’s an incredibly complex field, with many factors to consider and balance with one another.
Strategic SEO is crucial because it can dramatically improve the visibility or ranking of a website in search engines. When your target audience looks up certain phrases on Google, you want your website or landing page to appear in the top results. SEO drives organic traffic to your website, which can lead to more sales and loyal customers.
SEO strategy for a website is more than just adding as many keywords as possible to your blogs and web pages. In the digital age, your competition is in the millions—so many other business websites use the same keywords as you do. You need a very specific strategy to rank higher than your competitors and attract customers and visitors daily.
What Is an SEO Strategy & Plan of Action?
SEO strategy definition often centers on the process of optimizing a website and building a step-by-step plan that will take it to the top of search engine results pages (SERPs).
But how to create SEO strategies that work? First, you need a solid understanding of what SEO is and what it takes to create an effective strategy. Then you can start building your own SEO plan.
Structured Data & Search Features
Structured data is a set of instructions that are used by search engines to better understand the content and context of your website. Structured data is a crucial component for improving search features, including SEO and user experience (UX).
By using structured data on your website, you can ensure that Google understands the content on all your pages so that its algorithm will index and rank them in the search results.
So what is an SEO strategy? A combination of SEO and UX will help you build the most effective action plan. It encompasses content, design, and technical knowledge of search engine analytics and algorithms that can make your SEO approach deliver top-notch results.
What Are the Four Main Components of SEO?
These main components will help you build your website and develop a good SEO strategy. These components must build on each other to increase a website’s authority and ranking:
Technical SEO refers to the website’s overall functionality and user-friendliness. This includes ensuring that you have a working contact form and 404 error page, as well as optimizing elements so that your website will load quickly.
This element centers largely on search engine indexing rather than ranking.
On-page SEO is all about optimizing the content on your website—ensuring that all pages contain relevant keywords and phrases in their titles and descriptions.
Off-page SEO refers to how you can connect with other websites related to yours.
You can do this through link building or sharing articles with affiliates and industry partners. Posting links to website content on your social media accounts can also contribute to off-page SEO performance.
Content is what makes up the bulk of any given website. It’s what people interact with most often when they visit, such as blog posts, service or product pages, video tutorials—everything that gives visitors a reason to stay on your website.
The longer a visitor browses your website, the more likely they will purchase a product, sign up for a service, or follow through on positive action for your business.
These five important concepts will help your business compete with millions of other websites. They will dictate your overall SEO approach and how expansive your keywords and content should be.
1. Core Web Vitals
These are the core elements of your website and what makes it unique. It is a new set of standards that help search engines determine how effectively a website delivers a good user experience. These metrics include:
- Largest Content Paint (LCP)
- Measures the loading time of each web page.
- First Input Delay (FID)
- Measures the speed at which users can interact with a website upon landing.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
- Measures how much a website unexpectedly shifts or changes when a user is accessing it. Pages should have a CLS of less than 0.1.
2. Mobile-First Indexing
This means that Google prioritizes mobile sites over desktop sites when searching for specific queries or keywords. If your website is optimized for mobile devices, it will rank higher on SERPs and boost organic traffic.
With billions of consumers using mobile devices to browse the internet daily, a good SEO strategy must focus on optimizing the user experience on all kinds of smartphones and tablets.
3. Machine Learning & Automation
Google’s search engine algorithms make certain decisions about website ranking based on user behavior and other factors such as backlinks from other pages on the same domain (domain authority).
Machine Learning uses statistical models to determine whether or not certain pages are relevant based on how often they appear in search results over time compared with other pages with similar content (authoritativeness).
It also uses historical data, such as backlinks, social media shares, and other factors to determine how often a page is clicked on in search results compared to other pages with similar content.
This data helps Google better understand how users interact with different types of websites so it can make more accurate recommendations on the next search.
4. Expertise, Authoritativeness, & Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
Though E-A-T is not new and not even an algorithm, it directly affects a website’s search engine ranking. When you follow best practices in executing your SEO strategy, this concept will boost your ranking on SERPs and take your business to the next level.
Expertise is defined as the amount of knowledge or skill required to perform a task well. By defining your target audience through keyword research and content creation, you can develop an expert-level knowledge base on your industry or niche.
Authoritativeness means that your brand is perceived as credible because your site is well-structured and easy to navigate. This can also be achieved by having an intuitive UX design that delivers all visitor needs as quickly as possible.
As for trustworthiness, it means that your site has been built with integrity. You and your SEO team are not employing tricks to make search engine algorithms think that something isn’t true about you or your business.
5. Knowledge Gap, Semantics, & Entities
Search engine algorithms have developed a very deep understanding of semantics or how people use organic or natural language queries. User intent has become much easier to parse, which is why businesses must center it when building a strategy for SEO.
Focus on the Knowledge Gap
If a large portion of your audience already has the information they need to solve their problems, they will not bother to look up information via search engines.
Instead, focus on providing in-depth, valuable, and engaging content that addresses their knowledge gap and helps them learn more about your industry or your products and services.
Use Semantics in Your Content
The keywords you include in your content will significantly impact how well it ranks; if you use too many unrelated words (such as “buy” instead of “purchase”), then people will likely skip over it or choose other pages with better click-through rates.
Instead, use specific keywords and try to get as close to what intent your users will focus on when visiting your site.
Use Entities When You Can
This one is controversial among SEO experts. Some argue that entities are good because they provide context for users, while others say they should all be omitted because they don’t add value to the user experience or make search results more relevant overall (they just take up valuable space).
Using entity SEO can increase the chance of a higher ranking when you combine it with in-depth knowledge and user semantics.
By definition, entities are elements that make your content “singular, unique, well-defined, and distinguishable.” Addressing entities as part of your SEO strategy would increase your content’s relatedness and show your website’s relationship to other pages.
What Are the Three Steps to Successful SEO?
Now that you know the components and concepts that will affect your SEO planning, you can begin building strategies you can use on your website.
If you want your content to rank well on search engine results, you must work on three main elements: keyword research, on-page optimization, and link building.
These are all crucial in understanding how to create an SEO strategy that will work for you and what will push your website to the top.
Step 1: Keyword Research
Keyword research is the first and arguably most important step to SEO success. It’s crucial because it sets up the rest of the process and will help you determine what kind of content is best suited for your website.
The best keyword phrases to use have low competition but high conversion rates. Brainstorm 50 to 70 keywords related to your brand while keeping user intent and semantics in mind. Your list of keywords must be organic and natural—things your target audience will likely look up on Google and other search engines. They must be directly related to your brand and your products.
You can check informative websites and social media platforms for trending topics and keywords that people use to look up topics in your niche. Websites like Reddit, Quora, and Wikipedia could also help understand how much people know about certain things related to your industry.
You should also determine what keywords your competitors use. This will help you build a unique keyword list that will still convert. Google Ads Keyword Planner can help you assess the search volumes and choose keywords that are low in competition but could be high converting.
With an ideal keyword list, you can begin building a content strategy that will deliver blog posts, video tutorials, ebooks, and guides that will attract and engage your target audience.
Step 2: On-page Optimization
On-page optimization involves optimizing all website content search engines like Google, Yahoo! Search Marketing, Bing, or any other search engine that may be relevant to your industry or niche.
This includes planning your URLs, meta-titles, meta-descriptions, keyword density in content, image optimization, internal link building, and external linking to other websites.
URLs Should Be Readable
URLs should not be a random set of numbers and letters. Search engines value readable URLs, so make sure that your main keywords are integrated into all your URLs, including blog posts, product pages, and contact info. Make them short but descriptive, and use hyphens instead of underscores.
Titles & Tags Should Contain Keywords
Titles or title tags should also contain your main keywords for top-notch on-page SEO performance. Google will cut off long title tags, so make sure your tags are 55 characters or fewer.
If you are optimizing your website for local SEO, you should include specific locations in your title tags.
Meta Descriptions Matter
A meta description is a concise summary of your content. It shows readers what you have to offer and should give them a clear picture of your expertise in 156 characters or less.
Good meta descriptions will increase click-through rates even if they don’t affect overall SEO ranking.
What’s a website without any images? On-page optimization and good SEO performance also require optimizing every image on your website. You must use keywords specific to that image, ones that are related to the content it augments.
Image file names, titles, alt tags, and captions contribute to on-page optimization. Integrate relevant keywords into these elements to further boost your website’s rankings.
Build Internal & External Links
Linking is another vital element of on-page SEO. Interlinking between pages on your website will improve user experience and ease of navigation. It also increases page authority when you cite your own page that covers a topic in-depth.
Building links to other sites related to your industry also boosts your website’s authority. Make sure these outgoing links are not competitors but partners in the industry that will help make your website an information hub for your target audience.
Step 3: Link Building or Off-page SEO
Link building is another way to increase organic traffic, especially if your business is in a competitive niche. You can demonstrate your brand’s expertise and authority through hyperlinks from other websites to yours.
When your blog posts, landing pages, or other types of content are cited on other websites, your domain authority and brand awareness increase significantly.
But what types of links can help increase your search engine ranking?
Prioritize links relevant to your niche, from authoritative websites, and use an effective anchor text.
Organic link-building results from top-notch content that other people in your industry will want to cover or share on their website or blog. For example, an editorial link can specify your site as a resource, or a citation in a report can lead to your site as the source of the original data or statement.
Manual outreach for link building can be very effective, too. You can reach out to bloggers and other website owners to pitch editorial or citational links to their sites. You must have a unique value proposition that will benefit these potential industry partners so they will agree to add links to your site.
Effective link building significantly increases your page authority and trustworthiness, and it is undoubtedly a vital element in a successful SEO strategy.
How to Make an SEO Plan
Once you have keyword research, on-page optimization, and link building in place, you can create SEO strategy plans that will improve your ranking and increase your revenue.
This is a step-by-step SEO plan that your business can use to achieve your SEO goals:
Audit Your Website
You must closely examine its previous performance before creating an SEO plan for the website. A thorough website audit will help you determine which parts of your website contribute to your web traffic goals and visits. It will also tell you which pages you can improve to boost SEO performance.
You can also perform audits once you’ve completed your website—it’s best to monitor its performance over the next few weeks and months. You can then evaluate which search engine optimization strategies are working or if your best SEO strategy needs improvement.
Create a Keyword List
Take keywords seriously—they are the most critical elements of your SEO plan. They must be relevant to your business and integrated into all content, including titles, meta descriptions, and even images.
You must perform thorough keyword research before you begin any project—you need to know what phrases will help you get a leg up on your competition. Tools like Google Analytics and SEMrush are great for this purpose. You can get insights into what people search for when they come across your website.
Once your keywords are set in stone, it’s time to move forward with creating content that delivers top-notch value to your target audience.
Remember, it’s not about how many times your keywords appear on a page—it’s about how relevant the phrases are to what you create. When you consistently deliver value-adding content, your audience will flock to your website in droves.
Analyze Google’s First Page Related to Your Keywords
Google relies on its search index for matching pages depending on the relevance and content quality of the website. This is why you must check what kinds of websites rank for each keyword query, such as language, location, and even device.
Your website should also provide a good user experience, including speed, loading times, and content that provides in-depth information related to the user’s query.
Your SEO growth strategy should explore what current SEO strategies work for your competition and what is an SEO plan that could work for you.
Focus on Your Unique Selling Proposition
Once you have your list of keywords, you can alter them to add more specificity and relevance to your brand. You can include your location or add your unique selling proposition (USP) into your keywords.
Local SEO targets potential customers in specific locations. This is especially useful if you have a brick-and-mortar store in a certain region and you want to attract more foot traffic.
Streamline your keyword list by focusing on USPs such as “custom-made,” “eco-friendly,” “recyclable,” or other qualities that distinguish your products from your competitors. This will ensure you are targeting the right users who are much more likely to support your brand.
Optimize On-page SEO
A successful SEO strategy includes on-page optimization, which is a crucial element of your content planning and website structure. These include meta titles, tags, descriptions, and linking.
Title tags and meta descriptions are the first phrases users see when they look up something on a search engine.
Title tags should contain your brand name, brand slogan, relevant keywords, and other relevant information about what you’re selling. You can also include whether or not the product is available in stock or custom-made—these terms will help users quickly determine if they’re looking at something they might be interested in buying.
Meta descriptions should be short and descriptive. To encourage people to click on your page, it must contain engaging and relevant information, as well as the primary keyword phrase the page is targeting.
Internal and external linking can help make your content easy to find. Make sure all canonicalized URLs for each page point to the root URL. Any links within those pages should be pointing directly at their own relative path rather than 301 redirects or 302 redirects, which could break Google’s indexing system.
Internal linking within each article or section must have unique URLs instead of common words like “Page 1” or “Homepage.” This helps avoid duplicate content issues, which can cause search engine rankings to drop over time. Google Panda and Penguin updates punish websites with multiple posts published under different titles but with the same content.
External linking can take your SEO growth strategy to the next level. The more links point to your domain or webpage, the more authority you build, and the better your website will rank. Link building depends mainly on the content you create—something that other people in the industry will notice on their own or pieces you can pitch to other websites.
If you want your site to be an authority and not just a one-time visit for clients or users, you need to build your niche. Your brand or product should be built on a foundation of expertise and knowledge in the industry.
For example, if you are in the food manufacturing industry, you can demonstrate your expertise in food manufacturing processes, history, equipment, technical details, emerging trends, and more. Your website must cover these topics so you can build your brand’s authority within the industry. The more quality content you create, the more people will use your website as a resource that they continually visit for trustworthy information.
There are four types of search intent: informational, navigational, transactional, and commercial. Most eCommerce sites are transactional and commercial, while other business types are a combination of informational and commercial. Choose which one relates to your niche to build up your authority and boost your SEO strategy.
Deliver High-quality Content
Engaging and value-adding content will bring your target audience right to your door. Offering visitors information that is accessible and easy to understand will make any website interesting and credible.
What is considered high-quality content depends on search intent. If you are targeting informational search intent, you should create content that answers users’ most common questions and pain points. You must provide detailed, accurate, and authoritative information.
If you are targeting commercial content, your product or service pages must contain detailed descriptions of what consumers can expect from your brand. Commercial keyword phrases center around a person’s intent to buy or sign up—they may want to compare products or look for support for their next purchase.
Content must be written with a tone that seeks to inform instead of sell or advertise. Modern consumers are savvier than ever, and they are much less likely to trust or support brands that prioritize marketing over genuinely giving customers what they need.
The use of specific keywords must be natural and organic. Keyword stuffing will not work; in fact, search engine algorithms now punish pages that contain too many keywords out of context. An important part of writing high-quality content is ensuring that keywords are used naturally and within the logical seam of the article.
Most importantly, make sure to write for your audience. Don’t do anything for the search engines, as it will make your content seem robotic and unnatural. A friendly and conversational tone will draw in more readers—they will be more likely to support your brand if you engage with them on a personal level.
Create User-friendly Design
Website design is more than just background colors, fonts, and the placement of images on a page. Successful SEO strategies always consider the readability and accessibility of a site and how users interact with all of its elements. These things matter when creating a user-friendly content design that prioritizes a good user experience.
All color palettes and images must be related to your brand and image. Text-based content must be placed in a way that makes each word easy to read and engage with.
Designers and copywriters must collaborate and discuss design elements that will work, so visitors can easily navigate various web pages and immediately access all the vital information that matters to them.
The user-friendly content design also considers brightness, color contrast, and eye comfort on all platforms. When you can ensure a good experience for your visitors, they will remain on your site for extended periods and interact with the content you’ve created.
Backlinks are crucial to your overall SEO strategy. When you cultivate high-authority links, our brand will be perceived as trustworthy, perhaps even an expert in your niche. And when other websites regularly cite your content as a resource or editorial link, you can draw more and more organic traffic to your own business.
If your site has an expansive backlinking strategy for SEO planning, it will increase your rank in search engine queries.
Google has adopted a mobile-first philosophy, so you must make sure every element of your website looks great on any device. The text must be readable, and the images must be mobile-friendly.
To do this, use a content management system (CMS) for the web that has a responsive design built in. This ensures your website will load quickly, no matter the type, brand, or age of the device used to access it.
Mobile optimization significantly improves user satisfaction by ensuring all devices get equal support from the same code base. So whether your visitors are browsing at home, at work, or on the road, they should be able to access the same information without having trouble viewing or interacting with it.
Utilize Social Media
Though many experts say that social media does not affect search engine results, it’s still a shame if you don’t utilize it as part of your complete SEO strategy.
There are 4.6 billion active social media users worldwide, and any video or image Google search result will yield a lot of content from social media sites such as YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram.
You can use social media to link to your website or content. It’s also an excellent way to share your content to a broader audience, whether it’s through an image or a video that will pique your followers’ interest and entice them to click through to your website.
Some sites like Facebook have business pages, and Google uses the platform as a business review aggregator. Google Analytics reveals that social media is a good source of website traffic and visits, so it can make a significant difference in the SEO strategy for a website.
So what is an SEO marketing strategy? It’s ensuring your website content and ranking increase your online traffic. And with social media to augment these strategies, you can attract an even wider audience.
Manage Your Website Speed
This is a detail that many marketers do not even consider, but your loading page and speed are crucial to SEO performance. If your web pages don’t load within one to three seconds, your visitors will click away and look up your competitors instead.
Remember, you are only one of a million other websites within your niche. Consumers have very high standards, and once they click on your site, they want immediate access to what they’re searching for.
Page loading speed is a crucial element of the overall user experience. Ensuring that all your content is optimized increases the time visitors spend on your website.
Update Your Content Regularly
Another way to boost SEO performance is to update your website regularly. A consistent blog posting schedule can significantly increase engagement and further boost your brand’s authority.
Updating content is another way to boost search engine rankings. Go through your older blog posts and update them with new information or add a few points to address recent trends in your niche.
You should also remove outdated or irrelevant content. This includes blog posts, landing pages, and even design elements that are behind the times.
White Hat or Black Hat SEO?
When creating an SEO strategy, you must center user experience above all. When you use techniques that provide value to your target audience, it is white hat SEO.
The focus is on the user and providing content to help and educate. White hat SEO closely follows Google’s guidelines when it comes to optimization and can be summed up as “don’t manipulate the search engine for your own ends.”
Using a strategic SEO method that often requires a long-term approach and focuses on a human audience is what white hat SEO is all about. These websites and brands will stand the test of time since they focus on the user, not the search engine.
In contrast, black hat SEO tactics manipulate and deceive search engine algorithms so a website can leap to the top of the rankings. This requires taking advantage of loopholes to boost SEO performance, often with content that is neither valuable nor sensible.
But Does It Matter?
Do not be tempted by the “instant” results that black hat SEO tactics seem to provide. Google updates its search engine algorithms regularly to patch any loopholes. For example, the Panda and Penguin updates ensure that websites using black hat SEO strategies will be removed from the index and rankings.
Search engines aim to provide the best and most accurate information to all their users, which is why they work so hard to ensure the legitimacy of the websites they rank. The algorithm updates remove sites that do not offer valuable content or a good user experience.
When you violate Google’s guidelines, you only hurt your website’s ranking, and you might have to start from scratch.
SEO, very much like the business world, is constantly changing. Business owners and marketers must continuously adjust strategies to meet these challenges and provide all users with the very best online experience.
How to plan an SEO strategy for a business matters, and it increases your brand’s visibility, authority, and credibility if you correctly leverage its many elements. You will reach the right audience and give them the information they need, and with that comes more traffic, more transactions, and even improved revenue.
Understanding how SEO works and how you can implement it in your business is vital to achieving all of this, so you need to create one that works for you. It could feel like a lot to do, but remember: if you stick with the plan, it will pay off!
Contact us at ELK Marketing today to help create an SEO plan of action for your business so that you won’t miss out on revenue driving organic traffic.