4 Pillars of a Successful SEO Strategy

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Success in search doesn’t happen by accident. A successful SEO strategy goes beyond optimizing your content and meta tags for target keywords in an effort to increase organic traffic. A lot has changed in SEO over the years, and there are more opportunities now to rank in the top search results. In this video, I’ll share the four pillars that are essential when building your search strategy.

4 Pillars of a Successful SEO Strategy

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Video Transcript: 

As search engine algorithms continue to evolve, SEO strategies need to as well. We can’t do the same things over and over again and expecting them to work even when the search engines are three, four, five steps ahead of us. Today we’re going to be talking about four pillars that are essential when you’re building your search strategy. Instead of going right into our tools, we need to take a step back and really understand what we’re trying to do as a whole and how this is going to benefit our business in the long run. Let’s take a look at the whiteboard today and go a little bit deeper into these four pillars.

I want to take a moment upfront and just to let you know, if you can’t see the whiteboard well, don’t worry about it. We’ve got a link to our blog below where we have a full image of the whiteboard so you can see it and we’re also going to be adding some content in the lower third just to make it more digestible for you. I wanted to do this from the whiteboard because this is more of a teaching video and really looking at how do we build strategy as a whole and I want to be standing up in front of here so you could see how I really processed through this and maybe give you a little insight into why we do what we do at our agency.

Who Are We Targeting?

The first thing we need to look at when we’re building an effective SEO strategy is our users. Who are we targeting? This is one of the most important components of SEO. This goes a lot deeper than just building a persona and saying, “Oh, we’re targeting X group of people.” We can’t make these broad statements without understanding the group as a whole. The one thing about humans is we are still an animal so we behave like that. We are social creatures. We like to behave similarly to the people that we’re around within our groups so that we fit in. We can learn a lot by studying our user groups and understanding who they are, what’s their typical demographics make up. This information on our target audience also helps us create a better user experience on our websites by using messaging that resonates with our audience.

You can’t just stick with demographics, but it’s important to understand those and then start to look at the behavior and the behavior within the groups themselves. Like I said, different groups act in different ways. If you’re targeting a group of doctors, they have a specific way of acting, they have a specific way of talking and speaking about who they are and their profession. These are really going to help us understand the nuances of the people that we are trying to build a relationship with via the search engines.

We have to take time to look at this and go deeper into how they talk online, what sort of media or types of content do they digest and get their information from and begin to build a roadmap based on this understanding. This is going to be filled with different terms and terminology and lexicons that we can use and apply back into our content strategy later. We don’t just want to create broad content, we want to create relevant content throughout the entire funnel. People make multiple searches when they’re buying something or looking to purchase a service. You don’t only want to get them at the top and then hope that you convert them and you can nurture them through email because it’s very likely that they will spend a lot more time on search looking for more specific questions that relate exactly to them.

Research the Machine Itself

Taking the time to really understand who it is you’re targeting, how they behave within their groups, and the types of words that they use to describe themselves and what they’re looking for is extremely important. Now, once we’ve done that, we need to do our research on the machine itself and really understand the search results, understand how Google is interpreting this user group or Bing or whatever search you use but we’ll use Google because it’s the big one, right? We want to look at how Google is interpreting query intent and producing search results for relevant keywords.

We might see a different query and assume that it would be one type of content but Google may be interpreting it in a totally different way. This is why we actually have to study the search results themselves and not just rely on our tools. There are a number of great keyword research tools out there that will give us great information but we actually need to go to the search results, type in the query and look at what search features are available. What type of content is being featured and really favored within these specific search queries and what type of entities is Google linking to these. What type of concepts that they’re linking to, to better understand what the user’s asking and to go deeper into really delivering the results that are most specific to the user’s intent.

We just did a video about SEO and user intent and how you can use Search to do that. I highly suggest that you check out that video and go a little deeper in there if this is the stage that you’re at in your strategy. But I can’t stress enough how important it is to actually go to the search results, to understand the intent of the user and how Google is trying to match that intent with the right content, with the right search feature, and how they’re also leading that user to dive deeper in by attaching different entities and different relationships to that content to further them along their journey.

Related video: Understanding Search Intent: How to Unlock the Secrets of the SERPs

Now, once you’ve got a good understanding and some basic concepts of your users, you understand the search results, what Google is doing, the different markups available, the different entities ingrained into the search results, now you want to connect it together. We’re in the age of what’s known as Semantic Search. The Semantic Web has grown quite a bit, there are tons of linked open data and linked open connections and deeper understanding within the search engines themselves. Google can understand context and concepts much deeper and we need to make sure that we help them as much as possible in our strategy.

In this phase, you want to start mapping out the relationships between the physical assets, like the pieces of content and the user groups you’re creating, with the types of machine-readable annotations you’re going to need to integrate into your strategy. Yes, Google can read your content, yes, they can get some structure from unstructured concepts. But when you build in the structure early on, it’s not just going to help Google better understand your content, it’s going to help you better organize your content.

Ensure you are publishing high-quality content on your site and that your content is grouped in a way that your users find it more easily and they can access deeper content more easily on your site and it’s also in return going to help the search engines better find your content, index your content, understand your content and make sure that it’s showing up the right intent-based queries. Now, this is a step that gets overlooked or something that’s added at the end. Like people saying, “Oh, I need Schema markup so I’ve just installed this plugin and we’ll do it.” It’s a lot deeper than that.

It’s more than just installing a plugin or dropping some JSON code on your site. It’s about building a schema of your content and really organizing it in a way that’s better for your users, that’s more searchable, that is more digestible, that’s more interactive for them but it’s also better for the search engine so they can better understand it, organize it and categorize it in the way that you’ve intended it to be categorized.

Test Your SEO Strategy

Now, once you’ve done this, you actually want to plan your experiments. You want to ask questions. What is working, what is not working? One of the best questions that we ask all the time, our agency, is what would happen if?

When we see something in the search results and we noticed something, we begin to ask ourselves what would happen if we did this? Then we set up experiments to test whether or not that would work, would that improve our click-through rate, would that improve our positioning, would that drive more relevant traffic to our site or not? What if we tried to target this type of rich feature? We’d be continually asking ourselves these questions and we experiment, we learn from that experiment by analyzing the data, we implement what works and we repeat. You can’t be complacent, especially in the area of search; you can’t be complacent in your business and marketing if you want to continue to grow, you have to look for new opportunities.

It’s not always about doing more. Sometimes it’s about doing less and the only way you’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t work for you is by running tests. You can read blogs, you can read other experiences that other people have had but there’s nothing better than running these experiments yourself. Then you’re going to see firsthand what works for you and your business. This should be an iterative process where you do it over and over and over again, that you never settle, you continue to tweak and you continue to ask yourself what is working, what is not working, and what would happen if.

Get Ready for Results

Now, if you follow these four pillars and you begin to bake this experimental process into your SEO marketing strategies, you’re going to see some amazing results and an increase in organic search traffic. You’re going to learn a lot more about your users, about how Google understands your website, what is working for your business, and where you really need to focus your time and energy. If you have any questions on what we covered here today, please comment below. We’d love to continue that conversation with you.

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