When I initiate a conversation about search engine optimization (SEO), some prospects assume it’s magic. This is likely due to the endless noise among hack digital marketing agencies.
SEO isn’t magic. It’s a strategic formula that involves technical website bits, keywords and valuable content — the most important element.
I’ll simplify things without getting granular. The following are the basic steps of a typical SEO campaign:
Step 1: Technical Audit/Implementation
Think of heading to the garage with a noisy engine: The mechanic must diagnose before wrenching. It’s the same with an SEO audit.
First, you need a strong technical foundation. Technical SEO addresses site speed, site architecture, clean code and duplicate content issues, to name very few.
Reputable agencies will start by auditing the website’s technicals. This requires top-level tools and skilled SEOs. Once everything is diagnosed, a plan can be created to address all issues. Audits can take anywhere between 10 and 50 hours of work depending on the size of the website. They are a must to get things running smoothly before anything else.
Ask the agency for a copy of the audit. It’s interesting to see exactly what they are fixing — and the best audits explain why.
Step 2: Keyword Research/Mapping
Keyword research is next. A decade ago, it was much simpler: Find what people are searching for — the more granular (what SEOs call long-tail), the better. For example, ranking for “Bridgestone sport bike tires” or “Bridgestone tires for Ducati Monster” would drive much more qualified traffic than “motorcycle tires.”
Agencies must consider voice search when completing keyword research. These keywords must be properly mapped to the website, which connects the page’s purpose and the audience’s needs by placing the optimal keywords in just the right places.
Step 3: Title Tag/Meta Description Rewrite
Title tags — the main titles you see in search results pages — are simply the headlines of stories, and some of the most essential elements for search engines and users. They should be keyworded to attract the curiosity of the reader.
The tiny description beneath the title — typically 160 characters long — is the meta description. Reputable SEOs rewrite all existing title tags and meta descriptions to include keywords and drive marketing messages.
Many clients my agency has dealt with over the past three years have had their meta descriptions automatically generated. This is a huge missed opportunity; you can quickly attract attention if descriptions are created wisely.
My agency recently revamped only the title tags and meta descriptions for a technically sound website after we completed keyword research and mapped those keywords to the correct pages. Within six months (Google took nearly six weeks to fully index all 140 of the new tags and meta descriptions), we saw a 40% increase in qualified traffic that doubled online sales.
Step 4: Existing Content/On-Page SEO Revamp
Next is to revamp all existing content, through traditional editing, adding more valuable info and refining on-page SEO elements. This includes proper headlines, internal links (words that are linked to other pages on the website — this is another strategy that can drive spectacular results), keywords related to the “target” keyword that your title focuses on and calls to action.
Step 5: New Page Creation
When keyword research and mapping is complete, there’s always a need for new pages. These should be created not only to fulfill SEO needs, but to provide valuable and educational material for the reader.
Step 6: Aggressive Blog Strategy
My clients thrive due to blogging. This is a huge win for any type of online business and allows you to appeal to all steps of the buyer’s journey.
You can create engaging content simply by answering the questions people have online about your services or products. This feeds the SEO machine because you can target more and more long-tail keywords.
The more content you post, the more search engines like Google say you care about sharing valuable information with readers. This positively affects your overall organic search rankings.
Step 7: Amplification Of Content
Next is amplifying all that content, from your service page to your blog, through social media, newsletter and PR efforts. It’s as simple as:
• Sharing content on your business’s social media pages.
• Guest posting on other related websites that point back to your website’s content.
• Highlighting your best content through paid ads on Google, Facebook or LinkedIn, to name a few.
• Creating an awesome and sharable newsletter.
Many SEO agencies sell link-building services where they get other websites to link to yours, which helps drive your website’s authority (think of each link as a vote for your website: The more, the better, but they have to be from quality websites).
My agency believes strong content naturally acquires backlinks. That’s why we put our efforts into building valuable content and then amplifying it.
Step 8: Ongoing SEO/Content
Ongoing SEO involves monthly (or more frequent) reporting to recognize threats and opportunities and track keyword rankings. This provides opportunities to strategically update content.
Ongoing SEO includes technical updates and audits, and my agency also revisits and refreshes older content with new links/keywords every quarter.
Ongoing content is necessary, and can be created through a blog strategy. This is vital if you truly want to garner the most “free” organic traffic available. Blogging is much cheaper than paid ads, and posts last forever and continually build strength.
While they can vary, these are steps of a typical SEO campaign. Ask a prospective agency about these basics if you’re entertaining any SEO work.