How to Create an SEO Strategy in 2020

Jake Sheridan
Mar 10
10 min read

Do you have an SEO strategy guiding you to success? If not, it’s easy to fall behind the competition.

Fortunately, an SEO strategy isn’t difficult to develop. You’re going to learn everything you need to know in this handy guide.

First, you’ll learn what it means to have a strategy. Then, you’ll learn how to create one, as well as the elements that make them truly effective.

After that, you can follow our easy 8-step process to create your own.

Let’s get started:

What is an SEO strategy?

Your SEO strategy is the process you are going to use to achieve an SEO-related goal. Driving organic traffic is the primary goal of SEO, and there are many tactics that can have an effect.

If you have the benefit of years of experience, your strategy will be developed from what you’ve tested over the years.

Search standards move quickly, though.  Even experienced pros can find themselves rebuilding their strategies after reading a few case studies.

Even if the strategy has to be updated often, it’s important to have one. A strategy gives you a starting point for getting more out of your work. It also helps you develop a repeatable process you can use on other sites.

Let’s look at how that process works for most SEO professionals:

So, how do you create an SEO strategy?

Start your strategy by considering what you or your team can do. Next, set a goal. Finally, organize how you plan to deploy those strategies to meet that goal.

When it comes to developing a solid SEO strategy to drive organic traffic, there are four things you need to consider:

4 Elements of an effective SEO strategy

The Google algorithm (and that is who we’re trying to charm here)  examines different elements of your site to rank it.

The four we’re about to discuss are not the only organic ranking factors (and Google doesn’t discuss what all of those are), but they do appear to matter more than others.

They are:

  • Technical SEO
  • Content
  • On-site SEO
  • Off-site SEO

Let’s look at each of these elements in a little more detail.

1) Technical SEO

The quality of your technical SEO is measured by how easily your site can be crawled and indexed.

This comes down to a lot of different factors. As part of the technical optimizations, you should:

  • Detect and address site structure problems
  • Remove links to dead/broken pages
  • Test and optimize page load times
  • Verify the proper pages are indexed or not indexed
  • Confirm the site is mobile-ready

Fortunately, it’s easy for you to find out if something is going wrong. You can use Google Search console to discover if Google is flagging crawling errors on your site.

Once you’ve resolved all of the important technical problems, you have a foundation to start on. You can now move on to the content.

2) Content

Content describes all of the ways that you communicate your message to visitors.

Content is about having the most relevant and best answers to a user’s question.

Titles, paragraphs, CTAs, and other written content get crawled by search engines to determine whether you’re answering that question.

This role makes content crucial to any SEO strategy. As part of the content optimizations, you should:

  • Examine the content on the site: Remove duplicate, off-topic and low-quality sections
  • Audit the length of content across the site: There should be a good variety of sizes, even up to 2000 words or more for in-depth content
  • Verify that the site content is high-quality and free of errors
  • Find out if you’re in a niche where authorship matters: If you are, you need to verify that credentials held by you or your authors are easy for crawlers to find.

After you’ve completed the content checks, you can move to on-site SEO.

3) On-site SEO

On-site SEO is the optimization of your content and HTML. This covers most of the practices that you can do through developer tools or your website’s CMS. They include:

  • Updating page titles/meta descriptions: Make sure every important page has a finished meta title and description. Both should take advantage of any keyword research you’ve completed.
  • URLs cleanup: Your URLs should be short, simple, and descriptive.
  • Structured data testing: structured data helps search engines understand a lot more about your content., but only if it works.
  • UX testing: test the navigation and how designs look on the page. Errors, clipping, and other problems are an obstacle to both crawlers and searchers.

What happens off-site also has a massive impact on how search engines understand your content.

4) Off-site SEO

Off-site SEO covers work you do to develop links and other authority-influencing properties on websites other than your own.

The authority of a website is a major factor in whether it can rank effectively or not. As part of a standard SEO strategy, off-site SEO might include:

  • Link building (guest posts)
  • Citation building (for local focused sites)
  • Generating shareable content
  • Social media engagement
  • Influencer collaborations

All of these practices have the goal of improving the quality and number of sites that are pointing back at yours. Building links to relevant sites can improve your credibility, and reduce the time it takes to rank.

Now that you understand that let’s put it all together in a simple 8-step SEO process.

A simple (but effective) SEO process in 8 steps

In this section, you’re going to learn how to assemble a simple SEO strategy.

Now, there’s no secret formula for SEO.

However, for most people, that’s great news. As long as you follow a process and focus on consistency, you can achieve reliable results.

Here are the 8 steps you can follow to make that happen:

8 steps to effective SEO

  • Step 1: Create a list of (relevant) topics
  • Step 2: Do keyword research based on these topics
  • Step 3: Create pages for each topic
  • Step 4: Set up a blog + start producing content
  • Step 5: Create a link building plan
  • Step 6: Make sure your site is (SEO) healthy
  • Step 7: Track your performance
  • Step 8: Rinse and repeat

Your first step is to create a list of relevant topics.

Step 1: Create a list of (relevant) topics

In SEO, a topic refers to the high-level concepts covered on your website. Choosing topics is an important first step because it’s going to help you establish your direction for the rest of the strategy.

You want the topics you choose to be specific enough to target an audience, but broad enough that you can publish regular content on it

Targeting topics relevant to your audience is vital. Google now enforces a concept called “domain diversity” to stop websites from ranking for too many searches. That means the best effects are often only possible when you target relevant topics.

It’s important to understand the differences between topics and keywords. Keyword research is important, but it’s something you do after you have your topics.

Step 2: Do keyword research based on these topics

Your topics are the concepts covered on your site. Your keywords are the specific terms that searchers are looking for related to those topics.

Keyword research is done to discover what words or phrases are most popular when describing a product or service.

Long-tail keywords offer you more insight into a searcher’s intent, so collect and list any that are directly relevant to you.

Query keywords (or long-tail keywords that are presented as questions) can be researched using PAA boxes, QuestionDB, or AnswerthePublic. Queries are valuable because they give you insight into how to answer a question directly with content.

When you have a strong collection of keywords for each topic, you’re ready to start building content.

Step 3: Create pages for each topic

If you want the best results, build standalone pages that target each of your main topics. For each one, include the search terms that you’ve picked up from your keyword research.

The quality of these pages matters significantly. You’re better off paying the expense to develop 5 strong pages (2000+ words) than a dozen thin pages (500 words or less)

It’s best to have a website outline plan ready in advance so that you have a big picture of what’s being built out and where. You want the pages you create to be able to easily link out to related information in your web of topics.

When you have your pages sorted, you’re ready to start producing content.

Step 4: Setup a blog + start producing content

A blog is a great way to begin producing content for a developing site. Blogs are a common site feature that allows anyone with access to publish long-form articles easily.

You need this opportunity because there are few other ways to effectively populate your site with the amount of content that Google rewards. All your service/landing pages may only account for a few thousand words total, but your blog can clear that every week.

Publishing often (even once a week) is important because that’s one of the ways that you can build authority. Over time, you will be able to build a library of blogs that cover a range of different topics. This will help establish you as an expert.

Google doesn’t look only at you to determine your reputation. They also look at how the internet reacts to your site. That’s why you need to focus on link building next.

Step 5: Create a link building plan

Your link building plan is your plan for what websites you want to be featured on and how you’re going to get there.

Link building can happen naturally.

If you write amazing content, people will link to it without being asked. However, most links that are built by newcomers or people with obscure sites will likely involve a negotiation.

You may be able to build links in all of the following ways:

  • Guest posts: You provide content to a website, and they publish it. As long as you’ve inserted a link back to your own website, you’ll benefit.
  • Social media posting: Promoting anything you’ve published on social media can direct traffic from there back to your main site. Don’t forget to try out the blogging platforms on sites like LinkedIn.
  • Go viral: If you have the talent or a juicy scoop, you can drive a lot of fresh links by being the first to cover it. Or, you can just raise a little controversy.

Remember, though, the value of links is determined by relevance, as in the other steps. If you want effective links, start by reaching out to the people who share your niche.

Step 6: Make sure your site is (SEO) healthy

SEO changes fast. Any content strategy is going to require you to keep up with those changes before they result in a penalty. As of now, there are a couple of best practices that stand out as more important than the others. Those are:

  • On-page optimization
  • Page speed
  • Elegant site design
  • A clear structure that a crawler bot can easily navigate
  • A lack of 404 pages

Beyond those signals, it’s important to track other performance signals. When users suddenly stop engaging with your site, it could mean a penalty or something that may eventually result in one.

Step 7: Track your performance

Performance tracking refers to the differences that you can show between the last measured position and now. To track SEO performance, you’ll often want to set a Key Performance Indicator that is sensitive to changes.

SEO professionals choose to track numbers such as:

  • Keyword Rankings
  • Backlink Growth, Quantity, and Quality
  • Lowest Organic Traffic Earners
  • Conversions
  • Behavior Flow
  • Time Spent on Page
  • Bounce Rate
  • Mobile Traffic
  • Returning Visitors and Direct Visitors
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR)
  • Domain Authority

When you’ve reached the stage where you measure results, you’re free to rinse and repeat…

Step 8: Rinse and repeat

Following the strategy from here is just a matter of starting over at a smaller scale.

Research new topics and discover their keywords. Then, start building content that’s fit for both your home site and link opportunities.

As long as you keep your site healthy, this should provide steady growth for a long time.

Get Started on an SEO Strategy, Now

SEO doesn’t need to be complex as long as you have a strategy that covers the four elements.

If you have a plan to tackle the on-and-off site elements, the technical SEO, and the links, you’re ready to get Google to send you traffic.

Written by Jake Sheridan on March 10, 2020

Founder of Sheets for Marketers, I nerd out on automating parts of my work using Google Sheets. At Loganix I build products, and content marketing. There’s nothing like a well deserved drink after a busy day spreadsheeting.

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