SEO (Search Engine Optimisation, the work you do to help your website rank higher in Google) is the shamrock of online marketing. It is one word (or acronym) that covers a lot of different activities.
This can make it hard to know how to get started.
Our 5-step guide will help you to have a practical and effective approach to SEO, without getting sidetracked or suffering from ‘paralysis by analysis’, which is common with SEO. Even if you choose to employ someone else to do your SEO work, it’s a good idea to understand the general process and industry best practice to avoid paying more than you should, or sidetracked with extra work that doesn’t actually help your site’s SEO.
And, if you ever have any concerns or doubts with what your SEO agency is recommending, see how it lines up with the official guidelines from Google (they’ll have a hard time arguing with that!).
Step 1 – Know your current status
Ideally, you should already have some sort of analytics and reporting setup on your website (Google Analytics, Search Console, Google Ads etc.).
To map a way forward it’s really important to know where you’re currently at. Even just a few months of visitor reporting can help you get a better picture of how your website is performing. If you don’t, then it’s worth doing that as soon as possible.
Some metrics that are worth checking to understand your current SEO performance include:
- Percentage of organic traffic
- Top organic landing pages
- Pages with the highest bounce rates
- Keyword performance (Google Search Console)
- Google Ads keyword terms
- Google Ads Quality Score
Get in touch if you need help setting up any sort of tracking or reporting, including e-commerce conversions.
Step 2 – Decide on your main goals
Make sure you don’t skip this step. It’s too easy to rush in, thinking how important it is to do “SEO” and do it now, that you can forget why you’re doing it, and what results you want to achieve. Remember, SEO can be costly, both in time and money, so it’s important you’re working on improving your rankings for keywords that will help boost profits.
Step back and get the bigger picture. Write down your main objective and then break it down into smaller, manageable tasks or stepping stones (aka the swiss cheese method). This will help you start doing instead of sitting around just thinking about it, and feeling guilty that you’re not doing anything.
Some examples of main goals are:
- Be in the top five Google results for a competitive keyword in your industry
- Have all your target keywords in the top 20 results
- Increase your organic traffic by 25%
- Get #1 rankings for at least five long tail phrases
Get buy-in from the rest of the business on your main goals – it’s important your approach to SEO benefits the whole business, not just one department.
Remember, SEO is about playing the long game. Results can take months, even years. This means you’ll need to be patient. However, it also means you’ll get there if you’re determined enough.
Step 3 – Finalise your target SEO keywords
Note: If you need help creating a keyword list, check this blog post.
With SEO, unlike Google Ads, you’re better off targeting a very limited number of SEO keywords particularly if you’re in a competitive industry.
We recommend limiting yourself to a maximum of five main keyword phrases. Note that we are referring to the more competitive short tail keywords, as opposed to niche long-tail phrases which you can target as many as you like (bonus points if they support your main short-tail keywords).
Trimming back your target keyword phrases is tougher than it sounds. You might have collected dozens of keyword phrases you want to chase. Be ruthless, be focused – take to your list of suggested target SEO keywords like Marie Kondo on steroids. Think about your core business and where the money is – what keywords would earn you the greatest bang for buck?
Just one final note – you might want to just check your current SEO rank for the target keywords, and who you’re up against. You might decide that the competition is just too much, and there’s too much work involved – even over the long term – so maybe just choose an alternative keyword to go after.
Step 4 – Identify the most effective SEO tasks
Now that you have your five target keywords finalised, it’s time to put together a list of SEO tasks. You’ll divide this list into easy, or quick, tasks (the low hanging fruit) and the more difficult tasks (the things that will take more time and effort).
At this stage, I would say it’s also important to understand the 80/20 rule with SEO. If you’ve done a bit of research, you’ll know there are literally hundreds of different things you could do to help optimise your SEO, but many of those things will not make any significant difference. It’s better to focus on the 20% that will get you 80% of the results.
Some easier tasks could be things like:
- On-page SEO – Updating key pages with optimised meta tags (titles, descriptions)
- Site description and title
- Internal linking
- Rewriting page copy and headings
More difficult, or lengthy, tasks might be:
- Site speed analysis and optimisation
- Mobile friendliness (potential redesign)
- Article marketing
- Social media presence
- Building up your brand – traditional advertising and promotion
Depending on how organised you want to be, you might consider using a project management tool like Trello or Google Workspace to sort out, assign and track your tasks.
Step 5 – Write out your SEO action plan
Great work if you’ve got to this point – one thing you learn about SEO, and this is your secret advantage if you’re a determined sort of individual, is that the majority of your competitors won’t bother, or will give up after realising it requires lots of hard work to make progress.
For each of the tasks you decide to tackle (see Step 4) you’ll need to assign someone to do it, and a date for when it needs to be done by.
We recommend having a calendar-based SEO action plan. The advantage of this approach is that it makes everything a lot less overwhelming – you’re only seeing what things you have to do today, or this week. It also helps to make sure things get done, as SEO tasks are notorious for never actually being completed.
Outsourcing: If you choose to outsource your SEO tasks to an agency (like us) make sure you choose someone who really understands the local market, the nuances of the language, how local customers think and their general behaviour in the sales cycle – what things are important to them, how they research online, as well as local ‘slang’ or jargon used to find and research products and services.
Make SEO an ongoing part of your digital marketing
One of the main problems with how most businesses approach SEO is the ‘all or nothing’ mentality. They get a rev up, know it’s important, and so they go at it, all guns blazing. For a couple of weeks. Then nothing. Absolutely nothing. And then wonder why they don’t get any results.
SEO needs to be an ongoing part of your overall marketing work. Not just for a week, a month, or even a year. Every. single. day. If you’re responsible for marketing, then you should work towards having an SEO mentality. Know the basics, and always be looking for opportunities to improve your website’s SEO performance.
If you’re determined, diligent and patient (or have the budget to hire someone else to do it) you will see the benefits of applying good SEO practices, over time, to your website.
Get in touch if you have any questions or need help with any aspect of your SEO marketing work.