Building an SEO plan (search engine optimization) is a big question mark to many business owners, managers and entrepreneurs – even those that are well versed in digital strategy and marketing.
Never mind that Google changes its search algorithm more times than the weather in Canada during the fall, but many folks who tackle SEO simply jump in with the vague responsibility of setting up an SEO program and achieving results – based on the generally agreed upon guidelines to an SEO optimized website: keyword research, good partnerships, effective architecture at the wireframe stage and throwing in the right meta tags.
Sure, you can applaud yourself for making your website “optimized”, but unless your visitors clearly understand that you are providing a better product or service than your top competitors, they have no incentive to visit, re-visit, and share through social media and email, nor link back to your site.
Without a plan, your SEO efforts will give you marginal increases in ranking, and without a plan, even the content you push will just be additional noise in the jungle of the World Wide Web.
A strategy is thus what you will need to guide your SEO efforts in the long-term (because you ARE in it for the long haul) and it is luckily something that you can start doing now, even if you don’t know the first thing about SEO.
In fact, building this strategy will also make your investment more worthwhile when you bring in a Digital Agency to implement it for you.
Define your target Market
Every marketing campaign, including Search Engine Marketing (SEM), begins with your target audience and their problems that you are best positioned to solve. Although traditionally, segmenting your target audience involves using the usual metrics of age, sex, geographical locations, profession/hobbies/education level and, especially, needs – you will get far more value by delving deeper into their persona to really understand their online behaviors and search patterns.
Check out our Customer Journey Mapping Process where we begin by zeroing-in on the relevant traits of the target customer when mapping out their journey throughout the marketing sales funnel.
By understanding your target market’s needs and problems, as well as how they differ from your other segments (ex: a newbie cyclist and a triathlete will have different requirements, despite both seeking to buy a bike from the same boutique), you will have laid the ground works to developing a strategy that will already help you guide to important components of your SEO work:
- Targeted Keyword Research: Whether you are doing it yourself or having an SEO expert do it for you, understanding your target audience and their Googling patterns will help you map out the best keywords to use. Going back to the bike example, the boutique owner might think to himself “duh, my potential clients will just look up the bike brands that I carry” and simply make sure to stuff the keywords ‘Giant’ and ‘Cannondale’ in his website’s text.
However, a proper analysis of his audience would have uncovered that there are many people with joint pains looking for alternative exercising methods to running and this would lead to specific keywords that have much less competition than big name bike brands.
- Content Strategy: Although this has become the staple endeavor of the SEO community, it is more important than ever to create content that is relevant to your target audience and will nurture them down your online sales funnel. Trends come and go in the industry and nothing says “these guys don’t get me” to a visitor than a website with an outdated blog still talking about the advantages of using a pager, in the day and age of smartphones.
A well-structured content with a logical direction also paves the way to easier link building, by having content that is deemed valuable to other websites and bloggers that will link-back to you – all things that will immensely improve your SEO score with search engines.
Identify your Unique Value Propositions
Now, even if you know exactly who your target audience is and you have something made especially for them, they will still wonder: why should they go with you, instead of xyz. This is something that you should be able to answer with a few key words, not only because it’s vital that you be able to answer such a question at all times, but because it will be crucial to a successful SEO strategy.
Knowing how you differ from your competitor and what are the things that make you either: unique and/or better (and communicating this clearly!) is the key to differentiation in a cluttered digital world, where your potential customers can easily look-up your direct competition and compare you.
This becomes increasingly important if you’re competing in a very saturated market or if differentiating between each competitor is not immediately obvious (check out our section on an effective Online Branding strategy).
Your strategy will thus incorporate these 3 steps:
- Identify your top competitors in your region and see what they are doing right (and wrong!)
- Determine at least 3 unique value propositions that you provide, that no one else does.
- Find gaps and Opportunities that your competitors are missing out on.
Congratulations! By doing the above, you have built a great framework to guide your SEO efforts, and all that without having to open your Google Analytics tab just yet. Whether you will delve in the technical work of SEO or use an expert, continually working on the above will set-you up for a long-term success in rising in ranking.
Want to learn more about SEO? How about doing it over coffee?