SEO Strategy: A Step-by-Step Guide to a Winning Strategy 2020
Why is SEO strategy necessary? It helps obtain more organic traffic, and it is very easy to do. An optimized site reaches top positions from certain search engines, and the number of visitors will actively grow. Also, with a well-thought-out strategy of promotion, the impersonal traffic transforms into leads, and then potential clients.
For many users, the site that is listed first by certain search engines is more credible than ads. According to data from Smart Insights, around 94% of users skip advertising content and click on the regular results of the SERP. In addition, the majority of users do not look further than the first page of SERP.
While contextual advertising can be used for short-term outbursts of visits, marketers consider SEO as an effective long-term strategy. This is why site promotion should almost always begin with search optimization.
Developing SEO Strategy: Step-by-Step Plan for 2020
SEO completes certain actions that prevent technical errors on the site, help search robots target pages correctly, and increase the position of a resource in the SERP. Google prefers that a user can easily and quickly find the requested information. This being said, the job of an SEO specialist is to adapt the site to the requirements of the search system and prove that it will be useful to users. An effective long-term strategy from 6 months up to a year will be useful to an SEO specialist.
A search engine optimization strategy is developed with the specifics of a resource and actual ranking algorithms. However, the SEO plan template has got eight stages to follow. The following SEO step-by-step roadmap will help you lead the site to top positions by specified search requests.
Step 1: Collect Semantic Kernel
At the first stage of increasing the site visibility, it is necessary to collect semantic kernel – the structured base of keywords and phrases that characterize the resource subject matter precisely.
How does one do this?
At first, you need to decide if it is necessary to create a new site or work with an old one. If you are working with a new site, you must develop a resource structure from scratch by highlighting the main categories and subcategories. If you are working with an old site, it is important to attentively analyze the existing hierarchy, define the main sections, add new categories, and potentially delete old ones. Afterward, the finished structure of the site will enable us to collect the correct segmented semantic kernel.
Now, we must take four additional steps:
- While referencing the structure, you must now make up a list of the main words and phrases based on the number of requests that will be compiled.
- It will be crucial to then expand and clusterize semantics, i.e., write down all the possible options of search requests for every selected keyword. As a result, thematic groups of phrases searched by users will be obtained.
- After, analyze the collected keywords thoroughly and delete words and phrases that are not relevant to the context. It may also help to divide requests into groups of high, medium, and low-frequency keywords.
- Lastly, distribute clusters of keyword requests on landing pages of a ready resource. If necessary, expand the structure according to collected keywords.
One of the best ways to find the main keywords for a site is to type a request on Google and check which words and phrases will appear on the list of suggestions.
However, special tools are often used to collect and clusterize the semantic kernel. For instance, Google Keyword Planner, which is available on Google Ads account, or similar services such as Semrush, Wordtracker, Alphametric, Google Trends, etc. are tools used often for this project. For more information read our article – Google Trends and how to correctly use a new tool for the search system.
The tools help sort the frequency of requests by regions and topics, and afterward, they will properly group them.
The quality semantic kernel will enable you to:
- Develop the site structure
- Create templates for metatags: Title, Description, keywords, as well as H1 and H2 headings
- Write SEO-optimized texts for all landing pages
- Make correct innerlinking
- Work out the strategy of external optimization
- Analyze the resource visibility by the main keyword requests
The semantic kernel of multi-page platforms and Internet shops usually contain hundreds and thousands of search words and phrases. That is why the process of selecting, analyzing, and structuring keywords can take up to several months, even when specialized tools are used. In order not to waste time, it is better to divide the process of kernel development by sections. First, work out the most important ones. Then, proceed to secondary sections. It may help expand the site structure in the process of fulfilling other works.
Lifehack: it is better to not underestimate the low-frequency, long-tail keywords. Users rarely search for certain phrases. However, it is easier to get to top positions due to low competition. These requests will be able to attract the target audience to your site. For example, if a person is searching for “summer backpacking to Machu Picchu cheap,” they are most likely already certain where they are going to spend a vacation.
As soon as you collect the semantic kernel, you can proceed to the next step.
Step 2: Develop a Wide Structure of the Site
Google uses around 200 factors for ranking the search results, and there are no precise manuals on how to get to the first page of SERP. This is why SEO specialists have to evaluate sites from top positions by certain keywords. They study them, analyze them, and define the general patterns for success in order to create a similar structure.
This structure defines the position and relations of all the categories, subcategories, and other site elements. It simulates a scheme that traces the hierarchy of all of the pages.
Irrespective of the resource type, there are the five main principles of the wide site structure development:
- Simple and understandable logic: Pages are divided by categories according to sense and content.
- Understandable URL and unique content: Pages should not be duplicated, and it is preferable that their content is understood from their address.
- Compliance with the hierarchy: This is self-explanatory – general categories contain smaller and more specific subcategories.
- Transparent link structure: If any page can be reached by making no more than three clicks from the homepage, the site structure is well-thought-out. There are some exceptions to this rule, but it is typically true
- Relevance to the users’ requests: It is crucial to exclude empty pages or sections with unclear information. For Google, it is important that a site is useful to readers. Otherwise, Google will decrease the site’s position in the SERP.
A properly developed structure of the site makes it possible to satisfy users’ requests and therefore brings them to the necessary page in the most natural and shortest possible way. This is why the structure is developed based on the data on keyword requests. For every cluster of the semantic kernel, a section or subsection of the site is created. One group of requests usually corresponds to a singular page of the site.
The finished structure will not remain unchanged. As time passes and the site develops, new categories and subcategories will appear. However, it is still important that the main volume of work on the creation of hierarchy is completed at the initial stages.
Step 3: Fix Errors of Internal Optimization
Before going further, check the site on the presence of errors and find out whether it meets the requirements of search systems. For this, carry out a technical SEO audit. The audit will provide documents with tasks that have to be implemented for the resource to be correctly displayed and ranked in high positions.
Typically, the list of tasks includes the following:
- The setting of meta tags formation on the basis of general templates for various categories, subcategories, flypages, etc.
- Adapting the URL to become understandable to people, in other words, the content of a page needs to be clear to a user by just reading the address. Also, the creation of general rules for the URL will be needed.
- The setting of the correct display of all the pages in the mobile version
- Increasing the speed of pages loading, including the mobile version
- The setting of the protected https-protocol
- Removing of the page duplicates, the setting of the canonical tag from dynamic pages
- Adding of micro layout: navigation, contact details, feedback fields, etc.
- The setting of redirects and error 404
- Closing of certain pages from indexation by search engines
- Optimization of pagination pages
- The setting of multilingualism of resource (if necessary)
- Optimization of images and external outgoing links
- Developing the robots.txt file that will enable Google robots to understand which pages should be crawled
- Creation and setting of the sitemap.xml file, which lists all meaningful URL addresses of pages for indexation.
- Analysis of the site on the availability of errors by means of webmaster’s panel Google Search Console.
At this stage, it is necessary to completely check the site structure and hierarchy, levels of pages’ inclusion, the correctness of inner linking, and other parameters that can prevent the correct displaying and indexing of a site.
The audit itself is carried out quite quickly, but it may take a lot of time to fix all the errors.
Step 4: Filling the Site with Unique Content
At this stage, it is possible to begin creating unique meta tags for every page. Thus, it is necessary to write the Title, Description, Keywords, as well as H1 and H2 headings. And of course, meta tags are created based on the semantic kernel and previously approved structure.
The Title describes the content of the page. This is the title that informs search robots what is on the site and helps them evaluate if this particular resource corresponds to the search request of a user. A user can see the Title in the SERP or if a page was reposted on social networks without writing the alternative heading. It can also be viewed as the heading of the page on the browser. That is why it is important to write a Title that is as precise and correct as possible.
The Description is a summary of the page that a user sees while looking at the results of the SERP. If you want to know further information about what should be done to correctly repost a publication from a site to social network and for it to look attractive to users, read the article about an Open graph.
11 years ago, Google stated that it does not take the description into account while ranking pages. Since those times, nothing has changed. However, the representatives of the SEO community are still recommending to write this meta tag, paying especially close attention to it as users often decide to click on the SERP result or not based on the description they read. Therefore, a good description can increase CTR and indirectly influence the rating.
By the way, Google does not use the text from the description if it has no keywords or a small amount of useful information. In the latter case, the search engine will display parts of the content from the page. Most often, the description will look less attractive.
Google also does not take keywords into account while ranking, but many SEO specialists prefer writing them.
The H1 heading is placed at the beginning of the page and Google will analyze it in the first turn. H1 should not duplicate the Title or be over spammed with key phrases. It can be created based on long-tail search requests, so you can that have not been included in the main title.
The H2 and H3 headings, as well as those of the lower level fulfill several functions: improve navigation on the page, make the text more readable, and show search robots that content is relevant to the users’ requests.
Aside from meta tags, at this stage, it is necessary to create unique SEO-optimized content for every page. Texts can contain keywords and phrases of different frequencies. The main thing is to use keywords from the correct category and avoid overspamming. In the first place, the content should be useful for users, not for robots. Otherwise, it is possible that the rating will be decreased. Find out how to correctly carry out the audit of content.
Two years ago, Google updated the algorithms related to filling sites with content and released the guide on the evaluation of the content quality. Within the guide, significant importance is paid to the concept of YMYL – Your Money or Your Life.
YMYL is the type of content that can directly influence the health, safety, or financial well-being of users. Therefore, if the YMYL page will contain unclear and incorrect recommendations, Google will not miss this.
Evaluation of texts is carried out according to the criteria E-A-T:
Thus, expert content has to be written by people with a respective level of education and expertise. There are no other options.
You can read more on how to write good content for your site in the article Write a Great Blog Post in 2020.
Step 5: Make the Site More Attractive to Users
Google openly states that site optimization should be headed towards the improvement of the user experience. That is why the fifth step implies the improvement of usability.
You have got several tasks to fulfill:
- Do everything to prevent users from returning to the SERP.
- Reduce the bounce rate.
- Increase the total visit time of target pages and resources in general.
How does one do this?
First of all, check to see if the content corresponds to the search request. In other words, check how well the page is optimized. If a user clicks on the links and does not find the response to the query, the site will be immediately closed and the search will be continued. That is why the H1 heading should be clear as to what information is going to follow.
The content without subheadings, conceptual blocks, or graphic elements and video will rarely make users stay on the site longer than content that does contain these elements. This is why it makes sense to spend some extra time on the design.
Many users are irritated with pop-ups, suggestions, and other interactive elements. It is one thing when there is an online consultant, but unexpected bright banners that appear every minute can be irritating. If these are accompanied by a loud song or sound, users may have the desire to close this site as quickly as possible.
To improve user experience, it is also possible to adapt the site for mobile devices, make the design user-friendly, simplify the navigation, and add “About Us” and “Contact Us” pages.
In fact, at this stage, it may help to improve everything that has not previously been done during the development of the structure, meta tags, and content. Have a look at your site with the eyes of users, check if it meets the E-A-T criteria, and show it to your friends to provide their critical opinion. If everything is all right, it is possible to proceed to the next step.
Step 6: Work on External Optimization
According to the recent research of Stone Temple Consulting, external optimization is an important Google ranking factor. Therefore, if you want to increase the positions of the site in SERP, it is time to think about the SEO link strategy.
While working on external optimization, follow the golden rule: the more quality niche resources that refer to your site, the more authoritative it looks for search robots. This is why you cannot simply place links on irrelevant platforms. These methods are not working anymore and lead to disappointing consequences, i.e., a decrease of position in the SERP or Google sanctions.
To increase the platform rating, it is possible to build the link mass in two ways:
- Carefully select donor sites, taking into account their rating and niche. After this, post the relevant content on these sites with an anchor (the hyperlink text) that is as natural as possible.
- Analyze which articles of competitors create a stir. After, find out which content in your niche is mostly preferred by users and post similar content. The spontaneous interest of users to the site content is the most beneficial factor for ranking.
It is necessary to work on external optimization regularly. Young sites are recommended to place 2-3 links every month and then to gradually increase the number. Remember, Google is suspicious of the inadequate burst of activity and attentively studies guest posts. That is why SEO link building strategy has to be as natural as possible.
Step 7: Use Trends
After all the main SEO steps are taken, it is possible to proceed with trends. Trends work quite well in 2020. The following is a brief description of some popular trends.
This is the optimization tactics enabling to reach top positions by requests from users of a certain region. With the correct implementation of the local SEO strategy, small brands can win over stronger competitors.
Create and optimize the Google My Business account, send your site to the relevant business catalogs, use keywords to identify your location, and include the name, address, and contact information of your company in all the descriptions. This is important. Google takes all of this data into account while making the geotargeting search.
Useful content is always one of the main ranking factors. But in order to have useful content, it is a must to have keywords in meta tags, names of images, and texts.
One of the optimization trends is semantic SEO, which is the creation of content based on actual search requests. In other words, you are replying to the questions of users on one topic or another. If your response will be expert and comprehensive, Google will definitely show it.
Around 27% of smartphone users worldwide use voice search.
It is expected that this figure will increase, and sites that are optimized for voice requests will get perks in SERP. As a rule, in the process of search, people use short concise phrases and questions that begin with “how,” “where,” “when,” “why,” etc. This is why it is necessary to add such long-tail keywords in texts.
Quite often, for a certain request, Google shows Featured Snippets that are placed at the zero position. These snippets get a significant volume of traffic.
How fo you get there? Check on the Google Search Console by using keywords that are well ranked on your site. Next, optimize the text on the site by adding in it short questions that are relevant to these requests.
According to the research of SEMrush, the text with the response should range between 40 – 60 words. This is the volume that most often enables sites to appear before the top of SERP.
Venngage has interviewed the leading marketers and found out that 74% of content contains visual elements. Why? Because it is in demand among users. It is viewed and reposted more often, which helps improve the external optimization indices.
Among content-makers, infographics are the most popular. In second place we have videos and presentations, and in third place are stock pictures. You can learn more on the matter in the article about link baits.
It is worth mentioning the second point separately. According to the forecasts of Cisco, next year, 80% of all the worldwide traffic will be composed of videos. If you have not yet added the creation of video content in your promotion strategy, it is time to do this now.
The share of mobile traffic will continue growing. The report of Merchantsavvy.co.uk clearly demonstrates this.
Step 8: Check and Increase Conversion
At the last stage of the strategy, it may help to analyze all of the work that has been done and evaluate results. Has the traffic increased? How has this influenced conversion?
Conversion is not necessarily the sales of products or the order of services. It can be a subscription to the newsletter, a click on the phone number, or another useful action. If traffic is not converted, it is important to once again work on the site usability. The structure should be made more understandable, accents should be correctly placed, and content should be modified. You can also collect feedback from the target audience and introduce changes based on their comments.
Analysis of Competitors: What to Pay Attention to
Above, we have discussed what SEO strategy is and which stages it includes. However, like Google, it has got a zero position in SERP. In SEO planning, there is something to be done for roadmap promotion. This is the analysis of competitors.
Your successful colleagues have useful information that might come in handy for you. That is why before developing an SEO strategy, it is recommended to study online platforms of the market leaders; find out their position in SERP and traffic volume, analyze their link profile, sand define popular requests for which their pages are optimized. While making an analysis, pay attention to the following aspects:
- What works and does not work in a certain business niche
- Advantages and disadvantages of competing projects
- Which website structure in terms of SEO strategy will be the most effective
- Which SEO steps should be taken in the first place
- How difficult will it be to reach positions higher than competitors in SERP
- Is it necessary to introduce global changes, for example, to change CMS?
- What is an approximate budget on the site promotion?
Aside from evaluating leaders in top positions, it is also important to analyze the niche itself as well as the products of your project. At this stage, the future SEO plan is outlined or in bullet points. Most likely, you will help to develop the site, taking the functions of competing websites into account.
For a detailed manual on how to analyze competitors, read our article on SEO competitor analysis.
We have discussed in detail how to do SEO for the website step-by-step. Implementation of this strategy will take between 6 months to a year for small and medium sites. However, after completing all the planned steps, the work is not over. The most interesting stage starts, the fight for top positions in SERP.
If you have fulfilled all the roadmap steps, the rating of your site will gradually begin to increase. Meanwhile, data will appear and can be analyzed, specifically by which requests pages are ranked best of all, how much time users spend on the site, which content they cite, and what influences conversion. Besides, the site needs further development, i.e., expansion of the structure, addition of new sections and actual information, and deletion of irrelevant pages. For this, it is also necessary to create a plan. It can be more long-term, between 5 and 10 years. How you plan an SEO strategy depends on you. However, do not overlook the activity of competitors.
The process of updating and working out of your site for Google is complicated. The ranking algorithms of the search engine are constantly changing. Therefore, it is necessary to stay alert as to not to lose positions in SERP.
Lifehack: The main Google criterion is that users can easily and quickly find what they have been looking for. If you optimize the site taking this criterion into account and do not resort to unfair promotion methods, the changes of ranking algorithms won’t significantly influence you, but at least your site won’t suddenly drop in SERP.
Bonus: The Best SEO Strategies for Quick Promotion (Cases)
Brian Dean, a famous SEO expert and the author of the blog backlinko.com, provides regular pieces of advice on how to get on the first SERP page and increase conversion of the site. We have chosen his three promotion strategies that can be used after the main SEO steps have been implemented.
Publish Expert Content with the Results of Your Research
Last year, Brian made five posts on his site that began with the phrase: “We have analyzed.” Then, there was a detailed report on the effectiveness of SEO tools or the influence of certain factors on ranking. There were five expert articles with detailed statistics brought to the site backlinko.com, 2,243 backlinks, more than 17,000 reposts on social networks, and more than 200,000 unique users.
Optimize Old Content
Every site needs to be developed, and the content needs to be updated. Brian Dean does this regularly. He posts articles again, adding new information to them and optimizing them for the actual users’ requests. For example, he has noticed that his article on How to Launch an SEO Campaign was in top positions but began dropping in SERP. He then rewrote it and transformed it into a step-by-step guide. As a result, organic traffic has grown by 57.98%.
Create Your Community
According to the recommendation from an SEO specialist, it is better that content is discussed directly on your site, not on social media or third-party forums. This motivates users to leave comments. In this way, the search engine will see that your platform is valuable. We should also mention that under every one of Brian’s articles, there are hundreds of comments, and he tries to answer every comment.