Designing a website without a strategic content plan can lead to disaster. You’re not going to yield better results by just winging it and pasting old copy into a new design. You need to create an SEO plan, and you should do so before even beginning the website design and copywriting process. Before you put pen to paper, take a few steps to come up with a foolproof SEO strategy.
This article will guide you through that process, including how to create a sitemap, identify the keywords you need to rank for (and the ones you might be overlooking) and familiarize yourself with the competitive digital landscape.
Let’s break down those steps.
Step 1: Do the Research
When you begin an SEO plan for your content, start by asking these questions:
- Which keywords drive the most results for your goals, whether they be traffic, search queries, or conversions?
- Which keywords are the most competitive and which are the least competitive?
- What other websites currently rank for your keywords and why?
The internet offers various tools that can save you an enormous amount of time and effort on SEO research. Use the following software to conduct research and gather data that will guide you throughout the content creation process.
Google’s Keyword Planner — Google’s Keyword Planner is a great starting point for any SEO specialist or webmaster. If you don’t already know which primary keywords you want to rank for and need ideas, this is a great resource. It offers traffic estimates, competition levels, and local results.
SEMRush — SEMRush goes 10x deeper than Google’s Keyword Planner. It’s no wonder that it’s one of the most popular SEO tools used by professionals worldwide. It lists rankings for certain keywords, predicts future search trends, and shows which websites rank, all while tracking your rankings. It also provides backlink opportunities, content ideas, and a whole host of on and off-page SEO tools. If you’re looking for one tool that does it all, we recommend SEMRush.
SERanking — Though new to the SEO field, SERanking is still worth mentioning. It provides tools similar to SEMRush but for a fraction of the price. It tracks rankings, audits page speed optimization and on-page SEO, tracks backlinks, does competitor monitoring and research, and gives PPC estimates. So far, we’ve found it to be a legitimate competitor to some of the biggest SEO tools out there. The best part? For as low as $31.00 per month, you can track up to 10 websites.
Moz Pro — Moz Pro is one of the original SEO tools and has a strong platform to show for its experience. It offers keyword tracking, research, a website auditor, and a backlink explorer.
Moz Local — For any company needing to track local SEO, Moz Local is hard to beat. It synchronizes and monitors your local listings, checks your rankings in multiple local markets, and distributes listings across multiple networks.
Ahrefs — Ahrefs is an SEO tool that specializes in backlink discovery and reporting. It, too, has a whole suite of tools that help webmasters rank their sites, most notably its backlink crawler. In our experience, Ahrefs picked up more backlinks faster than SEMRush and even some of Google’s own tools.
NOTE: A strong backlink checker is a crucial tool for SEO. It will let you know when websites are linking to your content, which is a huge factor in SEO. It can also help you search for new backlink opportunities. Seeing what kind of articles and sources your competitors link to can guide your own ongoing content development efforts.
Google Search Console — Though lesser-known than Google Analytics, Google Search Console is a helpful tracking tool for SEO and webmasters to gauge content. It’s free, and who would you trust more to show your rankings and SEO stats than Google itself?
The drawback to Google Search Console is that it provides limited data. Its interface is also somewhat dated and less user-friendly to navigate at times. Regardless, it’s a must-have for your website team to keep a good pulse on your website’s growth. One of our favorite tools is the internal linking tool that shows how many internal links specific pages have.
Now that you’ve done the research, you’re ready to translate all this data into an actionable plan!
Step 2: Create a Sitemap
Like writing an outline before beginning a paper, the website content journey should start with a sitemap.
A sitemap is a list of website pages and their associated content. For most sites, this includes top-level pages and their subpages. (Not to be confused with an XML Sitemap, which search engines and browsers read when crawling your website.)
If you’ve never created a sitemap, don’t overthink it. It may be a simple as “Home, About, Services, Contact.” However, for larger websites with dozens of pages, a sitemap is even more important. It helps you take the data you’ve gathered in your research and put it to use.
First, use the keywords you’ve defined to determine which pages to create. Then, using your competitive insight, streamline the content creation process by emulating the things that are ranking or getting traffic.
Once you’ve created your sitemap, it’s time to write!
Step 3: Think Like a Robot, Write Like a Human
Many web designers make the mistake of starting with the design or the features and adding content as they go. Good news: by starting with the right framework, you’ve saved time and are ahead of the game. Use that time to make sure your content counts.
Unless you write great content for your users, the preparation and research you’ve done thus far will be completely undone.
When ranking a site, Google takes into account things like relevancy, bounce rates, social shares, page speed, and backlinks/mentions. Its algorithms are powerful enough to give readability scores and ding websites that have low-quality content.
So, if your ranking strategy involves stuffing in as many keywords as possible, don’t expect to see results. Keeping your content focused and relevant matters. Users find it spammy when they see random, irrelevant links all over your website.
Writing content for the sole purpose of ranking isn’t a strategy anymore. Instead, you should focus on solving problems and helping your website visitors answer questions.
As a rule of thumb, more content is better. However, your design or strategy may not always give your internal pages the space for tons of content. In that case, focus on your blog (you should have one) and social media to improve rankings.
Blogs are helpful in that they are indexed much more rapidly than static content (pages) on your website. Imagine you want to rank for a keyword but are unable to create a page for it. Just write a blog post focused on that keyword.
When it comes to social media, it’s not 100% clear how Google uses this data to rank website content. It does use social media activity as a signal, though. We can assume the more engagement a piece of content gets, the higher its chances of ranking organically.
TIP: Use Google-owned platforms like YouTube and Google My Business to boost your ranking. Google includes these pages in its organic search results. Relevant YouTube videos may even appear before organic website results. For local businesses, especially in the service sector, having a Google My Business page helps your business stand out.
Step 4: Track your progress with analytics and SEO tools
Investment in SEO is a long-term game. A well-thought-out strategy is a requirement to see results. As your content becomes stronger and more consistent, your URL will gain strength and you’ll start to see increased organic traffic from your strategy. The tools you invested in for the research phase, will provide you insights on how your website traffic is growing.
Once you start to see growth, it’s important to continue investing in the tools and process that brought about success. Identify the trends that best engage your audience and repurpose existing content into new blogs and videos. If you’re gaining valuable backlinks, reach out to editors or authors who link to you frequently and build a relationship. Track your metrics and learn how to monetize your content and audience.
But don’t be discouraged if it takes time. While this plan is likely to garner great SEO results, this isn’t a science and predictions aren’t guaranteed. That’s why, in the digital world of get-it-now results, SEO often gets put on the back burner.
You just have to face the fact that your website is not going to rank overnight. It’s not going to rank in a week, and probably not in 3 months either. It’s almost impossible these days to rank quickly for keywords of any significance. The game has totally changed. You need perseverance, consistency, and a strong focus on content that follows your strategy.
We tell clients to give it a minimum of 6 months to see any kind of measurable results. That’s assuming you’ve committed to a weekly content schedule and are working with our agency to distribute the content.
If you decide to go on your own, be prepared to dedicate a good number of hours per week to researching, writing, and doing outreach for your content.
In the long run, a strong SEO strategy pays for itself and then some. We’ve seen clients land huge deals, scale their paid advertising deals, gain influence in untapped competitive markets, and attract top talent because their organic reach reflected a strong website and long-term brand growth.
The more effort you put into SEO and the longer you work at it, the better your results will be.
If you’re struggling with SEO or don’t know where to begin, start by following the tips above. Need more help? Contact us today.