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6 Steps for a Successful SEO Campaign

Jumping for joyIf you are reading this article, let me first congratulate you on taking the first step toward running a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) campaign. If you don’t know where to start, or you are stuck and don’t know what to do next – don’t worry!

Setting up a campaign is easy enough to understand when you are dealing with Facebook, AdWords or other PPC channels. It usually goes like this:

  • Landing Page
  • Create Advertisements
  • Bid on keywords/impressions.

Pretty simple, right?

When it comes to SEO, though, the steps and solutions aren’t quite as straightforward. Fortunately, it’s not actually super complicated, even for newbies. In this article, we’re going to show you how to plan and execute an effective SEO campaign for your site.

Step 1: Make a Plan!

Are you the type of person who goes to the store without a list? Or who does Christmas shopping on December 24th? If so, I’ve got some bad news.

Successful digital marketers know that the easiest way to fail (and fail spectacularly) is not having a plan with well-defined goals. You need to decide how you are going to define your success and how you will measure your progress, or your campaign will fall flat.

Since we are talking about SEO, you are probably thinking, “Duh…that’s obvious. My goal is to get the top ranking in Google!”

With SEO, you need to dig deeper than that. A ranking in Google, or vanity metrics like bounce rate and engagement, are not as important as the answer to these three questions:

  • Who am I trying to reach?
    • Answering this question will help you define your target audience and create your marketing personas. Just saying “sports fans” isn’t going to help you, because that is a very diverse group of people (diehard football fans vs. rhythmic gymnastics enthusiasts – very, very different).
  • Why do I want these people on my website?
    • What are you trying to achieve once your visitors land on your page? Vanity metrics aside, you need to define a clear business goal. Whether that is lead generation, sales or even list building, you must be specific.
  • How will I measure my success?
    • Depending on your goals, these could be hard numbers to calculate. Typically, you would measure conversion rate or email list membership. If you aren’t sure how to measure your progress, you probably need to pick a more specific goal.

For you last-minute Christmas shoppers, you might feel tempted to skip this step and move on to the nitty gritty of your SEO campaign. Don’t do it!

It will be infinitely harder for you to succeed without knowing what your success even looks like.


Step 2: Initiate Keyword Research

I think it’s a universal truth (in the digital marketing world, at least) that you either love doing keyword research, or you absolutely hate it. Regardless of your personal feelings, it’s a part of search marketing that is unavoidable.

Thanks to Google’s algorithm updates, namely Hummingbird and Rankbrain, the way we research and optimize keywords has changed significantly. These two updates are based on interpreting the context or meaning of words used in search queries. Basically, it is how Google figures out if your “apple” search is about computers or fruit.

In SEO, this is known as search intent, and it can be broken down into three main categories.

  • Informational: These people want to learn more about a topic or get an answer to a question. These keywords usually include “how to” or “what is”.
  • Evaluating Options (Research): These users probably already know something about the topic and now they are deciding which product or solution is right for them. These keywords usually include phrases like “review”, “best”, or “top 10”. They will also typically use words like “cheap” or “deal” – this is a good indicator that they are about to move on to the next category.
  • Action Completion: Whether making a purchase, signing up for a service or making an account, these searchers know what they want and are ready to pull the trigger. These visitors are expecting to achieve their goal directly on the landing page. Though the search volume for these queries tend to be lower, the conversion rate is much higher.

One huge benefit from this keyword research development is the search intent helps tell you where the searcher is in the conversion funnel.

Conversion tunnel diagram - research is key for a successful seo campaign

There are tons of tools out there to help you come up with keyword ideas for any phase of the funnel, if you are struggling. Try Ubersuggest, Keywordtool.io or Answer the Public for ideas.

Step 3. Run an Audit (more than once)

Now that you’ve completed your personas, goals and keyword research, it’s time to audit your website.

Technical Site Audit

Technical SEO is building your website so it is crawlable for search engines. Fail to do this correctly, and search engines will struggle to index your site. Put simply, no search engine results for you!

When you launch your SEO campaign, you want to make sure your site is set up correctly. When auditing your site, check for these elements:

  • XML Sitemap – Search engines use your website’s sitemap to find and prioritize URLs, which is an important SEO function.
  • txt – These text files help influence how your site is crawled. You can prevent duplicate or low-value pages from being indexed so search engines can spend their crawl budget on the pages that matter.
  • Page Speed – Load time is super important for user experience, so it’s also super important for SEO. Search engines aren’t going to recommend a slow site. Lots of factors could be slowing your site down, so it’s important to run an SEO audit and identify the culprit.

Page Speeds Tips - identify with an SEO Audit

  • URL Structure – URLs should be concise, accurate and relevant to the content. Avoid using underscores in your URLs to separate words. Hyphens are preferred, because search engine bots can understand them.
  • Meta Tags – Both page titles are descriptions are important elements of your on-page SEO, even though only titles are an actual ranking factor. Descriptions are useful for enticing your users and engaging them once they are on the site.

Crawl Your Site

For larger more complex sites with lots of pages, a crawler will help audit your website more completely. Crawlers are much more technical and can access all of the URLs on your site, collecting information about each URL during its inspection. It mimics the way Google’s crawlers work

With an SEO crawler, you can analyze the URLs on your website and get information about issues that could be impacting how Google indexes your site. Use the crawler to find issues with:

  • On-page SEO: Issues with HTML can cause Google to see duplicate or empty pages. If you have a lot of these pages on our domain, your whole site will struggle to rank.
  • HTTP status: Search engines can’t crawl pages that don’t load, and they can’t crawl site on servers that don’t respond. Not only do these pages interrupt your site’s link juice flow, they also give users a bad experience. HTTP status crawl will uncover any hidden issues with redirects (broken, chains or loops).
  • Non-indexable pages: Crawling your site will help you find URLs that have been disallowed via your robots.txt file and meta robots tags. Inadvertent or incorrect meta robots tags are actually the main cause of non-indexable pages.
  • Canonical issues: Canonical URLs are the “main” URLs – these are the ones you want humans to visit and where your link juice and authority will ideally collect. But, if you mess up you canonical tags, you could have a problem.

Canonical issues screenshot

After you’ve completed your site crawl and you’ve fixed the issues it discovered, you can move on to some more traditional SEO things in your campaign, like your content.

Step 4: Create Good Content

It’s finally time to put your strategizing and keyword research into action!

When you are crafting your content, you really need to think about the user first. Who is the target audience for this piece of content, and where are they in the conversion funnel? The answers to those questions will help you pick which keyword you want to optimize around.

On-page content for SEO should center on:

  • Keyword consistency – Keyword density is a thing of the past, now that Google can read content in a more advanced way. Now, you should be using your keywords naturally throughout the page, in your headers, subheads and body content.
  • Value – The hot trend in SEO right now is creating killer content and focusing on the value you are offering your user. Tie this to the intent of your keyword. Your content should either solve a problem, explain some information or answer a question your user has.
  • Links – Internal and outbound links on your site are also important for your SEO, it isn’t just all about the backlinks. Internal links can help you distribute link juice around your site by adding them to your high-authority pages. There’s also some evidence that linking to high-quality resources can help your SEO.
  • Images – No one likes to land on a page that is nothing but gigantic blocks of text (yawn). As such, you should be using images on your site to boost the user experience. You can also optimize your images for SEO with the alt attributes. Google uses the alt tag to “see” the image, so this is where you can describe your picture. Relevant images will give you another opportunity to use your keywords.

Step 5: Building Your Link Profile

We all want to think our content is great enough to earn links without any sort of promotion.

Don’t bet on it.

The secret to successful link building is to revisit your marketing personas and SEO strategy. If your content is useful to your target audience, people who aim for the same audience will be more likely to link to it.

You can use a tool like Pitchbox to find bloggers or influencers in your niche. Once you’ve obtained the information you need, you can start your outreach.

You can automate blogger outreach, but it probably won’t be as successful as personalized emails. Bloggers and influencers can smell a form email before it even hits their inbox. Instead, try to send your outreach emails manually, using a basic template to help you.

When pitching yourself to these contacts, focus on the following:

  • Uniqueness- If you aren’t saying something new or different, there’s no reason to link to your content. Start your email with a brief explanation of how your content can bring value to their readers.
  • Links – Pasting URLs directly into your email makes it look like a form letter. Hyperlinks are a smarter option.
  • Subject Line – Bloggers and influencers (and most digital marketers, to be honest) get a TON of emails on a daily basis. More often than not, these emails are link building requests. Your subject line needs to stand out against the crowd and be vaguely specific. Specific so they know what you are talking about, vague so they need to read your email to learn more.
  • Contact Information – Remember, you are the one reaching out to them. You need to include your real contact information (not just that of your business) to prove you are the real deal.

Don’t get too down about low conversion rates from your outreach. Link building is as much about forging good relationships as it is about getting one individual backlink.

Step 6: Test, Check, Optimize and Test Again

We made it to the final step! Give yourself a pat on the back for making it this far in your SEO campaign.

You’ve set up your foundation, defined your personas, sniffed out your target keywords and fixed the technical issues on your site. You’ve created some stellar content and even built some links in the process!

But you aren’t done yet. Actually, in digital marketing…you’re never done.

Don’t be intimidated. This only means that you need to be constantly checking and refining your strategy to make sure your efforts are yielding the results you want. If you change something, monitor your analytics to see what sort of impact the change had on your SEO.

Keeping an eye on your bounce rates is important for matching personas with your keywords and funnel strategy. Your rankings and website traffic will tell you how well your pages are optimized.

Tracking your crawl errors and indexed pages will help you stay on top of technical issues that could impact your site’s SEO. Finally, measuring your link building efforts will help you understand if your email outreach strategy is working.

SEO is not a one-and-done marketing strategy. Elements of your optimization need to be tweaked, tested and optimized to maximize your effort. If you combine these six steps during your next SEO campaign, you will see solid returns in the near future.



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