While we can be all-technical and use all the difficult jargon to describe the process of planning an SEO strategy, it’s actually a fairly simple and straightforward process.
Below, we will discuss a step-by-step guide in planning an enterprise SEO strategy from defining key objectives to evaluating your SEO progress.
Step 1: Define SEO Objectives and Audience
First, we have to answer several key questions:
1. What is the goal(s) of your SEO activity?
It’s important to know that ranking high on Google SERP isn’t (and shouldn’t be) the end goal of SEO. Instead, it’s just a means to an end for goals like:
- Generating more organic traffic
- Converting traffic into (qualified) leads
- Generate more sales conversions (for eCommerce sites)
- Build an online presence and awareness
- Maintain a positive online reputation
2. Who is your audience according to these goals?
The answer to this question should reflect your SEO goals/objectives, especially the audience’s search intents that are related to your SEO objectives.
- What are the keywords according to these search intents? Now we jump to keyword research, and we’ll discuss this a bit deeper in step 2.
Step 2: Keyword And Topic Research
There are three main principles in choosing your target keywords:
- The keyword must be relevant to your audience and their search intent—as discussed in the previous step—. We should mainly pay attention to the keyword’s search volume
- The keyword must be relevant to your business’s SEO goals
- According to your available resources—and time—, the competition for the keyword must be manageable.
Focus on 1 to 5 high-priority keywords based on these criteria, and we will focus on these keywords in building our target ‘topics’.
Then, we can try to find short and long-tail keywords that are related to these topics. For example, if the main topic is “digital marketing”, then we can also cover keywords like “SEO” (short-tail) and “plan digital marketing strategy” (long-tail).
Google now considers the expertise on a topic as a ranking factor, and here we will develop a layered SEO content strategy to establish expertise, as we will discuss on the next step.
Step 3: Planning Layered Content Strategy
As we have briefly touched on the previous step, we will divide content marketing into two different layers:
- First, creating an over-arching, general content to cover the main topic. Using the previous example of “content marketing” as our main keyword, here we can develop a long content like “All You Need To Know About Digital Marketing”, in which we can include subheadings like “SEO”, “Social Media Marketing” to support the second type of content
- The second type is more focused, in-depth content discussing keywords (including long-tail ones) that are related to the main topics. With the same example, here we can create specific content to target “SEO”.
Develop an editorial calendar with this two-layered approach in mind.
Step 4: Page Building for Main Topics
The pages covering the main target topics should be our main priority:
- Remember that the goal of this content is to provide the most reliable and relevant information for your human audience. Focus on your human audience.
- Don’t over-optimize (keyword stuffing). Mention your keywords naturally and sparingly. Focus on delivering readability.
- Use a lot of white spaces, don’t use more than 150 words in each paragraph, and use new subheadings every 300 words or so.
- You can use different media like images, photos, infographics, and videos to maintain engagement
The idea is to keep readers for as long as possible—maximize dwell time—, so make sure your content is engaging and well-optimized for readability.
Step 5: Content Clustering
Now we go to the second ‘layer’ of content marketing.
For these ‘cluster’ content pieces, there are three main objectives:
- Generating organic traffic according to the specific targeted keywords—and convert them into leads—
- Establishing an online presence and your credibility as the expert/thought leader in the topic—so consistency is important—
- Establish connections between these pages and your main topic content through internal linking.
So, with these pieces, we need to focus on:
- Consistency and quantity are important. Regularly publish these content pieces over time.
- Link to the main topic page(s) from these cluster pieces, you can use anchor texts to do this or utilize CMS tags
- Similarly, link these posts from the main topic page. You can, for example, create specific sections on the main content to introduce these subtopics
- In general, don’t use the long-tail keywords more than four times throughout the pages (in an exact match). Use synonyms and related keywords naturally.
Step 6: Link Building
Backlinks are still the most important SEO ranking factor, but it’s important to understand that nowadays, the quality of inbound links is more important than quantity.
In fact, getting too many low-quality backlinks can get you penalized, but we all know that getting links from high-quality, authoritative sites is easier said than done.
So, how can we get these precious backlinks? Here are some ideas:
- The main ingredient is your content: good content will always get linked sooner or later, and on the other hand, no amount of tactics can help bad content. Think simple.
- Build relationships: press, influencers, other websites, business partners, loyal customers, etc. They are your most valuable and reliable sources for backlinks
- Create content that is worthy to get linked: unique data and information (original reports, case studies), visually-pleasing photos and infographics, etc.
Step 7: On-Site Optimization
This is a very deep subject on its own, and we won’t give it much justice discussing it in such a short section. So, you might want to check the technical SEO checklist for a clearer picture.
However, here are some key areas to focus on:
- Improve load speed. A slow loading speed will affect the bounce rate, which is a ranking factor.
- Mobile-friendliness of your site.
- Find and fix crawl and indexation errors using various SEO assessment tools.
- Fix broken links and reclaim lost links.
- Migrate to HTTPS and use SSL certificate if you haven’t already
- Use keyword in your H1—or title— tag. Put the keyword on the front of the title when possible.
- Include the target keyword in your URL, but focus on readability and keep it short.
- Use keywords in your subheadings when possible, but make sure they are natural for human readers.
- For images, include keywords in the alt tags, optimize their size (compress if necessary)
- Improve internal linking
Obviously, these are not all-inclusive, and there are many more optimizations—technical and non-technical— that you can implement on your site.
Step 8: Evaluation and Monitoring
SEO, after all, is a long-term process that can take months and years before you see (any) significant results.
Thus, evaluating your progress during these months is very important in achieving success, and here are some important things to monitor:
- Keywords ranking. Fairly obvious, your site should climb the SERP steadily. If it’s suddenly decreasing, you should evaluate and adjust.
- Organic traffic
- User experience metrics like dwell time and bounce rate
- Conversion rate, if the content involves CTA
- Organic reach
- Technical factors of your site (as discussed in the previous step)
- Link profile: internal linking structure, outbound links, and especially inbound links (backlinks) profile
The 8 steps we have shared above certainly isn’t the only way to plan and there are other ways you can approach your enterprise SEO strategy. However, it is one of the most effective approaches—based on the results we’ve achieved for years—, and can be a solid foundation in building your own SEO plan.
The key, however, is to maintain consistency. Monitor your progress, evaluate the important metrics, and adjust your optimizations to keep ahead of your competitors.
Name: Mike Khorev
Email for gravatar: firstname.lastname@example.org
Title: SEO expert
Bio: Mike Khorev is a digital marketing and SEO expert who helps SaaS, Software, IT and Technology, B2B and enterprise companies generate more leads and sales and grow revenue online. He offers expert advice on marketing your company the right way through performance-based SEO, web design, social media, search engine marketing and many other online practices.