Some time ago (not so long, just a few years) you could achieve SEO success with some basic tactics. Build a website, throw in some related content, manually build some links and you could achieve some decent rankings. The most successful players were usually the ones that could think of the smarter link building tactics.
But in recent years, the rules of the game have changed turning SEO into something increasingly complex where tactics alone just don’t cut it anymore.
This is why several voices in the SEO industry are underlining the importance of having a defined SEO strategy that supports long term sustainable growth.
Step 1: Define your strategy!
Your first step should be deciding what will be your strategy. There are several types of strategies and making a choice is important to help you set a direction and priorities. Of course, you can choose for a combination, that’s ok. In fact, it is an excellent idea to diversify as it will make your strategy less vulnerable to future changes. What’s important is that you know what your strategy is and you clearly define it. Let’s see some SEO strategy examples:
Content creation strategy
Content Marketing (which is nothing new to the industry) is probably the most extended strategy nowadays. The reason behind this is that most of the recent changes in Google’s algorithm (mainly Panda and Penguin) have been aimed at rewarding sites that produce original, high quality content that becomes popular naturally.
To succeed in this strategy you need to find out what content is your target audience searching for. Once you know what sort of content they are interested in, you need to chop it into smaller sub-topics and create pages that accurately target them. I will use a B2C example to explain this:
The British grocery retailer, Tesco, sells food. So they generate content related to food.
Notice how they are not promoting directly their supermarkets or their products, but just offering useful content related to their field. Also notice how from the topic “food” they have chopped their way through to this very specific sub-topic. See how specifically targeted this page is?
Targeted, original, quality content. That’s it.
Having a content strategy means you need to do some content planning. Otherwise you will find yourself initiating unstructured content tactics. For a more detailed view on how to organize your content strategy, you can refer to Simon Penson’s Guide to Content Planning.
User generated content (UGC) strategy
UCG is content that is generated by people who visit your site. Typical examples are forums, product reviews, blog post comments or questions and answers. The great thing about this strategy is that you get a lot of fresh content (which since Freshness 2011 gets favored by Google) without paying a single penny. Moreover, it’s a great way to increase engagement and build a community around your brand. A good example of this strategy would be allmyrecipes.co.uk:
This recipe was created by a user. Not only that. Its 317 reviews were also created by users. Allmyrecipes.co.uk provides the platform and in return gets the traffic. You can’t always let users create all your content, but it might be worth including UGC in your SEO strategy.
Non content strategy
A strategy not based in content? Yes, it’s still possible. Rand Fishkin explains in this whiteboard Friday how companies that can’t or don’t want to generate content are still able to play the game. And although he focuses on inbound marketing as something that goes farther than search, he makes a good point. Maybe your strength is not creating content, but getting partnerships with very authorities sites. Or maybe you are great at getting linked on the main online newspapers. Either way, if this is what you are good for you need to define what your strategy is going to be and how it’s going to be carried.
Step 2: Define the roles
Whichever SEO strategy you go for, you will need people to execute it. There are mainly three roles.
1. Content creation
Have someone writing great content that your audience will be willing to share and other sites will be happy to link to and your path to SEO success will be much easier. It’s very important to have content writers that understand the basics of content targeting. They don’t need to stuff their texts with keywords, they only need to have focused content.
2. Technical SEO
You need someone that will take care of the technical side, someone that will make sure that your pages are crawlable, indexable and in good shape to rank well. Meta-data, canonical tags, 301 redirects, XML sitemaps, Google Plus authorship markup, Facebook’s Open Graph meta data, schema.org implementation… Yeah, all of that.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? You know where I’m going. No matter how amazing your content is or how optimized for search engines it is… You need to make it popular. Search engines rank pages that are relevant and popular. And the way to determine popularity is mostly by looking the number and quality of inbound links and social shares. If you are going for a content strategy, you will need someone to create and maintain a network of distribution, someone that gets the word out there and manages to get your pages seen by enough people. Even if you don’t market content, you will need to have someone promoting your site and getting links back from partners, other websites, you name it…
Two or more of the roles I have mentioned can in some cases be played by the same person. But typically, and especially if you work in an enterprise environment, you will have them assigned to different players. It’s very important to have these three roles interacting. They will make each other better.
Once you get everyone doing what they are best at, once you have your content creation team generating great content, your promotion team building networks and finding places where to promote your pages and the SEO technical team chasing developers to make your pages look yummi to Google’s eyes… Then you have it set and running.
Step 3: Analyze, evaluate and repeat
Whatever your strategy is, you will sometimes succeed and you will sometimes fail. But now that you have a strategy in place you won’t turn 180 degrees and start doing something different. You will continue doing whatever you do to succeed in SEO and you will progressively get better at it.