Hello all! Wow, it smells like a new car in here! I'm Wayne Hanley here how you all doing? I've been given the opportunity by Aaron to give my thoughts around the somewhat vast topic of SEO.

No small ask then! With such a diverse range of possibilities I needed to narrow the scope a little, as such, I decided it would be a good idea to draw on some of my recent professional experience and discuss something that is too often the remit of only larger organisations. SEO Strategy, don't run! It's not that scary, and you never know, you might find something here that could help you out eek another few positions up to that increasingly difficult and desirable page one on Google. (Other search engines are available, and this post is not sponsored or endorsed by Google)

Working on getting your site to rank in the SERPs is a daunting challenge. I can't say it's easy; it's not. Nor can I say it's fast since for the majority of us since well it's for the most part not.  However what I can say with an utmost certainty though it is something that is going to take effort, time and planning.

When you many people and indeed companies start to think about search and from that ranking in the SERPs to the logical endpoint of considering SEO is that is almost always in the first instance regarded as a single thing. When we imagine it, I can see people conjuring pictures of this orb of light shining like a bright star as in the darkness of the never-ending universe of pages that make up the SERPs.

Of course, this is far from accurate and as you will have come to understand if you have read other articles on Aaron's blog you know have seen his discussions on page speed and back-links. Assuming both these things is vitally important in SEO. How though do you manage those things and the other myriad of things you are going to have to plan, implement and maintain to keep your SERP ranking in top condition?

This is where the SEO strategy comes in and how it can help everyone from a one-person band running a blog in Birmingham to a global brand selling millions of items daily from their regionalised surge pricing enabled e-commerce platforms. What I do when I'm creating an SEO Strategy for a client is break it down into a 6 step plan of attack. What are these six steps and do I need them all I hear you yelling? Well, I'm glad you asked. Let's take a look!

Step 1 - A good look at your website
The first and often most challenging step is to take a look at your site in a very objective manner. Set aside your assumptions and personal preferences we won't be needed those for this! Why are you doing this? Let me explain, maybe it is the people are getting to your website, but they are not converting because your UI/UX is bad, so they leave. Sure you have done a great job of publicising your site, but if it's not usable, that's not going to matter.

To get you going with the sort of thing, you should be thinking about taking a step back and answer at least these questions.

  • Is getting more visits the issue?
  • Will having more traffic increase conversion rate?
  • What do users think of your website right now?
  • If someone asked you to give an excellent example of a website would you be able to use your site ad that example?

I would argue that this is the most crucial step.

Step 2 - Identifying your goals.
A fundamental step in your strategy should be to identify what your SEO goals are to be. Doing so will let you map quantifiable objectives and track your ROI against your time spent working on SEO.

I would recommend considering the following as a solid base of what you might want to use. Of course, this is entirely dependent on what you are doing and your own goals. So give it some thought.

  • Organic traffic (broken down into your key segments, what this is down to you!)
  • Impressions
  • Conversions (sales, downloads, subs, time on page etc. again different for us all... figure it out!)
  • Links
  • Social media activity
  • Bounce rate
  • CTR
  • Time on page

I would strongly recommend at this point using some analytics platform. Google Analytics is free, but there are other options. I would say unless you have a considerable traffic base already that GA is a good option until you start hitting the heavy sampling limits. You will want to be tracking this data so you can refer to it later and measure your success. How you might want to do that is outside of the scope of this article, but maybe Aaron will ask me back to talk about that in the future.

Step 3 - Research
There is a common misconception that keywords are the be all and end all of SEO. Like I say it's a misconception. That is not to say however that they are not important. They are. What is not also saying is that what you assume your keywords and what you expect you should be targeting is correct. Likely you're not. What I am saying is you need to do research. Keyword research and competitive investigation.

This is an extensive topic and could be more than an entire article in its own right. What I'm going to do is give you a couple of ideas and let you mull it over. Sound off in the comments and let us know how you fare. If you want a fuller explanation with tools and how you might do this in practice in detail to tell us and we can put something together.

  • Competitive investigation: Find out what you direct competitors are using. View source is your friend... Use it.
  • Brainstorming: Assumption is the folly of uninformed. Test your assumptions! If you can afford it do right market segment research of keywords you assume your customer base use and compare to what they do use. If you can't provide to do that, colleagues or friends are a good alternative though not entirely as impartial. Remember, don't let your feelings colour your business choices.
  • Keyword tools: There are free ones. You get what you pay for in this area I'm afraid. If you use a free one you're results are not going to be stellar. It's one area I recommend investing if you are serious about this.

Step 4 - Self-audit
Time to get tough. If you are still struggling with the notion of not getting caught up in thinking you're right and the SERPS are wrong now is the time to forget this entire idea.

Doing this audit is critical to you, and you need to be brutally honest. Ideally, you get a third party that is not biased to do this. Many agencies will be able to do it for you. If however, you cannot afford to you should look at the following areas using tools such as google page performance, analytics or anything your current site platform offers you to get an accurate measure of where you stand right now.

  • Site performance
  • Mobile optimization
  • Back-link profile
  • Onsite SEO
  • Content
  • Social media
  • Technical site structure (semantic HTML, WCAG etc.)

Once you have a thorough understanding of how you currently sit you can move on to the next section which is the quick fixes or to use a management term 'low hanging fruit'. It's here also that you need to ask yourself is my business ready to make the changes necessary to have good SEO and do you have the time to do it all yourself?

Step 5 - Quick Fixes
I lied! This should be easy fixes not quick. Sorry but it's the factual side of the work I'm afraid. Some of the issues that come up in your audit will be things like missing alt tags or no metadata. Easy to fix but the volume of them can take a long time to fix! Get your house to make sure all the basics are covered, and you are compliant to W3C standards. Use the W3C HTML validator to start. If you have errors fix them. If you don't, you are wasting your time. Your choice! It's hard to hear but its what needs to be said.

Step 6 - Persistent content
So the big one. You have sorted your site technically you know what you want to increase and how to achieve those goals. What's more, is you can measure it now too right? You're confident you have none of that juicy low hanging fruit left to pluck, and you have taken the other advice on the chin. Now you will rank, right?

No. If you have done anything as much as a quick search for SEO, you will have seen content mentioned. Content is king people shout! They are right. No matter what you do technically no matter how hard you try to game the system, having good content that you update often is the ONLY reliable way to consistently increase and maintain your position in the SERPs.

Consider it from a search engine point of view. Google wants to give the user the best results for the search query. If the user is after a new car, and they get to a page that offers them nothing but a picture of the best car of the year but no specs or information, should that page really have come higher than one that is full of useful information about the same vehicle but does not have quite as many keywords. No. Of course, it shouldn't, and the search companies know this and their search engines are becoming more and more difficult to fool so don't try. Put in the effort and write consistently good high-quality content on a regular schedule.

In summary
You will have noticed by this point that by no means is this a full guide. Your SEO strategy is totally tailored to your business and how you run that business. What it is, however, is a very honest and to blunt introduction to the level of work, effort and detail required to build an action a viable SEO strategy. SEO does not just happen overnight nor does it stay the same. As search engines change and adapt so must you. Your dedication to stick to a strategy will determine your level of success overall. In closing accept, there are no short cuts. Don't believe everything you read on the internet.