SEO campaigns to build traffic commonly fail to provide ROI due to a lack of an effective SEO strategy that consistently delivers. Businesses often have a “write content and hope” approach, which almost always produces enormous waste.
What’s needed is a reliable strategy for growth. Something which has ROI at its heart.
Strategy: a loose set of steps designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim. Can be applied multiple times.
Building an effective business goal
Building a plan first!
It’s very easy to miss out on steps in a strategy. I find it easier to build a plan to solve a goal, and then generalise that into a more generic strategy.
What do we need for a plan though? We need a goal to solve!
Creating a goal to solve
What are we trying to achieve? “Increased traffic” will often be the answer.
But which traffic? And what affect will it have on the business? They are the questions that are asked all too infrequently.
If you don’t know where you’re trying to get to, you can’t arrive there. So let’s look at what makes for a good goal.
Life is better with a real world example: “Luxury holidays”
So let’s say that we want to generate more leads for a luxury holiday company.
On its own, “More leads” is a very ineffective goal since it could be interpreted in many ways, leading to subjective interpretation and the inevitable cost inefficiencies.
Projects built on top of inefficient goals tend to wander around and a few years down the line you realise you’ve spent a lot and achieved very little.
Enter .. SMART goals
I know SMART goals are a little long-in-the-tooth, but they do capture the essence of what a goal should be. So let’s turn this into a SMART (Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant Time-bound) goal:
- Specific: “Increase in leads, through SEO, from couples who are looking for a bespoke and tailored luxury holiday experience, in order to grow our revenue.”
- Measurable: “We current have 6 leads a day. Our current staff could handle 9. So we’d like to have 3 more leads per day.”
- Achievable: “Having done an initial SEO assessment, there appears to be enough opportunity to deliver 3 more leads per day.”
- Relevant: “This will increase revenue by a 50%, and profit by 80%, so it’s relevant to our business.”
- Time-bound: “Having done an initial SEO assessment, we believe this to be achievable within a year”.
Putting it all together we have…
“Improve SEO to deliver 3 additional leads per day from the current 6 within 12 months, in order to deliver a 50% increase in revenue and 80% increase in profit. Leads should be from couples who are looking for a luxury, bespoke, tailored experience.”
Now that we have a SMART goal which is clear and well defined, the SEOs won’t veer off in the wrong direction and start trying to rank for “Cheap flights abroad” or something equally useless for this business.
Building the plan
How do we get to this goal then? For that we need an SEO plan. We need to have steps which will be effective at achieving the goal.
Here are a few paths to a goal. Which one would you choose?
The diagram above seems like a bit of a joke because its obvious.
You don’t choose the blue path because it doesn’t arrive at the goal at all. The green path is next worst since it takes about twice the distance to arrive. The red path isn’t bad but you’d choose the purple path because it’s most direct.
However, many business owners take a long path, or even a path that doesn’t arrive at their goal, because they aren’t aware of how to create an shortest path SEO plan.
Generation of the cheapest path requires SEO knowledge.
Plans vs. strategies
A plan is a very specific set of steps to take to achieve a goal. It’s detailed and it’s specific. It’s designed to solve an exact goal.
A strategy, on the other hand, is a rough blueprint to achieving goals of a certain type. It is lacking in detail. There is typically only one strategy.
Direct paths to solving an SEO goal
There are undoubtedly many elements we can change on the site and on the individual page to improve the rankings for “luxury holidays”.
First, we need to ensure there are no technical factors which could be holding back the page from ranking as well as it could. A full SEO audit should show any important elements which are missing.
On page SEO optimisation
We can build keyword clusters – similar phrases – and ensure that the content satisfies the audiences of each of these clusters. We can ensure that the content we write captures the entire topic.
This list will be all of the key elements of on page SEO.
Non-direct paths to a goal
Is that is? Well, no! There are all sorts of indirect paths to achieving a goal too.
Apples amazing detour!
About 3 decades ago, Apple were a computer company, but no one really wanted to buy their Macs. Amazingly, they moved into music with iTunes, and then phones with iPhone, and suddenly everyone wanted their updated and stylish computers .. so they did achieve their goal, but over a decade and by taking a very non-direct path.
They realised they couldn’t get there in any direct way.
How does that help with SEO strategy?
An effective SEO detour: Article production for link building
We can improve the ranking of the “luxury holidays” landing page by taking a detour and producing articles which link to it, while gaining links from other sites to the articles.
In this way, boosting the ranking for your “luxury holidays” landing page becomes about optimisation not only of that landing page itself, but the content too.
How to use links from “other sites” to link to “our articles” and finally to benefit “our luxury holidays” page
So, we may want to produce a collection of quality articles designed to attract links on closely related topics, such as:
- “What are the most popular luxury holiday destinations?”
- “What is the most luxurious place in the world?”
- “Where can I go on holiday to relax?”
- “Which are the best resorts in the world?”
- “Is there a 10 star hotel?”
- “Where are the best luxury honeymoon destinations?”
- “How much will a luxury holiday cost?”
These articles and the final linking may look something like the diagram above, where red boxes are external sites, light green boxes are our articles and the single teal box is the “luxury holidays” landing page which we would like to improve the ranking for.
Additional customers – yes please!
There is, of course, a fantastic secondary benefit to writing these articles … additional relevant traffic!
Several of these articles have a “research” intent, where users clearly are interested in the types of holidays we offer. So, some visitors to articles may turn into buyers. By making the content fantastic and implementing a Conversion Rate Optimisation strategy on the article pages, the articles themselves can become an additional source of leads.
It’s a double win
An example: Virgin Holidays
So do companies really do this? Yes!
If we look at the “Barbados holiday” landing page from Virgin holidays, they have 27 links from their articles to the landing page. These articles have 257 links in total pointing to them.
The strength from some of these links will make its way to the “Barbados holiday” page and help to improve its ranking.
Creating the final SEO strategy
So now we have a really well defined SMART goal, and the key elements of an SEO plan to reach it, we can generalise this into a strategy. This strategy can become a blueprint for solving future similar goals, and creating specific plans to solve each specific goal.
Our final SEO strategy
- Technical SEO audit: Ensure there are no SEO technical elements which are missing from the landing page, and the entire site, which would stop that page from ranking. These include elements such as site speed, use of SSL, indexation of the content and so on.
- Landing page improvements: Improve the quality and relevancy of the key landing pages, find and produce content for additional terms it could be ranking for, consider the user intent of the pages and match with the new content and – finally – improve the page such it will become link-worthy itself.
- Article production: Build high quality articles which are related to the subject and which can link to the key landing pages. The content should be produced in such a way to attract links, but also the pages produced with conversion to customers in mind.
- Outreach: Ensure the community is aware of new articles in order to gain links, which will build the strength of the articles, and in turn build the strength of the landing page which we would like to improve the ranking for.
SEO campaigns fall at every stage because they don’t have a strategy.
By creating a goal and creating the most efficient path to solve it, we’ve managed to create a generalised SEO strategy which we can use time and time again for similar goals.
If we want to achieve a very different goal, we can create a new strategy.
We now have a business which is running efficiently because our standard operating procedures can be build and work can be generated, knowing that it will arrive at the goal.