Creating an SEO Strategy in Today's Business Climate

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Let's face it. Today's search engine optimization (SEO) is not what it was two years ago, much less a decade ago.

Today's SEO strategy cannot live on keywords alone. It needs more to survive and make your business thrive.

Modern SEO strategy involves organizing a website's content by topic, helping Google and other search engines understand a user's intent in the search process. By optimizing a site around topics, you can rank ahead of your competitors for long-tail keywords related to that topic.

Toward that end, here is a list of essential steps you must address to cover all of your SEO bases with the marketing professionals from Central Station Marketing.

1. Define Your Subjects

Keywords are at the heart of SEO, but your first step is to make a list of subjects to cover from one month to the next. After compiling a list of 10-12 short words and terms that define your product or service, use Google's Keyword Tool to identify their search volume and select popular choices for your business.

Although you are  associating these topics with popular short-tail keywords, you're not dedicating individual blog posts to them. Instead, these keywords are too competitive to rank for as an emerging industry site on Google. So you want to prioritize your list of short-tail keywords and them in order of relevance to your business.

Each of these keywords is considered a "pillar," and it serves as the primary support for a larger "cluster" of long-tail keywords that you DO want to see in the Google rankings.

2. Create Impactful Long-Tail Keywords for Your Subjects

For each pillar you've created, use your keyword tool to identify 5-10 long-tail keywords that dig deeper into the original topic. You want to avoid competing with your own content on the same search engine results page (SERP) by targeting the exact same keyword on multiple pages. Instead, you avoid that by creating impactful long-tail keywords and seeking SEO value for those terms.

Use subtopics to come up with blog posts or webpage ideas that explain a specific concept within each larger topic, or "pillar," that you identified in Step 1. Plug these subtopics into your keyword research tool to identify long-tail keywords on which to base each blog post.

Together, these subtopics create a cluster that supports one another. Example: If you have 10 pillar topics, they should each be prepared to support one cluster of five to 10 subtopics. This SEO model is called a "topic cluster," and modern search engine algorithms depend on them to connect users with the information they seek.

Here's the bottom line: The more specific your content, the more specific the needs of your audience and the greater your likelihood of converting this traffic into leads. This is how Google finds value in the websites it crawls. Pages that dig into the interworkings of a general topic are seen as the best answer to a person's search and will rank higher.

3. Create a Page for Each Subject

To maximize your place in the Google rankings, take the pillar topics you created in Step 1 and create a web page for each one that outlines the topic at a high level. You want to use the long-tail keywords you came up with for each cluster in Step 2. Consider each pillar page as a table of contents, where you're briefing readers on subtopics you'll elaborate on in blog posts.

Use your keyword list to determine how many different pillar pages you need. Ultimately, the number of topics for which you create pillar pages should coincide with how many different products, offerings, and locations your business provides. This will make it much easier for your prospects and customers to find you in search engines no matter what keywords they use.

Each page must include relevant content for current and potential customers, as well as photos and links to other pages on your site to enhance the user experience.

4. Create a Blog Page

Blogging is an effective way to rank for keywords and strengthen your site because each blog post provides another chance to rank in search engines. As you write each blog post and fill up your clusters, you should: 1) limit uses of your long-tail keyword to 3 times per page because Google will red flag repetitive terms for "keyword stuffing" and penalize your site; 2)  Link out to the pillar page you created on this topic with tags in your content management system (CMS) or as basic anchor text in the article; and 3) Link into each blog post from the pillar page that supports the subtopic.

By connecting both the pillar and the cluster in this way, you're establishing a relationship between the long-tail keyword and the overarching topic that you want to surface in Google rankings.

5. Blog Regularly to Create Page Authority

Not every blog post or web page must belong to a topic cluster. Writing about tangential topics that interest your customers also boosts your website authority in the eyes of Google. Doing so will cue Google to pay extra attention to your domain as you add content to your primary topics. That is why you should blog at least once a week.

Remember, you are blogging for your audience, not the search engines. Write about things that interest your audience and prospective customers. Make sure to include relevant keywords and remember that each topic won't be equal in importance. Once your clusters are established, prioritize them based on your company's needs.

To make that happen, create a list of every web page you would like to create and rank them in preferential order. Keep your list updated and prioritized by what web pages will help you to best achieve your business goals.

6. Build Links and Stay Current on SEO News & Best Practices

Link-building is the primary objective of off-page SEO, and it plays a huge role in how search engines rank your web pages. Link-building is the process of attracting inbound links (also called "backlinks") to your website from elsewhere on the web.

As a general rule, the more page authority the original website has, the greater the effect it has on the rank of the web page to which it is linking. An efficient way to attract inbound links is to use your blog to post articles related to current events or news. That way, your blog could be linked to by an industry influencer.

In addition, you must remain current on the latest developments in SEO news and best practices. SEO procedures are ever-evolving. Staying on top of the latest industry trends through online resources is essential.

7. Measure & Track Your SEO Success

Effective SEO takes a lot of time and effort. To track your organic traffic (traffic that comes from a given search engine), seek out a tool that allows you to track both your overall organic traffic number and how your pages are ranking under each long-tail keyword you target. Useful options that provide monthly dashboards include Excel, Google Sheets, and other web analytics packages. Also, tracking indexed pages, leads, ROI, inbound links, keywords, and your actual ranking on SERPs (search engine results pages) can help you spot your successes and identify areas to target for improvement.

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