By Kevin Taylor
I believe that engaging content should be at the heart an SEO plan with keyword research as its foundation. The other elements are still vital and form the core structure, however the focus is on the former should the structure be correct (which is still very important).
1. Keyword Research – the foundation
2. Content – the meat and our pride
3. Site Architecture – the support structure
4. On – Page Optimisation – The nitty gritty
5. Technical SEO – keeping your house clean
6. Link Building with targeted effort– Get it right then it’s just the icing on the cake.
To me having good content and an aesthetically pleasing website with a great user experience should go hand in hand. I’ve not included site design or usability in the SEO Pyramid, however it’s highly important and should be considered carefully when looking to drive any marketing efforts to a website, not only for SEO but also for a good ROI.
Keyword Research in 5 Easy Steps
I know it may sound strange but I actually enjoy keyword research. It often reminds me of the feeling of setting up your own business or starting something new -full of optimism!
1. Build the right foundation. It may be tempting to start doing SEO without carrying out an in-depth Keyword Research phase but this can be one of the biggest mistakes that people make, especially as the search terms are the foundation of all our “SEO” work going forward.
We will, I am sure have some instances where our clients are too heavily focused on one or two keywords; which are highly competitive. This should then involve a little re-education to show the benefit of targeting keyword groups to support an overall competitive keyword term.
2. Using Keyword Groups or supporting keywords can be much easier to achieve your overall goal. Optimising and including keywords which support an overall high volume and broad keyword achieves the same goal but with far less competition and more ease. For example ranking for “best architect in surrey 2013” will be much easier to achieve than “architect” or “best architect” but they all work together to optimise for the head terms and can show success along the way to achieving your main goal.
Perhaps we should call it Keyword Investigation as the process is about first defining your broad topic and brainstorming based on your clients business, products and goals i.e. traffic, conversion etc. to funnel down into the specifics.
3. Get focused! Treat it as if you are initiating a sales call and you are trying to identify whether this potential customer is wasting your time or not. You increase the chance of a sale by using qualifiers. In the sales world it’s the four W’s – Who, What, When, Where but relating it to search these still apply.
4. Take it to the Tools. Once you have brainstormed with the broad and targeted keyword areas along with the qualifiers, this is when you can take it to the keyword tools. There are obviously many tools available and we all have our own personal favourites but my favourites include Adwords Keyword tool, Keyword Spy and Ubersuggest which uses Google’s autocomplete data to suggest keywords.
Once you have gathered your extensive list you can then put them into the Adwords Keyword Tool which will allow you to fine tune the results.
Top Tip: Make sure you use “exact” match searches and set your target country along with focusing on Local Monthly searches.
5. Make your case. You want to choose keywords with a good level of search volume but with lower competition levels. You can get a grasp on the competitiveness by looking at the Adwords Keyword tool but I wouldn’t trust this metric too much as this is only for PPC queries and not organic.
When I’m trying to find out how hard it will be for a client to rank for the chosen terms I use a few tools but I always start by running a few manual search queries on the terms to see what the competition is like. I go into Google and search for a few terms taking down the top competitors and collecting their URL’s to take into Moz’s opensiteexplorer comparison tool (OSE).
I manually look at the competitor’s source code to see:
– Title tag – what terms they are targeting and how optimised is the site.
– H tags
– Meta data
After reviewing in OSE go back to the competitor’s sites and run queries to look at the following:
– Inbound anchor text.
– Social presence – how active, what level of quality?
– What kind of content does the site have – can we do better?
– How optimised is the content?
– What does the site architecture shout?
Top Tip: I look for the easiest competitor to beat, if it’s on the first page and isn’t well optimised, doesn’t have a good Page or Domain authority, social is minimal, content is poor – I can’t help but get excited!
Keep in mind your head terms, supporting keywords, qualifying terms and with the latest insight into the search competition you can plan your strategy.
– Which keywords can you achieve quick wins?
– Which keywords have the highest search volume and will be supported by other terms where you can more easily achieve success?
– What longer tail content are people searching for that you can create?
Content is Queen – Quick shout out to all female SEOs!
I love content, the idea or creating content that is interesting and serves a purpose to the searcher whilst at the same time bringing in the business gets my mind ticking!
1. Where do you start? I always find that’s it’s better to pre-plan a group or schedule of content so that the end results tie together to support the end goal.
I tend to build out topics within a search term to help support internal linking and increase user experience.
Head term: Car Hire
Supporting Term: Car hire in Spain
Content: Tips on how to drive your hire car in spain
Content: Top family day trips in Spain (content includes recommendations to hire a car)
2. Content schedule/ map. By creating a content schedule/ map you can easily slot content into topics and supporting search terms. I typically use an excel spreadsheet turning the keyword groups into Topics and creating article or page suggestions into each section.
3. Guidelines to work to. I remember writing about Panda when it first came out that we need to make content that serves a purpose and ticks a few of Panda’s boxes. This is still true today so you should be able to tick the following:
– It’s well written
– It’s got great info
– It’s interesting or funny
– It’s got great videos and great photos
– You want to tweet about it!
– You want to share it!
– If you were the target market you would come back and visit!
4. Make Google’s Quality Raters happy!
As long as you are designing content that is written to serve a beneficial purpose and make a positive impact to the reader – whilst within a quality site that treats users and bots the same, you should not be marked poor by Google’s Quality Raters.
It can be useful to bear in mind the guidelines that Google publishes to their Quality Raters on how to ide
ntify a good quality page:
This tells me that to make Google happy our content has to serve a purpose which is not focused to manipulate either the search engines or the users but has earned its place in the high SERP’s. There is a high focus and potential benefit for adding content, information, tools or media to your content to increase the engagement signals of the page. Bearing this in mind from the start can really help to achieve success and even inspire articles from the outset.
Top tip: Try to find an on topic search query based on your keyword research (check Google Trends and Ubersuggest) that your site does not currently answer. Are people searching for a tool, a calculator, a form, guidelines etc.? What do the search queries tell you? If you currently don’t have this on your site or any content relating to it then build it and watch your stats increase.
Building out topics to support the search terms is the same for site structure / architecture – which takes the target search term and leads the navigation, internal linking and content requirements.
Top Tip: When defining the site structure try to create as flat a structure as possible and internally linking to avoid any silos of pages. Ideally you want to be able to click through to your desired page within 3 clicks from a user perspective and this will concentrate the internal linking authority to all pages.
It may mean being creative with sections of your site to allow you to create a resource of information – albeit this is dependent on your products, industry or topic but the end result should present you with a highly targeted resource of information supporting your overall target.
Internal linking is critical to spreading the authority and increasing user experience. On topic pages should link to each other and link back within their hierarchy. More content focused pages should also include links back to more commercially focused pages.
On Page SEO
As with all of the other optimisations above i.e. creating quality, compelling, human, unique content the same should be mirrored into our On-Page SEO.
You can leave yourself open to potential problems if you template your keywords into the on page elements such as Title, Htags, alt text etc.
What’s far greater is to create compelling content which is optimised but not overtly. No keyword stuffing, standard tagging of keywords onto into the Title or Htags such as “Bicycle Accessories | Bike Tubes, Cycle lights, Bike Bells” or unnecessary repetitions.
Top tips: Carefully create Titles and Htags that closely relate to the content and that would compel you to read the content. Limit repetitions to 1 repeat of a single keyword and make sure they look human and not written with only SEO in mind. If you are not already you should start incorporating the use of Micro data and Schema.org to generate rich snippets in the SERP’s for all your content. Maybe next month we can delve into rich snippets in more detail!
This is really about keeping your house in order, ensuring the small and large elements are taken care of.
I’ll point out some common hurdles or essentials to tick off.
– If required set the GWT location target (for example – .com targeting uk).
– Ensure no duplicate content traps i.e http: vs https.
– Rel=canonical implemented correctly.
– In most cases disallow wildcard subdomains to prevent negative SEO and where relevant disallow directories.
– Up-to-date XML sitemaps.
– 404 error page with navigation essential for user experience but doesn’t stop you being creative like the following examples: The-best-error-pages-on-the-internet (not all of these examples are great for SEO although it shows that you can add creative elements into your 404 error page) .
– Correctly monitoring redirects and where relevant ensuring 301 redirects. – Correctly managing blog tags for duplicate content.
– Correctly manage pages which should not be indexed or followed in robots.txt and meta tags.
Links are a very important part of SEO and special focus should be made to creating and managing the right anchor text profile which offers a natural appearance with a strong focus on Brand and a small percentage targeting commercial terms.
Link building should be the icing on the cake or as in the diagram the tip of the pyramid as everything else in your SEO strategy should be built to attract links naturally by their relevancy, high quality and the engaging nature of your content.
There is a good post on multiple link building strategies http://pointblankseo.com/link-building-strategies which covers the high value and content dependant approaches.
Top Tip: Old hat SEO techniques have left some distrusting external links even without considering nofollow – to avoid looking like a link farm or diluting on page link juice to ensure your efforts are not wasted. However, linking to a highly relevant external resource can be very valuable and increase the amount of links that your content will gather. So take the bigger view and build the best experience and resource you can for your readers.
Human focused content and optimisations – a Natural Approach for 2013
The overall theme for carrying out search engine optimisation which is as future proof as we can estimate in 2013 should be ensuring all elements are as highly relevant, targeted and as natural as possible with a strong focus on adding benefit to the user. The focus should be to emulate a site which you would expect to see in the search results and one that inspires interaction or a reaction so that the site is shared, linked to and engaged with. It’s not saying that the link building or on page or technical SEO is no longer required. These are still very much fundamentals – it’s about changing the focus, building a natural profile from the linking, anchor text, title and HTags to the content and purpose of the site.
About the author
Kevin Taylor is CEO at Gravytrain.