SEO can be a deceptively long process.
Some of our clients feel like success is right there for the taking – just a few magical tricks away.
They can picture their content ranking at the top of Google for even the most competitive keywords in extremely competitive industries.
But, in reality, they’re a long way away from realizing your goal.
Because they love the promise more than the process.
Understanding the SEO Process
Kaspar Szymanski once compared SEO to fitness – and it’s a great analogy.
There are no shortcuts to game the system (i.e., your body) unless you’re OK with taking serious health risks.
You need to have a plan and stick to it. That means exercising, eating right, and pushing yourself to continuously improve naturally.
So I was quite surprised recently on a monthly call to learn that one of my large clients was impatient with the SEO process.
How does someone so successful – and one who typically follows a process for the promise of more clients and cases – not understand and love and respect the SEO process?
You can’t get to the promise without going through the process.
SEO (and most forms of digital marketing) is a process that, with patience and strategy, will bring you the promise of new traffic, leads, clients, revenue, and growth.
To understand the process you have to create a plan, have a strategy, and know all the steps in the process.
Our process always begins with a technical and/or a content audit.
A technical audit looks at absolutely every element on the site that can impact your SEO performance.
One of the most important of all these elements is speed.
I’ve seen so many websites put a large video introduction on the homepage that takes far too long to load.
You have a high bounce rate and have lost a potential client or customer.
If only they did a smaller version of the video, or moved more relevant content above the fold, their speed and conversions would be much better.
A technical audit should be in depth and take weeks to complete, depending on what’s wrong with the site.
If you have a large website with thousands of pages of content, then it’s definitely worth doing a content audit.
It’s during this process when you can identify whether you need to eliminate, repurpose, or rewrite your content to get the biggest benefit.
We’ve worked on websites that we reduced by 50 percent and it’s highly beneficial to the site.
You will likely see a drop in traffic, but that’s the idea – to eliminate non-relevant traffic.
Over time, you’ve likely written about topics that drive traffic, but those visitors don’t actually convert into clients or customers.
A content audit makes sure all your content is relevant to your target audience. And once Google indexes all your new and improved content, you should see more conversions.
By going through the process of a technical audit, content audit, or both, you will have a complete understanding of everything that needs to be fixed in order to rank well in organic search.
It is just the first step. But the first step can sometimes be the hardest.
Now it’s time to build upon that momentum.
2. Technical SEO
When it comes to technical SEO, there’s a lot to think about, including:
- Index status.
- Crawl budget.
- Crawl errors.
- Internal links.
- Site/page speed.
- Broken links.
Fixing any one individual thing on this list won’t help any more than choosing another.
You must improve everything!
Everything must work together.
A house needs a foundation, electrical, plumbing, walls, and a roof. If you don’t have all these things, you don’t have a house. You have a shell.
The same is true of technical SEO. You need to get all of these elements right to have an optimized website.
If you increase the speed and functionality of your website and webpages, then you’ll also likely increase the number of conversions.
Based on the findings of a technical SEO audit, we recently made fixes to a site in the brewing industry.
After fixing all the errors, this company saw a 1,100 percent increase in traffic.
That’s the promise of technical SEO!
3. Keyword Research
Keyword research remains incredibly useful.
I highly recommend reading Roger Montti’s excellent guide, How to Do Keyword Research for SEO: Everything You Need to Know.
As I explained in 4 Pillars of a Successful Legal Content Strategy, keyword research helps you uncover which keywords are most valuable to you.
Optimizing your content around high-value keywords is what will get you in front of your potential clients or customers when they need you most.
If people can’t find you when they’re looking for a service or product you offer, then they can’t buy from you. It’s that simple.
4. Location Demographics
Whether you’re doing SEO for a local business or a client who offers a service in a specific region, you know the importance of location.
Much like buyer personas, you need to understand how people search for local businesses and service providers, and who they are.
That means you need to ensure you have accurate NAP (name/address/phone) information and content that references your service area, whether it’s a state, city, or neighborhood.
Claim and optimize your Google My Business listing.
For more on this topic, see Bill Hartzer’s excellent post, How to Be a Local Content Machine.
Your website should speak to your potential clients. Make sure you speak their language.
Google also rewards websites based on factors such as relevance, distance, and prominence.
The more signals and accurate data you can provide Google, the better you will rank in time.
5. Content Strategy
You need a content strategy. The following strategy has worked for many of my legal clients:
- Foundational content: This is your core content that targets your main keywords and topics. Create content that is about your services or products (your “money” keywords). You can further enhance this content by writing about other relevant services and products you offer and any relevant long-tail keywords.
- FAQ content: Create pages that answers common questions your audience is likely asking using Google. Make sure it has an SEO-friendly URL, you use breadcrumbs, and it is more comprehensive than any other page on the topic (make sure to check the competing pages in the top 10 positions).
- Authoritative content: Let your clients create content to demonstrate their expertise and authenticity.
- User experience: Think about ways to enhance your content (e.g., using visuals), your website navigation (e.g., linking to other relevant pages on your website), and calls to action (e.g., free consultation, make an appointment, content download).
Creating content with a purpose will attract the people you want to become your customers or clients.
Make it easy for people to understand who you are, what you offer, and find exactly what they’re looking for.
You will be rewarded with more leads and conversions!
6. Content Writing & Editing
Your client may want to write their own content, or they may want you to do it.
Either way, the content needs to be optimized.
Always think about the audience or personas first, but without neglecting SEO best practices.
You want to write content that people will engage with and share (and that Google will index and reward with great rankings).
Ultimately, it’s about moving people toward a conversion.
If you haven’t already, make sure to read Ron Lieback’s 47 tips to master SEO writing.
Content is how you build and demonstrate your authority, relevance, and trust.
Well-written content that has been thoroughly proofread and edited is one way to do that.
On the flip side, poorly written and badly edited content will do the exact opposite – it will send them running to your competitors!
OK, you can’t control Google or any search engine’s rankings.
That said, there is one process that can work.
Be excellent at all of the previous points we’ve discussed so far and you should see SEO success.
- Know your audience.
- Create great content for your audience.
- Provide a great website experience for your audience.
Is it easy? No.
But it works!
If you do everything you possibly can to optimize your site and build your brand, and you offer a quality product or service, then it’s inevitable that you will be rewarded with the organic search visibility you deserve.
You have to follow a process to get to where you want to be.
You have to have a plan and put the work in if you’re ever going to achieve your goals.
So it’s time to stop driving blindfolded and hoping you reach your destination.
Hope isn’t an SEO strategy.
Instead, let SEO be your GPS and help guide you to exactly where you want to be.
To get to the promise, you have to go through the process.
But when you do? The magic is obvious.
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our weekly newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!