How To Craft A Winning SEO Strategy for 2021 [Free Template]

Do you want to create an effective SEO strategy that works?

This step-by-step guide walks you through everything you need to know.

You’ll learn how to choose the right keywords, craft winning content, build backlinks plus how to track the performance of your new SEO strategy.

Let’s dive in.

What Is An SEO Strategy?

An SEO strategy is the process of planning and implementing how to optimise your website for increased search engine visibility. It’s also about understanding how SEO fits into your overall sales and marketing strategy. A well-planned SEO strategy outlines where your website is now in terms of search engine visibility, where you want it to be and finally, what steps will you take to reach your SEO goals?

TL;DR Version: An SEO strategy is a process you follow to get more organic traffic.

Here are the steps to implementing an SEO strategy in 2021:

  1. Set your Goals
  2. Choose Your Keywords
  3. Craft a winning SEO content strategy
  4. Advanced Link Building Strategies
  5. Tracking Results

1. SET YOUR GOALS

TL;DR Version: Set your SEO goals for getting more leads and sales, not more traffic.

You’re here because you want more traffic, right?

Great!

But remember…not all traffic is created equal.

The quality of traffic you get can make or break your SEO strategy.

Getting thousands of visitors to your site might sound great, but what if none of that traffic converts?

Successful SEO strategies focus on increasing revenue NOT more traffic.

Here’s an example:

Out of the 2 SEO strategies below, which is best?

SEO Strategy A: This strategy gets 10 visitors per month and converts 25% of them into a sale.

-Or-

SEO Strategy B: This strategy gets over 10,000 visitors per month and converts 0% of visitors into sales.

Even though strategy B gets 1000X more traffic, strategy A is a way more successful SEO strategy.

So, before you do anything else, set your SEO goals for ‘getting more leads and sales, not more traffic.’ If you can remember this tip, then you’ll have a lot more success with your SEO marketing strategy.

2. Choose Your Keywords

TL;DR Version: Choose ‘Sweet Spot’ keywords that have decent search volume but are not too competitive.

Keyword research forms the foundation of any solid SEO strategy.

You want to choose keywords that help you reach your overall marketing & sales goals. This step is super critical to get right, so don’t rush and choose carefully.

Here’s a simple yet highly effective way of choosing the right keywords for SEO.

Step #1 - Develop Keyword Themes

When it comes to keyword research, don’t choose keywords in isolation.

Your goal is to spot ‘themes’ and group similar keywords together.

For example:

Let’s say you’re choosing keywords for an online shoe store.

Keyword themes could include ‘running shoes’, ‘walking shoes’ and ‘tennis shoes’ to name a few.

You’d then want to find keywords that fall into each ‘keyword theme’ and bucket them together. So for ‘tennis shoes’ you might discover keywords like ‘Nike tennis shoes’, ‘women’s tennis shoes’ etc.

I’ll explain this further in Step #2 below.

Step #2 - keyword Bucketing

Once you’ve identified your ‘keyword themes’, it’s time to build out your keyword list and bucket them into theme’s you spotted in step #1.

There are lots of different datasets for finding keywords and you should use as many as you can. 

Don’t rely on a single tool for keyword research.

Datasets available but not limited to you include:

  1. Google Keyword Planner (free)
  2. Google Analytics (free)
  3. Google My Business (free)
  4. Google Search Console (free)
  5. Ahrefs (paid)
  6. SEMrush (paid)
  7. Keywords Everywhere (paid)

Here’s how to build up an excellent keyword list:

For this example, I’ll use Ahrefs keyword explorer tool but as mentioned before, you should use multiple datasets. 

Enter your ‘keyword themes’ from step #1 into your keyword research dataset.

2. Click on the ‘Having same terms’ option found on the left-hand menu.

Ahrefs will automatically generate a list of thousands of potential keywords.

Not all the keywords you find will be helpful. You want to choose the ones that will make sales for you.

That’s where step #3 comes in, finding sweet spot keywords.

Step #3 - Finding the 'Sweet Spot'

When you get to this stage, you want to be strategic about your final keyword choices. 

It’s all about finding that sweet spot between ‘too competitive’ and ‘not worth it’ keywords.

Identifying ‘Sweet Spot’ keywords is crucial and here’s how to do it:

  1. Grab your list of keywords from step 2 and organise them by volume. If you don’t have Ahrefs, no problem, you can use an excel spreadsheet. Organising the keyword list by volume makes it easy to find those sweet spot keywords.
  1. Now, scroll down to about the half-way point of your list. It’s at this point where you’ll find some great ‘sweet spot’ keywords to shortlist.
  2. Go ahead and select a few keywords that match up with your ‘keyword themes’ from step 1.

During this step, you might discover some great keywords that don’t fit into any of your keyword themes. That’s ok, just note those down as important for now and something to address later.

For example, I run an SEO agency in Melbourne that also offers conversion rate optimisation (CRO), but I don’t have a dedicated page for ‘CRO’. So this might be a keyword theme I note down as essential, and I might want to address this by adding a new page during the content creation part of my SEO strategy.

Once you’ve found all your sweet spot keywords, it’s time to move onto the next phase of your SEO strategy, which is all about crafting winning content designed to get more organic traffic.

Keep reading.

3. Craft A Winning SEO Content Strategy

TL;DR Version: Create content your target audience will value NOT for search engine bots.

Crafting winning content consists of 3 main components.

  1. Understanding Search Intent
  2. Content creation
  3. User Experience Signals

I’ll explain each component in detail below.

Step #1 - Mastering Search Intent

Understanding search intent is critical for crafting winning content.

Think about it…

If you don’t understand ‘why’ people are typing in your chosen keywords and ‘what’ they’re looking for, your content will never rank.

For example: Imagine someone searching for “mountain bike tips” on Google.

What’s the ‘why’ behind this keyword?

The person wants to improve their mountain biking skills.

It wouldn’t make sense to show them a review page listing the top 10 mountain bikes for sale…or an eCommerce product page selling mountain bikes.

This person is not looking to buy. They want more information to help improve their skills.

Search intent sounds simple but it can be a lot more complicated and you should spend some time thinking about each keyword you’ve chosen.

Hot tip: If you’re still not sure what the search intent is behind your keywords, don’t worry, an easy way to help you figure it out is to drop your keywords into Google and look at what types of results you see.

Here’s what comes up for ‘Mountain biking tips’

Understanding and matching content with search intent is a vital component of crafting winning content and you need to get a good grasp of it.

Key takeaway: Perform a quick Google search before crafting any content. That way you’ll have a good understanding of what type of content and the search intent behind your target keywords.

Step #2 - Creating Content that Ranks

“Publish Great Content.”

You’ve probably heard that many times before…

But what does it even mean and…(what does it look like)?

Short answer: Great content provides the best possible solution to a searcher’s query, without the added ‘fluff’.

And while there’s no proven success formula to “publishing great content”, there are some simple tips you can apply that can make all the difference:

  1. Keep any introductions short (max 4-10 sentences).
  2. Break your content up into bite-sized snippets of information (max 200-300 words).
  3. Add lots of relevant visuals including images, graphs and tables to explain your answer better.
  4. Keep your content practical (something useful the reader can take away and apply to their own situation).
  5. Before publishing, compare your content with the top 2-3 search results. Look for any differences (good and bad) between the top rank and your content. Is your content better than the top search results? If not, what is missing?

Step #3 - User Experience (UX) Signals

Google is looking at UX signals more than ever to work out the quality of web pages.

This is because UX signals help Google figure out what content is most relevant to a particular search query based on how people interact and behave on different web pages.

Here are some must-know UX tips to lift your website’s user experience:

  • Make sure your website is mobile-friendly (use Google’s official tool to check)
  • Does your website load quickly relative to your competitors? (Check your sites speed here and make sure you improve it if needed)
  • Check for any broken links on your site and rectify them.

     

Use Google Analytics to see how much time people spend on your web pages. Are there any pages that have short session durations, for example, less than 15 seconds? If so, you may want to take a close look at these pages and if they’re important to your SEO campaign, work on improving them to lift session duration.

4. Advanced Link Building Strategies

TL;DR Version: Focus on earning links through high quality content combine with a strategic email outreach campaign.

Putting together a link building strategy is all about making sure the elements NOT on your website are optimised.

And that means putting together a successful link building strategy that acquires high-quality links to your website.

The key to link building is to earn powerful backlinks and that doesn’t happen without mastering email outreach, stealing competitor links and writing high-quality guest posts.

Here are some link building strategies that work…

Effective Outreach Strategies

I want to share a link building secret with you.

If you can master email outreach, you’re going to earn a lot of high-quality backlinks and give yourself a significant competitive advantage of your competition.

Why?

It’s because most people either avoid email outreach altogether or underestimate the effort required to pull it off successfully.

Here’s the crazy part…

Email outreach isn’t that hard to do, but it does mean work and you’re going to have to get used to being rejected. With that said, it’s still worth it.

How a simple email outreach process that works:

Important: Before you jump in and hit send on that first outreach email, your website needs to have at least one linkable asset. This is a non-negotiable because nobody is going to link to your landing or sales pages.

Linkable Asset: A linkable asset is a piece of content strategically designed to attract backlinks, it could be a super detailed blog post, in-depth data study or ego-bait style post.

Step 1 – If you don’t already have a linkable asset on your site, you’ll need to create one before anything else. For reference, some good examples of linkable assets can be found here

Step 2 – Find people in your niche who have the power to link to your website. 

Who are these people? 

Blog owners and webmasters in your industry. 

And the best place to find these people is to start with a simple Google search.

For example: Let’s say you run a SaaS business that provides website security services. All you would need to do is open Google and search for ‘web security blogs’, or something similar to bring up hundreds of blogs and websites in your niche. 

It’s as simple as that.

Step 3 – Visit each blog you find and note down the email and name of the blog owner/webmaster.

Step 4 – Write a personal email for each blogger you reach out to and send at least one follow-up email during your outreach campaign.

Pro-tip: If you’re not having any success with outreach, it means 1 of 2 things: 

  • your personalised outreach emails need improvement.
  • Or your linkable asset needs to be better.

And if outreach isn’t your thing, then the next link building tactic might be more your style.

Competitor Link Building

If you’re trying to build links to a new website or are against some stiff competition, it can often feel overwhelming and hard to know where to begin with building links.

Remember: A big reason your competitors are already ranking is that they’ve built some high-quality backlinks to their website.

And the good news is you can often grab a lot of those links too.

Here’s how:

Step 1 – Go to Google and enter one of the keywords you want to rank for. Take a look at the top 3 search results:

In terms of your overall link building strategy, these websites represent your biggest competition and we want to kick off our link building by replicating as many of their links as possible.

Step 2 – Grab the URL of those top 3 sites and paste them into Ahrefs site explorer. Then click on the ‘backlinks’ menu found on the left-hand side.

By default, Ahrefs will show you the highest quality backlinks your competitors have at the top of the list (see image below).

Step 3 – Look at how your competitors built those backlinks.

For example: When I click on the 4th backlink from the image above, I can see that they acquired this DR 70+ link by posting a short article on a local community forum.

And I know from experience that forum links are easy to acquire.

All you would do is sign-up to the same community, write a helpful article like your competitor did and include a link back to your website.

Pro-tip: Not all of your competitor’s links will be as easy to get as the example above, but don’t worry. Spend some time investigating how they built backlinks and focus on getting as many of the same links as you possibly can.

Strategic Guest posting

What if you don’t have any linkable assets on your website but still need high powered backlinks?

Then guest posting is a great strategy.

Here’s the thing…

Like any link building strategy, the golden rule is always ‘quality over quantity’.

And that’s no different for guest posting. 

So, focus your guest posting efforts on authoritative websites relevant to your niche. And if you’re not having much luck at first, don’t worry, start with some smaller websites that accept guest posts willingly. After you’ve published 1 or 2 quality guest posts on smaller sites, you can use these examples to sell yourself when pitching larger sites.

Here’s a proven guest post outreach template that works:

Email Subject: Blog content ideas for [insert their website name]

Hello [Name]

I would love to be a contributor to your blog.

[One sentence about yourself]

I’m happy to share my insights, failures and successes on [Broad topic you want to write about].

Here’s a couple of my recent articles I’ve written recently:

[Article One]

[Article Two]

I Look forward to hearing back from you and if interested, I’ll be happy to share some specific topic ideas I think would be an excellent fit for your site.

Thanks!

[Your Name]

5. Tracking Results

TL;DR Version: Use both Google Analytics & Google Search Console to track the performance of your SEO strategy.

Paying close attention to how your SEO strategy is impacting your website helps you to not only identify future opportunities but uncover any problems that might be holding your site back.

And if you’re implementing an SEO strategy for a client, they’re going to want to see how the plan is performing regularly.

Here are some performance KPI’s to track when implementing an SEO strategy.

Monitor Organic Traffic

Google Analytics is the best tool for monitoring your sites organic traffic.

Not only is it accurate, but it’s also packed full of useful data including traffic behaviour, conversions, total visitor numbers plus lots more.

Here are instructions on how to monitor your campaigns organic traffic:

  1. Open your Google Analytics account and click to expand the ‘Acquisition’ tab on the left-hand side.
  2. Select ‘all traffic’ and then select ‘channels’.
  1. Click the date range found at the top right-hand corner of the Google Analytics dashboard. 
  2. Select the month you want to track and then tick the ‘compare to’ button to compare traffic changes across different months.

Comparing previous months will give you a good sense about how your SEO strategy is performing as you should notice organic traffic increasing over time.

Track Keyword Rankings

Google Search Console (GSC) is another excellent tool for measuring your SEO strategy.

With GSC, you can dive a little deeper to get a better understanding of exactly which keywords are driving the most traffic to your site.

Step 1 – Open the Google Search Console dashboard, navigate to the performance tab found on the left-hand side and select the ‘Date’ filter.

You want to compare monthly traffic improvements to see which keywords are bringing the most traffic.


Step 2 – Change the filter and compare different date ranges.

Now you can see which keywords are driving the most traffic to your site and track the keyword performance as it changes over time.

For example: Keywords showing a positive difference means that rankings are improving and it’s a good sign your strategy is working. 

But..if you see negative intervals, that means you’ll want to look closely at that keyword to analyse how you can make improvements and where your SEO campaign is falling short.

Final Thoughts...

Now you have all the steps needed to create an effective SEO strategy.

It’s over to you.

Which part of the strategy did you find helpful?

Or…was there something I missed?

Let me know in the comments below now.

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