How to Develop an SEO Strategy

By Madison Taylor
March 17, 2023
Pearlescent metal rings

Marketers like to think they have their fingers on the pulse of pop culture, technology, web use, consumer habits, and the general goings-on of the internet. But SEO has experienced some pretty major changes in the last few years, and it can feel like you’re swimming upstream just trying to keep up.

You need a well-defined, consistent SEO strategy to make sure future content is the best it can be. Where do you start?

Create Long-Tail Keywords

First, think of a list of topics that relate to your business. Think of 10 or so short, single-word topics — the kind of thing you get asked about a lot, or the things that you’ve encountered misconceptions about, or maybe the things you have particular expertise in.

Use Google’s Keyword Tool to see which of those topics gets the best search volume or if there’s a variation on them that’s more popular. Narrow them down to a group of short or single-word topics — these are your “pillars” going forward.

You’re not going to write individual blog posts on each of those topics — they’re too broad and competitive to float to the top of the list. They’re just your guiding categories that future posts will fit into.

Once you have short keywords, you can start turning them into long-tail keywords that are more specific and thus easier for you to become an expert in. As an added bonus, more specificity means more individual posts, giving you fresh content and extra relevance.

Let’s go back to the landscaping example. Say one of your short-tail keywords is “xeriscaping.” That’s a huge topic, so it’s too big a task to try to cover everything there is to know about dry-weather landscaping in one post.

You can, however, start to write more specific posts in that topic cluster, like “5 Ways To Save Water While Keeping Your Grass Green” or “Which Trees To Plant in a Dry Climate.” By mimicking the kind of language that people actually search for, you’ll tick all of Google’s boxes for relevant, conversational information, and you’ll fare better in search as a result.

Build Pillar Pages For Each Topic

A pillar page is typically a long-form, detailed explanation that dives into a particular topic in far more detail than an individual blog post. Use your long-tail keywords as headers within that pillar page, as well as in the body copy itself.

Eventually, each pillar page will link to other relevant blog posts, and they’ll link back to the pillar page. Google can see all the internal links and start to paint a picture of a large, interconnected web of content, all on a particular topic that you’re an expert in.

Start a Blog

If you don’t have a blog, you need one. In order to stay fresh and relevant in search results, you’ll need to put out timely, informative content on a regular basis, and a blog is the single best way to do that.

Don’t overdo it with the long-term keywords in each post. Google can see that you’re keyword-stuffing, and they’ll penalize you in their results for it. Also, remember to link each post to the relevant pillar page on that topic to cement that cluster of ideas together. Finally, remember to link to the blog from the pillar page. The more you can relate the specific long-tail keywords to the shorter, broader topic, the better.

Blog often. Not everything you write about needs to relate to a specific topic cluster — it’s also useful to write about tangentially related topics or current events that your customers care about. But blogs drive traffic, and the more, the merrier. Sites that blogged more than 16 times a month got over three times the traffic of sites that only blogged once a week.

Finally, go back and fix your old content.

Lots of companies started putting content up on the web before they really had a plan to stitch it all together, so it’s a good idea to get your old stuff up to snuff.

Get rid of irrelevant posts, update your titles, headers, and meta tags, and check your work against these best practices — a post stuffed full of keywords might have been great ten years ago, but now it’s actually dragging the rest of your site down.

Use Analytics To See What’s Working

All this SEO optimization is a lot of effort, and you want to know that that effort is being rewarded. The main metric that’ll tell you if your SEO efforts are helping out your company is organic search — when people search for a topic and click your site on the results page.

There are tons of software options out there, including Google Analytics, that will break down where your traffic is coming from, what keywords are driving views to your site, and how your pages rank under each search term you’re trying to optimize for.

Track those metrics over time. You should be able to see which of your topics are working, which aren’t, and which to pump a little more effort into.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

One final note: don’t panic! All these tips can be confusing, and though they’re helpful, the bottom line is that content is king. Don’t try to trick Google into thinking you’re relevant — fooling people into reading your site won’t get them to spend money.

Instead, be relevant. If Hummingbird, RankBrain, and whatever comes next in the world of SEO are working properly, then the best, most useful content will naturally rise to the top. And that’s exactly how it should be.