Warning: this is going to be long so it might take a while to finish reading the entire thing. In case you need a breakdown, below is table of content for this post:
- SEO keyword strategy
- On page seo
- SEO linking building strategy
- SEO metrics for feedback
1. SEO keyword strategy
When you are developing seo strategy for a new site or old one, the first thing is back to keyword search. In the past, this means going to google keyword tool or some of your other favourite keyword tool software and start punching in some seed keywords to find some terms that are profitable and non competitive. I used to do that until I realise that no keyword tool in the world can accurately decide on how competitive the keywords will be.
In this section, we will talk about two important seo tips:
- how to pick keywords that have no competition
- how to gauge the competitiveness of a keyword space
How to pick keywords that have no competition
The best way to enter into uncompetitive niches is to know how to use trends and the changing keyword space to spot emerging new keyword or what Michael would call a query space. Google reports that about 20-25% of searches are new. Hence, if you know how to use trends and the changing query space to spot these new searches, you have practically no competition. In fact, this is the seo keyword strategy that I used to create an adsense site that is making 1k per month.
So, let's take a look at how keyword trend analysis works.
New keywords emerge from a variety of sources.
- Seasonality: People search for stuff that ends with a date or year. These categories range from holidays to reality shows to sports. It is common to new searches such as best Christmas toys for 2011 or black friday 2011 or american idol 2012. The addition of the time aspect changes the keyword space and allows new sites to enter and dominate if they did early enough. If you start optimising for christmas 2012 now, you will have a great chance of ranking for some seasonal keywords when next year rolls around.
- Events: Elections, disasters, affairs etc. Basically news that sudden causes everyone to start searching different. In a niche such as news when events are common, it holds great opportunity to spot new keywords and dominate them. The traffic may or may not die off depending on the decay rate of the news.
- New products or services: This is what I used to create the 1k. I basically spotted a market where new products are introduced consistently. Not only that, some of these new products tend to be featured on national TV, resulting in huge traffic spikes as well as an increasing traffic for these new terms. This means that if you want enter a market, know it well. Understand the process of when and how new products are introduced. How often these new products are introduced and do they receive any marketing exposure are key questions you should factor in your analysis. No keyword software tool will tell you this.
- Evolving query space: I took the longest in realising this
after rereading Michael's blog a couple of times. How people search
changes over time. In fact, the more popular a keyword is, the more
likely new search terms will appear. This is because there are lots of
people interested in the term but are sick of seeing the same result
over and over again. This is when they will try new permutations of the
keyword to see what new results will be presented. This decay and rise
of query space is something that is not mentioned often in all the money
making blogs but understand and observing it is critical in your
As an example, this blog ranks for certain "long tail keywords" terms. I think it is actually on page two for long tail keywords. I decided to write more about this term when I noticed that some SEO blogs started to focus on this. It was an evolution of the term keyword and is something new that my site can tackle and possibly dominate without backlinks. What I have done to enforce the relevance of this blog for this term "longtail keywords" is to write an article on it and repeating them like what I have done above. I am sure that if I write more articles such as the one I have written called what are long tail keywords, this site will draw in more targeted traffic for this term.
The simple way to do it is to pick certain high traffic pages that you site might have and see what keyword terms are bringing you traffic. See how often these new keywords emerge and whether they can form an upward trend.
If your site is new and has no traffic, using a free tool such as Google keywords trends tool is the next best thing. Learn how to drill into the trend tool. Select a 90days or 1 year timeline and start to drill into every category of your niche. Watch out for 'breakout' terms as these indicate a growing sector that might not be as competitive.
Your seo keyword strategy forms the foundation of your entire seo campaign. Without them, you are building on thin ice. I encourage you to spend more time here than anywhere else. With the right keywords, you will find that you don't need to depend on as many links as other people have told you. If you have a weak keyword set, you will have no choice but to be drawn into a link competition. It doesn't have to be this way. Link building is expensive and time consuming. If you can have targeted traffic without backlinks, your seo campaign will have a higher ROI. It all depends on what query space you are entering into.
Before moving on to the next stage of creating site structure and content, I like to touch a bit about how to judge the competitiveness of your keywords.
How to gauge the competitiveness of a keyword space
Most of the time, emerging or evolving keywords have little or no competition. However, it is still prudent to do some keyword competitive analysis. This is an open field that different people have different ideas about. For backlink guys, they will stress on looking at the backlink profile on the competitors using either yahoo backlinks or some other backlink checker software. This is what I used to do but if you are picking new keywords, this is totally unnecessary. Besides, there is no backlink checker tool that is useful.
What you need is to check whether there are sites that have started to optimise their own sites for these new keywords. This can be done via search engine operators.
- intitle tells you whether the keywords are located in the page title
- inurl tells you whether the keywords are used in the url
- inanchor tells you whether the competitor has started to invest in link building. This will NOT tell you how many actual links have been built
2. On page SEO strategy
Once you have determined your keyword set, you need to work on optimising your onsite SEO. Contrary to popular beliefs, targeting a set of uncompetitive keywords with good onsite optimisation is sufficient to get you targeted traffic. No backlinks needed!
Why do onpage SEO
Onsite SEO helps your seo strategy by proving the following benefits:
- Help search engines to crawl and index your site: Many people have downplayed this part but I think it is important especially if you are developing a seo strategy for a large website. In such cases, you are more concern about whether the search engine can crawl and index as much of your site as possible as oppose to your search engine rankings for any keyword. In many cases, your pages are not ranked not because it lacks links but simply because they have not been indexed. In such cases, improving the crawl helps to improve your index which can bring you more search engine traffic for a larger variety of keywords.
- Internal links: Internal links do pass relevance to the pages they point to. In fact, Michael suggested that search engines trust internal links more than external links because the site owner will be in the best position to know what keywords the pages should be related to. That sounds logical although I have no evidence of its validity. However, I do know that inner links do help to rank pages for keywords that are not in competitive spaces. Good on page SEO will help to maximise the use of internal links.
Site structure for SEO
One of the first thing you can do is to find the right site structure that is right for the keywords. Most of the time, we use blog format but that might not be the use in terms of onsite SEO. Your navigation, your promotion links and your site organisation will not be the right structure that will maximise your exposure to the search engines.
So, when choosing a site structure, there are a few choices you can pick from. The most common one is blog and is great for informational based sites. Other options include
- forums for niches where discussions are important
- data based driven ecommerce stores for people selling physical products
- Q&A site
- A social network
- a mix of the above. You can be innovative and find ways to combine certain things but do keep the code clean. There is a technical side to site structure whereby the wrong codes can result in search engines not indexing your page properly. This is not my area of expertise but I like to give everyone a heads up on this.
Onsite seo checklist
- seo friendly navigation: navigation are important part of
your inner link structure. Remember that your navigation links exist on
EVERY page. Therefore, the keywords used on your navigation effectively
passed the relevance to the pages they are pointing to. Every often, the
home page uses the keyword "home". This need not be the case. You can
always include your main keyword i.e. 'home of dog training guide' if
your main keyword is dog training guide.
Beside the keywords used in the navigation, you should also consider what pages you want these navigation links to point to. Ideally, these inner pages should be hubs within your sites that connect to the rest of the pages of the site. One good example is a sitemap. By nature a sitemap acts as a hub for your content and feeding internal links to it help it to strength other pages that it links to. So, one part of your navigation system can point to the sitemap.
- create internal hubs: I have mentioned this above but to explain more clearly, internal hubs can be pages that link to the rest of the content in your site. For example, you can create an article titled "top 20 post of mysite.com" where it can link to the 20 most popular articles at your site. These internal hubs are not only useful for internal linkage but they are great for your readers as well.
- promotional links: You can use some plugin to cross promote relevant content across posts, similar to how Amazon recommends similar product. It is great for both increased readership as well passing internal links.
- meta tags, page titles, url: These are the normal stuff that other sites have advice. Use keywords in your meta tags, page titles and url. If you used a blogging platform, your article titles immediately become your url and page titles.
- avoid overusing similar keywords in page titles: this is just my hypothesis but letting your main keyword appear in all your page titles via some wordpress plugins might be one negative factor in Panda's algorithm. I am currently testing this by moving all main keyword from all my page titles.
After mapping out your site structure, it is time to plan out your content strategy, which is just as important as your keyword research strategy. Content drives targeted traffic. Without content, there is no basis to draw search engine traffic from.
Content needs to valuable. I used to think that purchased content is sufficient. Well, the recent panda just proves otherwise. So, if you want to create quality that is appealing to both search engines and human visitors, here are some ideas:
- Your own journals: Write down your own experience or experiments for the keywords that you want to provide value to. For example, I created a case study of how I took a site to 1k a month within 6 months. Readers enjoy that because you are providing your unique perspective of your own experiences.
- Interviews of experts in your field: If you want provide interviews that help your readers learn from the leading experts in your field, it is both useful and relevant.
- In depth tutorials: For certain niches such as design, beauty, software etc, giving detailed tutorials are a great way to give value for your readers. This article can be an example (I hope!) of a detailed guide for anyone who wants to develop a seo strategy for their website.
- Breaking news or insightful commentary: For people in the news niche such as tech blogs, you can either to be the first to break news or provide the most comprehensive analysis of popular events. Although you can get with by repeating what the top sites have written, readers will soon find them boring.
- Real product reviews: If you want to go into product niches, best way is to buy the product and use it. Take lots of images and videos and write about how the product really works. Nothing beats a real hands on experience.
- Content strategy for small companies: For small business owner who want to use SEO strategy, you can use the below as the basis for insightful and relevant content for your customers:
- Company history: how, why, when you start the company is a good reason to be interesting and relevant
- Case studies: how real customers are using you
- Solve their problems: provide information that solves some of your customers' problems in your market. For example, if you are a florist, give ideas on what kind of unique gifts for valentine's day. If you are an ebook software company, talk about how to organise, find and share ebooks can be useful.
- Profile of people: the lives of yourself and your employees can make for interesting content.
- Events and functions: when you company has any marketing events, write about them. Use lots of images and videos as well.
How to do seo copywriting
Now, we get to the actual writing of the content. With your keywords in place, your site structure defined and your content ideas thought out, it is time to write. Here are some seo copywriting tips or best practices that I often used. You are free to innovate of course. There is nothing fixed in stone for seo. You need to constantly change and evolve or be left behind by others who are willing to do so.
- Keyword content targeting: For best results, target each section of your article with a long tail keyword. Never mind the traffic volume. Just use them rather than using your own way of writing which might have zero search volume. I did this in every section of this article. I used "choose keywords for your article" as this section's heading before changing it to the currently used "keyword content targeting". In such instances, you are not betting on any particular long tail keywords. You just optimising the entire article so that there is a chance that some of these long tail keywords will bear you some traffic. For such longtails, I used google suggest rather google keyword tools as the latter does not show you all the longtails which are suitable for your particular message that a section of your article might want to convey.
- Repeating keywords: This still carries a certain weight in terms of relevance of your content. To avoid being spammy, you need to write long copies so that the keywords you are targeting get naturally repeated. For example, I have already repeated the keywords "seo strategy" many many times because I need to. Of course, you cannot write long copy by rambling. Each of your points needs careful deliberation and planning so that it maximises the value of your user.
- Optimise each section for a keyword: It is ok for an article to carry many different keywords but it is good practice to write in a way such that each section targets a particular keyword. This is called micro seo copywriting. I have demonstrated some of these seo techniques in this article as well. The paragraph above, for instance, targets how keyword repetition helps your seo strategy.
- Try different keywords: As I have mentioned in the keyword section, the more popular a keyword is, the more permutations it will have as people are sick of seeing the same results and are trying to see alternatives. In the course of your writing, you can take advantage of this by thinking and trying different keywords that say the same thing. For example, how to make money online and how to earn money online means the same thing but I am getting traction for the latter and not the former. The former is competitive and tough to get in while the former has more room for me to scrape some of this traffic off the search engines. If you change the combination of your keywords through different adjectives and verbs, you will be surprised to find some unoccupied keyword space.
- Write seo content consistently: You will find that that writing consistently for a long period of time will produce search engine traffic even if you don't how to target keywords in your content. When I started this blog in 2006, I know nothing of SEO and just write. Now, I am getting search traffic for terms such as twitter startups, ebook applications without intentionally targeting. Just goes to show that consistently in producing content can yield search traffic. Using seo content strategy just gives you better ROI and faster results.
Now we get to everybody's favourite part of SEO strategy: linkbuilding or link placement. Frankly, if you look at the amount of information before this section, you will already know that SEO is more than link building. I am NOT saying 10k of keyword anchored links will not get you anywhere but it is not the only solution and far from the most cost effective.
Why link building is important to seo
Building links to your site has its place. Firstly, it helps to get new site crawl and index which I mentioned above is important. If you are using wordpress or blogspot, there is an automatic system that will ping the blog servers for you when you published an article. This can help you to get index without backlinks.
Secondly, backlinks can give you anchor text relevance. This is the main reason why most SEO engage in so much link building. It is an attempt to give the page the links are pointing to relevance through the anchored keywords that are being used in the links. However, building tonnes of high quality content over a period of time can give you relevance as well. The latter process might be longer but it is more cost effective as it helps to bring in other longtail traffic while giving your site real value. The backlinks might lose their value passing ability over time, especially they come from those backlinking network or software tools. I have more to say about whether all backlinks can help you to rank.
Thirdly, getting links to your site can give you traffic and recognition. This marketing aspect of getting links is actually the most important to me nowadays. If my content is outstanding, I just need to let people know about it. By placing links in places where my potential readers hang out, it will drive them back to my site. They may become regular readers. In fact, they might like the content so much that they give me natural backlinks. This can only works if you follow section 2 of the content strategy.
How to get backlinks to your site
Now that you know why you need links to your site, the key is where to get the ones that matter. This is where I will not reveal so much information except to say that go for quality. 10 value passing links are much better thousands of links that don't pass value.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to tell if a link can pass value. The complicated way is this: if a page ranks for the keywords anchored in the link that is pointing to it, even though the page itself does not contain the keywords, then you can safely say that the anchor text has been passed from the link. The easy way is to use your common sense and get your links in popular sites that have both traffic and high keyword authority.
That is all I have to say about your seo linking strategy. If you want to know about how many links you should get, how diverse should your link profile is and how varied your anchored keywords are, I am no interest in these questions because they are not relevant to me now. There are lots of seo blogs that talk about such useless things if you want to read about them.
4. SEO metrics for feedback
One of the least discussed SEO topics is SEO metrics. I am quite surprised at how little information there is at measuring the success of your SEO campaign. The most common types of seo metrics that people report is the number of backlinks and rankings for certain keywords. That is not the end objective of SEO. The point of doing a SEO strategy is to get more targeted traffic to your website at the most cost effective ways. Or else, there is no strategy. It is just slamming links and pretending to do SEO.
What are the SEO metrics that matter
In this section, I will be talking about some personal seo metrics that I am tracking. Mind you, this is a new area for me as well and it will probably be the most blogged about seo topic for the next few months in my blog. Again, read Michael Martinez's SEO theory if you want to learn more. I know nothing when compared to him.
- Emerging keyword dashboard: This is, hands down, my most important SEO metric. I constantly look for new keywords in my analytics data so that I can spot new areas to write and dominate. Currently, there is no seo metrics tool (that I can know of) which can help to track these new keywords. What I do is to look at my Google analytics and dot down in an excel spreadsheet the new keywords that look promising. It is primitive but it gets the job done. I am going to try is Fraser Cain's keyword strategy tool. It seems to be able to spot keywords that are non competitive and yet relevant to my niche. In fact, I am going to do a 3 month case study on whether this tool can help to improve aaronchua.com's search traffic. Stay Tune! For those who want to check out how this tool works, click on the banner below to see the demo videos:
- Search traffic growth: The next important thing is how much
your site is growing in terms of search engine traffic. Why you should
track this metric should be self explanatory.
- Cache rate: I am tracking how often search engines cache my side. The more often my site is cached, the more crawling and indexing my site will get. With new keywords, all you need is to ensure your site is constantly being cache so that your content has a chance to rank. A low cache rate might mean you need a couple of links to get your site going. You should not need too many.
- % of site index: It is impossible to get 100% of your site index if you have lots of articles. The goal is to get as many indexed as possible. The more articles that are indexed, the higher the chance of your site getting all the long tail traffic. Section 2 gives you some ideas on how to improve this through hubs.
- Hubs to articles ratio: There should be some kind of ratios between your hubs and the number of articles your site has. Besides a sitemap, I can't think of a natural way for one hub to link to all articles. This is why maintaining a ratio is important as you get to see when you need to add another hub to strength your site's index and crawl rate.
I hope the above makes it easier (if not more confusing) on what is a proper seo strategy. It is not always about getting more links. In fact, you might never need that many backlinks if you think through your entire strategy. SEO strategy is about an entire process of keyword research, content generation, site structure, getting feedback and iterate.
When you are doing your seo strategy, you might not need all the elements. In fact, you should experiment and come out with something better. If you do, let me know and I will be more than happy to share them here.
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