Beginner Guides / SEO

A Simple 8-Step SEO Strategy Template for Beginners

An SEO strategy helps get you more organic traffic, improves SERP positioning, and builds authority. Here's a template you can use right now.

Sean Brison March 18, 2022
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Unsure how to optimize your content for search engines? You’ve come to the right place. We’ll show you an SEO strategy template you can use right now to jumpstart organic traffic, increase SERP positioning, and more.

What’s An SEO Strategy?

An effective SEO strategy boosts a website’s search engine rankings by getting more organic traffic. When people type a keyword phrase into Google, it fetches results relevant to that person’s query and displays them in search engine results pages (SERPs).

The higher your ranking, the more likely the searcher will click your content. The top three results especially get the bulk of all organic clicks.

search results positioning and ctr history with top 3 spots getting the most clicks

Nearly 45% go to the first three positions. So if you’re struggling to rank, don’t worry. We’ll cover the high-impact work you can start doing today.

What Are the Benefits of Having An SEO Strategy?

There are many reasons you should consider SEO if you’re writing online. For example, in June of last year, Google processed 13.46 million search queries in the U.S. and accounted for over 61% of desktop queries.

In addition, online search usage accounts for 30% of web traffic globally. That’s a lot of people. If you’re following SEO best practices, you increase the odds of capturing a piece of that.

Still not convinced?

It’s Free

I am stating the obvious, but it’s worth saying. You don’t need to pay for search engine optimization. So, there’s a significant cost benefit for those starting with no money. And, assuming it stays relevant, this traffic compounds over time.

Takeaway: Free organic traffic that increases year after year.

Builds Authority & Trust

Sites that get high-quality backlinks signal to search engines that people like your material and perceive you as a credible source. This means when someone enters a search query into Google, Google is more likely to show your content to that person.

And more people click organic search results because that’s an earned spot – you didn’t pay or manipulate the algorithm to be there.

So right out of the gate, you’re already seen as trustworthy. That’s an excellent first impression.

seo strategy pie chart

Attracts Qualified Visitors to Your Website

When you publish quality content online that solves a problem, people with those specific pain points start coming to you. It’s a great form of inbound marketing because you’re giving away helpful information without “shouting at them” using paid ads and pop-ups.

You lure more fish with the right bait. Then, once you start getting more traffic, you can use tools like Google Analytics to see which landing pages resonate with your readers the most. Here are nine analytics tips to get you started.

Provides A Better User Experience

Your visitors are what matter most. So it’s up to you to give them a helpful roadmap and present it in an easy-to-find and easy-to-consume way.

Google has even said that a better UX is one of its ranking factors. They want to give searchers the best experience.

In Google’s words:

The page experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page.

If your site optimizes for this, that’s a slight rankings boost. Good page experiences let users find information quickly and accomplish more in less time.

Further Reading:

What Are the Top 3 SEO Strategies?

The top three SEO strategies are on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO. If you run a brick-and-mortar business, I’d add local SEO to this group as that’s something you’ll also want to focus on so people in your neighborhood can find your store when they run a Google search.

We’ll assume you don’t run a local business and are 100% digital for this article. In that case, you’ll concentrate on the first three buckets.

3 SEO buckets of on-page, off-page, and technical

On-Page SEO

These are manual page optimization tweaks you make to improve website performance and visibility with search engines. These will focus on things like:

  • Including your keyword in the title tag
  • Optimizing images with alt text
  • Writing click-worthy meta descriptions

On-page SEO is the easiest to grasp and execute of the three buckets because it’s 100% in your control and doesn’t involve anything too technical. Therefore, most people gravitate towards this first.

Off-Page SEO

This involves any number of actions taken outside your website that affect its rankings – most notably its number of backlinks.

Sidenote: It can also include things like Google’s EAT score. For example, the number of mentions or links an author has across the internet. If you’ve written about a topic on multiple websites, start your own blog on the subject; Google perceives you as an authority because you’ve already been featured so many times, which can mean a slight rankings boost.

However, you have little control over this portion, so it’s best to focus on the one thing that matters: creating high-quality content that helps your readers.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO involves everything with your site’s backend. This covers everything from site speed to crawlability to whether it’s mobile-friendly. If your infrastructure is in good shape, it makes it easier for search engines to crawl your site.

Further Reading:

Creating Your Own SEO Strategy

Below, we’ll dive into steps you can use today to ensure your site follows best practices and industry standards.

Simply put: you need the sweet spot between all three strategies to become successful and run efficiently.

1. Pick Your Content Topics

You want to attract a target audience based on your niche. For example, our site’s focused on affiliate marketing. But several sub-categories fall beneath that, including:

  • Affiliate tools
  • Monetization
  • SEO

lasso category pages

The idea here is to brainstorm on industry-specific terms. Choose between five to ten. Then find content ideas for each of those seed keywords.

For example, we chose ‘monetization’ as one of our sub-categories. Then we generated new content related to it, such as:

You’ll find more long-tail keywords as you refine your digital marketing plan and niche down. So, find some topic clusters, create pillar pages (or hubs) for them, and use internal links to pass relevance and authority.

Sidenote: When you’re getting started, don’t worry about building pillar pages yet. But create content with this approach in mind because eventually, you will. You can see our Affiliate Marketing hub here for ideas.

Further Reading:

2. Conduct Keyword Research

Once you’ve picked 5-10 broad categories, narrow your focus. For example, using our monetization example from above, we explored topics related to monetizing amazon sites, niche sites, and personal blogs.

Then run those terms through a keyword research tool and check their search volume and difficulty scores. This will inform you of two things:

  1. Your odds of ranking for those terms
  2. Whether people are actually searching for them

Keyword research matters because it qualifies your content marketing strategy.

Just knowing whether you have a shot at ranking or if the phrase is insanely competitive lets you adjust the course.

The worst feeling is creating material with zero search demand and is impossible to rank for because your site is too new. You’ll get nothing but crickets for all of your hard work.

Sidenote: In your blog’s early days, you probably get crickets anyway. But if you’ve done your homework and adhere to best SEO practices, your blog will start getting organic traffic.

Further Reading:

3. Create Content to Match Search Intent

Once you’ve compiled your list of keywords, explore the ranking posts’ format in the SERPs.

For example, it’s probably a listicle if your post is about the best [your industry] tools. When I plug in the best tools for woodworking, I see numbered list posts.

serp showing listicles for specific search query

So you’d probably want to create something matching this style. You can check out how you can do this with Lasso’s high-converting list displays here.

Alternatively, when I enter “hiking boots for women” into the search field, I only see eCommerce sites. So, your chances of ranking for that term with an article will be difficult.

Tip: Add the phrase “according to experts” to your headline, (e.g., 10 Best Woodworking Tools, According to Experts). This helps it stand out and is a way to distinguish yourself from the competition. When people encounter headlines with this term, they’re more likely to click because it’s using one of the six persuasion principles: Authority.

4. Optimize Your Content’s On-Page SEO

Once you’ve written your posts, give them another competitive edge by applying some good ‘ole fashioned on-page SEO enhancements. Again, these are things in your control which is why they’re a quick and easy win.

With every piece of content, you write, check these five things:

  1. Title tags/headlines & meta description
  2. Short, keyword-rich URLs
  3. Alt text for images
  4. Internal links
  5. Related keywords (also called semantic SEO)

We’ve written about how to optimize your headlines here, but here’s a quick rundown on meta descriptions.

Google doesn’t place as much weight on them as a ranking factor. Sometimes, they use descriptions from other parts of your content, so it’s not 100% in your control. However, it’s worth doing because it’s another opportunity to “sell” your content to searchers.

Using short, keyword-rich URLs tells people what your website’s page is about. For example, this post’s URL, or slug, reads:

  • seo-strategy-template

That’s a good indicator of what readers can expect to find when they click. The more info you can give them upfront reduces friction and shows them what’s behind the click.

You can find more on-page SEO tips in our ‘How to Rank Higher On Google’ post below. 👇

Further Reading:

5. Boost UX Signals with Easy-to-Read Content

Online readers skim; it’s just a fact. Usually, it’s because they’re deciding whether to commit to reading your entire article. However, you can help make their decision a no-brainer by making your posts easy to consume.

Remember from earlier: User experience is a ranking factor.

If it’s not, people leave. This signals to Google that your site:

  • Has incorrect information
  • Is hard to read

So, go deep, cover your topic in-depth, add images, bulleted lists, and break content into small sections, so it’s easy to read.

When readers encounter a wall of text without being broken up with visuals, short, concise paragraphs, infographics, or other ways to spice up the page, it makes them bounce quicker.

Further Reading:

6. Practice White-Hat Link Building

It’s no secret that the number of unique referring domains pointing at your site affects your ranking. It’s one of the most significant indicators of website authority. The more you have, the more credible your site appears.

However, this off-page SEO metric is something out of your control. You can’t choose the number of backlinks your site has. Instead, it’s a byproduct of whether what you produce is link-worthy.

Now, you can tip the scale in your favor with a smart link-building strategy or building linkable assets.

There are several tactics you can use that extend beyond the scope of this article, including:

  • Creating a free tool
  • Making a list of stats
  • Data-backed reports

You can also try your hand at email outreach, guest posting, using HARO, or thinking outside the box.

For example, if guest-posting to build backlinks, this insight from Debbie Chew suggests that you don’t need to only focus on websites with a “write for us” section.

Many times, when bloggers conduct outreach, the first thing they do is run a query with the search terms:

  • Topic + write for us
  • Topic + guest post

Then email the websites they find matching that description. However, if you follow blogs in your niche, reach out to them and pitch ideas that will serve their audience – even if they don’t formally accept guest posts.

You’ll be in better standing because you’re already familiar with their content and perhaps have already formed a relationship.

Tip: Try using a tool like Ahrefs Content Explorer to find relevant websites. Type your keyword into the search field and filter by domain rating and title.

ahrefs content explorer for finding websites in your niche

If you’re active on social media, you can also sort your findings by Twitter and Pinterest shares, then DM the account owner.

ahrefs content explorer sorting results by twitter shares

Further Reading:

7. Improve Your Site’s Speed

A slow site kills the user experience and heavily influences buying from you. Even a 0.1% change makes a difference. Your site processes tons of data, but there are a few things you can do to earn quick wins out the gate: get WordPress plugins that handle:

  • Caching
  • Image compression
  • Lazy loading

You can also use a content delivery network (CDN) to boost page speed further and ensure it’s mobile-friendly. In addition, online search behavior has shifted, with 61% of the organic search in the U.S.alone coming from smartphones.

Here’s what we run all of our sites on to optimize for speed.

Cloudflare

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Cache My Site
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Imagify

Imagify speeds up your website with image compression, so your pages load faster. Instead of taking the time to format your images, they optimize them automatically. We use this tool on all of our sites.

Optimize My Images Affiliate Program

You can test your site’s load time with tools, such as:

  • GTmetrix
  • Pingdom
  • Google Page Speed Insights

Further Reading:

8. Run A Site Audit

Technical SEO helps search engines crawl, index, and understand your site’s content better. That’s why it’s a good idea to conduct an audit to make sure there are no red flags that could harm its rankings.

As part of your tech stack, you can use free SEO tools to check for things, such as:

  • Broken links & redirects
  • Index & crawling issues
  • Structured data & sitemaps
  • Duplicate content

Several free tools help with this, including:

  • Ahrefs Webmaster Tools
  • Google Search Console
  • Screaming Frog

Here’s a snapshot of Ahrefs Webmaster Tools dashboard below.

ahrefs webmaster tools overview page for your seo strategy

What’s great about this is you can zoom in to find site-specific metrics and better understand what’s going on.

For example, in the above screenshot, you can click on Images, Javascript, and CSS in the lower-left corner to get advanced data regarding load times and file size distributions.

Or click ‘Link opportunities’ to find other places you can internally link across your site.

Further Reading:

Create SEO Goals to Stay Focused

Once your site’s been running for a while, establish some goals. For example, as part of your content strategy, you might want to rank in the top 10 for a high-value keyword within nine months.

Having an SEO plan in place will help you achieve it.

Ahrefs SEM strategist Kayle Larkin outlines a fantastic process in this post for setting SEO goals and breaks them down into three types:

  1. Outcome goals: the overarching goal you’re trying to hit. In this instance, it’s getting to the top 10 for your target keyword.
  2. Performance goals: short-term goals, e.g., what’s going to help you hit your overarching goal? It might entail getting 50 high-quality backlinks.
  3. Process goals: smaller steps that help you get to 50 backlinks. This might include conducting email outreach with a plan to send ‘X’ emails every month.

Start with some KPIs and measure your results monthly. Then ask yourself, “Am I on track to hit them?”

This helps to align your content strategy with your goals.

Put Your SEO Strategy Template In Place

If you’re experiencing difficulties as a beginner, you’re not alone. Many of the things covered in this article were foreign to me. But I stuck with it and now have a firmer grasp.

And so will you.

So don’t worry. Stick with it. You got this. If you follow the steps outlined in this post, you’ll be lightyears ahead of other people who just “wing it.”

Head here to see what else Lasso can do.

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