What Makes the Best SEO Strategy?

Maria Kalyadina

Feb 26, 201818 min read
The Best SEO Strategy

Search engines still contribute to at least 50% of online traffic, so investing in the best SEO strategies for your niche is essential to outrank competitors and capture your share of search traffic.

Without SEO, search engine visibility is going to be difficult to achieve for any site, but in a competitive niche is simply not possible.

To discuss the different elements of the best SEO strategies, we were joined on SEMrushchat by Sam McRoberts, the CEO of SEO agency VUDU Marketing. Sam had incredible advice about how to build an SEO strategy from the ground up and our other chat participants had plenty of expert wisdom to share.

Q1. What would be the first SEO tactic that you would implement on your or your client’s website in 2018?

It is important to note that a site audit isn’t a one-and-done step in your SEO arsenal. Regular audits are crucial to evaluate your SEO efforts moving forward, and you can’t afford to skip them.

For new and old sites alike, you will want to start with “foundational” SEO. This means getting the basics of your site up to standard with things like keyword optimization, meta descriptions, site architecture, on-page optimization, linking to reputable sites, etc.

It is hard to be successful without the basics in place. There is no point trying to build a house on a broken-down foundation.

Part of that foundation will also mean building your site’s structure like you would a foundation of the house. You want to utilize consistent URL structures, structured data, and strong canonicals. If your site is already built and your audit reveals problems in any of these key areas, fix them fast.

Keyword optimization is also an important part of SEO, so taking the time to do thorough research about the keywords your audience is searching for will do you a lot of favors. Go ahead and create a page for each product or service that you offer, optimizing each page with competitive keywords. Once you do this, you can start looking for long-tail keywords indicating questions users are asking, and provide answers through keyword-optimized FAQs or content marketing. While the technical stuff matters to Google, SEO is also about optimizing for human behavior.

SEO Best Strategies Q1 recap: What would be your first SEO tactic that you would implement on your own or your client's website in 2018?

  • Site audit first, but it depends on whether it's a new site being built or an established site. 
  • Start with everything that falls into the "foundational" bucket – it's hard to be successful without the basics in place.
  • Structured data (Schema) and then dive into the data (broken links and opportunities).
  • Create a page for each product/service and optimizing it using competitive keywords.
  • Look at on-page SEO – when you fix your mistakes, it's an easy way to get an improvement on rankings.
  • Gather your data and analyze it – work out what is currently working, what is not and find out who your audience is.

Read more:

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Q2. How can SEOs simplify the process of fixing mistakes?

It is never fun to find mistakes that need to be fixed, especially when they can be as complicated as those related to SEO. That being said, there are several excellent ways that an SEO can simplify the process of fixing mistakes, saving themselves a major headache in the long run.

Having the right tools on hand is an important place to start. SEMrush’s Site Audit tool will go a long way in helping you stay up to date about what problems need fixing. This way, you can address problems early on, instead of six months after they have been damaging your SERP rankings.

It is also significantly easier to fix small problems over time as they appear, instead of trying to address a laundry list of mistakes in enormous chunks. Because of this, expert Sam McRoberts recommends having daily, weekly, and monthly checklists of tasks to accomplish.

On that same note, Sam also recommends that all team members in relevant departments are given SEO training. This includes web designers, content marketers, and even social media teams or PR managers. Anyone who is interacting or affecting SEO should have a solid understanding of how it works and why it is so important. 

How you approach fixing mistakes will also go a long way. You should have a clear solution with a direct cause and effect reasoning behind it. This should involve KPIs and specific tactics that are backed up by data and created based on exact, measurable goals. All of this together will give you solutions that you can track for effectiveness after you implement changes, allowing you to monitor progress and make sure you are on the right track.

At the end of the day, writing for customers and not just for search engines can actually work to your benefit. If someone is determined to find an answer to a question and your site has a solution, you will already be pulling ahead of the competition.

SEO Best Strategies Q2 recap: How can SEOs simplify the process of making mistakes?

  • Use SEMrush Site Audit Tool.
  • Write for customers and not for search engines.
  • A clear understanding of cause and effect and a proposed solution.
  • Create a strategy with KPIs and tactics, use hard numbers and stick to your goals.
  • Make sure relevant teams and team members all buy into the importance of SEO and are properly trained.
  • Understand the site's work process, split the work into workstreams to match who does what – dev, content, servers, legal, design, etc.

Read more:

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Q3. Which metrics should an SEO focus on when measuring the quality of organic traffic?

Measuring your strategy’s performance will help you assess its effectiveness and progress, giving you the information you need about how to continue to move forward. To do this, you need to be measuring the right things and knowing which metrics to watch will make a world of difference.

When measuring the quality of the organic traffic your SEO is bringing in, bounce rate will always be one of those metrics. If your bounce rates are high and the time spent on your pages is low, your content is not being consumed. This could either be an indication that you are not meeting your audience’s needs or you’re not attracting the right audience. Similarly, if users are visiting other pages, it shows that the content was engaging and relevant enough to keep them moving.

There are several other metrics that gauge audience interest, which include social shares, on-site engagement, number of impressions, and your percentage of returning users.

Taking a look at your overall clicks and CTR rates will give you insight into how engaging your audience finds your content. Evaluate how these metrics are holding up against your conversions, which can include email sign-ups, leads reaching out to book an appointment or direct sales. Conversions, after all, are always the end goal of any marketing campaign, and it is important to try to tie your SEO efforts directly to revenue.

SEO Best Strategies Q3 recap: Which metrics should an SEO focus on when measuring the quality of organic traffic?

  • Look at the metrics that measure business impact and have staying power, i.e. if the organic audience is the right audience.
  • If your bounce rates are high and your dwell time is low, your content isn't being consumed.
  • Look at qualitative metrics such as time on site, bounce rate, pages and visits.
  • Just like in PPC, clicks/traffic, impressions, share of voice and costs are all nice, but conversions (broadly defined) are all that matter.
  • It's important to try and tie your SEO efforts directly to revenue, i.e. sales, ad or affiliates.

Read more:

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Q4. What must-have tools (apart from Google Analytics) should SEOs use to accumulate data?

Google Analytics is a given when you want to gather data on your SEO efforts, but it's not the only tool that businesses and SEOs should be using. Our chat participants shared some of their favorite must-have tools to collect data on our current SEO efforts:

  • SEMrush’s site audit tool, which gives you a detailed look at what’s working and what’s not. It can even help you prioritize which issues you need to address first. You can also organize this data into an Excel doc that can be easily shared with your team.
  • Ubersuggest for keyword research.
  • Buzzsumo can also show you what content for any given term or keyword is getting the most traction online, which is valuable data you can use to your advantage.

SEO Best Strategies Q4 recap: What must-have tools (apart from Google Analytics) should SEOs use to accumulate data?

  • SEMrush
  • Google Search Console
  • Excel/Sheets
  • Screaming Frog
  • BuiltWith
  • Buzzsumo
  • Majestic
  • Answer the Public
  • Quora
  • Ubersuggest
  • Social Animal
  • URL Profiler
  • GTMetrix

Read more:

How Your Agency or Brand Can Afford SEO Tools

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Q5. When it comes to technical SEO, which data should marketers measure and analyze regularly? What can they skip?

Throughout the chat, it was clear that our experts and chat participants all agreed that regular monitoring and evaluating was an essential part of building a strong SEO strategy. When it comes to the technical side of SEO, we wanted to know which data marketers measured regularly.

Mobile responsiveness was one of the first things chat participants mentioned. With 52% of website traffic coming through mobile phones in 2018, mobile-ready sites are a necessity. Your sites should be fully responsive, with a mobile version of the site design available if necessary to improve usability. If you see that mobile users are leaving your site quickly, but desktop users aren’t, make sure the mobile version of your site is up to par.

On a similar note, you can’t afford to have a slow site loading speed. Slow speeds will directly impact your SEO score, and they can cause you to lose the traffic that did manage to find you despite that. Track your site loading speeds frequently.

Crawl budgets— which tell you how often Google’s bots are crawling your site, will be crucial, especially for larger sites. Your crawl budget will tell you how many pages on your site Google will crawl on any given day. If they are crawling your site too much, you could see a hit on site loading speed. If they don’t crawl enough, they could be missing site updates. Watch this carefully.

You also want to keep a close eye on signs of structural fractures in your SEO. Take a close look at your canonical tags, and make sure that there are no broken links or redirects happening.

You also want to regularly check to make sure that your content is being properly rendered and understood by bots. Great SERPs don’t make much of a difference if the bots are rendering your content all wrong. To check on this, you can use Google’s Fetch and Render tool.

As for skipping metrics? That is a little more tricky. This will vary by site, audience and industry, along with the business’s specific goals. Most metrics will give you at least some insight into how your SEO is performing; there aren’t as many vanity metrics with SEO as there are on other platforms like PPC or social advertising. It's better to be safe than sorry, and focus on the metrics that matter most, but also, don't ignore anything just because it's not center stage.

SEO Best Strategies Q5 recap: When it comes to technical SEO, which data should marketers measure and analyze regularly and what can they skip?

  • Crawl budget, especially for large sites
  • Site speed
  • Redirects
  • Canonical tags
  • Mobile usability
  • Duplicate content ratio
  • Mobile responsiveness
  • Make sure your content is being properly rendered and understood by crawlers.

Read more:

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Note, this SEMrush chat was hosted in February 2018 and all information was relevant at that time.

Author Photo
Maria KalyadinaMaria is the Social Media Marketing Manager at Semrush and the host of the weekly #Semrushchat. You can always connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter! Join the #SemrushChat every Wednesday at 11 am ET/ 4 pm BST!