Nowadays, most people know what SEO (search engine optimization) is and the role it plays in helping make a business successful. However, one of the more overwhelming and time consuming aspects of SEO is developing a sound strategy. To aid in your quest, the following are 5 easy steps to help develop an effective SEO strategy:

  1. Know your target audience and their online patterns. Set objectives.

Obviously the purpose of SEO is about ranking well in the search engines to drive traffic to your website, but even that won't mean much if your website is showing up in front of an audience that doesn't care. The first thing you should always do is identify your target audience and learn all you can about them--demographics, search patters and preferences, geographic location, etc. A good way to do this is by diving into your Google Analytics account.

Once you have defined your audience, you will want to set objectives based on that audience. What is it that you want your audience to do on your website? What is the best way to get there based on your audience's information? Without a clear set of objectives, you could be performing a great deal of work without getting your desired results.

  1. Categorize your keyword research.

Based on your analysis of the type of audience you are wanting to target, you then need to perform keyword research. Deciding what keywords you should or shouldn't target can make or break your strategy. Create an excel sheet that breaks up your keyword categories based off of your target audience personas, how your website might be sectioned, or even a mixture of both (persona groups with keyword subsections for each). Once you have an excel sheet created, you can start using the Google Keyword Planner to research keywords and plug them into your excel sheet accordingly. You will want to record keywords and search volume on your excel sheet. I highly recommend checking out this article from Moz for a more detailed description of categorizing keywords.

  1. On-Page SEO and Site Structure

On-Page SEO is vital in helping the search engines understand what your website is about. The first step is making sure the search engines can crawl your website and find all of your valuable content. To do this you need to ensure your site has good internal linking with no broken links, good navigation, unique content, and appropriate page load-times.

Your keyword research will also come in handy here because they will help you optimize your content. It is important to build specific pages around keyword focused themes because it provides the search engines a clear understanding of what each page is about. Trying to fit too many themes on a page will do more harm than good.

Remember: You don't want to stuff keywords or make them unnatural on your pages. Create your website and write your content as you normally would, just keep your keywords in the back of your mind.

  1. Move on to off-page SEO including link building and making connections.

Links are one of the primary factors in how a search engine ranks websites. Thus crafting a link building plan around all the different tactics you can do to attract inbound links to your site is very important.

As for link building, the best thing you can do is try to earn links naturally. Making connections in your industry and with your target audience is a great way to improve your brand's image as well as improve off-page SEO. The more people that know about you, the more people are likely to link back to your website; thus improving your SEO. Google has actually started rewarding sites for their popularity and connections with authoritative sites. Other great methods would be: creating great content, requesting links from affiliated associations/organizations, and outreach to websites that are an authority in your industry.

  1. Monitor and track your data and results.

Knowing what is working and what isn't is extremely important. The sooner you can get a system in place to track your data and results, the better.

  • Setup a Google Analytics account to monitor organic traffic on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.
  • Create a spreadsheet to track the on-page changes you make to your site so you can see what changes led to certain results.
  • Utilize a rank tracking service/software to monitor search positions over time.

The Takeaway

In the end, SEO is an ongoing process, however starting with a sound strategy will translate into online success for many years to come.