I’m going to show you step-by-step how to launch a successful SEO campaign.
Search engine optimization really isn’t overly complicated when you stick to the basics.
Starting a new SEO campaign really focuses on the three key areas:
If you can nail those three key items, you’ll see results.
There’s going to be a ton of real-life examples that you can use to implement in your own SEO strategy.
Let’s jump into it.
Optimizing content and on-page SEO is extremely important to rank high in Google.
If you have an existing website with content – great, there’s a ton you can already do to improve your rankings.
If you’re starting from scratch, this is also great, as you can use these exact strategies for when you start building out content.
URLs are really important when it comes to search engine optimization.
You want to ensure you’re keeping them short, and using your keyword as close to the front of the URL as possible.
I’ve created an article explaining what is conversion rate optimization (CRO) with the primary keyword being “what is CRO”.
If you take at the URL structure for this post, you’ll see that I’ve kept my URL both short and I’ve included the primary keyword:
In the best case scenario, you can make your URL simply the target keyword that you’re trying to rank for with this piece of content.
Both the title tag and meta description are super important as they are the first thing a searcher is going to see when they find your page when searching in Google.
When you write excellent and compelling copy, this is going to drive users to click on your result versus others.
At the same time, not creating meta descriptions for your pages is going to cause Google to create its own search result based on what’s listed on that specific page.
Pages with a meta description have a higher click-through rate versus pages that do not.
You’ll notice on this post for example I’ve gone and built in the primary keyword “SEO campaign” into both the title and meta description:
Use your primary keyword naturally, and write compelling copy to drive users to click on your search result.
You can always go back later, run some A/B testing, and a conversion rate optimization campaign, and find out which copy brings the best results or a specific page.
Always naturally use your primary in the first 100 words of your content.
This tells Google that the keyword is important.
If you scroll back up to the intro, you’ll see my primary keyword is within the first paragraph:
Internal linking helps both users navigate your website and allows search engines to easily crawl and see how your web pages are structured.
You want to ensure that you’re creating internal links to relevant pages, especially for blog-style content.
You’ll notice that throughout the article I link to other pages that are relevant to the topic at hand:
This is of course not only an SEO play, but also to allow users to find other useful content on a particular topic.
Don’t go overboard – linking out at least a few times to relevant content in each article you create.
Understanding which keywords to use in your content is a crucial step to having success with SEO.
It’s also crucial to understand your target audience, and what they look like.
Some keywords are going to have a higher amount of search volume behind them, meaning more people are searching for those keywords versus others.
At the same time, some keywords are going to be more difficult to rank for versus others.
Starting out, let’s focus on compiling a list of 20 keywords we can focus on for our keyword analysis efforts.
There’s a ton of different keyword research tools out on the market that will allow you to do keyword research, including Moz, SEMRush, and KWFinder.
In my own opinion, nothing compares to the ease-of-use you’ll find with Ahref’s Keyword Explorer.
It might cost a little bit of money, but it’s worth the investment so you’re not shooting in the dark.
Ahrefs is not only a keyword research tool, but it also has many other functionalities that come in handy when working on search engine optimization.
For this guide, we’re going to assume you’ve already set up Ahrefs, and you’re ready to go – if not, head on over and get signed up with a new account.
Open up Ahrefs, and visit the “Keyword Explorer” from the top tab and start by entering a keyword:
Now you’ll have some search metrics on this keyword:
What’s important to look at here are the two items highlighted in red:
Keyword difficulty is ranked on a scale of 0-100, where 100 is nearly impossible to rank for.
Search volume is based on the U.S. search volume per month for this given term.
If you’re looking for search volume outside of the U.S., you’ll want to look all the way to the right at “Global Volume.”
For now, let’s assume we’re looking at only searches in the U.S.
We want to strategically choose keywords that:
The first two are easy to see with a tool like Ahrefs.
These metrics are also not set in stone – obviously, the higher volume and less difficulty the better.
If you find a great keyword that has 5,000 searches per month, is only a 5/100 in terms of keyword difficulty and has the right search intent, you should be going after it with some great content.
Finding the right search intent behind keywords takes a bit more understanding of your customers, and how to target them based on their searches.
Now that you have you list of 20 primary keywords, you’re ready to get writing.
Pro Tip 💡
It’s important to understand what type of results Google prefers to show for a given search term.
Simply type your search term into Google, and review the search engine results page (SERP).
Are mostly listicles ranking very well for the search query? Now you know exactly what type of content is satisfying users for this query.
Adding related keywords, or secondary keywords to your content helps Google to know what the page is about.
This also gives you the chance to rank for more than one keyword, including different variations of keywords.
You can easily get a ton of keyword ideas for your content either by checking Google’s results, or using Ahrefs.
Start typing a search term into Google, and you’ll get some of Google’s Auto Suggestions:
Assuming you were writing an article on how to make coffee at home, you now have a ton of ideas for different sections and keywords users are searching for to include in your content.
You can also jump on Ahrefs, enter a keyword and get a ton of suggestions to work with:
If you really want to optimize your existing content, there are some great tools out there such as Clearscope that will take your content strategy to the next level.
Long-tail keywords are very specific keywords that are normally longer than a few words.
These keywords are much less common than other keywords, and therefore it is much easier to rank for long-tail keywords than for more common keywords.
Less competition, means easier to rank.
Here’s a few examples:
A more general search term would simply be “how to gain muscle”, which is much more competitive than the above terms.
If you’re just starting out with your content marketing strategy, it’s better to start by targeting long-tail keywords that you can easily target and provide great content about.
Use the same two tools outlined above to discoverkeyword opportunities:
Now that you have a list of keywords you want to target, it’s time to get writing.
Always aim to create the best content out there on the subject you’re covering.
If you’re an industry expert, you want to focus on going an inch wide and a mile deep and provide value to your readers.
So – how do you write SEO optimized content?
Let’s take a closer look.
There’s a correlation between the total word count of your content and how well it ranks in Google:
You don’t want to go out and write 5,000 words of meaningless nothings, but you want to cover topics extremely in-depth.
This particular article is over 3,000 total words, as I wanted to go in-depth and outline the entire SEO campaign process.
When you create content, give it your all and really cover all areas that you can and remember to provide value in your writing to your users.
Google will reward you, and your users will too.
We all love images – when done right, it conveys thoughts and important points in an easy to comprehend way.
It also helps both your content and brand to stand out.
You’ll notice I use a lot of images in my articles to explain different steps, and to provide some data to back-up points.
Not only is it beneficial for your users, but it also gives you the chance to rank in Google Images.
Defining what’s called the “alt tag” for an image allows you to add a keyword behind an image.
The process for this is different on each platform, so you’ll want to check what’s the best way to add an alt tag before diving in.
Backlinks are an essential strategy to any SEO campaign, and are still one of Google’s number one ranking factors.
If you’re not familiar with how backlinks work, think of with this simple analogy:
Each time another website links to your website (any page) that’s a vote that counts towards the authority of your website.
The more votes you get, the higher your authority goes.
Authority is extremely important when it comes to SEO, as the higher your authority, the more keywords you can rank for in Google (especially competitive keywords):
The domain authority of the linking domain is also going to have an impact in terms of weight that will have for your authority and search engine rankings.
If you run a business in the finance space, it’s going to be much more fruitful to have 10 high-quality backlinks from the likes of Entrepreneur.com, Forbes and Bloomberg than it is from 50 sites that have no domain authority.
Let’s take a look at an example.
Prepory is a premier career and college counseling service located in Florida:
Starting out with our SEO campaign, Prepory didn’t really have many backlinks.
Using some of the link building strategies we’re about to talk about, Prepory picked up links from American Express, Discover and Teach for America – extremely authoritative and reputable sites.
Not only did this help to shoot Prepory’s organic traffic through the roof by growing their own domain’s authority, but they’re also getting a ton of referral traffic simply from user’s visiting those websites and learning about Prepory’s business.
To achieve these results, we followed the exact steps outlined here in this SEO campaign article, including building high-quality backlinks.
There’s a lot more to it than that, including link velocity, anchor text, and no follow links, but this is how it works in the simplest terms.
Email outreach is really a necessity in picking up a ton of links.
Links might naturally flow in as people share your business, and it becomes gains more visibility but we can’t sit around and just wait for things to happen.
When you promote excellent content and resources you’ve created, you can pick-up some high-quality backlinks.
If you’re creating great content, don’t be shy to promote it.
Think about influencers or other business owners in your industry that would be interested in your content.
Maybe you created the best resource in your industry on a particular topic.
Create a targeted list of people you can share it with, get the word out, and pick-up links.
The single most important thing to remember when doing any type of email outreach is this:
Always provide value first – don’t ask for anything in your first email.
Businesses get flooded with hundreds of emails each week with the same old song and dance:
It’s annoying, it’s played out and it simply doesn’t work.
If you can’t even take the time to research the persons name you’re attempting to contact in the email, you shouldn’t be sending any out.
Take the time to build a relationship with the person on the other end.
Research them, and craft the perfect pitch.
Take the time to understand who that person is, and how you can help them.
No automation, no canned emails – hit the trenches, put in the work and you’ll be rewarded.
Guest blogging is probably the most popular way to pick-up links.
Everyone wants more great content on their website.
It’s a win- win.
The website gets great content that will help to engage their readership, and you get a link and referral traffic.
When focusing on guest blogging opportunities, you’ll want to ensure you’re targeting websites that are related to your industry.
If you’re a floral designer, you don’t want to be writing guest posts for a coffee blog.
Find other businesses in your industry, provide value and build a relationship and offer to write an article for them for free.
The platform Help a Reporter Out is such a great resource to connect you with journalists and other websites who are looking for businesses to do a story on.
If you have an interesting product or service that has a different angle to it, HARO can be especially lucrative as people simply love covering new stories.
Jumo on HARO and you can list yourself as a “Source” where you tell a bit about your business and what makes it unique.
Journalists, as they’re called on HARO, will then reach out to connect with you if they’re interested and want to do a write-up on your business.
In most cases, the business is going to link out to your website from that article giving you another backlink in your profile.
A lot of people think that HARO is played out – but it’s still extremely effective when done right.
Craft a compelling message about your business, and you’ll be picking up links in no time.
Results take time when it comes to SEO.
If you’re starting from scratch, it could take months to start seeing some trafic slowly trickle in.
For an already established website, results can happen at a much quicker pace if it already has backlinks and content indexed in Google.
There’s a few great tools you can use to monitor your SEO campaign’s results:
Specifically seeing how your campaign is performing and how much traffic your website is getting from organic search is made easy with Google Analytics.
You’ll need to first sign-up or an account if you haven’t already and install the tracking code on your website in order to have access to your traffic data.
Open Google Analytics, and visit the Audience tab from the left-hand menu, and click on Overview.
On the top menu, click on Add Segment and de-select all items except Organic Traffic.
You can also set a data range from the top-right corner based on the start of your campaign.
You’ll now have a full breakdown of all of your organic traffic for the given period:
If your traffic has grown – great! Keep up the good work.
But if your track has decreased, you’ll want to re-visit your strategy and see what you can change up.
Remember – it takes time to see results, so if traffic is stagnant, keep at it and don’t give up.
Google Analytics is great for getting a high-level overview, but if you want to take it a step further (and you should) then you can use Google Search Console.
Google Search Console is an excellent resource that you can use in order to pull out insights from your organic traffic.
So what’s so great about Search Console?
Glad you asked.
Not only can you see traffic data as in Google Analytics, but you can also see which relevant keywords visitors are using to find your website.
From the left-hand menu, click on the Performance tab and scroll down:
You’ll notice I’ve omitted the keywords from the image above and below, but you’ll keywords listed out here in your Search Console.
You now have a list of all keywords users have searched with to find a page on your website.
Once your campaign is up and rolling, its a great time to run an SEO audit.
The audit process looks for areas of improvement, including page speed, sitemaps, and crawling, as well as inbound link usage.
The insights and actionable items that come from the result of an audit can help to increase traffic and conversions.
You can also use Search Console to see which pages bring the most traffic to your website.
From the exact same window, simply click on the Pages tab and you’ll now have a listing of your top performing pages:
There’s a ton you can do with Google Search Console – dive into the data, and you’ll be surprised at what you can uncover.
You’re now ready to go out into the wild and launch your SEO marketing campaign.
Remember – launching a successful SEO campaign requires that you stick to the basics outlined in this guide, be patient, and you’ll start seeing results from your efforts.
Which item from the list are you going to start with first?
Keyword research for a new side project?
Building links for an existing website?
Let me know in the comments below.
Justin is the Founder of Rock The Rankings and has over 13 years of experience in the realm of SEO across multiple business ventures and agencies.
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