SEO positioning isn’t just another tool for marketing your business; it’s a strategy that requires medium and long-term planning, consistent application and follow-up, and feedback on SEO actions. Anyone with even a superficial grasp of digital marketing knows that SEO or Search Engine Optimization isn’t just about getting your business or product ranked among the top results for what you consider interesting criteria on any search engine, especially Google.
What is SEO?
Rather diving straight into the subject, and in order to make this article more palatable for those unfamiliar with this field, we’re going to provide several definitions of SEO that will help us understand what it is and how the concept has evolved over time:
SEO – Quite simply, Search Engine Optimization.
SEO – A digital marketing discipline that aims to draw more traffic to websites by improving their position in search engine results.
SEO – The set of strategic and tactical factors we need to perfect and maintain if we want to be aligned with Google’s interests:
OFFER the most RELEVANT content to each user with every search.
If we manage to do this, our efforts will be “rewarded” by seeing our content at the top of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) ranking.
- GO – In Spain, where Google accounts for more than 97% of all search engine use, it’s safe to say that SEO is synonymous with Google Optimization. This search engine also imposes its own rules with the different algorithms it uses to classify and rank content (Penguin for contents, Panda for backlinks, and Hummingbird for semantic SEO).
- In the future, SEO will probably be renamed SXO (Search Experience Optimization), and we will have to optimize users’ total search experience on Google, not just our website.
Why do businesses need SEO strategies?
There are many reasons why not developing and applying a continuous SEO strategy is no longer an option for most businesses, whether they operate globally or locally.
SEO strategy is now an essential ingredient in the digital strategy cocktail. This is true for several reasons:
Because in the digital world, whether we like it or not, we are what Google says we are.
Because we have to pick our battles for one of the top 10 positions very wisely. Not all of them are equally important or easy to win.
Because if we don’t have a SEO strategy, our competitors undoubtedly will.
Because SEO strategies feed back into our global (not just digital) strategy, and vice versa.
Because our website traffic can’t depend solely on paid media.
That said, it’s important to clarify that our SEO strategy defines where we want to fight for those top 10 positions (in what searches and on what topics), and SEO tactics are the actions taken to achieve those goals.
Steps to define an SEO strategy
The methodology of creating an SEO project focuses on the process (simplified for these purposes) of defining our strategy for search engines or organic traffic and breaks it down into the following steps, using a Spanish online gifts business as a practical example.
1. Market analysis and digital competence assessment.
In this case, we see that “regalos originales” (original gifts) gets the most monthly searches (110,000 per month), followed by “regalos personalizados” (personalized gifts) and “regalos para hombres” (gifts for men).
We also analyze all the domains of known competitors to identify the tools and strategies they use, the KWs they’re ranked by and the semantic fields they’ve decided to focus on, their difficulty (usually, the more searches a keyword gets, the harder it is to end up on the first SERP or Search Engine Results Page), and the organic traffic those competitors have.
2. Analyzing keywords and semantic fields.
In the first stage of the process, the goal is to use different tools to obtain as many KWs as possible related to the business area you are analyzing, for example “regalos” (gifts). In this case, SEMrush gives us over 10,500 KWs to work with, which we can export to a spreadsheet in Excel or similar programs.
If possible, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to just one tool when “mining” a search engine, as each tool has different content in its database and using only one might mean that we miss some important KWs. Google KW Planner by Google AdWords is always a good source of KWs, while other tools classify KWs by structure or topic.
Once we’ve got that enormous list of KWs, our first task is to select the ones with the desired volume. We can choose keywords with a “big head” or “long tail”, depending on our needs: big-head KWs are more generic, with high search volume and lower commercial intent, and tend to make positioning quite difficult, whereas long-tail KWs are the exact opposite.
This initial pruning will eliminate a large chunk of those 10,500+ KWs. Next, we must try to classify our chosen keywords according to detected search patterns, for example:
- By recipient: “gifts for my girlfriend”.
- By occasion: “First Communion gifts”.
- By price: “gifts under €10”.
- By theme: “Star Wars gifts”.
- Combinations of the above: “birthday gifts for girlfriends”.
- By type of gift: “personalized mugs”.
Once we’ve grouped all the KWs of interest in our sector, we need to associate each group with a stage of the conversion funnel for the person doing the search or the context of the search.
In this case, all of the searches except “personalized mugs” are trying to find gift ideas; in other words, the search context is Awareness.
If we focus on “gifts for women” as the first search at the Awareness stage, we see that this automatically leads to others on a deeper level, with search options like:
- “romantic gifts for women”.
- “gifts for the home”.
- “gifts for sporty women”.
- “health and wellness gifts for women”.
- “gifts for women who travel”.
Finally, at the Consideration stage of the funnel, searches are more focused on making a purchase decision between different specific options, for instance:
- “giant pizza-shaped air mattress”.
- “Loch Ness monster tea infuser”.
Here we see that searches and decisions are focused on more specific aspects of the products or type of products the client has already chosen (product, price, appearance, etc.) rather than on gift recipients and/or occasions.
3. Selecting keywords and logical groupings.
Once we have a list of KWs that accurately reflect our business and products, we need to organize them into logical groupings which we can break down into different levels. In the case of our sample gifts business:
- By search context on the conversion funnel (Awareness, Consideration, Conversion).
- By gift recipient (Man, Woman, Girl, Boy, Grandmother, Grandfather, Boyfriend, Girlfriend, etc.).
- By recipient’s lifestyle (Sporty, Traveler, Reader, Techie, Film Buff, etc.).
- By gift occasion (Birthday, Christmas, Wedding, Yankee swap, etc.).
- By gift theme (Star Wars, Dinosaurs, TV Show, etc.).
- And so on…
This will lead us to a similar grouping, where the number in parentheses is the number of KWs in each group. Within each group, we need to choose the semantic fields and/or KWs we want to focus on according to our interests, for example:
1. KWs with the best ratios (search volume / SERP difficulty). The difficulty factor gives us nearly all the tools we need, based on the content and domains that occupy the top 10 positions on the first SERP for a search with that KW.
2. Strategic KWs. We will want to use some KWs, regardless of their search volume or difficulty, for strategic reasons related to our activity, product, brand, etc. If we’re selling gifts, then even something as generic as “buy gifts” obviously interests us.
3. Long-tail KWs. Whether we have an e-commerce (like the example used here) that sells many different products or we target a niche market, some of our KWs will inevitably be long-tail terms. These usually have a low search volume but are easier to position on the first SERP; plus, commercial intent for these search terms tends to be much higher.
4. Defining the information architecture (site and blog).
With the groupings we’ve created, we are now going to define the architecture of both the static website with our products/services and our blog. A simplified structure would look something like this:
On the left, we see that the static site is divided into categories and subcategories all the way down to the products, and on the right the blog structure is also divided into categories and posts. Categories, subcategories, and product descriptions will generally provide results for searches at the Consideration and Conversion stages of the funnel, while blog posts can be used to create content targeting Awareness-level searches that are still quite generic. Those posts also let us offer much more information than a basic product description.
For our sample gifts e-commerce, a static structure might be:
- Gift recipient
- Gift occasion
- Yankee swap
- Recipient’s lifestyle
- Film Buff
- Gift price
- € 0-5
- € 6-10
- € 11-30
- € 30+
The dynamic part of the gift business blog might have the same structure, but we can make its content less specific than in the static part, with posts that will grab the attention of people searching at the Awareness stage or help them compare options at the Consideration stage, and from there provide links to products in the static area of the website.
To conclude, we will show some examples of site architectures (SEO strategies) implemented by Spanish online gift retailers, though it must be said that they are all fairly similar. SEO strategies must be constantly updated and refreshed, as website positioning is dynamic and always changing. A fantastic SEO strategy today may be obsolete a year from now.