When starting out, SEO can seem very overwhelming with a lot of strategies and steps. You might ask yourself questions like, how do I start an SEO plan, or what is an SEO plan? That can be very frustrating and leave you with more questions than answers. However, SEO is a great way to get organic traffic to your website and potentially increase your earnings. Competition can be fierce though and it is important to target the right keywords. Many people seem to make it more difficult than what it actually is and try to reinvent the wheel to stay ahead of the SEO game. That is why we created a 10 step SEO game plan to get your website to rank higher in your niche.
Our SEO game plan is a process to make your search engine optimization better and outrank your competition. This plan focuses on identifying what your competition is currently doing and understand why they rank first. That means analyzing competitors’ websites, see how they use the keywords, and pull their data on Semrush. Based on the conclusions reached from your research those guidelines are then implemented on your own website but in a better way. When we say a better way we mean better content that focuses on search intent, better images, better videos, and links, etc. Add a little bit of time and patience to the mixture, combined with consistent work and you will outrank your competition. Anyway, that is enough about that. Let’s get to the actual SEO game plan:
1. Manual Keyword Research
Use The Dome
For the keyword research in our SEO game plan start off with just a blank word or docs sheet and just start writing down keywords you think someone interested in your product or service would search for in Google. So for example, if you do heating and cooling SEO then some examples might be HVAC SEO, plumbing SEO, search engine optimization for HVAC, etc. Whether these keywords have any search volume is irrelevant at this point. Just brainstorm all the words you can come up with and write them down.
You can also include different variations of the same keyword. For example, if you plan to target the same service in different locations you could write down, web design NYC, web design Newark, web design long island, etc. This can be a great way to find additional keywords that are easy to rank for and can provide some great traffic to your website. In the beginning, it might be a little bit difficult to come up with these keywords but eventually, you will train your brain until it becomes a breeze. If you focus on locations specific keywords, have a look on Google Maps and see what the surrounding cities are called to get more ideas for keywords.
Google Intuitive search
After that use Google intuitive search. So go to google.com and type the whole or partial keywords that you want to be found for in the search bar without pressing the search button. See if there are any relevant keywords in the dropdown that appear below. Do that a few times and put any relevant keywords in your list.
The next step is to actually search for the keyword on Google and see if the “people also ask” section has any relevant questions that you might want to include and answer when creating your web page. Put all the relevant questions in your word or google docs document. Then scroll down to the bottom of the page to the “related searches”. See if there is anything of use there that you can put in your keyword list. Do this process for several keywords but don’t spend hours upon hours with this. Be thorough but also efficient and move on once you feel like you have enough.
When doing keyword research for a client we ask them to provide us with 15-20 keywords that they want to rank for. The reason we do this is to get an understanding of what the client wants and to ensure we align the keyword research with the client’s goals. Doing SEO for someone is all about clear communication and cooperation so it is important to understand what it is the client wants in order to give them a great experience and solve their problems.
2. Find 3-5 Competitors
Google the service or product you want to rank for and select the top 3-5 competitors from the search results. The success they have had in SEO will determine how you should do your SEO. When it comes to selecting competitors, choose the ones that you actually compete with and be realistic about it. For example, if you just started selling hats and caps don’t use New Era as a competitor.
Start with competitors within your reach and then expand from there. The reason for this is because those established brands usually rank for quite difficult keywords. If your website is new it will be very hard if not impossible to rank for the same keywords. Focusing on difficult keywords could mean you have to spend a very long time optimizing until you start seeing any results at all. Start at the bottom with easy keywords and work your way up to achieve SEO success!
3. Pull Their Stats
There are many SEO tools you can use but we use Semrush for this. It is a paid tool but they have a 7-day free trial which is more than enough time to complete this process. There are free tools out there but we don’t use them so we don’t feel comfortable recommending them. If you are serious about your SEO it might be worth investing in a tool like this. The cheapest plan (Pro plan) is like $120 per month. It gives you a lot of insights into how well a website performs online. It also has many other features and benefits that can really help in your SEO strategy and your general marketing online.
Anyway back to the task at hand. We pull their stats to understand what the competitors are doing. We look at things like authority score (also called domain authority), organic search traffic, backlinks, how many keywords they rank for, what keywords they rank for, technical SEO, and user experience. All this information tells us what page optimization is required in order to rank first and how much effort we need to put in.
4. Write Down The Competitors’ Keywords
Now we look at the organic keywords that they rank for and write down all the ones relevant to our business. That means any keyword not applicable to our business we don’t write down. Some competitors might rank for thousands of keywords which means we go through every single one of them and write it down in the word document or spreadsheet. We do this for all the competitors we chose in step 2. This is now our keyword list. We find that this process is much easier and takes less time.
Also, these are keywords our competitors rank for which means we want to outrank them and take their traffic from them. The competition is telling us exactly what we have to do. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Look at what’s already working and apply it to your website. The fact that they rank high in search results means that they must be doing something right in Google’s eyes. So common sense tells us if we reverse engineer their success, then we should rank at the top with them. And perhaps outrank them if do a good job and make a better page than theirs.
5. Scan Through The Competitors’ Web Pages
Next, we go through the web page that the competitor is ranking for and look at their on-site SEO. Things we look for are:
The overall layout, is it easy to understand what is the page about? Is the copy easy to read?
Keyword in the URL?
How many times is the keyword used on the page?
Keyword in the anchor text?
Number of images on the page and does the Alt text and file name include the keyword?
Number CTAs or internal links
Is there a contact form?
Is the price of the product or service included?
The number of words used on the page?
All this information gives a fairly good understanding of what is expected of us to rank first. Write this down and have it handy for when actually creating the pages so you can refer to it when needed. Sometimes it could be that the required work to rank first is so much that it is not worth it at this stage to pursue that keyword. In that case, we try to find a new one and then re-do the entire process in step 5.
6. Create The Web Page
The next step in our SEO game plan is to create a web page based on the guidelines in the previous step but better. That means creating a page that’s easier to read, follow along, and has more descriptive content such as text and images. If the competitors use a keyword about 15 times on their page you also need to use that keyword about 15 times. Focus on one keyword per page because then you don’t drift away from the main message of the page. This can result in a poor experience for the reader and worsen your rankings. To get some inspiration for how to build your pages have a look at your top competitors. They can provide you with some great ideas for your own page. Since they already rank at the top, that is an indication of what users want to see on the website.
If your website is brand new it’s also recommended to focus on a keyword with a low keyword difficulty and search volume. When your website is new it doesn’t have any authority and without authority, you don’t rank. Hence starting with easy keywords will rank you faster. So, begin with words that have a search volume of around 20-100. Then slowly work your way up to more competitive keywords and conquer your niche!
There are a few things you can do to optimize images for SEO. The first thing to do is to compress the images on a website like Optimizilla. This is an online image compressor that reduces the file size of your images. That means the website loads faster because of the lower file size. If you want to rank locally with your SEO it might be worth to geotag your images. Go to geoimgr.com, upload your image, select the location on the map and click “Write EXIF-tags”. This geotags your image for better local SEO.
The next step is to include your target keyword in the file name of your image. Ensure you use a hyphen between every word, for example, SEO-game-plan.jpeg. Lastly, upload your image to the website and write a descriptive ALT-text that includes the keyword you are targeting.
All these steps might seem tedious but they are the small things that your competition is most likely not doing. Therefore they will give you an edge in the battle to the first spot in search results.
7. Web 2.0 And Local Directories
Once we have created the web page we search on Google for something like “top business directories” and “top web 2.0”. We sign up for all of them that are relevant to our business. Once that is done we find a new list of top local directories and web 2.0s and sign up for them too. We only sign up for like 2-4 of them each day and then complete the list over several weeks. This is very labor-intensive and boring but it’s an important step in order to rank high. If you really don’t have time or are too lazy you could outsource it to a VA or use Fiverr.
A little insider tip, if you’re a digital marketing agency or B2B company then consider using Clutch. And keep the profile updated with the latest info and reviews. The way Clutch works, is that they contact your current and past clients to get their input and feedback. That means you really have to deliver on your services and products. It also makes your reviews and projects very credible to any prospects looking to invest in your services or products. Therefore we strongly recommend this as it can be a great source of more leads and business.
(If you’re using Semrush and plan to only use the 7-day free trial you might want to save some relevant backlinks in a document before the trial ends) Here we go on Semrush and check out the backlinks our competitors have. We start to go through them to see which ones we can contact to get a high-quality backlink. We aim for both do-follows and no-follows in our link building. Alternatively, you could contact relevant blogs and websites that you already know about or google some of them.
Another solution would be to outsource this part too because this can also be very time-consuming. Again go on Fiverr or Upwork and try to find someone reliable that can help you get in contact with high authority blogs and websites that are relevant to your industry. You should at all costs avoid black hat SEO backlinks as this can harm your rankings.
Another great way to get backlinks is to do guest posting. This can be really beneficial and boost your SEO. The way you could approach this is to google the niche you are targeting with something like “write for us”, for example, “SEO write for us”. Go through the websites on the first page, maybe also the second page. You want to find websites that are authoritative but also ensure their writing requirements meet yours. After that, document all this on a spreadsheet.
It is very important that the backlinks from your guest posting are relevant to your niche. So that means if you have a landscaping business you want backlinks from gardening and landscaping blogs and not fashion blogs. When it comes to backlinks you should focus on quality over quantity!
This requires some work but the payoff is well worth it. Only one good backlink from an authoritative and relevant blog can make a significant difference in your SEO!
Start promoting your page on social media. Post it on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and any other place that is relevant. You could also include a link at the bottom of an answer you provided on a Reddit post for example.
We do this to get traffic to the website, to show Google and other search engines that people are visiting our website. It will help you get ranked and indexed faster.
However, promoting your site doesn’t have to be only online. You can do stuff offline as well. For example, handing out business cards, offer coupons, create flyers, walking around in public with a T-shirt that has your website on it, posting a sticker on your car, telling your friends about it, etc. The list is literally endless in things you can do to promote your website. Just do what you have to do to get traffic to your site.
10. Sit Back And Observe
Now lean back, watch the stats, and let the SEO game plan do the work. If a page starts ranking better for a keyword then start adding more content to that page. Promote it as mentioned in the previous point. Now, a thing to remember. If you complete all these steps your website won’t just magically rank first within a few days. SEO takes time and it could take weeks, perhaps months until your page starts ranking well. It’s a long-term investment. This is especially true for a completely new website that has no online presence whatsoever. You have to be patient with SEO but it will pay off if you stay in there. Keep doing small improvements over a long period of time and this will compound to massive change!
That Is Our SEO Game Plan
We know that this is pretty labor-intensive but to be the best requires hard work. Also by doing SEO on your own you can learn very valuable skills and you learn to understand that SEO is worth it. The moral of the story is, don’t just do some search engine optimization and hope for the best. That won’t get you anywhere. Instead, look at what’s working for your competitors and use that to your advantage. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to stay ahead in the SEO game. There are people and businesses that already rank well for your niche. Just have a look at why they are ranking so good and emulate them.
One thing to remember is that ranking high for SEO and having a lot of traffic to your website doesn’t automatically translate into more customers. If you rank first but your website is really bad you probably won’t convert a lot of visitors. Therefore a good web design is important to convert as much traffic as possible into customers. The sweet spot is to get traffic to your website and then have a good web design. That web design should lead visitors to perform a specific action. Whether that is starting a free trial, contacting your business, etc. To learn and read more about SEO check out our local SEO tips.
If you need any help with your web design and SEO then give us a call or send us a message. We’re happy to help and get you ranking better! We hope that this SEO game plan was useful and provided some value for you.
Have a nice day!