To achieve favorable rankings for your keywords in the search engine results pages (SERPs) amidst the era of Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird, it is imperative to employ a combination of strategic SEO intelligence and a systematic approach.

SEO, when executed correctly, remains a crucial aspect of a successful organic search content strategy. Therefore, we have distilled seven critical steps that you must undertake to attain the desired keyword rankings.

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1.Keyword research :

To optimize your site, it’s crucial to start with effective keyword research. Here are the essential steps for discovering and compiling your keyword portfolio:

  1. Begin by creating a core keyword list, also known as a “seed list,” and input it into a spreadsheet such as Excel or Google Drive. Add to this list by gathering keyword ideas from competitor sites and your own research.
  2. Access your site’s Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) account to extract the keywords that drive the most impressions and add them to your core list.
  3. If you have access to ubersuggest Data, search your website to identify the keywords and pages you’re ranking for and add them to your list. Repeat the process for your competitors.
  4. Use Google’s Keyword Planner or Semrush tool to uncover more keyword ideas and conduct further research.
  5. Finally, categorize and prioritize your keywords in your spreadsheet according to themes such as “products,” “services,” and “news.” This will help inform the structure of your website.

For a detailed breakdown of these steps, you can refer to my keyword research guide on the Search Engine Spot blog.

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2. Site structure :

With your keyword research in hand, you can construct an optimized navigational framework that facilitates search engine understanding and user navigation.

By organizing your site’s structure around targeted keyword categories, you signal to search engines that your site is relevant to users’ queries. Here are your next steps:

  • Determine your website’s overarching themes and incorporate your more general keywords.
  • Define your website’s main categories and subcategories using specific keywords informed by your keyword research.
  • Optimize individual pages with highly-refined keywords, including “long-tail” keywords that are specific to each page. This is where you can make small tweaks to achieve significant improvements in your pages’ search engine results page (SERP) positioning, also known as “striking distance.”

3. A review of your SEO content :

While it is not mandatory, conducting an SEO content audit is highly recommended. It allows you to evaluate the performance of your website content and determine what is working well and what is not in terms of search rankings and ROI. This information will help you establish a baseline for your content strategy.

Depending on your needs, there are several tools you can use to gather the data required to conduct an SEO content audit. For larger enterprises and websites, Semrush SEO platform has robust analytics and reporting tools that measure organic search and revenue performance at the page, site category, and subcategory levels.

After collecting the data, you should export and organize it into a spreadsheet. Analyze key SEO metrics such as pageviews, organic visits, bounce rates, conversions, and page speed. Focus on the performance of website pages that are essential to your business, such as key landing and sales pages.

If you have a blog, measure social metrics such as Facebook shares, tweets, Google +1s, and shares, as well as the quality and quantity of backlinks that search engines use to assess the authority and credibility of your content, which in turn impacts your blog’s search ranking.

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4. Content creation, optimization, and on-page SEO

Ensure that your content has a sufficient word count that leaves readers feeling satisfied (at least 250 words, depending on the page’s purpose and topic). Incorporate relevant keywords into the text, but avoid keyword stuffing or including irrelevant text. Additionally, ensure that the written content appears at the top of the page, so that viewers are not greeted with advertisements immediately upon arrival.

Avoid duplicate content, as this can occur inadvertently by replicating a page’s Meta information (which is explained in more detail below).

To inform search engines of a page’s content topic, create unique Meta data for each site page, consisting of a page title and description. This information also appears in search engine results pages (SERPs) and has a significant impact on search rankings.

Images and videos also require written titles, descriptions, and tags to ensure that search engines can understand their content. Optimize on-page rich media so that keywords match the corresponding text and Meta data.

To assist search engine bots in better understanding the page’s content, structure the headers and subheads using a hierarchy of heading tags (H1, H2, H3). This also helps readers scan the page more easily.

Where applicable, use internal links to connect individual site pages. Search engine robots navigate the web by following links, so providing an internal, connected structure can assist them and your site visitors in navigating your website.

Create and submit an XML Sitemap to search engines, using the web “robot” code of XML tags to inform them about your site’s individual page content. This is especially helpful for large, new, or rich media-heavy sites, as it enables “Googlebot” and other search engine robots to crawl and index your site more quickly and accurately.

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5. Link earning

Link “earning” is the process of creating content that others want to link to, expressing their confidence and association with it. These inbound links can be directed to your home page, internal products or services page, or a remarkable blog post. Your site’s backlink profile is comprised of inbound links from others on the web.

Search engines consider the quantity and quality of your site’s backlink profile when determining its relative importance, authority, and credibility, which then factors into its organic search content rankings.

To monitor the health of your site’s backlink profile, it’s recommended to conduct monthly or quarterly link audits, also known as backlink management.

If you want to improve your site’s backlink profile, it’s essential to create content that others find valuable and want to link to. Conducting regular link audits and implementing effective backlink management strategies can also help boost your site’s search engine rankings.

6. Social media

In today’s world, social media engagement and content sharing play an increasingly important role in determining your organic search visibility and content ranking, as mentioned earlier in the discussion of the SEO audit for blog content (Step 3). With the integration of Google Plus social activity in Google’s SERPs and Bing’s partnership with Twitter for its SERPs, “social SEO” has become a content marketing reality.

The explosion of online data in recent years is largely attributed to social media, and search engines now view content sharing as a “quality” signal. This is evident in a Twitter case study of Tiny Prints, an online boutique that relies on organic search for its website traffic and revenue. By leveraging the Twitter platform, it was able to achieve a 47 percent increase in organic search rankings for long-tail keywords and tripled its Twitter follower engagement.

The synergy between search and social is highlighted in Mark’s post on social signals and SEO, as well as Andy Betts’ article on the correlation between search and social data in producing search ranking results.

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