Growing your business through search engine optimization involves more than installing an SEO app or adding some keywords to your website’s content. To ensure a steady stream of organic traffic—affordably—you’ll want to develop a comprehensive SEO strategy grounded in competitor research and an understanding of user intent. Here’s how to create an SEO strategy to boost visits to your ecommerce site.
What is an SEO strategy?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a set of practices to improve your website’s visibility on search engines like Google. An SEO strategy is a plan that involves various techniques to optimize a website so it ranks higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) and attracts more organic (non-paid) web traffic.
SEO strategy draws on competitor analysis (evaluating rivals for SEO success), keyword research (discovering valuable search terms), and user intent (search query purpose) to optimize content for visibility. A defined SEO strategy can help you determine the best growth opportunities for your own site and keep you accountable in improving your digital presence.
How to create an effective SEO strategy
- Establish your target customers
- Evaluate your website
- Conduct competitor research
- Decide on your SEO goals
- Create a keyword strategy
- Craft a content plan
- Identify technical obstacles and opportunities
- Put your E-E-A-T on display
- Use a measurement plan
Here are the steps you can take to create an SEO strategy for your website:
1. Establish your target customers
A good SEO strategy starts with the consumers you’re targeting, since the web content you make should be tailored to their needs. Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and think about the types of information they’ll look for along their journey to purchasing your product. Understanding their life stage, average income, common interests, and pain points will help you understand how potential buyers may query search engines so you can target them with the right content.
2. Evaluate your website
Evaluate the current state of your website to understand your strengths and weaknesses, and to provide benchmark data to measure your SEO success later on. Use Google Analytics, a free tool provided by Google, to answer the following questions:
- How much organic traffic does my site get?
- Which pages get the most traffic?
- Which keywords are driving the most traffic to your site?
- How many micro-conversions (e.g., newsletter sign-ups) and macro-conversions (e.g., purchases) come from organic users?
3. Conduct competitor research
SEO tools like Semrush and Ahrefs have free and paid plans that can help you evaluate the online presence of your SERP competitors, or other sites competing for the same SERP rankings you’re targeting.
Focus your SEO competitor analysis on top-performing keywords and the content your rivals produce to target those keywords. Explore which keywords they rank for that you don’t, look at their typical blog post length, and assess what strategies they use to get backlinks.
4. Decide on your SEO goals
To set effective SEO goals, use the SMART goal framework—set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Identify your website’s weaknesses and identify goals that can help you improve in those areas to advance your larger business goals, like increasing sales or brand awareness.
Here are some examples of SMART goals for an SEO strategy:
- To increase brand awareness, we must increase organic traffic to the blog by 50% this year.
- To increase organic traffic, we must increase publication volume from one blog post a week to three blog posts a week.
- To increase the authority of our blog posts and improve SERP rankings, we must have a link-building strategy to get 30 backlinks to our site by the next quarter.
5. Create a keyword strategy
Before you can start writing more content, you need to identify which topics to focus on. That’s where keyword strategy comes in. To conduct keyword research, gather data on search volume and ranking difficulty for target keywords with a keyword research tool such as Ahrefs or Semrush. You can also use tools like Google Trends to understand how search volume fluctuates over time, which will help when it’s time to schedule a content calendar.
Identify a mix of short-tail keywords (terms that indicate broad categories, like “women’s jeans”) and long-tail keywords (terms that indicate specific interest, like “high rise women’s skinny jeans”) to target. Short-tail keywords usually have higher search volume but are more competitive. Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, usually have lower search volumes but are less competitive. They also tend to have higher conversion rates as they indicate a user’s specific, well-understood interest in a subject.
6. Craft a content plan
An effective, holistic SEO strategy targets search queries throughout the user journey. With your keywords in mind, make blog posts, videos, and infographics to educate and engage users considering making a purchase.
Think about your customer’s goals and pain points and come up with content ideas that target relevant keywords. For example, a blog post could target “best jeans for wide hips” or “straight leg vs. bootcut jeans” to help those still gathering information before making a purchase.
7. Identify technical obstacles and opportunities
The best SEO content in the world doesn’t matter if search engines can’t properly crawl and index your website (which is how search engines like Google understand and present your website’s content). Using a tool like Screaming Frog, conduct a technical SEO audit of your website to identify issues like slow page load speeds, orphan pages, 4xx errors, and others that could prevent your website from ranking high on SERPs.
You can also use Google tools like PageSpeed Insights, Search Console, and the CrUX Dashboard—all of which help you monitor and improve core web vitals, the metrics by which Google judges the usability of your site.
8. Put your E-E-A-T on display
E-E-A-T stands for “experience, expertise, authority, and trust.” While it’s not a direct ranking factor, Google uses this criteria to ensure its organic search results are useful for users and free of misinformation.
9. Use a measurement plan
Finally, track the impact of all of your hard work. Pinpoint KPIs you want to measure, how frequently you’ll track them, and the tools you need to do so.
There are many analytics and keyword tracking tools—such as Ahrefs, Semush, and Google Analytics—to track common SEO metrics like organic traffic, revenue, keyword rankings, share of voice, and backlinks. You can also use Google Search Console, a free tool that provides insights on organic performance and technical elements of your site.
SEO strategy FAQ
How do you start an SEO strategy?
An SEO strategy should start with understanding your core customers, evaluating the current state of your website, and conducting competitor research to determine where to focus your efforts.
What is the difference between SEO strategies and tactics?
An SEO strategy tells you where you want to go and the ways you can get there. SEO tactics are the actions you take to bring that strategy to life and achieve your desired goals.
How often should you analyze your SEO strategy?
You should analyze your SEO strategy every quarter with a more in-depth review once a year. Quarterly reviews strike a good balance between planning ahead and staying the course through the normal ups and downs of organic traffic.