When it comes to SEO, be the tortoise.
You know Aesop’s Fable about the tortoise and the hare, right? Well, let’s recap. The story of the tortoise and the hare has a moral that ‘slow and steady wins the race’. The fable tells the tale of the hare who was often found bragging about how fast he could run. The tortoise, who took a more slow and steady approach, was tired of listening to the hare boast and so challenged him to a race. With all the animals gathered to watch, the hare boasted loud for all to hear. He couldn’t understand how the tortoise could even think he might win.
The hare ran in spurts, often stopping to take a break. He’d look behind and see the tortoise in the distance. At one point he stopped to rest and took a nap.
Meanwhile, the tortoise walked slow and steady. He never stopped. He never rested. He never took a break. He never paused to congratulate himself or to boast to all those who could hear. He just continued on his way, slow and steady
Eventually, the tortoise walked right past the hare, who was snoozing on the road. The animals cheered so loudly they eventually woke up Hare, who then realized the tortoise was in the lead. But, it was too late. By the time he began to run again, the tortoise crossed the finish line.
The moral? “Don’t brag about your lightning pace, for Slow and Steady won the race!”.
So yes, when it comes to SEO, be the tortoise.
Good, long-lasting, SEO that wins (targeted traffic and leads) needs to be based on a solid foundation with a phased approach and process. While there might be tricks and tools out there on the market, there is no lightning-fast approach that will outpace a solid SEO campaign.
There will always be the other guys promising quick results, but generally speaking, they don’t last, if they happen at all.
SEO is built over time. And, when done as part of a long-term, phased strategy, each piece builds upon the next, while helping out the previous phases, too. This layered effect is what eventually helps a website really stick.
A Tried & True SEO Process
Solid SEO is part of an overarching long term process that incorporates research, keywords, content, link-building, technical elements and analytics. It is a continuous process that looks like a circle, rather than a straight line. In other words, once you get to what should be the finish line, once you analyze the results, it is time to start all over again.
SEO professionals who have been doing this for years, who have managed large-scale, competitive SEO campaigns through some of the search engines biggest (and most destructive for some websites) algorithm updates, have a solid, working SEO process that starts with a good foundation. They know innately what works. They have the right instincts when making decisions but they always start by ensuring they have a solid strategy in place.
Think about an SEO process like building a house. The foundation needs to be solid. The framing needs to be accurate. The interior design? Well, that’s where you can add some flare, personality and try new trends.
That’s the same with SEO. You will always need a good strategy, the right keywords, the right content and to understand your target audience. You need a well-built website that has clean code and is easy for the search engines to spider. Once you have the foundation and the framing in place, then you can begin to experiment with some of the new trends, tools and up-and-coming tactics.
But, you can’t start with the trends. You can’t start with the tools that promise to do it for you. If you don’t have a plan and a process, your SEO just won’t stick.
Market Research – Staying up-to-date on what others in the industry are doing (right, wrong and otherwise) while ensuring you have a complete understanding of your current target audience is an important part of the ongoing SEO process.
Technical Audit – How your website is set-up, if it is hosted properly, and its speed can play a big part in SEO success. It’s important to conduct a website and hosting analysis to address key areas in your website’s programming and set up that could be affecting how a search engine finds, spiders, rates and ranks your website. There are over 200 factors in search engine algorithms and technical set-up plays a big role. It is important to regularly evaluate, discover and resolve any potential issues.
Keyword Research – How will a visitor find your website? When potential website visitors head online looking for a product, service or information they enter a search query into a search engine. SEO professionals have the tools and knowledge to uncover the most popular searched queries that match your products, services and information. We look at keyword relevancy, keyword volume and keyword competition to determine the best keyword phrases to optimize for. Keyword research can also uncover new related business avenues and content ideas, too. How people search changes over time so it is important to conduct keyword research on a regular basis.
Site Planning – The structure and flow of navigation, pages, and content is a large part of SEO. The search engine needs to be able to easily navigate to every page on the website; but even more so, the visitor needs to easily find what he or she is looking for. Creating sections, related page within sections and a content hierarchy can help with a website’s ranking and usability.
Content Development – Ongoing regular content updates and development is good for SEO and your website’s visitors. Your market research and keyword research will help guide your content development. Whether you are making ongoing changes and updates to static pages on your website, or you’re focused on an ongoing blog calendar, ensuring your content matches what your targeted visitors are looking for is good SEO practice.
Website Optimization – Your website’s ranking is dependent upon how well your website is optimized, both from a front end (on-page) and back-end (code) perspective. On-page optimization involves what the visitor can see and experience. This includes titles, headings, and content to support the target keywords. This also includes user experience, optimized navigation, cross-linking and clear calls-to-action. The back end optimization involves meta tags, image optimization, load times, code optimization, simplifying source code, page caching and so much more.
Link Acquisition – In the old days, SEO companies developed sound practices that involved submitting websites to related directories. This practice is no longer considered a best practice. Now, a more natural link profile is what the search engines are looking for. The search engines see links to a website as a vote of confidence and so, link acquisition helps to improve your website’s authority. Building natural links is key and this is done by having share-worthy content and building relationships with related businesses.
Website Analytics – Being able to collect and analyze your website data is key to improving upon your successes and making edits on what might need fixing. Analytics data can help you understand your target audience while monitoring your key performance indicators (KPI). Most SEO professionals rely on Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. By delving deep into the data, you can uncover potential issues and address them for the benefit of your website’s performance.
Rinse & Repeat – Once you’ve analyzed your data, you’re ready to start all over again, with your next phase of keywords and content. This is what is known as a phased approach to SEO.
What is a Phased Approach to SEO?
SEO is based on what is known as a maturity model. You cannot do everything at once, but rather you have to focus on your SEO in terms of themes while applying the process above (ensuring you have the strategy, the planning, and the implementation in place)
Crawlability – Your content needs to be able to be found and spidered by search engines, so that the site can be naturally indexed. Whether you’ve launched a new website, new piece of content or had site downtime, this is something that cannot be ignored.
Top Keywords & Content – Ideally, you will set your top keyword goals and then strategize, plan and build your website & content to match. Generally, you might select your top ten most popular keyword phrases. Usually these will be more competitive and general, but will offer big rewards when you succeed.
Imagine you are an oceanfront resort in Victoria called The Shell Oceanfront Resort. Your top keywords would likely be a combination of:
Victoria Resort, Victoria hotel, Victoria accommodations, Place to stay in Victoria, top hotels in Victoria, resorts near Victoria, hotel packages Victoria, The Shell Victoria, The Shell Oceanfront, The Shell Oceanfront Resort Victoria, Vancouver Island Resorts etc.
Secondary Keywords & Content – Your secondary keywords are more targeted and more specific to sections of your website, rather than your website as a whole.
Using our same example of The Shell Oceanfront Resort in Victoria, the secondary keywords might be:
Resort and spa Victoria, Victoria vacation packages, Couples package Victoria resort, Victoria wedding venue, Victoria restaurant, things to do in Victoria, family vacation packages Victoria, top attractions in Victoria etc.
Long Tail Keywords & Content – Long-tail keywords might be the equivalent of low-hanging fruit. Generally, they are not as competitive but they are highly targeted. This means, when combined, they have big potential to really boost your traffic and conversions.
Back to our example – some examples of long-tail keywords for the Shell Oceanfront Resort in Victoria might be – deep sea fishing packages in Victoria, luxury vacation accommodations Victoria, Victoria weather in spring, pet-friendly resorts in Victoria, spring discount for resort in Victoria, where to stay in Victoria BC, discounts on accommodations in Victoria BC, the top things to do in summer in Victoria BC, Victoria BC tourist attractions for families, Victoria BC tourist attractions for couples etc.
Content Promotion – Once you have a content piece in place on your website, it’s time to promote that piece of content. You might do this through social media channels, link-building, your email newsletter etc.
For instance, in our Victoria resort example, you might encourage others in the local tourism industry to link to a blog post on Victoria BC tourist attractions.
Search Engine Optimization is A Continuous Cycle – Not A Get Rich Quick Scheme
Regardless of the number of poorly written spam emails you may receive that tell you they can guarantee instant results, SEO is not a quick marketing tactic. There are no tricks to get ahead. There is no substitution for experience, knowledge and a sound strategy and process.
There is no replacing hard work, experience and industry knowledge. While there are a lot of good tools designed to help SEO professionals do it faster and better, they don’t replace the experienced SEO professional. They do not replace the fact that SEO is continuous. That, once you reach the finish line, you have a whole new race to begin.
SEO is a continuous cycle where once you reach the proverbial finish line, it’s time to start all over again with a different segment of your audience, a different grouping of keywords or back to the basics with your top keywords. The Internet and the Search engines are always changing. There is always new competition. There is no room for a pause or a break.
When you implement a phased approach to your content, your keywords and your overall SEO strategy you will be generating new rankings and results overtime. Each time you begin the process again with a new target, piece of content or keyword in mind, you are building upon what was done before. The great thing is that there are hundreds of factors in the algorithms. So, as you work on your long-tail keywords for instance, that hard work is actually helping your top keywords, too.
There might always be people who believe they can do it better and faster. But, when it comes to SEO, be the tortoise. Slow and steady really does win the race.