Get The Edge Over The Competition

In all competitions strategy plays a big part, if you do the same as the ”other guy”, then unless you are faster or fitter, you are going to lose. Being smarter can give the “edge” over the competition, and so it is no different in the world of Search Engine Optimisation.

Google and other search engines are the big competitive online portals, where the strongest websites for certain search terms will rank in the highest positions. The results for these fitter websites, are more sales, bigger profits and higher brand visibility.

mark flanighan SEO strategist

What Does A SEO Strategist Do?

Creating a basic plan to help rank a website higher is not that difficult to create, after all there are a multitude of you tube videos and a plethora of website and blog articles to assist with the knowledge of increasing visibility, delivering more online traffic and ranking higher. The overall objective of a “Search Engine Optimisation Strategist” is to increase authority, trust and engagement signals, so that platforms such as Google can see an online property as the best option to rank high. They would have typically worked as senior SEO specialist or project manager in a digital marketing agency.

The most basic SEO strategy is to find a website that ranks well for a chosen search term and then reverse engineer that website

Analyse To Increase Authority And Trust:-

  1. Look at the backlink profile, using a third party application such as “Ahrefs”, “SEMRush” or “Majestic SEO”. Backlinks are a very powerful source of adding authority to a website in Google eyes, so studying the links that are powering a successful website and then mirroring that profile or at least the strengths of that profile, is a starting point. (more on this later).These third party tools try to emulate authority and trust the backlinks are generating. Although these tools are good indicators, these Domain Rating (DR) and Domain Authority (DA) scores are not those used by Google. These remain secret to Google. The process of studying backlinks and acquiring them is often called “Off page SEO.”
  2. Full content review. Look though all the content of that powerful website, to note how well written and relevant the content is. How much content is there and what extra media is being used, i.e. unique images, videos. How the content links together and what file system is being used. It is fair to say, that if this website has 1000, well written unique content articles, then a content strategy will be needed to be created for Google to see that your website as having more trust and authority than anyone else.
  3. Keywords play a big part within any content strategy, so identifying the keywords used within Title tags, headers and page body are again basic requisites. What website owners do with content is often referred to as “On page SEO”.
  4. Social Profiles. This is not about how many Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc followers your competition has, but how much these users interact with the website, referred too as engagement signals. Unfortunately this info may not be readily available, but you can see how often and what posts are being created by the competition and how many likes etc. So a Social media strategy, will help.
  5. Full website audit with regular reviews and is often referred to as “Technical SEO”. This is about ensuring your website is fully “mobile friendly”, loads fast, is secure i.e. HTTPs, rather than http and does not have errors, such as broken links, canonical issues or duplicate content. You could write a full book on the type of errors that can occur, and it is pointless having a great strategy to help with your search engine optimisation if your website loads slowly or cannot be used on a mobile phone etc.
  6. A good technical SEO tool to start any website audit is the “Google Search Console”, which will show certain errors. Again there are many tutorials and information on the web for this.

A SEO specialist will have gone through the above process many times and will be proficient in using the required reporting tools and will know, the importance of each process and will know the client’s goals and researched the related industry trends. As mentioned before there is lots of info on the internet that will have a more detailed explanation of each process above and some more.

Taking a Strategy To The Next Level

This is where a good search engine optimisation strategist will earn their salary and why you see many positions being advertised on recruitment websites for this exact job description by digital agencies looking for creative individuals with several years experience that can see through the jungle and created real unique solutions that empower an online presence.

Hint: It is also true that some of these positions are advertised on high authority job websites in order to gain a powerful backlink to the relevant agency website.

For competitive keywords implementing what everyone else is doing is a good process but often not enough to command better power rankings.:

“I have spend some time researching these advanced strategies, from those who were good enough to share or from my own day to day testing and, case studies and trial and error.”

Take for instance the UK mattress retailer, Dreams as reported by the internet marketing agency salience.co.uk.

For many Dreams is an online and traditional bricks and mortar retailer that sells quality mattresses. Had Dreams just relied on reverse engineering another successful bed website, at best they may have achieved similar rankings for certain mattress search terms. But by understanding that what Dreams really sold was a good nights sleep, this opened up so many other linking and authority partnerships and a huge increase in visibility.

Dreams became an authority website on a good nights sleep. So many people are searching for advice on how to sleep better, doctors and scientists are prepared to link and use this material. Magazines and newspapers doing heir own health articles on sleep, would then link to the website. There are also connections with famous athletes and sports people needing recovery time, so Dreams also connected with Team GB for the Olympics. There was also a real focus on local SEO, so that local stores could be found easily.

Try searching for most bed terms and in most cases Dreams will be there, Salience claim there was a 781% increase in organic traffic. Clearly there has been a financial reward for that internet marketing strategy.

Going Beyond Basic Keyword Research

Google claimed back in 2017 that 15% of all search terms have never been used before, which is a big hint not just to copy the competition but look beyond the obvious opportunities. Some affiliate marketers aim for thousands of long tail keywords within their copy articles, which is not as easy to do as man may think, as the copy still needs to be of high quality and not spam. Many digital marketing campaigns have focused on content  as their primary strategy, understanding the online marketing success factors can be very rewarding.

“Spending quality time keyword research on this can really improve visibility if done correctly.”

Semantics and synonyms can take the written copy to an even higher level. Content strategists will know if they are good enough to write the content or if a professional writing service needs to be employed, for both core content and blog posts.

engagement signals

Engagement Signals, Can Mean the Difference.

Many digital marketing strategists will say the difference between first and second position, is often not backlinks, content or keywords but engagement signals. After all to get to position 2, many things must already be correct, so how visitors engage with a website can often be the key to better rankings. The Search Console and Google Analytics shows some very useful metrics on search marketing. Key data signals include, but not conclusive.

  1. “Bounce Rate” this is where a visitor only visits one page and then clicks the back button to go back. Clearly this can be a bad sign if many visitors choose not to stay in the first few seconds of arrival.
  2. Time on site (retention). Clearly it people are staying and reading content, then this is a signal all is good.
  3. Pages visited, what pages are visited etc.
  4. Click though Rate (CTR). This is often denied by Google representatives, that this is used within the algorithm. But most SEO consultants will argue a goof click though rate, sends positive signals to Google.

SEO Reporting Tools Used By The Professionals

  1. Google Search Console/ Analytics Dashboards
  2. Ahrefs
  3. Majestic
  4. SEM Rush
  5. MOZ
  6. Yoast for WordPress
  7. Grammarly
  8. LongTailPro
  9. Keyword Generator
  10.   Copyscape

There are many more reporting tools, most of the above have a charge associated with them.

How To Know What Digital Marketing Strategies Work

The first thing is not to assume that what is read on the internet is correct and will stand the test of time. Most serious professional digital consultants will have “test websites”. These  sites exist just to test what works and what does not. The case studies from these websites, helps the understanding of real Search Engine Optimization strategies, such as content marketing, social media and link building.

“I have several websites and spent nearly 2 years, testing strategies that did not involve any link building, outwardly links only, exact keyword domains and some very aggressive techniques where the threshold of failure was measured. Testing now is more around engagement signals, I still try to look for alternatives to backlinks. I learnt far more from mistakes than the successes.”

Of course things are changing all the time, some suggest that 75% of all information is either out of date or was false in the first place, so when deciding who to trust, look at the date published and visitor engagement for trust signals. Lets me honest, those who have spent years researching, testing and making mistakes in order to discover what really works in different niches.

Google algorithm changes such as Panda, Penguin and others really took out digital marketing agencies and self employed individuals who had made a living from untested strategies. I have web sites that were hit badly by Google Penguin several years ago, although frustrating, the lessons learnt for recovery have been invaluable,

So the final strategy for any  project is for all processes to stand the test of time and can survive and hopefully thrive though the many updates that occur yearly.

Going Beyond Organic Search

A full digital marketing package would go beyond the typical organic search optimisation and further strategies could include PPC, Video marketing, email marketing and of course web design.

PPC or to the exact term, Pay Per Click marketing, can have tremendous immediate returns if done correctly with the right research, high CTR (click through rate) and good web score.  The rules for great PPC are in the main different that organic search, for example only one URL per sire can be shown per page, where with organic search multiple pages can rank.

But the right strategy is to know what terms to focus on through a SEO campaign and what is PPC. Typicality SEO has a higher return from investment, but can take months to rank, where PPC is almost immediate at a higher cost

A more direct approach is to use email marketing, something I have never aspired to do, as I hate receiving emails, but there is no doubt some professionals can get good returns from it.

Using the video platform to market a business, person or brand, is almost part of any SEO strategy now, from visitor retention, to backlinks, to social media shares and finally, so many people use platforms like YouTube to search and research their interests.

It may seem obvious that web design should be part of a digital marketing strategy, but the reasons go what colour, what logo, what template etc. Speed and visitor metrics are key to successful SEO results. So, designing a website, that loads fast, is fully mobile and easy to navigate is the basic requirements. But there are more complicated issues within web design that can directly affect the SEO of the site, such as coding, non loading page resources, databases, and date security.

WordPress is a common platform used to make web design easier but comes with so many issues that can affect the ranking of the website. So much effort s made to speed up websites, designed with Elementor and other web designing plug ins.  A strategist will know the issues, from templates and plugins etc and will deliver alternative solutions, so will need some knowledge of HTML, CSS, PHP and database creation.

Why Would I Need A Senior SEO Strategist For My Business?

Most strategies can be related to technical SEO, content, and backlinks, where your market is and the niche you are trading in. Some niches work better with a content marketing strategy and social media, that is unique to the business, others work with  pure power of link building.  Where and how those links are acquired, comes down to well laid out process, it doesn’t happen by chance.

“Using your “Unique Selling Point” to capture the right customers at the right price point, with at the correct part of the sales funnel would be part of the SEO Marketing plan.”

Unique selling Point

So, if your business does only what every other business does, (of course there is still an aspect of reverse engineering) then how do you expect to stand out from the crowd? There can be different strategies for B2B marketing, than consumers, impulsive purchase or considered, all have an impact on website design and conversion.

“The role of a SEO strategist is to use their experience to create something that will be cost effective to deliver results, beyond the competition is an agreed amount of time.

How Much Would A Client Be Charged?

As I have mentioned, I am semi-retired now and do take on clients, but an outsourced professional would expect a remuneration in relation to the size of the project and the expected return on investment. The time saved and mistakes avoided should make the right person, very valuable. Remember these specialists have made all the mistakes you can make and learned from them all and will know what can be done and what is “too much risk”.

“They will either charge by the hour, or by the project. In the USA it is not unusual to charge $1000s an hour, although real value would need to be delivered for that kind of money.”

Most specialists would be more affordable than that. Salaries in the USA, for recognised online marketing experts can be huge, especially in key cities such as San Diego CA.

What Is the Difference Between a SEO Consultant and A Strategist?

In many ways not much, but a with a SEO consultant you would expect them to bring together the people of the business act as a project manager and give them all roles to improve the rankings. It is likely that the key traits of a consultant will have a more “balanced view” on implementing SEO processes and integrating them with design etc. A strategist tends to have a bit more flair and creativity in a internet marketing campaign.

To put it bluntly, it is possible

  • SEO Consultant = More likely To Chose a reverse engineer process, that is proven
  • SEO Strategist = Use their experience to go beyond reverse engineering and create a unique winning formula.

If you want a reference to above. then look at Formula one racing. Who are the teams, using proven technology only and who are the teams that have moved beyond that and introduced their own design and technology that has gone on to win races and championships? Looking at websites that are kicking above their weight often show advantages that can be applied to other marketing agency projects.

“However, what a professional call themselves is up to them. There are many consultants who have delivered great strategies, so do not be put off by their chosen title.”

There Are Many Job Vacancies Out There

It is an interesting situation but Google see’s the search term, “SEO Strategist” as a job role, that multiple agencies advertise for, on job sites, such as Indeed, Glass Door, Linkedin and on their own agency websites.

So, even though this more of a personal profile let’s look at the skill base required for a position like this, in no particular order.

  • Detailed Keyword Research
  • Ability to test different pages against other test sites
  • Understanding local search and how to capitalise on this
  • How citations work with local search
  • Great content creation, knowing what works for visitors
  • Understanding semantics
  • Using content clustering to full effect
  • Separating landing pages from supporting pages
  • Being able to build natural looking links
  • Basic PHP, HTML, CSS skills
  • Able to work with database platforms such as WordPress and Joomla
  • Page load speed and mobile friendly knowledge
  • Bringing page conversion into design
  • The basics such as page titles and headers
  • Where breadcrumb menus can work
  • Testing new algorithm changes
  • Keeping up to dates with SEO news and changes
  • Being able to communicate with web designers, programmers and content writers
  • Proficient with SEO tools such as SemRush, Ahrefs, Screaming Frog, MOZ and Majestic

The above is not a comprehensive list, but it should be clear that an all-round knowledge is needed, even if some work is subcontracted out.