A SEO Strategist Will Decide What Is Right

Employing a the right person can make a big difference to any digital marketing campaign, reducing the time to success and maximising profits, a SEO Strategist often fits the bill. Doing the same SEO principles that everyone who manages a successful website does, will work to a certain level, but there does come a point where a well defined unique strategy can give that extra boost or edge over the rest.

Sometimes the best strategies can be the simplest by just doing these very same thing better than everyone else. Other times a different approach is needed. It is the job of a SEO strategist is to decide what is right for each website project at different points of it’s existence or popularity.

My name is Mark Flanighan I live in Stockton on Tees, United Kingdom I have a passion for SEO and this is my opinion of the role and some of the elements of success.

mark flanighan SEO strategist

Passionate SEO Expert UK

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. Being passionate of what you do can help a lot, when things take longer than expected.

UK SEO Expert

Google and other search engines are the big competitive UK 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, just like in any other competition is can be the very the passion of a UK SEO expert that will get the edge over the competition.

What Does A SEO Strategist Do?

Creating a basic SEO 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 SEO blog articles to assist with the knowledge of increasing visibility, delivering more online traffic and ranking higher. I suggest that 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 and worked on many projects.

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

A good SEO strategist would look at the backlink profile, using a third party application such as “Ahrefs”, “SEMRush” or “Majestic”. Backlinks are a very powerful source of adding authority to a website in Google eyes, so studying the backlinks 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).

Backlink Strategist

These third party SEO tools, try to emulate authority and trust that the backlinks are generating for each website. 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 strategies to acquire them is often called “Off page SEO.”

Content Strategist

Full content review. The SEO strategist would will look though all the content of that powerful website, to note how well written and relevant the content is. How much content there is, and what extra media is being used, i.e. unique images, videos. Also, how the content links together and what file system is being used.

Content Strategist

It is fair to say, that if this website has 1000, well written unique content articles, then a content strategy will need to be created, so that Google can see that your website as having more trust and niche authority than anyone else.

Keyword Strategist

Keywords play a big part within any content strategy, so identifying the keywords used within Title tags, headers and page body are again basic SEO requisites. What website owners do with content is often referred to as “On page SEO“. Understanding this Keyword aspect of SEO is critical to an experienced strategist’s work.

Keyword Strategist

Exact match keywords, can over-optimise a website. So a good content strategy would include related synonyms and closely related words to build a detailed picture of the subject matter.

Long tail keywords, tend to be searched for less but have a better conversion rate as they are more likely to match the users intend, more closely.

Social Media Strategist

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, they will see how often and what posts are being created by the competition and how many likes etc. So in most cases a SEO strategist would include a Social Media strategy, as part of the overall plan.

Social Media Strategist

For smaller more local businesses, a good social media strategy can be more powerful than implementing SEO on a local website. Being part of a platform, where existing customers can share their experiences and recommend local traders, can be very powerful.

Technical SEO Expert

A full website audit with regular reviews, is often referred to as “Technical SEO”. For some projects this technical SEO audit may be the first item on the “to-do” list. 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.

Technical SEO Expert

You could write a full book on the type of errors that can occur, but a SEO expert will have the experience to understand most problems or have access to the professionals who have the solutions .

A good technical SEO tool to start any website audit is the “Google Search Console”, which will show certain errors. Again there are many basic tutorials and information on the web for this, but often a more complex understanding is required.

A SEO performance manager 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 website goals and researched the related industry trends.

Taking a Project Website 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 and improve organic performance.

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 basic SEO plan 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.”

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 after all the initial work has been completed. So a proficient SEO expert will 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 many 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 professionals 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.

Difference Engagement Signals

The Search Console and Google Analytics shows some very useful metrics on search marketing. Key data signals include, but not conclusive. Understanding these engagement signals and maximising their effectiveness, is another trait of a UK SEO Expert.

  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 digital marketing signal that 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 experts will argue a good click though rate with positive engagement, sends positive signals to Google.

SEO Reporting Tools Used By The Professionals

  1. Google Search Console/ Google 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 monthly or yearly charge associated with them. The SEO tools that are used daily, would add up to a considerable sum each month.

Knowing 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 SEO process works and what does not. The case studies from these websites, helps the understanding of real Search Engine Optimization plans, such as content marketing, social media and link building.

“I have several websites and spent nearly 2 years, testing SEO 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 be honest, most search engine optimisation managers will 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 word of mouth. I have web sites that were hit badly by Google Penguin several years ago, although frustrating, the lessons learnt for recovery have been invaluable,

“Mark Flanighan”

So the final SEO 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.

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. Some SEO strategists will have the skill base to do all these disciplines, but some may prefer to outsource these to trusted 3rd parties.

Basic PPC Marketing

PPC or to the exact term, Pay Per Click marketing, can have tremendous immediate returns if done correctly with the right research, high CTRs (click through rates) and a good web score.  The strategies for great PPC campaign are in the main different to that of organic search, for example only one URL per website can be shown per page with PPC, where with organic search, multiple pages can rank on the same Google search page.

But the right strategy is to know what terms to focus on through a SEO project and when to use PPC. Typically, Organic rankings has a higher return from investment, but can take months to rank, where PPC has an almost immediate return, but at a higher cost

Using Email Marketing

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.

Results Email Marketing

Of course there is the “Opt In” type email strategy, where you offer something for free, information or free software for example, in exchange for opting in to a club or be part of an email campaign etc.

There are some example of some extraordinary results, which has removed the need for any other type of marketing. This is a speciality and knowing SEO does not mean, knowing how to email market this way. I certainly would not sell my services as if I was an expert of this type of marketing, but I would recommend finding an expert should I see the opportunities.

A Plan To Use Videos

Using the video platform to market a business, person or brand, should almost be part of any digital marketing strategy in today’s world. From visitor retention, to backlinks, to social media shares and finally, so many people use platforms like YouTube to search and research their interests.

Video Marketing Plan

Technology has made the creation of videos so much cheaper, a mobile phone or a decent webcam connected to a PC, maybe all that is needed. How the video is created and the value of the information can decide how many views and visibility the video will produce.

There is also another word, not used that much in digital marketing and that is trust. Being able to see the products, services and even the people involved before making a transaction can seriously increase any conversion rate. The ability to share videos, across social media can also gain huge traction to a digital marketing campaign.

Web Design Is Integral To SEO

It may seem obvious that web design should be part of a digital marketing project, but the reasons go well beyond 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.

Web Design v SEO

But there are more complicated issues within web design that can directly affect the visibility of the site, such as coding, non loading page resources, databases, and date security. Many SEO strategists may not be web designers or coders, but will work with these 3rd parties to create a fast loading, lean, mobile friendly website.

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 is made to speed up websites, designed with Elementor and other web designing plug ins.  A SEO strategist will know these issues, from templates and plugins etc and will deliver alternative solutions, so will need some knowledge of HTML, CSS, PHP and database creation.

Menu creations and internal linking, can also affect the overall rankings of a website, both from user interaction point of view sending positive engagement signals, to spreading that Google page rank and authority throughout the website.

Google now works with a “Mobile First” principle, as it believes more users are using mobile devices, so all internal linking and menu creation needs to work fully within a clean low code mobile environment. Designing a website that covers, all these issues will contribute to the overall power of that online property and improve its overall SEO score.

Why Would I Need A SEO Expert 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 plan with 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. A UK SEO expert will save the business time and money, laying out a plan to get these priorities right first time.

“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 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 show demonstrable experience to create something that will be cost effective to deliver results, beyond the competition is an agreed amount of time for internal stakeholders or clients.

How Much Would A SEO Strategist Charge?

As I have mentioned, I am semi-retired now and do not take on clients, (there are some exceptions click here To find them ) 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 experts 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 results, so do not be put off by their chosen title.”

“Mark Flanighan”

There Are Many SEO Job Vacancies Out There

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

So, even though this more of a personal profile let’s look at the skill base required for a job position like this, in no particular order. It is fair to say you need to have at least a few year experience in the following:

  • Detailed Keyword Research
  • Ability to test different webpages against other test sites
  • Data analysis to improve website performance
  • Develop a SEO best practice that suits the niche and agreed objectives
  • Understanding local search and how to capitalise on this
  • When needed have demonstrable experience in international rankings, or access to that talent
  • How citations work with local search
  • Great SEO 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, or work with development team for more technical solutions
  • Able to work with database platforms such as WordPress and Joomla
  • Page load speed and mobile friendly knowledge
  • Bringing page conversion into design for a client’s website
  • Implementing basics such as page titles and headers
  • Where breadcrumb menus can work
  • Testing new algorithm changes
  • Keeping up to dates with news and changes
  • Being able to communicate with web designers, programmers and content writers
  • Proficient with SEO reporting tools such as SemRush, Ahrefs, Screaming Frog, Google Analytics, MOZ and Majestic
  • Applying technical SEO solutions using the data available

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. It should be clear that a SEO strategist would have spent several years practicing their skills, with success and failures to learn from. It is not going to happen watching YouTube videos or buying the odd SEO course here and there. Real experience has to be a trait, even if some of that is pushing the boundaries and losing sometimes.

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