I’ve worked in SEO for a long time and I’m still surprised when I ask new clients to see their old agency’s SEO strategy.
99% of the time, there is nothing documented.
In this article, I’ll teach you exactly how to create a strategic SEO process that leads to results.
You’ll learn my four-step process, and I’ll even advise you on what to charge.
Let’s dive in.
An SEO strategy is not a list of deliverables
The spreadsheet is an invention that has made life much easier. But when it comes to SEO strategy, it has become a lazy tool used to try to trick people into thinking that a list of results is a strategy.
No, strategy is the brain work of SEO.
It is a combination of ideas, thoughts, knowledge and experience, all focused on the customer to create a process supported by data and experience for success.
It’s supposed to be tough and challenging.
It’s supposed to put you, the SEO, online.
It’s you saying, “Do this and you will succeed.”
An SEO strategy should be documented
On the rare occasions I’ve seen an SEO strategy, it reads more like a mission statement written by a Dalek.
“We will exterminate the competition.”
ChatGPT is more human than most SEO strategies. And they tend to be heavy on rhetoric and light on actual research evidence.
This is why you should require your agency to provide evidence of the thought that has gone into your strategy.
And this is part of the SEO strategy. He is an expert who writes his thoughts.
The Goals of SEO: A Reminder
It is often the case that:
SEO receives very little investment. SEOs don’t align their strategies with actual business goals.
For SEO to deliver, you need to know your customers on their journey. In practical terms, successful SEO should result in:
Capture as many buyers as possible in the current category. Place the brand in front of those researching the category. Get the brand in front of as many people as possible who are unfamiliar with the brand, product or solution.
There are huge misconceptions about how search works and indeed how people convert online.
The central myth peddled by SEO gurus is that people convert through blogging.
No, they don’t. They might click on a blog before they buy.
But your ultimate guide to garden sheds didn’t get anyone to buy one.
People buy when they are ready to buy.
People buy from brands that they believe will provide them with services or goods that meet their expectations.
And people will pay a premium if they believe it reduces the probability of failure.
This means there is more than one conversion for you to write a guide.
No, it’s better to think of conversion as a glass being filled with liquid certainty, and once that certainty reaches the top, they’re ready to buy.
But here’s the challenge.
Just as his certainty reaches the top of the glass with you, he is also doing the same with some of your competitors.
Finally, they will take the glass and drink. And do all your SEO and marketing in the hopes that you can get them to pick up your glass.
This is what is happening.
Therefore, you need to be present in the SERPs as much as possible.
You need a plan to qualify for these buyer terms i search terms
And you need a plan to rank for other content to reach your audience when it’s not on the market.
Do this and you will generate customer success.
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The 4-step process of strategic SEO
All good SEO comes from using a process. Here’s one you can steal:
Successful ideation strategy implementation
Let’s break this down.
Step 1: Ideation
Ideation is the fun part of any SEO strategy because it’s frictionless ideas.
There is no bad idea in ideation, and it is now that you play with the site, its competitors and its niche and pass. You can do it in a team or on your own.
But consider this time drift time. Just walk around the site, write down the things you notice and chat with your team.
And then leave.
Let the information and ideas settle in your brain and you’ll be surprised what happens next.
You will find that your existing experience begins to take a backseat to your recent discoveries.
And the seeds of the strategy are born.
Step 2: Strategy
This is where you come to the document with your strategy seed.
Have a loose plan to rank the site. You have a budget. You have the skills.
Now is when you commit.
The goal is simple. Write down your seed of an idea… and then try to find data to support it.
Analyze your site, keywords, links, etc.
If you can’t find data to support your approach, store it. Move on and find another approach to generate results.
Record your progress in your document, note what you find, and take screenshots.
My documented strategies range from 3,000 to 8,000 words, not including the 100+ point technical SEO audit I do that doesn’t use any tools.
But in the end, you have the strategy, and that’s what goes to the customers.
Step 3: Implementation
So you came up with the strategy; now is the time to make it happen.
As an SEO, you become an SEO and project manager.
It doesn’t matter what you do or outsource; it’s your job to make sure the results happen.
You are responsible for the success or failure of the campaign and therefore your expertise is required.
Step 4: Success
Finally, we have reached the end of your successful campaign.
If you did a good job, you would have met the client’s goals, and if not, it’s perfectly fine for you to explain why.
I don’t condone SEOs that don’t meet campaign goals. Except when the budget doesn’t match the goals.
If you spend $15,000 a month on PPC, but only want to spend $1,500 a month on SEO, even though the agency proposed more.
Well, that’s the customer’s responsibility. They won’t. But they are the ones responsible.
Remember, you can only do what you can with what you have.
A budget of $1,500 could take three years to achieve results. However, you must communicate this to the customer.
It’s perfectly fine to tell them that their budget isn’t enough to generate results in six or 12 months.
The right strategy often lacks the right implementation fuel.
Clients want results and sometimes they are stuck with poor budgets. As long as they know, they could use SEO to show how it works and then ask for more budget.
The problem comes when you have a strategy that will work and tell clients that they will get results.
OK, how long does it take to create a good SEO strategy and what should you charge?
The price of the SEO strategy
I have charged $500 for the strategy and $10,000.
Ultimately, the size of the site and the value of the business will determine what you charge and how long it will take.
But here’s some advice from the trenches. A good SEO strategy takes hard work.
It’s a mental challenge and definitely the hardest part of SEO.
There are three ways of pricing strategy.
A stand-alone initial cost. As part of the retention. As part of the assembly fee.
Each model works well and is an option.
But you only get month 1… once.
For years, I ran my own company/consulting agency selling SEO strategies in all three models above.
It really doesn’t matter which one you choose. What matters is that you make sure the customer respects your experience and pays for access to it.
This is what strategy is all about.
However, the best advice is when selling a standalone strategy. Offer three pricing options.
I used to do this with clients who had in-house SEO capability, but wanted a second set of eyes on their SEO.
Option 1 can be a low-level strategy, option 2 a deeper dive, and option 3 can go into UX and more.
How you split the options is entirely up to you.
But what I want all readers to take away from this article is that strategy in SEO is important.
Customers deserve it, and you deserve the time to be strategic.
If it’s not happening, you may need to change agencies.
And that goes for both the client and the SEOs reading this.
The views expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.