The 4-step guide to building a winning SEO strategy

The key to your SEO success is not a tool, it's not a growth hack - it's your strategy. Here we'll outline our proven 4-step framework for building an effective SEO strategy.

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91% of pages do not get any traffic from Google.

Imagine that: 90% of the content on your website is not being seen on Google by anyone. As the web gets more crowded, these odds are only getting worse

What if I told you that you could improve those odds?

At Centori we developed a 4-step framework for building an SEO strategy that works. You won’t see outdated advice here, just a battle-tested approach to SEO that we’ve taught to dozens of businesses across niches.

The old way of doing SEO just doesn’t work anymore

When I ask most people what their SEO strategy is, I get a list of tactics:

  • Load up a bunch of keyword suggestions and write a blog post for each one
  • Buy ads
  • Buy backlinks
  • Wonder why nothing works

That generic approach may have worked in 2005, but it doesn't work today. And it certainly won't work in the future.

Why is that?

Your competitor is reading the same guides that tell them to buy the same tools which load up the same keywords to turn into the same generic list of content. In fact, I guarantee there are dozens, if not hundreds, of other competitors doing the exact same thing.

While you duke it out over who can blog the fastest, massive players in the industry with huge content teams dominate by creating content at scale.

But you can break the cycle.

You are about to learn the proven 4-step framework I developed to build a unique strategy that helps you leapfrog ahead of your competitors on Google.

What exactly is ‘strategy’?

Strategy is a coordinated set of decisions designed to win. 

SEO is a zero sum game. For you to appear on page one of Google, someone else needs to be bumped down to page two.

Over the years of studying successful companies and tinkering with my approach, I developed a 4-step framework that works remarkably well no matter how big your company is or what industry you’re in.

So let’s get to it.

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4 steps to creating a winning SEO strategy

This is the same framework I teach in our group and private coaching programs, and I want you to have it here. 

Each principle will require thought, creativity, and is best served when you can talk through it with your team, a patient spouse or friend, or a coach.

These are the four elements of an effective SEO strategy.

  1. Set your SMART goals and target persona(s)
  2. Find the right questions to answer
  3. Create content that wins
  4. Measure and reassess as needed

I like to think of this as the SEO strategy pyramid: each element builds off of the previous one to turn into a winning SEO strategy that launches your business ahead of your competitors on Google. 

Let’s go through each of these principles in depth.

1) Set your SMART goals and target personas

Everyone wants more traffic, but let’s be honest—that is a terrible goal:

  • It’s vague
  • It’s not actionable
  • It doesn’t hold you accountable

Vague goals lead to uncoordinated strategies which fizzle out. Focused goals lead to intentional decisions that help you win. 

How to set SMART SEO goals

I like to use SMART goals to help me focus and ground my winning aspiration on something tangible, like organic leads or revenue.

SMART goals are goals that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Actionable
  • Realistic
  • Time bound

SMART goals give you a clear north star for your strategy with built in accountability. They also force you to think about what you really want out of SEO, and what success looks like. 

There’s one other important choice you need to make: who are you trying to attract?

How to target the right people for your SEO strategy

More traffic does nothing for you if the traffic isn’t coming from the types of people more likely to buy from you and be your best customers. 

The marketing lingo here is buyer persona and it’s an extremely helpful framework for visualizing the type of customer you are going after. 

You can build a buyer persona by answering the following questions:

  • What do they do for work, and what is their job title?
  • What are their interests?
  • What are their goals and motivations for those goals?
  • What are their pain points and challenges in reaching those goals?
  • What type of content do they consume and trust?
  • How/when do they consume this content?
  • If they are not the decision maker, who is?

Check out our full guide on creating buyer personas for SEO for an in-depth walkthrough.

Once you have a firm grasp of your personas, it's time to make the second decision: what questions are your personas asking online?

2) Find the right questions to answer

Google is an intersection of two things:

  1. Who is doing the searching?
  2. What are they searching for?

We’ve already identified the “who” so now it’s time to get to the “what.” 

Let your competitors follow the traditional advice, here I’ll show you how I approach keyword research with our customers.

How to find the keywords your competitors are missing

It all starts with your personas, first review the goals and challenges they have.

People tend to ask questions in three stages:

  1. Researching solutions to their problem
  2. Comparing solutions to their problem
  3. Making a decision on a solution to their problem

In SEO, we call this ‘search intent’ but for now, it’s helpful to keep things simple. There are 3 sources for quality questions that I go to time and time again. 

Google Autosuggest

Google is the best question-and-answer machine on the internet because of all the data they have on the questions people ask and what they will ask next. Because of this, you can learn a ton from Google’s auto-suggest and suggested search features. 

Check out our guide on using Google Auto Suggest for keyword research for more info.

Online forums

There’s no better place to find the questions your customers are asking than the forums that they hang out on. Quora and Reddit are great places to start, as are niche forums in your industry.

Centori’s keyword research tools

We’ve built our own keyword research tools to make finding quality keywords simple. I’m biased, but I think they’re pretty nifty—we bring you hundreds of quality keywords and questions your customers are asking, allow you to save and track unlimited keywords (really, no extra cost), and easily show your performance for your keywords and keyword lists.

I spend an hour or so brainstorming keyword ideas from these three sources to help me understand the journey my customer takes through search. Once you have a healthy list of questions, it's time to make the second-most important decision: the content you will create to win.

3) Create content that wins

To get found on Google, you need to answer those questions with high-quality content.

Should you write 2000+ word blog posts? Skyscraper content? Some other SEO buzz word that doesn’t actually mean anything?

Well, have you ever heard of a red ocean vs. a blue ocean? 

Red oceans are crowded with competition. Everyone heard this was a good fishing spot, so everyone flooded there and now they can't catch any fish.

Blue oceans are untouched. No one found out about them, and they are wide open for the taking. 

Look at your list of questions and ask yourself what is missing.

  • What are your competitors missing?
  • What area of the buying process, or research process, is being forgotten about?
  • What unique resource can you create that adds value to your personas?

Blogging may be the answer—we write blog posts after all—but it's not the only answer. 

You could create:

  • A content library to help your personas
  • A series of downloadable assets
  • A tool available on your website

The possibilities are endless. Here are some example content strategies to take inspiration from.

Example: Insoles.com

...

Now that you’ve got a content strategy in place, it’s time to make sure you’re measuring the impact of all this hard work (and the ROI).

4) Measure your progress and reassess as needed

Remember your SMART goals from before? This is where you can demonstrate how effective your strategy is at achieving them, and how to demonstrate the ROI (return on investment) of your strategy.

Reporting can get complicated pretty quickly, so I like to boil it down to 2 steps:

  1. Pick a metric that matters
  2. Find a way to measure it and attribute it to SEO

That's it.

There are two tools I consider necessary for any SEO campaign. Both are free, provided by Google, and will make you an SEO reporting ninja:

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful tool, and with it you can track a variety of key SEO-related metrics.

The primary reports I tend to focus on are:

  • Organic traffic
  • Top organic pages
  • Organic events/goals
Organic traffic

How much traffic are you getting from organic search? Is that going up, or going down, over time? These are simple questions; however, you would be surprised by how little people keep tabs on whether their traffic is increasing or decreasing.

Measuring organic traffic is fine, but I like to know which pages are getting traffic and how that changes over time too.

Fortunately, that is fairly easy to find in Google Analytics as well.

Top organic pages

It is far more interesting to see which pages are getting the most organic traffic, as well as whether the pages you created/optimized are getting more traffic over time.

Tracking these pages is key to having a firm grasp on how you’re progressing towards your goals. Is the content you just created getting any views? Are people bouncing off or sticking around?

These are key questions that can easily be answered by viewing your top organic pages and their performance.

Organic events/goals

Lastly, and arguably the most important—what actions are people taking on your website and how many of them are driven via organic search?

Traffic is great... but it doesn't do a whole lot for your business by itself. 

How many subscribers are you getting? How do those subscribers become leads? Is SEO driving any real customer growth? These are all questions that can be answered by proper event tracking.

Google Analytics does not track things like button clicks or form submissions out of the box, but fortunately with the help of a developer you can set this up with Google Tag Manager.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console shows you how your website is performing in Google Search Results. The best part is this data comes straight from Google— it’s like an SEO cheat code.

I like to use it for the following:

  • To monitor performance for top keywords and pages
  • To monitor keywords and pages with the lowest click-through rates
  • To analyze performance across devices
Monitor performance for top keywords and pages

One of the most commonly used features in Google Search Console is to view your site's performance, along with the top keywords/pages.

It's great to see an aggregate overview, but you can learn more by digging a bit deeper into your top keywords and pages.

I like to start with the top clicked keywords and the top clicked pages. This gives me a good idea of which keywords/pages are getting the lion's share of clicks and traffic, and on the flip side if there are any keywords/pages that are appearing but not getting many clicks.

Monitor keywords and pages with the lowest click-through rates

What's the best way to increase your search traffic in a short amount of time: write 50 new blog posts and publish them in a week, or optimize your existing pages for more clicks?

I think we all know the answer to that one.

If you have content that is already ranking but not getting clicked on, then this is a great opportunity to increase traffic by optimizing for click throughs. 

Suppose I have two pages, both getting thousands of impressions every month but only a handful of clicks—I can easily capitalize on those thousands of impressions and turn that handful into hundreds of clicks by optimizing the title or description to bring in more clicks and traffic as a result.

Analyze performance across devices

Another biggie that I feel gets overlooked—how is your content performing across devices? This can be great to see if your position is different between devices, but it also gives you an incredible clue as to how your personas are searching.

Sure, you should always optimize for mobile, but this is a great way to understand the mindset and location your personas are in when they search and land on your website. The more you can create content that serves them in the moment of search, the better the chance they convert.

When to reassess your SEO strategy

No matter how much preparation you put in, there is always a chance your strategy will not lead to a land flowing with milk and honey.

What do you do?

Typically, I try to give an SEO campaign at least 3-6 months.

This is no hard rule, but 3 months is usually a decent chunk of time  to make headway on content or website changes and to see if things are indeed paying off.

If after 3 months you are not making progress, it's time to stop and ask why.

  • Are you not creating enough content?
  • Are you not creating the right kind of content?
  • Did you make a wrong assumption somewhere about your personas, or the questions they really care about?
  • Is the playing field you chose too difficult to compete on?

It's not about pointing fingers, it's about getting to the bottom of things to understand why you aren’t making the progress you hoped for.

Usually, it comes down to one of three things (sometimes a combo of all three):

  • The goal was not realistic
  • The playing field was disadvantageous
  • The execution was not competitive enough

If you’re not hitting the top of Google Search results out of the gate, that’s perfectly okay. SEO is an iterative process: by adapting on the fly you can succeed.

Stop spinning your wheels and start winning at SEO

You’re either playing to win or playing to participate. 

If you look at the odds (90% of content not getting traffic from Google), most folks out there are participating but they are not winning. 

I call this ‘spinning your wheels’ at SEO - lots of movement, but going nowhere. Armed with this framework, you can say goodbye to ‘blog and pray’ and other outdated tactics the ‘gurus’ are peddling and run past your competition on Google.

Put these 4 steps to practice, and you will end up with a unique strategy for your website that sets you apart from your competitors and rewards you on Google. 

And we can help!

I work with founders and marketers from businesses of all sizes and industries to help them discover the value they can provide to their customers and the unique SEO strategy that will get them found on Google. 

We coach customers through these steps in detail, set them up on our software, and ensure they are staying on track and making progress from month to month.

Take the first step to getting found on Google by booking a free consultation. Click the button below to request your free consultation and we’ll schedule a call to see how we can help.

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Download our free SEO strategy guide and eBook

I’ve written my 4-step framework for building an effective SEO strategy in an eBook  and I want you to have it for free.

Download the free SEO strategy guide  and build a unique strategy that sets you apart from your competition on Google and gets you in front of your customers.