Good SEO strategies don’t need to be complicated. In this post I take advantage of 3 very simple ranking factors. Anybody with a website should be able to follow this keyword planning template to get more search traffic and high rankings on Google.
This template doubles as a case study into the efficiency of this keyword planning strategy.
SEO is a long term game plan. Getting good high quality links can cause you to rise rapidly up Google’s rankings. If you aren’t in a very niche occupation chances are you will have a well established competition from the start. If you are unable to generate exposure you will have trouble building links so new websites have a doubly hard time.
Keyword planning is an excellent way to drive relevant traffic to your website while you work on your long term plan. Finding search terms which are low competition gives you a better (and much quicker) chance of ranking than writing a page and praying in the dark.
All websites are different and require a different strategy to rank high on Google. It’s now 2016. Google are ever better at identifying websites which aren’t user friendly.
This post isn’t an SEO checklist, I have already written one of those. Instead this post gives you everything you need to find Google’s low hanging fruit – the search terms which have very low competition but are searched for a lot – and gives proven value.
The keyword planning template works well with the basic SEO guide – there are three key points I explore later which will get you ranking on low competition terms no matter how new your website is.
This is a much more efficient strategy than trying to take on well established competition when you are starting out by trying to over optimise your website. But this post does more than that, if you follow the full template you should find your whole website ranking better overall from the increased exposure.
How This Template Works
This guide was originally written last year (2015) but I have updated it for 2016. Good keyword planning will always be the easiest way to drive traffic to a website, so this SEO strategy template for 2016 uses all the same techniques from last year. Unless anything major changes this methods will be just as effective next year.
When I was doing the keyword planning for this post I identified reasonable traffic for the search term SEO strategy template. I also identified related search terms as well as longer tail search terms all of which had very low competition:
- SEO Strategy Plan
- 2016 SEO Strategy Template
- Keyword Planning Template
- SEO Plan Template
If I am able to write a guide which covers all five of these low competition phrases I should be able to rank highly. In writing this guide I aim to demonstrate that Google’s algorithm is still trickable by writing keyword rich text.
That became the key to this strategy – so long as a search term gets monthly traffic (even if it’s small) if the competition is low and you are starting out it is worth targeting. This strategy explores how to identify low competition keywords, which is a subject which is not often written about.
This post is a template in the sense that I am demonstrating the steps that I am taking to rank for these terms and showing you how you can do the same.
The Keyword Planning Template
A great way of finding keywords is to use Google’s autocomplete function. Put keywords related to your business into Google’s search bar and they return with keyword suggestions.
SEO strategy template. The phrase is worded a bit strangely but I can see that a fair few people search for it from Google’s keyword planner.
Another way of finding search terms which people use is by making a search and scrolling to the bottom of the page for the related searches. These give keyword ideas based on what users are searching for, so generally give good traffic.
After I made the post I identified keyword planning template as an accurate description of how this SEO strategy works. Within a month this SEO strategy was ranking high on page 2 for phrases related to keyword planning so I modified this post to fit better with the keyword planning template idea and rapidly hit page 1. As I have used keyword planning template as my heading, this level of keyword stuffing doesn’t cause issues. Additionally regular updates help keep Google thinking that this content is fresh.
The important part of a Keyword strategy which is left out of any templates or guides I have seen in the past is competitor analysis. If you search around for long enough you will find a keyword which has very low competition which you should be able to outrank with relative ease.
For the keyphrase ‘SEO strategy template’ the first result was a post from 2013 on the Moz forums. Google is quite good at not serving up forums in their search result if there is anything more relevant available also Moz’s page is 2 years old.
To decide the competition on a keyword you can’t just use Google’s keyword planner tool, because the competition it refers to is pay per click. Here’s a template for you to follow:
- If the first result hasn’t used your phrase at all in their title (and ideally description and URL), you are on to a winner.
- If you are blogging it is fairly safe to assume that over time you will be able to overtake a forum post if it is #1.
- If the first result is short (less than 1000 words) and you are confident you can write at least 2000 words of good content you have fair chance to overtake.
- If the date says anything before 2011 you also have a good chance of ranking.
If the first result for your chosen keyword has any of the above issues it is worth writing a blog tailored to this keyword plan. Remember that your content is what will make or break your post so make sure it is a subject you can write a lot about.
The goal isn’t to rank #1 instantly, but if the competition isn’t hugely relevant you should find your rankings improve over time. Click through rate is one of the strongest ranking signals so if you are tailored to a search term while your competition isn’t you will eventually overtake them.
If you are confused by this section run your competition’s website through a free online SEO audit. While they are never as good as using a professional it’s a free and quick tool.
Working on a traffic lights system, if you have errors on your own site leave a comment and I will help you iron them out. Search ranking advice is always free.
If your competition has more warnings and errors then your domain you should be able to compete. Over time you will get a feel for what you can compete with and no longer need the tool..
On Page SEO Template
If you are just looking for a checklist to follow I suggest reading: Complete SEO Strategy for 2015 – Beginner to Advanced. You can follow the guide as a template for your SEO strategy.
This post is here to give the most simple SEO strategy which can increase traffic to your website while being very easy to follow. As a result this section only contains easy to implement ranking factors. If your competition is weak like the competition I am up against for my chosen phrase SEO strategy template this should be enough to get you ranking.
If it makes grammatical sense, start your page title with the phrase you want to rank for. If, like in my case, the phrase is overly keyword heavy and short make it into a proper title which you think will get your reader’s attention.
For ranking the most important part of my page title is the start of it, Google seems to gives added weight to keywords found early on in page titles and page titles are one of the strongest on page ranking factors.
When this post starts to appear on Google the title becomes the most important factor in driving traffic to my website as well.
These post’s title is essentially what is known as clickbait – designed to get people to click onto your website so you can dazzle them with the amazing content within.
I added the word “secret” to my page title because everybody likes learning secrets and hopefully this will improve the amount of people clicking on my website even if I rank in at #2. Over time click through rate will hopefully allow me to overtake Moz’s forum post.
Google really like long blogs. If you are interested in a more advanced read I have explored what we know about Google’s ranking factors in depth has a section looking at why this might be – it is a fairly lengthy and advanced look at how we know what is and isn’t a ranking factor.
It could be that Google likes longer content because there is more of it, or it could be that users prefer longer content and share it more resulting is positive signals being sent to Google.
Either way write as much as possible on the subject you want to rank for while staying relevant to engage your audience. Aim for at least 2000 words.
This factor is debated, but I find it helps personally. Break your blog down into sub headings. Tag your main headings as <h2> and your secondary headings as <h3>. Try and keep your paragraphs short – this seems to engage readers better.
Always ensure that your spelling is good and that you use the keywords you want to rank for in at least one of your headings (I know this guide is heavily focussed on your keyword plan but it’s a great way for a low authority website to gain rankings). Add at least one image where relevant and add a keyword in the anchor text – like your title it is likely that a keyword early in your anchor is more effective than one near the end.
If you know of any relevant videos you can use try and include them as well (but only where it is relevant). Essentially this point is to ensure you are on a level playing field with anybody else following best SEO practices.
Only 3 points?
Now here is where it gets interesting. As I pointed out at the earlier this strategy won’t rank you #1 every time. The most important skill in keyword planning is knowing what level of competition you can beat.
Link building (and possibly social signals) are an important part of a long term SEO game plan. If you add to your SEO strategy a sprinkling of posts like this one you should find that in some (not all) of them you will rank #1 and get a fair bit of good traffic. Even if you aren’t ranking in at #1 with a bit of practise you will find yourself high on Google’s listings for these pages.
A more important skill when you use SEO strategy plans like this one is being able to convert the traffic which you are getting. If you are selling a product look at your website from a user’s point of view. Try and work out if you are making things as easy as possible for your users to find any product they might like.
If you find yourself on the first page but not ranking in at #1 tweaking your page title or description may make it stand out more and improve your click through rate. If you can think of any sections to expand over time on the more you can write the better this strategy works.
For instance it is now a new year, as a result I have updated the post title to: SEO Strategy Template – Keyword Planning Secrets For 2016. As a lot of my traffic was coming from searches with 2015 in the phrase this may cause a temporary decrease in search traffic, but as the year goes on it should leave me in a better position.
If your website is new it may take a bit of patience before you find yourself ranking. The great part of this strategy is that it uses keyword planning to inspire content. The only limit on the amount of pages which you create is your knowledge of the subject and ability to write compellingly.
Keyword planning is king – Update
This is written five weeks after publishing, a further update will be made in another month. (click here to skip to the 60 day update).
Generally it takes about “six weeks for SEO to work” – to establish yourself with Google and get more regular, higher rankings which aren’t changing all the time. This article while short has been pretty well searched from the get go, proving strong keyword planning is important for low authority websites.
In the last month it has provided the second most search traffic from Google of any of my web pages – after my complete SEO guide which is 7000 words longer than this one.
This highlights the importance of a great keyword plan – at the moment the trend is to focus on LSI (advanced copywriting), this little experiment shows that keyword planning is not dead.
I’ll give a further update in another month, but if guru proclaims a technique no longer works check for yourself.
Read my full article on how chinese whispers have infiltrated the SEO industry – and how Google actually measure how you engage with websites here.
Sixty Days – Simple SEO grows small business
This is my second update. This post has had more than enough time to fully “establish” itself on Google and now according to the search console has had the most search traffic of any article I have written in the last month.
I identified that I was getting good traffic for terms related to “SEO strategy plan”, but not so good traffic for keyword planning phrases. So the heading for last month’s update contained “keyword planning”. This month I notice that keywords related to small business are creeping into my search console, so I have used these terms more.
Advanced SEO is highly technical but for a small business managing their own website trying advanced tactics can cause far more problems than they fix.
This strategy is so simple anybody can follow it and works better than trying to follow an advanced guide if you are unsure of the theory surrounding advanced search engine optimisation.
SEO is all about tweaking and moving with the times – staying ahead of the trend. Link building is currently risky but good simple keyword planning is very easy and safe.
Following on I will be making quarterly updates backed with stats on how this strategy is performing. Please check back in November, or bookmark this page.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to make the content in these posts good. In this case I don’t agree with blindly following SEO templates.
Long term SEO relies on building a user base which find all your work to be very high quality. These are the people who can make or break your website by sharing your work either through social media or building links.
The most important part of this strategy is to write content which engages the reader then update it. Because this post is fairly basic I needed you to read to the end so you could see that there is more to this blog than the very basic keyword planning strategy. Don’t worry the secret is coming.
Freshness is a ranking factor. If you write something try and find a reason to revisit it as much as possible. This gives more social media exposure (if you share it) and has a direct positive effect on rankings.
In this blog post I have linked out to relevant posts of mine on related subjects. My hypothetical user (being you) having read this far is likely to read another, more in depth post which I have; or have already followed a link or two.
Really engaged users will share my work, and a dream user will build links to it. Make use of call to actions, the previous paragraph suggests you read more of my work – the more you engage the better for my website’s SEO as a whole.
I also made use of a call to action asking you to bookmark this page in the last section. Realistically I don’t expect you too – this is an over optimised post, badly written to illustrate a point. There is a belief getting lots of bookmarks on Chrome benefits your SEO – I believe this site is the first to break this story so give it a read.
This is contested but if you update a page regularly you are more likely to generate bookmarks and increased traffic which directly impacts SEO – and your long term strategy.
Use your keyword plan to get your foot in the door and then leverage the traffic any way which benefits you. That is the strategy and the secret, and this was the template.
For more actionable SEO tips which complement this strategy please read:
2 top SEO tips with Matt Cutts – 2 simple tactics which work well at improving click through rate.
Convenience is King – we have to damn much content – more detail on how to structure your blog or website.