SEO is an absolute must for your website, but with all its complexities and industry jargon – keyword research, backlinks, content optimization, competitor analysis, and more, it can be hard to know how to start your search strategy – even when using a tool.

That’s why we’ve created this guide for using Siteimprove SEO Advanced’s key features to build and maintain your organization’s SEO strategy. In the first part of the guide you’ll learn how to get the most out of your SEO Advanced subscription using Activity Plans, Research, and Content Optimization.

The basics: creating an SEO strategy

To get the most out of your search efforts, it’s important to start by developing an SEO roadmap that sets out clear SEO objectives and a plan for action. The first step involves asking some key questions about your organization’s content and business goals.

Here are some key questions you should consider when developing your strategy:

  • Who are your SEO stakeholders and champions?
  • Who will be using the tool?
  • What resources can you dedicate to SEO?
  • How will you report your progress? 
  • What key metrics will you be using to measure success? 
  • What is your organization an authority on? 
  • What are the key topics you want your organization to rank for?
  • Which competitors will you be monitoring?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • Do you have a deadline for deliverables?  

Once you have your objectives and strategy defined, it’s time to think about how you will measure success. Use a web analytics tool, for example, Siteimprove Analytics or Google Analytics, to find out how your site is currently performing, and which keywords your site ranks for. This will be your benchmark moving forward.

Bringing your SEO strategy to life with Activity Plans

Now you’ve drafted your SEO strategy, the tactics that you use to build out your SEO strategy can come to life in your SEO Activity Plans. Think of your Activity Plan as your personal SEO toolbox.

SEO Advanced Activity Plan

One SEO blocker we hear about time and time again from our customers is silos in marketing departments and across organizations. Everyone in your marketing team should know how SEO affects the work they do. Activity Plans accomplish this by reshaping the way you and your team work with SEO by bringing your whole team onto the same page. Using Activity Plans, everyone can create content and campaigns with SEO in mind. You can create custom Activity Plans based on roles, departments, or even regions.

Reminder: How to create an Activity Plan

  1. Go to SEO > Activity Plans > New Activity Plan.
  2. Add plan details such as name, a description, default search location, and your search competitors.
  3. Add keywords you would like to monitor and the landing pages which should target those keywords.
  4. Add focus issues specific to the objectives of your Activity Plan.
  5. View the plan under SEO > Activity Plans

Keyword insights

Keywords form the backbone of any SEO strategy, but they can also be confusing. Conducting keyword research will help you identify areas that can increase your organization’s web traffic.

Keyword research is split into three steps:

  1. Build a keyword list
  2. Identify keywords that your site already ranks for
  3. Expand your reach to find new areas to rank for

Step 1: Build a keyword list
Let’s start by building out a keyword list. A good way to do this is by referring back to the key topics you want to be an authority for in your strategy document. The aim here is to view search from your target audience’s perspective.

You should think about:

  • What problem does your organization solve?
  • What information are your visitors looking for?
  • Why would someone come to your website?
  • What might someone search for at the beginning of their journey to reach your topic area?
  • What might someone search for when comparing your topic area to a competitor?
  • What might someone search for when they are ready to take an action, for example, a purchase or a download?

It’s possible to see an increase in your site traffic by improving your ranking for certain keywords. Let’s learn how to use the Siteimprove SEO Advanced Research feature to do this.

Step 2: Identify keywords that your site ranks for
Through a direct integration with Google’s Search Console, SEO Advanced helps you understand how Google and its users find your website.

Keyword Discovery feature Siteimprove SEO Advanced

Use Keyword Discovery to see keywords you already rank for within the top 100 positions in search results. You can filter by:

  • Quick wins - Keywords which have the highest potential to bring traffic to your site.
  • High impact - Most-searched-for keywords for which your URLs are highly ranked.
  • Winners - Keywords for which your rankings have jumped up the greatest number of places in the last 30 days.
  • Losers - Keywords for which your rankings have dropped in the last 30 days.

Keyword Performance enables you to view the search volume, average position, estimated traffic, keyword potential, and ranking position for each keyword.

Step 3: Discover traffic-driving keywords
Cross-reference your keyword list from step one with related search terms using Keyword Suggestions.

Keyword Suggestions feature SEO Advanced

Start with a broad term in your focus area keyword list. Simply type it in to discover a list of related keywords that you are more likely to rank for. From here, you can select keywords related to your focus area and add them to your Activity Plan.

Next, compare your keyword list with your findings in the tool. Note down:

  • What keywords you don’t you rank for at all
  • What keywords you rank low for and thus require optimization
  • What your high-ranking keywords are that need to be maintained

If you don’t have enough – or good enough – content around a focus area that you want to rank for, the next step in your SEO strategy is to create new content, and to optimize your existing, low-ranking content so it becomes more discoverable.

Other keyword features you should use
Already have a list of keywords? Save time by using Bulk Keyword Import to import up to 1,000 keywords at a time from a table or list. This is helpful if you previously worked with another search tool, so you don’t have to throw away your hard work.

Siteimprove SEO Advanced Bulk Keyword Import

You can use the Branded Keywords filter to exclude your branded keywords. Add in your brand keywords to ensure they don’t appear in the keyword research features, so you can focus exclusively on non-branded keywords. 

Content Optimization

Once you’ve added your keywords to your Activity Plan, you can kickstart your content optimization process.

Answering search intent
Crafting discoverable content is a core part of all successful SEO strategies. While search used to be about just matching keywords, Google is becoming much better at understanding the intent behind the keywords a user searches for. Now, it’s important to produce content that directly answers a user’s search intent, while using keywords selectively.

For companies with multiple content creators spread across different departments – all with differing skills and varying levels of SEO knowledge – this can be a challenge. Too liberal an application of keywords can verge into keyword stuffing territory. If you don't use enough, or use the wrong terms, your content could be lost to Google’s back pages. 

Mapping keywords into your content
When content producers write new – or optimize existing – content they should include their chosen focus keywords and related keywords throughout the piece – ideally where it makes the most impact. But doing this manually is time-consuming – especially when dealing with hundreds or even thousands of pages. It can also be tricky for those who lack SEO knowledge. One way to incorporate structure and consistency into your content creation process and always write with SEO in mind is by using the Target Page Optimization feature in SEO Advanced.

Step 1: Map your focus keywords to your content
To begin the process of optimizing your content, choose the pages you wish to optimize, and pair them with the primary keywords you want that page to rank for. Siteimprove SEO expert, Diane Kulseth, recommends doing this by creating a keyword mapping document like the one below. It’s also important to include the related keywords you uncovered during your keyword research phase.

Keyword mapping for search term

Step 2: Investigate your keyword competition
Whatever your focus keywords are, it’s unlikely you’ll have Google to yourself. A good way of knowing how to produce user-focused content that ranks is by investigating your ranking competition. Using an incognito browser, search for your target keywords one by one, and take note of which topics and what types of content make up page one. By emulating the style of the top-ranking content – which Google has decided answers search intent well – you’re more likely to climb up the rankings.

Keyword competition on Google

Tip: You can use Google’s ‘People also ask’ function to discover similar long-tail keywords and phrases that users are searching for.

Step 3: Using Target Page Optimization
Target Page Optimization provides insights into your keyword usage, along with recommendations for mapping your keywords properly (and naturally) to your content for better search engine visibility.

Keyword Mapping Target Page Optimization feature SEO Advanced

How to use Target Page Optimization for keyword mapping

  • To begin, you need to select a target page in Content Optimization. This indicates which page you want to rank for your focus keyword and related keywords from your content mapping table. You can then attach these keywords in the tool to your target page.
  • Now enter Target Page Optimization, by clicking on the ‘Page Issues’ for each target page. 
  • The Keyword Mapping feature will then indicate where you need to amend your content for better search visibility, removing the risk of optimizing for the wrong terms, or producing unnatural sounding content. Using this feature, you can map your primary keyword to your target page’s elements – from meta titles to H1s. You can then choose where your related keywords will appear, such as in an H2 or meta description.

Target Page Optimization Keyword mapping SEO Advanced

Other Content Optimization features you should use
Duplicate content really hurts your SEO strategy. It can confuse search engines if you have two pages with identical content, and it doesn’t provide value to visitors – in short, duplicate needs banishing. The Duplicate Content feature enables you to automatically identify pages with duplicate content so you can eliminate it or re-direct visitors.

Duplicate Content feature Siteimprove SEO Advanced

Next steps

You should now understand how to begin developing your SEO strategy with keyword research and content optimization.

Part two of this series shows you how to create a backlinks strategy, develop your competitor analysis, and the best way to measure your SEO successes.