Here's a typical example of the ranking stats for competitive keywords for one of our clients:
Each line represents a keyword, and the Y-Axis is their ranking as recorded by Authority Labs. Less than 2 months in, and we're about to get them on page 1. Within 6 months, we'll really have some great rank for them. With over 20 clients, we absolutely know what it requires to get a site ranked well. One of our major clients is now ranking #1 for 3 of the highest competitive terms in their industry, as well as a handful of other terms that they are on page 1 for and improving.
On-site SEO isn't a secret. Here's what we do:
- Make sure analytics is properly installed and that we're getting good statistics on what the baseline is that we're working from. We validate the keywords that are driving traffic are actually relevant to the business we're wanting to do on the site. We also try to incorporate measuring conversions… sometimes the traffic you're getting isn't necessarily driving money to your business. It's important to differentiate the two.
- Do keyword research utilizing Adwords, Semrush and SpyFu to gain insight into keywords we're currently ranking for, what we're not ranking for, and what the competition is ranking for. This will provide terms for us to target. We target terms that we already have ranking for that we know we can push into higher ranking… hopefully #1 ranking.
- Make sure the site's hierarchy is tuned in to the actual keyword strategy and authority we want it to attain. (example: product categories that we want to rank well are linked to through site navigation or singled out in great links within the home page content). After Google's most recent algorithm changes, we pushed our clients to ‘flatten' out there sites so they are broad rather than deep. That means more secondary pages, but keeping third level pages and beyond to a bare minimum.
- Make sure the site has a robots file, sitemaps, and is registered with webmasters from each major search engines so we can monitor how the search engine is finding and indexing the content, as well as pointing out any problems.
- Make sure the site has pages or the blog has posts that speak directly to the keywords or terms that are synonymous (if you do a search on a keyword, look to the bottom of the search engine results page to find the synonymous terms). This means utilizing the keyword at the beginning of page titles, at the beginning of meta descriptions, in headings, in the beginning of content, and within the content of the page (within strong or bold tags).
- Some clients have great authority (meaning that Google ranked them high based on their domain's history relative to the search terms they were competing for). Others don't have authority so we have to drive strategies that increase their authority. This is accomplished by ensuring they are linked to from other key domains that rank well for specific keywords or industry segments. This takes a ton of work.
- Last… we make sure they continue to get conversions. This sometimes requires optimization techniques, designing calls-to-action, and customizing landing pages. However, we know that rank and traffic don't mean anything if we're not actually driving dollars to the business' bottom line.
Actively pursuing guest blogs, publishing press releases, actively commenting or participating in social sites relevant to the keyword is necessary. This is where search and social media begin to overlap. Promoting your content is becoming key… not just for driving traffic but also for driving links back to your site.
Of course, all of this sounds simple… but it's not. Having the right tools, understanding how to implement analytics and monitor conversion rates, and being able to decipher all the pieces of data – analytics, webmaster, rankings, keywords, etc. is a difficult juggling act. Our clients pay us to do just that… and we educate them in the process as well.
Some internal guys and even other SEO consultants debate our tactics… but it's hard to argue when you're #1. 🙂