In today’s competitive online landscape, SEO is more essential than ever. Nearly 35% of U.S. Consumers in 2018 initiated their online purchases using Google or an alternative search tool — more than three times the amount that began at retailers’ apps or sites, and second only to searches starting at Amazon.

To excel in organic search results, brands must be armed with a toolbox of strong SEO tactics and strategies. Before you can take your SEO to the next level, you must identify where you are currently and what to do next. Here at MAXBURST we understand the importance of being on top of search results so together, let’s examine four core elements you can use to build a more competitive SEO strategy for your brand.

1. Crawlability: Establish your SEO groundwork

To show up in search results, your site must be discovered by search engines. In other words, if you’re beginning from scratch or have never utilized SEO, your first mission is ensuring your site is visible to search engine crawlers. One frequent issue here is simple to remedy: your site’s robots.txt file. Retailers and brands often disregard this tiny file, but attaching instructions to it lets crawlers know which pages you wish to have indexed and which you don’t.

You’ll also want to display your site structure to crawlers for enhanced indexing. This will likely require you to update and expand your sitemap or design one from the ground up. The optimal sitemap for SEO crawlability comprises all of your website’s product pages, subcategories, and categories. If you’re curious how long it will take to map or update your site’s seemingly infinite number of product pages, services like Spotibo can build a sitemap you can link to in your robots.txt file. After you revise robots.txt, submit it to Google, Bing or other search engines so they can re-crawl your website as rapidly as possible.

If your website incorporates dated plug-in technology like Flash or Silverlight to display content, you may encounter a greater crawlability problem. Silverlight and Flash content isn’t visible to search engine crawlers so it won’t show up in the SERPs. To make that content viewable, it will be necessary to convert it to a format that can be indexed, such as JavaScript, or HTML5. The conversion procedure can take several months, and you may require new software and coding expertise to accomplish it. Once the conversion is finished, you can map the content, update your robots.txt file, and send it to Google.

2. Content optimization: leverage your present assets

When your robots.txt, sitemap, and crawlability troubles are resolved, the next SEO core element to implement is content optimization. This demands making better use of your present assets to boost your rank for specific keywords. You can use Google Keyword Planner to create a list of target keywords centered on volume and ROI. Then use the list to improve your meta tags and content, beginning with your top-level pages and making your way through your categories and subcategories and eventually concluding with product pages.

Instead of working through your entire site, you can simply prioritize optimizing a handful of select pages. For instance, if product category “Page A” does relatively well, use Google Search Console to measure its performance. Does the page correlate with specific keywords? If the answer is yes, you can optimize the category page for those keywords to elevate its performance. This will serve to bolster, but not supplant, your programmatic SEO tools.

3. Offsite: generate links and brand engagement

The next phase of creating your SEO program is considering offsite strategies such as social influencer relationships and link-building. Waiting until all your existing content is optimized to begin your offsite work isn’t necessary, but the more comprehensive your content-optimization process is, the more SEO benefits you’ll receive from your link-building and influencer endeavors.

Link building involves research, and it’s an excellent idea to check Google’s link-building ethics and best practices prior to starting. The most effective way to locate potential links is with a tool like Majestic that displays you where your competition’s backlinks come from. That tool shows a list of possible sites to contact with link requests. Reduce that list to top quality sites with solid traffic and a robust social media presence. Don’t anticipate a large response to your outreach — a 10 to 15 percent response rate is respectable for link-building campaigns.

Discovering the correct influencers requires research, as well. You must understand your product and your audience. You must also determine the social media users who’ve established a following by posting about your niche and industry and then find out who their audience is. Additionally, it’s vital to realize that the most prominent influencers in your niche may not offer you the best ROI.

You can quickly deplete your budget working with top tier influencers, or you can elect to join forces with micro-influencers. Micro-influencers are individuals that have between 1,000 to 1,000,000 followers/audience members and are regarded as experts in their particular niche. They could be anything from a local fashionista and food blogger to a traveler, or a health guru. These smaller, more targeted niche experts relate on a deeper level with their audiences and create increased engagement.

As a matter of fact, influencers with 1,000 followers produced 85% greater engagement than those with 100,000 followers, and as the number of followers grows the engagement is prone to decrease. Remaining within 1,000 to 100,000 followers turns out to be the ideal spot. It just stands to reason — a limited audience means much more hands-on, individual attention which is clearly a recipe for marketing gold.

4. Content creation: extend into knowledge topics

If your company has maintained it’s SEO program for quite some time, you can take your content creation to the next stage. At this point, your content should go beyond outlining your products and services to addressing consumer questions connected to what you sell. For example, rather than creating more content about the purses you sell, develop content about how to select purses for various events, how to care for leather purses and so forth. Determining what topics to emphasize requires keyword and competitor research.

Leverage a tool such as SEMrush to perform a content gap analysis related to your products, segment, market, and relevant search phrases. For instance, a shoe retailer’s keywords include basics like “men’s shoes” and “women’s shoes,” but there are other popular search phrases they can benefit from, like “running shoes” and “dress shoes.” By doing this analysis, you can generally produce somewhere in the range of 750 – 6,000 keywords that you can exploit to build non-promotional content.

However, it’s likely that you won’t use all the keywords. Your next course of action is to segment your fresh inventory of keywords and assess how you perform for those phrases as opposed to how your competition performs. This filtering can stretch from several days to a complete month. While this may seem like a tedious task, it’s an investment that translates to a content action plan for your SEO strategy. Case in point, you can prioritize the keywords where you have a competitive opportunity and make them the focal point of your content creation plan over the upcoming year.

To synopsize, to achieve this level of SEO, you must first develop the other levels. Crawlability offers you the groundwork to optimize your current content. Optimization makes link-building and influencer marketing more successful. Knowledge-content creation is the culmination of these other steps. Collectively, these core elements provide you a stable SEO strategy to help you acquire organic search traffic.