Search Engine Optimization

How to Create An Effective SEO Strategy in 2021

Ever wondered how to create an effective SEO strategy?

You’re not the only one.

With the dawn of the internet era, online search engines have become a key staple in modern life. Today, it’s almost unimaginable to find something without first searching for it on Google. More and more people are looking to be found online, and if your business isn’t adapting to this new way of doing things you’re missing a major opportunity.

What is an SEO Strategy?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a critical piece to every successful website.

But if you really want to be successful, you’re going to need to do more than cramming a bunch of keywords in an article. That doesn’t fly anymore!

An effective SEO strategy shapes the way you create content for your audience. With proper research, you’ll know what your audience is actively searching for (no guesses here!). You can provide them with amazing content that answers their most pressing questions.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through developing your own SEO strategy so you can start working your way to the top!

Does SEO Really Work?

Before we begin, we want to answer the question on everyone’s mind…does SEO really work?


Unfortunately, many marketers still take to the idea that SEO is somehow dead, dying, or doesn’t work.

But the truth is, SEO is just changing.

We’ve all felt how recent events have shifted the way we go about our everyday lives. Those same events have made SEO even more necessary than ever.

With more people taking to online shopping and research, SEO is a critical part of any online presence.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a blog owner, a freelance writer, or a brick and mortar business owner—your online success depends on people being able to find you when they’re searching for answers to their problems.

How to Create an SEO Strategy

Creating a long-term SEO strategy requires a strong understanding of online marketing, as well as the capabilities of search engines themselves.

In the past, search engines were heavily reliant on exact-match keywords. But modern search engines are a bit more sophisticated. Major improvements have been made with things like natural language processing (NLP) and search engines have a much easier time understanding context now.

With that in mind, SEO strategies are no longer centered around single, exact-match keywords, but topics and keyword clusters, related search terms, and questions. You’ll succeed in the long-term as long as you strategize with your audience in mind first.

Ready to talk strategy?

Let’s get started.

1. Create a List of Topics

Topics will serve as the pillars of your content strategy.

These are keywords that you can easily break down into hundreds of other content ideas. Topics will become your pillar pages, which are high-level overviews of a broad topic.

For example, let’s say you manage social media accounts for your clients. Your topics would be things like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and maybe a resource page on running ads. These are all really broad keywords that you could break down into hundreds of ideas for future blog posts.

If you’re just starting out with your blog, you might choose about five topics. If you have lots of existing content, you might group that into 10-15 topics.

2. Find Long-Tail Keywords for Each Topic

Once you have your list of topics, you can start digging into more specific keywords, known as long-tail keywords, and turning those into individual blog posts.

Finding a list of long-tail keywords is easy. But, especially if you’re a new site, you’ll want to find a healthy mix of competitive keywords and keywords that are easy to rank for.

One of my favorite tools to find long-tail keywords is LongTailPro. You can enter a broad search term like “Facebook” or “Pinterest” and use it to generate hundreds of keyword ideas.

Let’s say you search for keywords using the seed keyword “Pinterest.” You might find more specific keywords like:

  • Pinterest marketing
  • Pinterest advertising
  • How to get traffic from Pinterest
  • How to monetize a Pinterest account
  • Pinterest SEO
  • How to get followers on Pinterest
  • Pinterest group boards

…and the list goes on. You get the idea!

Obviously, not all of these keywords are going to be a great fit. It depends on your audience. Your ideal clients might only be searching for things like Pinterest marketing and advertising. They could care less about getting followers—they just want to get their products in front of people!

These long-tail keywords will go on to become blog posts, supported by your pillar pages, which we’ll cover below.

3. Create Top-Level Pages for Each Topic

Take your list of topics and build out pages for each of the major ones you want to cover on your site.

Each of these pillar pages should be an overview of the topic. These are longer guides that include a little bit of information about everything related to that topic, relying on individual blog posts to deliver more in-depth information.

Using the earlier example, maybe one of your pages is something like “The Complete Guide to Pinterest for Small Business.” That’s a lot of information to pack into one post!

You’ll want to deliver on your headline’s promise, so expect to write about 3,000-6,000 words. But even with all that content, you won’t be able to cover everything they need to know about using Pinterest. Write a few paragraphs for each section, then link to a blog post that covers even more information on that section.

Think of it as a super-detailed table of contents. It serves as a way to help your audience navigate your site and to help Google understand how your site is organized. Pillar pages have their place in both UX and SEO!

4. Plan Content for Each Keyword

Once you have your pillar pages up, start working on the more in-detail content. Some content creators do this the other way around, but if you’re starting from the ground up, try to have pillar pages in place first.

Then, as you work on writing blog posts and optimizing them for the long-tail keywords you came up with, you can link back to your pillar page. (You’ll also want to update your pillar page with a link to these blog posts as you publish them.)

As you start working on more content for your blog, you might even think of more sections to add to your pillar pages. It’s okay if they change over time! Your main pages should ultimately be the ones you focus on improving the most, as these will eventually become a great source of search traffic.

Not only do these tend to rank better with search engines, but people are more likely to share these information-packed pages on social media.

5. Optimize Your Existing Content

If you have earlier content that was created without SEO in mind, try to find a way to fit it into your SEO strategy, especially if it’s a high-performing page.

Look at your list of long-tail keywords and try to see if any of those keywords are a good fit for existing blog posts. If you find a good match, optimize your blog post for that keyword. Don’t forget to update and link to your pillar page!

Sometimes, if your focus shifts, it can be worth culling content and redirecting to newer more relevant content (or your home page, if no other redirects make sense).

While you might see a temporary loss in traffic, it’s better to have a little targeted traffic, to lots of traffic that’s not relevant to your current goals. Don’t be afraid to get rid of old content if you feel that it doesn’t fit your strategy!

6. Distribute Your Content

In the early days of trying to get your content to rank, distribution is everything. Your content won’t perform well if people don’t know it exists!

Share everywhere you can think of: social media, in your business networks, with friends and colleagues you feel would be interested, and anything else you can think of. If you’ve linked to any other websites in your content, drop them an email and let you know you mentioned them. You never know—they might just share your content with their audience!

And if you feel like doing some extra work, do some competitor research and see what sites are linking to them. Backlinks are still valuable in the SEO world, especially when it comes to getting more traffic to your site.

Contact these sites and let them know you’ve published some more up-to-date content (or more complete content, if you’ve covered some things your competitors haven’t) to link to.

7. Test and Analyze

Optimizing for SEO is an ongoing process. It’s okay if you don’t rank in the first 30 days. Especially for new sites, it might be a year or so before you see your pages start to rank. SEO is a long-term game.

As you develop more content and round out your site’s coverage, you’ll see more and more of your pages start to rank. After that, it’s just a matter of analyzing the top results to see what they’re doing (or not doing!) and making whatever improvements you can.

The best thing you can do is focus on creating amazing content, stay consistent, and work on creating a holistic marketing strategy that involves multiple channels of traffic. Just like you wouldn’t want to rely on one social media platform for traffic, you don’t want to rely solely on SEO to get you started.

Next Steps

SEO is an ongoing game, which is why it’s important to look at your strategy as a living thing that needs to change and grow with your business.

As you add more products and other offerings, you’ll find that your strategy needs to change. Most often, you’ll just need to expand your content to help market your new offerings.

Like with other forms of marketing, always focus on testing and analyzing results. You can use things like Google Analytics to help get a better idea of how your performing. Other SEO tools like Moz, Ubersuggest, LongTailPro, and others can also help track your ranking and help you make improvements to your site and content.

Don’t fall into the trap of only targeting high-traffic keywords. Not only will you have a difficult time ranking for these with a new site, but you’ll often find that broad, high-traffic keywords might not catch the right audience. Sometimes the lower-traffic, more targeted keywords are the way to go.

You can also learn how to perform your own SEO audit to see how you’re performing and find areas for improvement.
Most importantly, just get started! The sooner you get started the sooner you’ll see results. Your content doesn’t have to be perfect—testing, in-depth analysis, and consistent improvements will get it there over time.

effective seo strategy

By Zac Almeida

Before joining the team at Ethical Digital, Izaias built a successful SEO agency in São Paolo, Brazil. With over twelve years of experience providing data-driven SEO, he has worked with businesses of all sizes - from SMBs to Fortune 500 companies. After selling his business to travel the world with his wife, "The SEO Hustler" has been helping companies in more than 15 countries and 6 languages thrive in the digital and search world.


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