Many businesses think that once you’ve got a website, you can just leave it alone and the work will roll in… Lovely idea in theory, but most of the time, that’s not really the case. Yes, you may be appearing in the search results and getting some enquiries through the site, but to get a real return on your investment, you want to make your website works as well as possible – and the best way to do that is to develop an effective SEO strategy.

So why do you need an SEO strategy? Well, Google and other search engines don’t just decide where to put you in the search results by guess work, and unless you’re in a really niche industry, there are going to be plenty of competitor sites out there. You need to send out as many positive signals as possible, to convince the search engines that your site offers the best information and value, and SEO is the way to do it!

8 essential SEO strategy steps… plus 2 for luck!

For the very best results, you may want a marketing agency to help you with your SEO strategy – or at least some for the more technical or time-consuming elements. However you choose to approach it, here are our 8 top tips on building and implementing an SEO strategy…

1. Start on your website – the first foundation of an ongoing strategy is making sure that your website is properly optimised and full of great content. There are certain ‘signals’ that you need to fulfil, such as the proper use of keywords, meta data and H tags – and Google loves good content, and plenty of it if possible! Fix any broken links and make sure the user journey is great – pay for a full audit if you need some help.

2. Disavow bad links – using info from your audit, or by scanning your site and its link profile using online software, you should be able to identify links that are coming from unrelated websites. Anything that was generated by link farming or that seems random, offering no contextual value, they all have to go!

3. What platforms? – there are plenty of different ways to raise your online visibility and brand profile, and usually a mixture is the best approach. Consider updating your blog regularly, networking with other websites/businesses/industry publications and offer them great content in exchange for a link – and use social media to build connections and spread the word.

4. Content marketing – with many of the suggestions in the above point, you need to be creating amazing content. Great content will be picked up, linked to, shared and lead traffic to your website. It needs to be valuable, relevant, interesting and well written – if you can’t fulfil this criteria yourself, pass it on to someone else on the team, or outsource it to an agency – they’ll have professional copywriters who can take any industry and produce content about it that your audience will want to read.

5. PR – traditional PR isn’t dead in the digital age, but there’s certainly a HUGE overlap between SEO and old-school, offline marketing. If you have a PR department or specialist, assign them the task of building great online relationships – and use these for opportunities to publish or share content.

6. NAP – make sure that any online citations show the same name, address and phone number for your business, but keep descriptions unique. Also make sure you get yourself registered with Google Places which can be particularly valuable for local search.

7. Employee incentives – if you’re managing your SEO strategy in-house, it would be much easier if you could involve more team members in its implementation. Get everyone to sign up for a business-related Twitter account, and get them to be more active on LinkedIn too. Task them with writing blog posts, or getting testimonials from clients to help with case studies. Many hands make light work, and you could even run competitions to incentivise them – a bottle of bubbly to the first Twitter account with 100 followers? A bonus for any staff members who post a blog every month for a year?

8. Mobile – every website should be mobile-ready, and if not, then your rankings will take a hit! If your site doesn’t work properly on smartphones and tablets, you need to get this addressed – NOW!

While the tips and ideas above will help you to develop an SEO strategy, there are 2 other really important things to remember:

9. Flexibility – you need to assess how you’re doing as you go along, and adapt your strategy in response to your results. If you don’t fee like you’re getting anywhere, it may be time to bring in the big guns and allocate part of your marketing budget for help from SEO experts.

10. Returns, not rankings – while arguably SEO is all about getting to the top of the SERPs (search engine result pages), what really matters is whether or not you’re seeing any difference to your bottom line. If you’re not climbing very far or fast but your content is getting seen, your social media channels are working, and as a result, your client-base has grown, then you know your efforts are paying off.