Scaling SEO isn’t easy.
Many companies don’t have the skilled resources to produce content in-house.
And finding an expert in your industry that likes to write is like finding a needle in a haystack. They’re basically unicorns – and they charge a LOT.
As a result, marketers get saddled with the tough job of forming an SEO strategy and executing it. Even if they create a strong SEO motion, it’s impossible to sustain as a company grows.
So, what should they do?
Luckily, I have some tricks up my sleeve. In this post, I’ll teach you my competitive research secrets and offer eight other ways to scale and uplevel SEO at your company – even if you don’t think you have the resources to do it.
What makes a good SEO foundation?
A solid foundation means you have existing content optimized for high-intent keywords.
But to get there, you first need to identify the most important pages of your website for buying intent and get them to rank. You shouldn’t be working on middle-of-funnel or top-of-funnel content until you get to that point.
When I work with clients, I first create what I call an “SEO backbone.” Together, we do keyword research to determine what potential customers are searching for and then map those terms to the most important pages of your website. Once those pages rank, the leftover keywords and topics feed your editorial calendar.
You’ll also need to consider conversion mechanisms to capture the new people flowing to your website. Are they brand new and want some more education? You’ll need to create landing pages for whitepapers, ebooks, or infographics.
Are they ready to get in touch with your sales team? You’ll want a landing page to sign up for a demo or free trial. If you’re planning to scale your organic traffic, you’ll need a way to handle it.
With that in mind, you’ll also want to have nailed down nurture campaigns for various types of leads. You should thoroughly understand each customer persona’s journey.
And finally, you need to go through a full technical audit. Make sure you don’t have any red flags preventing you from scaling, such as broken links, unindexed content, and more.
Think of organic traffic as audience building
98% of people hitting your site probably aren’t going to be qualified leads. But, they still represent an audience you could remarket to – even if they haven’t converted.
SEO helps you generate awareness, increase the number of touchpoints you have with your audience, and reach buyers earlier in the sales cycle. And controlling the narrative can be extremely powerful, especially if you’re in a competitive industry.
If you catch prospects early, you can be the one helping them set buying criteria, all while creating a preference for your brand in the market. To do that, you need competitor research.
How to do SEO competitor research to scale
Looking at what your competitors are doing is an efficient way to figure out what kind of new content you need to write. It can also open up your thinking and help you reevaluate how you attract new prospects.
The first thing I like to identify is high-volume keywords relevant to the client’s business. And that’s what we’re looking at below – a heat map of competitor rankings across various organic keywords. I created this one with Semrush.
Example heatmap of competitor rankings
These are sorted from highest search volume to lowest search volume. There are four different websites, listed in each column. Some sites rank for the same keywords, but a Venn diagram is starting to form in the second, third, and fourth columns. The green and yellow represent opportunities to rank, and the numbers in each cell represent the term’s ranking.
Examining your competitors’ most effective content
So if we wanted to write a piece of content going after one of the search terms with 8,100 searches a month – very high volume – we know exactly what websites are ranking in the top several spots. Then, we can look at those exact pieces of content and see what they’re doing to achieve those rankings.
If you’re just driving your content calendar from keyword research from a while ago, you might reinvent the wheel or focus on the wrong keywords.
In this example, our competitors rank for the “Gmail SMTP settings” keyword. But they’re also using this page to rank for 32 other keywords. And the total search volume for those is over 12,000 searches a month. So this page is doing a lot of heavy lifting.
With some Excel work, we can find out:
- What this competitor’s most important content is
- What keywords that content is ranking for
- How we can write content that is competitive with that content
If you’re not as proficient in Excel, I suggest Surfer SEO. It takes you through all the analysis and offers efficient, actionable next steps.
First, it compares all the first-page ranking content around a particular topic or keyword. In this case, we’re looking at a competitor’s clone fishing post:
Surfer SEO spits out this report, which analyzes how to improve the article. It uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to pick up other keywords your competitors aren’t using and how often they’re used.
So, essentially, Surfer SEO gives you instructions on how to make a blog post for the same keyword that ranks even better than your competitor’s.
8 other tips for scaling your SEO programs
When you’re ready to scale and have robust content plans in place, it makes sense to:
- Hire freelancers – Freelancers should be responsible for more top-of-funnel content that doesn’t need to be as technical. And I always encourage folks to provide top-notch outlines. Include any internal resources, information, and external articles that you think would help them understand what they’re competing against.
- Consider AI advances – There are some great SEO, content, and copywriting tools that do some of the writing for you. Hopping on that train can be another cost-efficient solution to content creation in bulk.
- Leverage content you’re already producing – Say you host a webinar or a podcast. Record and transcribe the video or audio using a tool like Descript, and then turn that into one or more pieces of content, like blog posts or social clips.
- Build internal links – Everyone talks about backlinks with SEO, but you want to be sure they’re heading to logical, useful places. Since it’s hard to get great backlinks, I recommend linking to your existing content or web pages and updating your footer and navigation links.
- Start an award program – At WebMechanix, we’ve had some success handing out awards to sites we think are doing a great job. We give them a badge, shout them out on our blog, and they backlink to WebMechanix. They like it because it gives them high-quality status as judged by a top digital marketing firm.
Awards can be a quick, excellent way to increase your backlinks. You could also make an award for your customers. Maybe you work at an accounting software company. Create an award to celebrate the top CFOs or financial institutions you want to target in your industry. Plus, your sales team will have a much better conversation if and when they reach out.
- Train everyone else on the marketing team – Anyone who does site maintenance, coordinates social media, is in charge of branding, or even does your PR should be familiar with SEO tactics. You’d be amazed at how little knowledge can go a long way. Your team can learn to take thought leadership and IP that’s already been created internally and leverage it using 80/20 thinking. You’ll produce more content, make your brand more trustworthy, and get more traffic.
- Build relationships with publishers or partners – Consider using a tool like Hunter.io to find contact information for relevant peers in your industry or tangential ones. Reach out with a personalized message and build a rapport with them. Add links to their content in yours. And eventually, you’ll start to gain more backlinks.
- Get C-level buy-in – SEO takes time and money. Getting your CEO and CMO to realize that SEO is more like a coordinated PR strategy to get thought leadership into the market will help them understand its value. It’s tempting to start using SEO lingo like domain authority, backlinks, and keywords, but if your leadership doesn’t get it, they won’t invest in it.
A fantastic tool to illustrate your content market share is The Kombat feature of SpyFu. Your company and each of your competitors are represented as circles. The size of those circles is determined by how many keywords you’re ranking for. Showing where you are falling short is a compelling way to make a case for SEO.
Build and launch a killer SEO strategy that scales
Competitive research is the first step in forming an unbeatable SEO strategy. Using the tools we mentioned, like Semrush, Surfer SEO, and Kombat by SpyFu can illustrate what you can do better and help you outperform your competitors.
But to take your SEO to the next level, you must make a cultural shift. You need your C-suite, marketing team, and freelancers to work in lock-step, with SEO at the forefront of their activities.
Need help convincing your CEO that SEO is important? Stuck drafting an SEO strategy?
Contact us at WebMechanix. We’ve helped clients in all industries scale and streamline their SEO.
And if this conversation got your digital marketing mind turning, tune into our YouTube channel or attend our next Growth Clinic. We host them every Wednesday at 12pm ET. See you there!