SEO (search engine optimization) is the art of giving search engines (and people) what they want online. Factors like content quality, brand popularity, on-page optimization and user experience all work together to rank your online assets higher in the search engine results pages.

“If you need your site to rank better and drive more traffic, but you’re short on time, go ahead and email me for a free consultation. If you want to learn, keep reading! This step-by-step guide and video training has everything you need to know to do it yourself.”


Below you’ll find my guide to SEO. The 5 sections represent the 5 phases of a well-rounded SEO campaign. Feel free to use this as a resource as you start thinking about your own online strategy, specifically in terms of how you can rank better in Google.




Figure out what your current assets are and which pages are driving your results.

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Make adjustments to current pages to drive a quick turnaround in rankings.

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Analyze untapped keyword opportunities and create a plan for creating content.

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Get your content linked to and increase overall site popularity with promotion tactics.

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Get detailed reporting on your current progress and cut the fat on what’s not working.

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Any time a new SEO campaign kicks off, the first thing that needs to happen is a deep-dive audit into your existing online assets.

We need to find out exactly what resources and data exist, so we can quantify those assets into a baseline starting point.

So many people fail to do this, and as we’ll see in later sections, this initial discovery phase sets up the context for everything that will happen in the future with your search engine optimization.

It’s pretty simple really. This initial phase includes 4 major points of discovery that you can also use if you’re doing this stuff yourself:

1. Website Audit

2. Competitive Analysis

3. Google Analytics Audit

4. Google Search Console Audit

These four audits, when done with the proper depth of research, will give you pretty much all the information you need to make high-quality decisions about the next 6 to 12 months of your SEO campaign.

So let’s dive into each one of these to give you a better idea of what they really mean.


This step is where the historical data of your website as well as historical search data are scraped and pulled into a database file for the organization that I’m working with.

Data from sources such as SEMrush, Ahrefs, Google Search Console, Google Analytics, and Screaming Frog are all being used at this point.

It’s critical to set yourself up to succeed early, by gathering as much data as possible in this discovery phase.

Basically, what you’re doing here is giving yourself a birds-eye view of your website architecture, single page performance, and overall keyword performance.

You’ll be using this advanced view of your site to make informed decisions about which pages to improve, trash, build up etc.


So now that you’ve got good data on your current website & search rankings, you’ve got start to apply human intelligence to the discovery process as well, and that means analyzing what your most reasonable competitors are up to and comparing that data with your current efforts.

This is a pretty straightforward process, but it does take time. You’ve got to really think critically about who your actual competitors are in the space, so you don’t put yourself in a disadvantage.

Choose competitors that:

• Are more established than you from an online positions perspective,
• Are also roughly in your same resource bracket

Just these two basic points helps you immensely because you don’t want to set your sights on Fortune 1000 companies, for example, if you’re not also at that same level of marketing spend ability.

So let’s talk about what goes into A good competitive analysis. You’ll want to compare your business to several different points across three to five different competitors.

Here’s what I typically work with:

1. General Business Stats

How long they’ve been around, how many employees and a guess at what kind of resources they have to work with.

2. Content Production

What is the quality and quantity of content on your competitors’ sites, and what types of content are working best with their (your) target customers online.

3. SEO Positioning

Are they currently spending money on an in-depth SEO campaign like you are? See how many sites are linking to their content and the overall popularity online.

4. Paid Search Spending

How much money is being spent on paid ad placements and PPC?

5. Local Footprint

Is local a part of your competitions’ strategy and how can you leverage it as well to further your SEO results?

Get answers to these 5 areas down into a spreadsheet and begin to think about what the results mean.

You can gather all the data in the world, but if you never apply your human knowledge and insight of your industry to that data, you’ll never be able to use any of it for your growth goals online.


Just make sure here that you’re using Google Analytics and that it’s setup correctly.

You should be gathering all your traffic sources into a single GA code source to make sure you’re getting all the data you need in one place.
From there make sure you’re tracking either Goal Conversions and Ecommerce Conversions if applicable.

These types of tracking factors will help you make sense of the data by better understanding your website visitors and they actions they take while on your site.


Finally, you’ll want to make sure you’re using Google’s Search Console and that it’s setup correctly.

GSC basically acts like a website health dashboard in relation to crawlability and usability.

If Google has a problem with your site, you’ll know it by using GSC and the data that it gathers on overall performance is really handy in supplementing your Website Audit to make sure you’re not missing a major requirement form Google’s perspective.

That’s basically it!

The depth of implementation moving forward is completely dependent on the size of your organization and how much resources can be allocated to start to establish a better SEO result.

At this point you’ve done your due diligence.

You have a crystal clear picture about your current site, current rankings, your competitors and you’re getting good data from the right sources.

Next, you’ll want to use what you know about your website and improve your existing pages and assets so they’re performing as well as possible.

The next step to move all of this data forward, is to enter the Discover phase of your SEO campaign.



If you’ve done your Discover step correctly, you’ll have a ton of information about what’s going on with your website currently.

Step 2 is to take all that data and turn it into a plan of attack for your existing website pages.

I like to do this in three distinct phases.


Online equity with regard to search rankings involves a few really important factors.

I’m talking here specifically about the pages on your site and the weight that each one of them carries in the eyes of the search engines.

So to determine the most equitable pages at a quick glance, we can reliably use the number of referring domains pointing to that page to assume its worth to an organization.

Here’s an example of an export from a tool like Ahrefs:

Obviously you’d want to aggregate the urls to display singular urls, but you get the idea. 

There should be a pretty clear correlation between referring domains and traffic from keyword rankings, so a quick cross-reference with Google Analytics will reveal any anomalies there.

So, define the top 10 pages that hold the most online equity for your organization. Once you’ve done this you have effectively narrowed your focus and increased your chances of success with your SEO. 

You just don’t have the resources to work with every single page on your site in most cases, and even if you did, you would be wasting time trying to optimize and improve pages that just aren’t valuable to both you and your website visitors. 

When you do it this way, you can get quicker results when you optimize later on.


It’s time to do some keyword research!

There are several ways to do this, but I find the most simple way to start is to take your most-visited pages from your site over the year and assign both a primary keyword and 3-6 supporting keywords. 

A spreadsheet will work great here to keep you organized, but here’s why this is so important to do. 

Most people understand that to rank a keyword they have to create a page that has that keyword on it a few times. Now, while that’s not necessarily true, it’s heading in the right direction, because it’s really important to clearly define what a page is about. 

But most people stop there, with only a primary keyword, and that’s a big mistake. 

Make sure you assign several supporting keywords that work to build up the primary keyword by adding context and depth of information to your content pages. 


Here’s an example of what this looks like:

primary keyword> custom sticker maker 

supporting keyword> custom stickers
supporting keyword> custom sticker printing
supporting keyword> custom decal maker
supporting keyword> vinyl sticker maker
supporting keyword> custom stickers online

Do this for the top 10 pages for your site to start with. What you’ll be left with is a framework for how you can better optimize these pages later on.


Ideally by this point in the Improve phase, you have your top 10ish (could be a lot more) most equitable pages listed with primary and secondary keywords as well.

This is obviously an oversimplified explanation of the process, but I feel it’s effective in giving you the tools to better understand technical SEO at a high level.

Now it’s time to optimize this small group of high-impact pages based on the research you’ve done up to this point.

I do this by focusing on 3 tactical on page optimization areas and ALSO by prefacing any work that I do on-page with one very important layer of logic.


0. Searcher Intent (User Experience)

How long they’ve been around, how many employees and a guess at what kind of resources they have to work with.

1. Page Titles

How long they’ve been around, how many employees and a guess at what kind of resources they have to work with.

2. Meta Descriptions

What is the quality and quantity of content on your competitors’ sites, and what types of content are working best with their (your) target customers online.

3. Body Text Improvements

Are they currently spending money on an in-depth SEO campaign like you are? See how many sites are linking to their content and the overall popularity online.

Get answers to these 5 areas down into a spreadsheet and begin to think about what the results mean.

You can gather all the data in the world, but if you never apply your human knowledge and insight of your industry to that data, you’ll never be able to use any of it for your growth goals online.



Now that you’ve gotten your existing website clearly defined and organized according to modern SEO best practices, it’s time to turn your attention to what your website presence lacks.

It’s important to differentiate between existing assets that are worth improving and new assets that must be built to give you a chance at ranking in the search engines.

What I mean here is that I like to refrain from doing any “blog post” optimizations in step 2, simply because many of them are totally irrelevant or inadequate to the SEO process.

That means that rather than trying to optimize a 150 word blog post for primary and supporting keywords and spending all that time and effort optimizing the on-page elements, I simply push all blog content audits into step 3 here for the build phase.

Put simply, you need to make sure that all your site content falls into a very clearly defined site and content structure that makes sense to both users and search engines.

There are three main areas in which I focus:


The content audit includes your websites “content”. And for this definition of content I’m strictly talking about pages that are blogs, articles, podcasts and things that would otherwise not be defined as “Landing Pages” that are pillars for your site.

During this content audit I single out all of these “blog” style post contents and arrange them into a spreadsheet to get a better feel for their relevance and performance for a given site.

So let’s talk about those two criteria before I move on.


The main question I ask about the content in question here is “Does this blog post add a ton of value to the user, and does it fit within the structure of the site?”

Value is easy to determine. Typically a valuable resource contains in-depth information on a subject and quickly answers the user’s most pressing question. Then, it moves into a more in-depth process for how to get and advanced education on that subject by educating the user on some vital sub-steps. It’s a complete work around a subject–that’s what value means today online.

To answer the question of “Does it fit?” we need to first create a site structure that can give us that context.

Do this exercise with me.

Grab a sheet of paper and write out the 1-5ish main “hub” topics that your organization can focus on from a content and educational standpoint. These “hub” or “pillar” topics will represent the main topics that all other content will be organized under, so be thorough.

Next, thinking from a blog content point of view, list our several “spoke” topics that can be attached to each main hub topic.

I personally like to list these in a spreadsheet style, because I can then begin to visualize a better website layout. These hub topics can literally be built in to a new header menu for your site in come capacity, so it’s important to visualize your site structure as a whole

Here’s an example of this hub and spoke site/content structure.

The coumn across the top represents the sites “hub” categories, while the topics underneath them are the respective “spokes” or content pieces.

XYZ National Bakery Co.        

Low-Fat Gluten Free Holiday Tips & Tricks
Slim Summer Baking Gluten Free Dieting Seasonal Recipes Baking 101 Series
No-Butter Baking GF Weekly Recipes Traditions From Our Employees Blogs Weekly Baking Tips
Low Fat Weekly Rec. Health Benefits Of Gluten Free Living Kitchen Gadget Testing

So that’s how I determine if website content, specifically blog posts, “fit” within a site.

Without a clearly defined structure like the one above, you’ll never know. You’ll always be guessing about  your content creation, and worst of all, you’ll be creating content at random.

Random doesn’t get you ranked, so as you begin to answer these questions I’ve asked, make sure there is a clearly defined scope before you begin to audit you content.


This stage is where you begin to really audit your content in the traditional sense.

Again, most people forget the most important step, which is to guarantee content relevance FIRST like we did above, so don’t skip that step.

Now you’ll want to look at performance metrics like sessions to your blog posts, backlinks, and bounce rates among other things.
Basically the goal is to find out which content is benefiting your organization, and which content is dead weight.

If you find content that has minimal traffic and little value and relevance to your site structure, consider a 301 redirect to a more relevant post.

When you discover your best performing content, make a note of it and find ways to maximize its performance in the search results by refreshing it or doing some on-page SEO work to it.


So now after you’ve trimmed the fat on your existing blog content and categorized your site structure, now’s the time to focus your attention on discovering keywords that your competition is ranking for, but you aren’t.

This process basically predefines all future content creation by allowing you to understand where your competition is ranking (so you can outrank them), and where there are low competition opportunities for you to rank content for certain keywords.

Sounds complicated, it’s not.

I use simple tools like Ahrefs to organize all 1-15 position Google rankings for 5 of my clients’ most relevant competitors in a spreadsheet, and compare client 1-15 position ranking against them.

This process is pretty time consuming because I’m typically working with thousands of search results, but it’s hyper-critical to the success of any content creation that happens in the future.

To process the keyword data that I’ve found, I assign all keywords to the appropriate hubs that we created in the above content audit phase, and begin to build out more in-depth spokes according that keywords fit into.

Big picture, I now have several thousand keywords organized by search volume and ranking opportunity that have also been categorized into clearly defines site structure.

This is all done WAY before any content is created because it removes all the guess work out of coming up with topics.

Let the data tell you what content to create. The data represents the user search intent, and as long as you give the searchers really high quality content, you’ll begin to rank higher and higher.


When you finally reach the content creation phase of your SEO campaign, you’ll know exactly what to write about if you’ve done all of Step 3 completely.

All you have to do now is create a simple content calendar that can help to keep you on track as you generate the content that you discovered during your non-targeted keyword audit.

It’s going to look different for ever organization, but I like to use a spreadsheet to schedule out this content creation.

It can be simple or advanced, it doesn’t matter. Just create a nice spread of content for each one of your site structure hubs, that’s what counts.



This section on promotion is very important because it’s imperative that you understand just how much the SEO landscape has changed even in the last 5 years.

It used to be possible to setup a webpage that was stuffed with a keyword you wanted to rank for, index that page on Google, then pay what were called “link farms” for potentially unlimited backlinks to the page you were wanting to rank.

This process just doesn’t work anymore. If you’ve followed along this far and really soaked up the meaning of the previous three steps, you’ve set yourself up to succeed here.

But the most common mistake with modern SEO is doing all the content creation work and throwing it all in the trash can by pointing weak, non-relevant links to your content.

I’ll teach you what you need to be focusing on in this step, which is how to properly promote your content so that it becomes popular and in turn gets linked to as much as possible.

Here are my two favorite ways to approach content promotion and link building:


First and foremost, if you have something of immense value already built within your site environment, this is the absolute best place to start with regard to link building.

Sites that stand out to search engines as well as individual consumers are magnetic in the way they draw people to them. And people online these days don’t do anything unless it’s worth their time.

Creating a massively valuable resource that your prospects and site users can come to you to use is ground zero for any powerful SEO campaign.

Do you have to have a kickass resource? No, but it helps a lot. We’ll talk later in this section about creating micro-resources, but I hope you understand the incredible value of creating something that blows away the competition in terms of usefulness to your prospects.

So what am I talking about here? Well, there’s really no better way to go about this than to just show you some examples online of what I can “value adds”.

For context, these are resources that organizations can create and promote that the general public online in their niche will basically have no choice but to share, love and link to, basically because they deliver so much value.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Visual Keto GuidesA complete resource on Keto-approved foods

This one is so great because it has that “completeness” vibe as soon as you land there. The emotion internalized is “Nice, I don’t have to look for information anywhere else”.

Beginners Guide To YogaHow to do yoga for a newbie

This guide is great because it is ruthlessly focused on someone who has NEVER done yoga at all. It covers a brief history, the fundamental movements, then manages the mental insecurity that many new yoga students have by addressing what to expect during the first class.

A Beginners Guide To Getting In ShapeFitness training instructions for nerds

Here’s a great example of a niche-targeted guide that a ton of people can get behind. Nerdfitness created this guide to help its visitors get into shape and it’s brilliantly shareable.

Notice that all of these resources are “complete”, “start-to-finish” or otherwise conclusive in their depth of coverage on their respective topics. This is important.

Just ask yourself a simple question… Would your target audience be so excited to find your resource that they’d have no choice but to share it?

If the honest answer is “Yes”, then you’re ready to promote your resource to people across the internet, so move on to number 2 below.

If you’re still not ready to create a massive value-add, don’t worry, it’s not an absolute requirement. We’ll get into another way to do things later on.


Link opportunities are everywhere, but it’s crucial to make sure that any link you build to your site is coming from a high quality site that has a clean link profile history.

High-quality links are much more important than spamming your site with a bunch of low-quality links.

So why do we want to even spend resources on building links in the first place? Well, Google places a high importance on quality link profiles. If you can get a lot of people talking about your brand, sharing your content and then linking to that content on their sites, Google sees this as the ultimate form of flattery… You’ll rank higher.

There’s no way to cheat real sites linking to real content, and link building remains as one of the most effective ranking factors out there.

So I want to talk about 3 of my favorite ways to find link opportunities that will quickly help your current content rank better.

1. Brand Mentions

If your organization has been around for a while, or you have a strong PR process, chances are, other websites have mentioned you on their website, blog etc.

Brand mentions that have not linked to your site within that on-page mention are a really quick way to get very natural and potentially high-quality links point to your site very quickly.

Simply reach out to the site that has mentioned you or your brand and politely ask them to link the brand mention text back to your site.

2. Guest Posting

Guest posting is essentially the process of reaching out to similar blogs in your space and offering to post an informative article to their blog.

The exchange in value is that the target blog gets a high-value piece of content for basically free, and you get a link from that article back to your site.

These are great because you can target very high quality sites and, for a minimal investment of time or money required to create content, can receive a link that helps you rise in the ranks of Google.

Find these opportunities by searching for blogs who are creating similar, but not competing content as you are, and pitch them via email an offer to deliver a high-quality post to their site.

3. Podcast Outreach

Here’s a fact you might not know. Nearly 1 out of 3 people in the U.S. listened to at least one podcast per month last year alone. Podcasts are huge and still growing in popularity, and not only that, podcast hosts have a pretty big job to do when it comes to filling up their hopper with great guests to interview who have something meaningful to say.

If your organization has been a leader in its field in any way, reach out to podcasts that interviews business leaders or thought leaders about important industry insights, and either interview them or asked to be interviewed by them.

These podcast episodes almost always end up on website blogs with a link back to their originators in the text below them.



A major part of any worthwhile SEO campaign is analyzing the data and presenting that data in a format that’s easily digestible.

You can gather all the data in the world but without applying the human element to the analysis of that data, all you really have is a bunch of filled in spreadsheet cells.

I do monthly reporting in a format that is really easy to digest. I think it’s important to report on three main monthly timeframes:


  1. Beginning Month – Month the contract began
  2. Previous Month – Obviously last month’s data
  3. Current Month – Past 30 days of most recent data

Without all three of these points of data visualized, it’s not easy to understand what’s going on.

There’s nothing a client hates more (in my experience) than to be emailed a spreadsheet full of data that doesn’t actually say anything of importance. That’s not detailed analytics reporting and that ‘s just bad for business.

So if you have higher requirements for your data tracking here’s what I recommend:


I use Data Studio to present my data because I draw such a large amount of it from spreadsheets, Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

It’s important to make this process really simple and repeatable since it will be carried out every single month.

Here are a few example pages from a sample report just to give you an idea of what’s working best for me:



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