Standard Operating Procedure for Search Engine Optimization

What Is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization — that much has stayed the same. It refers to techniques that help your website rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). This makes your website more visible to people who are looking for solutions that your brand, product, or service can provide via search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing.

There are a ton of ways to improve the SEO of your site pages, though. Search engines look for elements including title tags, keywords, image tags, internal link structure, and inbound links (also known as backlinks). And that’s just to name a few.

Search engines also look at site structure and design, visitor behaviour, and other external, off-site factors to determine how highly ranked your site should be in their SERPs.

What Is SEO Strategy?

An SEO marketing strategy is a comprehensive plan to get more visitors to your website through search engines. Successful SEO includes on-page strategies, which use intent-based keywords; and off-page strategies, which earn inbound links from other websites. Which you will get to know later is this SOP.

Detailed process steps:

Note: Please read this SOP a few times (more than once, at least). This SOP is not the ultimate guideline as SEO is an ever-changing industry. However, these are bare minimums that we do for all clients.

This SOP illustrates everything that you are expected to do as a search engine optimizer working with us. The SOP illustrates the steps in order and you are expected to follow the same order while working.

Step 1: Onboarding

Whenever client onboarding send an email with the subject line being a reference number for that client. The email will include the client’s website URL, log in details and the target geography for that client’s business.

Your task: As soon as you receive the onboarding email

1. Copy-paste the login details to your excel sheet.

2. Check if the logins work and if you have the required access (we need admin or editor access on ord Press to be able to edit plugins and work on on-page SEO)

3. Check if the client has Google Analytics installed.

Now reply to the onboard email thread. Let us know if the logins worked fine, if the access level is fine and if the site already has Google Analytics installed. If yes, we will ask for access from the client. If not, we will ask permission from the client to set it up.

Step 2: Keyword Research

Sometimes, the clients or our team will tell you the keywords that we will be targeting for this client. In those cases, you wouldn’t have to do keyword research.

In all other cases, you are expected to complete detailed keyword research for the client (keeping his service and his geography in consideration).

Please read these articles about keyword research for local SEO. Our target is to find keywords that have low competition and decent search volume for the client.

Once you find enough keywords (always target for minimum 30 keywords for every client, more if possible), create an excel file with two columns, one column being the keyword and the other one being search volume/month.

Now send it to the same email thread. We will check and approve the keywords for you.

Special Note: Don’t take global search volume when you are researching for keywords. Only count search volume for the client’s country.

Step 3: Audit

Once you send the keywords for approval, it is time to run a detailed audit for this client. You can use your own tools to run the audit. We like Semrush, Screaming Frog and Seoptimer and Woorank.

We need to fix these issues for the whole site, identify and fix them one by one:

SSL Certificate Issues (the site has to be secure)

● Missing Title tag

● Duplicate title tag

● Size of Title

● Duplicate meta description

● Missing meta description

● Length of Meta description (under 160 characters)

● XML Sitemap setup (Generally, we remove everything other than posts and pages

from Sitemap)

● Missing Robot.txt

● Duplicate content (check with search on Google)

● Broken internal link (either point to the right internal link or to a close replacement)

● Broken external link (either point to the right external link or to a close alternative)

● Broken images

● Loading speed (we need to bring it down to 3 seconds or less)

● 404 errors (either redirect to the closest version of that page or to the homepage)

● Pages that don’t have an H1 tag (we will try to naturally include an H1 tag on every page)

● Alt text (all images need to have proper descriptions which are relevant and unique)

● Internal linking (every page will have links to 2-3 of site’s other pages naturally)

Step 4: Assigning Pages to Keyword

You have now fixed most of the technical issues of the website.

Remember that you did keyword research for this client? It is time to assign one/multiple keywords from that list for every page of this client’s website.

Create a sheet on your excel file. Create two columns. One will be URL and the other one will be keywords.

It will look something like this:

Basically, we will assign one or multiple keywords for every page of that website. If the client’s website doesn’t have a page for a keyword or if we can’t find a relevant page for a keyword, we will give a “-” and later on create that page for him

Step 5: On-Page SEO

Goal: Knowing which of the pages you should optimize on a website, especially when there are a lot of them and you don’t have much time at your disposal to optimize each of them. 

Ideal Outcome: You will be able to easily determine the most important pages in your site so that you get the highest ROI on the time you spend optimizing your site.

Prerequisites or Requirements: It is recommended that you know how to perform keyword research. And the tools you will need are Ahref, Screaming Frog and Semrush.

Why this is important: On-page optimization is absolutely crucial for your SEO efforts. However, if your website is hundreds or thousands of pages long, and it has never been optimized, the 80/20 site-wide on-page optimization method presented in this SOP’s will help you determine which pages to optimize first. 

Where this is done: In your browser, using Ahrefs and Google Sheets, as well as KW Finder for your keyword research.

When this is done: When you decide to perform on-page optimization on a large website. 

Who does this: You, and your SEO specialist.

  1. Finding the on-page optimization opportunities
  1. Go to On-Page Optimization – Worksheet and make a copy of the spreadsheet to use throughout the process. 
  2. Open Ahrefs. 
  3. Enter the website URL in the search bar. 
    1. Make sure to include both http + https (left selection menu).
    2. Select *.domain/* (domain with all its subdomains in the right selection menu).
  4. Click search to analyze your domain.
  5. Click on “best by backlinks” in the left sidebar.
  6. Under http code, select “200 OK”. 
  7. Sort results by “Dofollow”.

8. For each result with more than 10 dofollow links, click on the little arrow next to it → right click on Organic keywords → Open it in a new tab.

9. Ask yourself the following questions to see if  this is a good opportunity for on-page optimization:

  1. Is it ranking for high-volume keywords that are also relevant to that content? 
    1. If NO, then this is probably a good candidate for on-page optimization. You can add it to the worksheet and move on to the next result.
    2. If YES, then move on to the next question.
  2. Is it optimized for that keyword?
    1. If NO, then this is probably a good candidate for on-page optimization. You can add it to the worksheet and move on to the next result.
    2. If YES, then move on to the next question.
  3. Is it ranking in the top 5 positions for that keyword?
    1. If NO, then this is probably a good candidate for on-page optimization. You can add it to the worksheet and move on to the next result.
    2. If YES, then you can skip this URL and move on to the next result.
  4. Repeat the previous steps until you’re done with the URLs on the “best by backlinks” list.

Finding target keywords for each page

  1. Take each of the URLs you have gathered in your worksheet and perform keyword research to relevant keywords for the content of that page. 
  • When you find a relevant keyword that shows an attractive search volume for the page, add it to the “Target keyword” column on the worksheet. 
  • If you cannot find any relevant keywords with a search volume large enough, just write “N/A” in the “Target keyword” column and move to the next link/page in your worksheet. 

Like all keyword research processes, this might take some time, especially if you have a large site. Hang in there, it’ll be more than worth investing this time into your website’s health! 

Performing On-Page optimization 

Once you go through the steps described above in this SOP, you can move on to the actual on-page optimization for each of the URLs with a relevant target keyword in your worksheet. 

On-page optimization is an easy process that will usually take less than 5-10 minutes for each of the URLs you have to optimize. We have described this process below. 

That’s it! Remember, this is not a full website optimization – but it will still help your website perform better in the SERPs. If you are running short on time and if your website is large enough to make a full optimization a lengthy process, the 80/20 method will give you a good head-start in the SEO world, giving you more time to optimize the remaining pages as well. 

SOP 018: Performing On-Page Optimization

Reviewed: January 22, 2020

Execution Time: 20-30 minutes / page or blog post

Goal: Optimizing each page and blog post on your website to be easily found on search engines. 

Ideal Outcome: Every page and blog post on your website will be properly optimized – ergo, users will find them when searching for businesses similar to yours. 

Prerequisites or Requirements: The exact steps described in this SOP will only work on websites. Other Content Management Systems (CMSs) might use the same principles, but the steps and methods needed to perform on-page optimization may be different. 

Why this is important: On-page optimization is one of the three pillars of SEO (along with off-page optimization and technical optimization). Together, they help businesses make themselves noticed on search engines (thus, they help increase the number of site visits and, consequently, the number of conversions). 

Where this is done: In your Admin panel, on each of the pages and blog posts that will go live. 

When this is done: Ideally, before the pages and blog posts go live. Realistically, it can be done afterwards too (e.g. if your website is already live and you haven’t optimized it yet). 

Who does this: You, your SEO specialist, your content manager or content writer (if they also upload the page content and/or blog posts), or an agency you have hired for your digital marketing needs. 

Environment setup

  1. Set up your site and install the Yoast SEO plugin. 
  2. Make sure you have performed your keyword research and mapping. 

Before starting: pre-optimization steps 

  1. Based on your keyword research and mapping spreadsheet, select the keyword and searcher intent you want to use for the page or blog post you want to optimize. Remember: in general, you want to make sure each page targets only one searcher intent (or a “bucket” in the keyword mapping spreadsheet you have worked on). 
  • For the purpose of this SOP, we will be going through an example blog post that’s being optimized for “google search operators”. 
  1. Write the content of the page or blog post without optimizing it for the target keyword. It’s better to write the content without worrying about the optimization process or the keywords you need to use. This way, you will be able to produce content that’s more natural, focused on the users, rather than the search engines. 

Optimize the meta data

The metadata on each of your pages and blog posts is just as important as the content itself – so you should first make sure to optimize it before moving on to optimizing the content. 

  1. Start by optimizing the page title with your chosen keyword.
  2. When you’re in the “Edit Post” section of your WordPress site, scroll down to the “Yoast SEO” bar (you will find it right after the box that allows you to paste/ edit the content). Click on it if the bar is not expanded.
  1. Click on “Edit Snippet” to expand the editable metadata boxes.
  1. Optimize the title in the “SEO title” box. Here’s how to do this: 
  • Click on the “SEO title” box
  • Enter your desired SEO title (including your target keyword). 
  • Remember to keep it under 65 characters – otherwise, Google will truncate it when displaying it in SERPs. This will consequently lower your CTR. 
  • Yoast will help you determine if the SEO title is too long. As long as the bar underneath the “SEO title” box is green, you haven’t exceeded the 65-character limit. If the bar gets orange, you have exceeded this limit (or the title is much too short, as you can see in the second caption below).
  • Run your title through CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to check its attractiveness.
    • Rankings are not just influenced by keywords. The CTR on your search result is an important ranking factor, so this step will help you write attractive and compelling titles.
    • Aim for a score above 70 on CoSchedule’s Headline analyzer, but don’t stress or obsess over it—it’s an automated tool and you should only use it as an indicator.
    • As you can see in the example above, our initial title was “How to Gather SEO Intelligence”. After adding the keyword and checking it with CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer (described below), we changed it to “Google Search Operators: How to Gather the Best SEO Intelligence”.
  1. Optimize the URL slug: 
  • Keep it as short as possible (4 words at most – it makes it easy to understand and remember by users, but it also improves your SEO as well).
  • Also, try to include the keyword in the URL as well – it will definitely help with the on-page optimization. 
  • If your page has already been published for a while, do not change the URL, especially if it’s already ranking in the SERPs or if other pages already link to it. Doing this would mean you are migrating your URL – and it’s best to avoid it in most cases.
  1. Optimize the meta description
  • Include the target keyword in this description. 
  • Remember, the meta description should be under 230 characters – anything above that will be truncated by Google in the SERPs. 
  • Same as with the page titles, keywords are not everything. Your meta description should be compelling and tell readers exactly what information will be provided on the page. 
  • While meta descriptions don’t have a direct impact on rankings, they will increase the CTR – and that is a ranking factor.

Optimize the page content 

Now that you have optimized the meta data supporting your page or blog post, it is time to move on to optimizing the actual content on it. Here are the steps you need to follow to do this: 

  1. Try to include the keyword in the H1 heading, but do not force this. Again, it is far better to publish natural, rather than keyword-stuffed content. 
  • Make sure your page or blog post has an H1, but remember that there should be only one H1, and it should be above the fold. Typically, your H1 will be the actual title of the blog post or page. 
  • Same as with the metadata optimization, focus on creating an attractive, compelling H1, rather than something that feels built exclusively for Google’s crawlers. 
  • You can use the CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to analyze your headline.
  1. Optimize the content in the body of the page. 
  • Try to include your target keyword in the first 100 words of the page or blog post.
  • In general, avoid including the exact target keyword more than 3-4 times/page. 
  • Add other keywords from the same keyword bucket in the body of your content. This will help Google contextualize your page or blog article so that it shows it to users searching for the information you provide. 
  • Try to add synonyms to your target keyword as well. This is an excellent move not only because it will help Google contextualize your content, but also because it will help you avoid using the exact target keyword too many times. 
  • Include LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords too. These keywords are semantically related to your target keyword, and they will help improve your SEO. Pick the most relevant suggestions to include in the body of your page content.
  1. Optimize the images.
  2. Rename the image you want to upload into your page or blog title with a descriptive name. For example, “img17348.png” is not a descriptive name, but “search-operators-quotation-marks is a descriptive name
  • Always use the “-” sign to split the words in the image names. 
  • To rename a file, right-click it, choose “Rename” from the drop-down menu, write the new name, then press “Enter”. 
  • DON’T include keywords in the file name unless they are actually relevant for your content. 

b.  Include descriptive ALT text for each of the images you upload into your page or blog post. 

  • Within the media selection view in WordPress, select the image you want to edit, you will see a series of fields in the right side of the window.Scroll to the “Alt text” field and enter it. 
  • Make sure your ALT text is relevant and descriptive. For instance, “image 17348” is not a descriptive ALT text, but “google operators quotation marks” is. 
  • Again, do not try to include keywords in the ALT text if they are not relevant. 
  • Adding ALT text to your images will also improve accessibility. For instance, this feature can be used by screen-reading software applications for the blind or visually impaired.
  1. Include internal links to other pages within your domain. 
  • Try to include at least 2 or 3 links to relevant related content that’s already published on your site. 
  • To do this, select the words you want to create a link on, click on the “Insert/Edit link button”, and paste the URL you want to link to.
  1. Include external links, to other domains. 
  • Our advice is to always link to authoritative sources of information or pages that are already ranking well on the search results for your target keyword. 
  • For our example, we chose to link to a Search Engine Land article (the first result on Google when searching for “search engine operators”).
  • To add an external link, follow the same steps as described above for internal links. 

If you have completed all of these steps, the content of your page or blog post will be perfectly optimized.

Things to remember:

● The main keyword should be in an H1 heading somewhere in the page

● One image will have an alt-text that is the same as the keyword

● Another image will have a variation of the keyword as alt-text

● One H2 which will be a variation of the main keyword (if your main keyword is digital marketing agency, then H1 can be Digital Marketing Agency and H2 can be something like, Why Are We The Best Digital Marketing Agency in Melbourne).

● We want at least 5 LSI variations of the keyword naturally throughout the page.

● Make sure that the page has 3 internal links to other pages of the site

● Make sure that the page has 2 external links to other websites (don’t link to a competition)

● Whenever you are done fixing on-page SEO for a URL, mark it green on your excel task sheet.

● Do the same for all pages for this client.

Very Important Things to Remember

  • If you are confused about something, always ask. Don’t experiment with a client’s website. These are real businesses and changing a plugin, breaking anything can create huge confusion and might also result in cancelling contracts.
  • When you are writing meta descriptions, titles for a client’s website, always check with for grammar.
  • Feel free to ask any questions you have in mind to your team and a team member will get back to you Asap.
  • Don’t just follow the above guidelines. Use your creative brain to find solutions that can help your client. Suggest solutions, marketing strategies in the email thread.
  • You will be expected to manage 5-10 client websites for us. Don’t finish one and then move to the next one. Try to spend hours evenly among all clients.
  • Everything that you do with us falls under NDA. Never share login details or anything else with another company/freelancer or outside the company. This will result in immediate termination.
  • When will the next revision be done?

There is no specific date or time of the revision. But whenever there is a change in the Google Algorithms then we will have to review it to get rid of any discrepancies. 

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