DTC brands often depend on the powerful combination of paid advertising and search engine optimization (SEO) to reach the ultimate goal: sales and profit.
Ads kickstart growth, while SEO (and the organic traffic it generates) provides long-term, stable revenue. 🤑
Sometimes, the SEO part can seem vague. What should you do to get more traffic? Which keywords should you target? What is a realistic expectation?
To help answer these questions, develop a simple SEO strategy-building process. 👇
📈 SEO strategy
An SEO strategy is a long-term plan to help your DTC brand rank higher in Google, Bing, or other search engine result pages (SERP).
Your SEO strategy should focus on methods that increase the visibility of your website in the SERP and help you own a share of searches that relate to your product.
As you develop your company's SEO strategy, consider:
- The search landscape
- The competitive environment/where your competitors are ranking for organic search
- Your brands’ business objectives
Remember, this process is repeatable, so use it to iterate and grow over time!
👀 Assess the search landscape
Start by understanding the current search landscape and your company’s SEO setup.. Here are a few things to check.
1️⃣ Use Google Search Console (GSC) and Google Analytics (GA) to identify how much organic search traffic your online store receives. If you have conversion tracking in place, explore how well organic traffic converts.
2️⃣ Check your site's core web vitals. When you’re in Google Search Console, be sure to check for page experience and learn how well your site is performing for Google's core web vitals.
Core web vitals measure user experience and specifically identify how well a page loads, how soon it’s interactive, and whether or not it’s visually stable.
According to Google, the specific core web vital metrics are:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures loading performance. To provide a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading.
- First Input Delay (FID) measures interactivity. To provide a good user experience, pages should have a FID of 100 milliseconds or less.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures visual stability. To provide a good user experience, pages should maintain a CLS of 0.1. or less.
Resist the urge to jump to immediate action if you're not happy with your site's core web vitals performance.
Complete the situational analysis first, then use your SEO strategy to identify what to prioritize.
3️⃣ Score your site on common SEO KPIs. Using a tool like Ahrefs or SEMRush, Google Search Console, and your ecommerce platform to explore how well your online store is performing for these key performance indicators (KPIs).
- Return on investment. You want to know how much profit the SEO channel produces for your business relative to how much you invest in organic search. Be sure to include soft costs like salary.
- Organic search traffic. Look in GSC and GA to understand how much traffic your store receives. Know which pages earn the most visits.
- Backlinks. Analyze the total number of links from other websites that point to your online store.
- Search rankings. How well is your online store ranking for important keyword phrases?
- Total search impressions. In GSC, an impression describes how many times a person saw a link to your site in search results.
- Organic click-through rate (CTR). While CTR is not necessarily a ranking factor (or at least not a confirmed factor) getting more clicks to your online shop is kinda the whole point.
- Branded vs. non-branded traffic. It’s important to understand what percentage of your organic site traffic comes from your brand's name vs. how much comes from topics or product categories. Branded traffic is often the result of other marketing efforts, while non-branded traffic may represent new prospective customers.
- Crawl error count. Search Console and other tools will identify crawl errors, including 5xx errors, 4xx errors, robot.txt problems, and similar.
Collect the information about your current SEO situation into a spreadsheet or similar document. You want to be able to compare your business with the competition.
🏆 The competitive environment
This is not a business strategy, this is an SEO strategy. No need to analyze Porter’s 5 forces. Instead, simply follow the below to discover how your site compares to the competition.
1️⃣ Identify your SEO competitors
To get an eye on your competitors, perform an incognito search for a group of your primary keywords and note down the top 5 competitors in the SERP. These are the people you want to beat. Also, check out Ahrefs and SEMRush for more detailed information on the competition.
Tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs can help to identify your brand's SEO competition.
2️⃣ Audit competitive sites
Take each competitive site through the same situational analysis you did for your own online store.
Circle back to the steps in ‘assess the search landscape’ above for each competitor. You won't have access to their Search Console info, put you can check core web vitals via PageSpeed Insights and deep-dive with SEMRush or Ahrefs to gain insights into backlinks, rankings, search presence, etc.
3️⃣ Identify keyword gaps
Next, look for keyword gaps between your site and your competitors' sites. You’re looking for commercial-intent keyword phrases for which a competitor ranks well. These should be keyword phrases that are likely to lead to product sales.
It’s simpler than it sounds! Most SEO tools have a keyword gap product that will surface these query phrases and provide traffic estimates.
4️⃣ Review backlinks
Similar to identifying keyword gaps, you also want to identify backlink gaps. Look for authoritative, relevant sites that link from organic content to one of your competitors, but don't link to your shop.
Later, when you develop your SEO plan, you can choose to target these referring sites with off-page SEO.
⭐️ Name your objectives
Establishing an SEO strategy without goal setting is like firing a rocket into space with no destination. You need to craft SMART goals to keep your SEO mission on track.
Here is an example of a SMART goal: 👇
Goal: Close the keyword gap.
Rank in the top ten on Google SERPs for five commercial intent keywords from the competition's keyword gap list by the end of Q4 2022.
This will be accomplished by resolving our top three core web vital issues (technical SEO), developing content clusters around the target keywords (on-page SEO), and using outreach and public relations to earn at least 100 in-bound links to each topic cluster (off-page SEO).
Closing this gap should increase site traffic by 12,500 visitors per month and result in $25,000 in new monthly revenue.
🚀 The strategy
If you’re very lucky, identifying objectives will practically write your SEO strategy for you.
For example, in the sample SMART goal above, we said that we would work on core web vitals, content, and outreach.
- Improving web vitals is part of your brand's SEO strategy.
- Producing guides and supporting articles is part of your brand's SEO strategy. Reaching out to get links from blogs and news organizations is part of your brand's SEO strategy.
Ta da! You have a list of areas to work on that will form the basis of your strat’.
- Technical SEO improvements should be done as soon as possible.
- On-page SEO in the form of new content will take time to create.
- Outreach only makes sense once the new content is published.
Your SEO strategy should always lead to a list of actions 🎯
SEO strategies are never one and done. If your goals extend into the fourth quarter of this year, you need to check back at that time.
Did you achieve your objectives? Why or why not?
Take what you learned, and start the SEO planning process anew.