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How to Build an SEO Strategy for 2021

By Jack M. Germain
Feb 12, 2021 4:00 AM PT
How to build an SEO strategy

If you are a vendor and sell your wares online -- how could you not be tapping into e-commerce today? It's time to take a fresh look at your search engine optimization strategy. You might need to tweak your SEO process to drive more customer traffic to your website.

Once you broaden your understanding of SEO, you will be able to improve your search engine rankings. Software tools are available to provide data and alerts about the overall health and success of your website.

Using SEO tools can help uncover areas of opportunity and identify weaknesses or issues that prevent you from ranking and gain better visibility in search engine results pages, or SERPs.

These are how Google displays Internet users' search query results when they visit your web site. SERPs generally include organic search results, paid Google Ads results, Knowledge Graphs, featured snippets and video results. In today's continuing dominance of online shopping, some traditional marketing methods are becoming obsolete. But the effectiveness of your SEO ranking remains a vital part of your marketing strategy.

SEO for Marketing

Search engine optimization is one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies you can apply. It becomes a magnet to attract consumers actively looking for your products and services online.

SEO is more important than ever. More consumers are leaning on the Internet for products and services they may have historically shopped for offline pre-pandemic, according to Steve Wiideman, president and CEO of Wiideman Consulting Group.

"Restaurants, in particular, have survived either by partnering with delivery services such as Doordash, Postmates, Uber Eats, Grubhub, or by developing keyword-rich pages on their websites. Keywords address off-premises searches customers use to find delivery, takeout, carside, curbside, or outdoor dining near them," he told the E-Commerce Times.

A case in point is Applebee's, which saw a 37 percent lift in organic visits in 2020 versus 2019 with over 167 percent lift in online orders. Even with traffic from Google Maps decreasing by 23 percent due to fewer customers needing directions, online orders from Maps and "3-Pack" map listings in organic results were up by over 27 percent, he noted.

"Customers have changed their buying habits, some indefinitely. These new online ordering customers have discovered the convenience of ordering online and will likely continue the new routine even after the pandemic comes to an end," said Wiideman.

The E-Commerce Times discussed with Steve Wiideman the essentials of how to build an SEO strategy for 2021. He is an SEO expert and has worked with brands that include Applebee's, Public Storage, IHOP, Skechers, Blake Pizza, Technicolor, Bosley, Belkin, Linksys, Homes.com, FIDM, Essentia Health, and Grand Seiko.

Steve Wiideman
Steve Wiideman, President
Wiideman Consulting Group
Wiideman designed and teaches the Website Optimization and Strategic Search Engine Marketing online course for California State University Fullerton and the SEO Tools and Analytics course at University of California San Diego. He is an adjunct professor at the University of California San Diego, California State University Fullerton, and Fullerton College -- and recently was commissioned to write a textbook for a popular online learning service for colleges.

E-Commerce Times: Is SEO's impact more critical for commerce in general or e-commerce? Why?

Steve Wiideman: E-commerce is likely the most critical marketing tactic for businesses today for several reasons. It is much easier to track ROI on marketing efforts when a transaction can be tied to a specific medium, such as search, social, email, referral, or other marketing.

Secondly, many users save their information or register for an account when making a purchase, allowing advertisers to use remarketing strategies, newsletters, and loyalty programs, all of which reduce more expensive advertising mediums such as bidding on keywords in the Google Search Network.

What does successful SEO look like?

Wiideman: Successful SEO is measured through the use of simple key performance indicators, or KPI. The most important to many advertisers include the following:

a. YoY and MoM growth in revenue sourced from organic
b. YoY and MoM growth in revenue from maps and 3-Pack listings

Other KPI's that the various SEO team members might be monitoring, include:

a. Percentage improvement in technical site issues
b. Percentage improvement in mobile page speeds/load times
c. Average keyword position of keywords tracked and monitored (often segmented by category or business objectives)
d. Number of new inbound links earned through upper funnel/informational content (such as FAQ's)

A successful campaign will have initial KPI goals that are met and exceeded over the course of 12 months. Here is a link to a template we use with several of our restaurant chain clients. This template has evolved into a Google Data Studio dashboard over time but remains as relevant today as it ever did.

How can companies build an effective SEO strategy for 2021?

Wiideman: Companies can build an effective SEO strategy by dedicating one to three months toward research and planning, with the following deliverables from an experienced strategist:

a. Technical SEO Audit
b. Competitive "Baseline" Report
c. Link Audit and Strategy
d. Extensive Keyword Research (existing data and competitive insights)
e. Website Taxonomy and Information Architecture Plan (based on keyword research)
f. Local and/or E-commerce SEO Strategy

Once completed, the action items from the research are organized into a project management system such as Monday.com, Basecamp, Jira, or (our favorite) Smartsheets. Tasks are assigned, prioritized, and due dates are added to ensure accountability.

How has the COVID-19 global pandemic affected what and how people search the Internet?

Wiideman: The biggest shift we have seen in how users behave in search engines includes the use of the phrases "near me" and "online." With fewer shoppers going out to buy, online shopping is more important than ever. Having a mobile shopping experience built to require a visitor's thumb throughout the experience with no keyboard required is how businesses are maximizing visit-to-sale (conversion) rates.

As mentioned earlier, for the restaurant industry, addressing keywords by improving content can keep the kitchen lights on.

How can online merchants avoid SEO scams?

Wiideman: SEO today is starting to become more transparent. Business owners are not falling for the "we can rank you #1 in Google" spam calls as often. Instead, they are up late educating themselves as part of their survival strategy.

This is why we created our free SEO Masterclass to equip business owners with the education and training they need to manage SEO in-house and to prevent being taken advantage of by shrewd cold-callers.


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.


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