The SEO Process in 5 Steps

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Krista Neher

Nov 01 2022

The Process of SEO

Whether you choose to DIY or hire an SEO company to help, it’s useful to understand the process. SEO can be quite technical, and if this is an important area for your business you may want to hire an expert.

There are five steps in the process of SEO: Research, Strategy, On-Page, Off-Page, and Measure and Improve.

Step 1: Research

The first step in the process of executing SEO is research. Research and understand the keywords and phrases that drive your business.

For any business, many keywords could send highly qualified traffic to your site. The key is to focus on keywords that both send qualified traffic and aren’t too competitive based on the authority of your website.

For example, attempting to rank for generic words like “milk” or “social media” will be difficult because high authority sites like Wikipedia already rank for these words and they aren’t likely to send great traffic to your site. Instead, focus on words that are closer to what someone actively looking for you would search for. For example, “Dairy Alternatives” or “Best Soy Milk.”

In the keyword research stage, your goal is to develop a handful of keywords for your site and key pages on your site to focus your SEO efforts.

Examine and brainstorm:

  • Words that describe your product or service
  • Words that have a purchase intent
  • Words competitors optimize for
  • Words that describe the problem your product solves

The Google Keyword Planner is the most used tool for keyword analysis. Google will show you search volumes and keyword ideas for you based on your website, competitive websites, or by starting with search terms.


Tool: Google Keyword Planner

The Google Keyword Planner is available within Google Ads and you need a Google Ad account to access it. This shows your search volume and competitiveness for search terms. This can be helpful to understand what people are looking for and the words and phrases they use.

Power Tip:

You can see the keywords that your competitors have placed in the headers of their website pages by looking at the code. To see the code, choose to view a page in developer mode on your browser.

The goal of keyword research is to have a list of keywords that you will target your site to rank for.

Step 2: Strategy

Once you have an idea of the keywords that could work for your business, it can be helpful to align the keywords to your business or marketing strategy.

What is it that you most want to achieve for your business, and what keywords are appropriate for different stages of the marketing funnel?

Since a strong search strategy can reach people who are looking to buy or convert, Google recommends a strategy that starts by focusing on the most relevant terms to your brand first and then breaking out.

Start with brand keywords – keywords with your brand or business name or potentially your competitors.

For example Tide Laundry, Tide Pods, Tide Liquid, Tide Detergent, as well as competitive terms like Purex, Purex Detergent, etc. (if appropriate)

Next, consider category keywords –keywords that are directly related to your product and how it is used. The focus here is on your product and its function.

Examples: Best laundry detergent, how to do laundry, organic laundry detergent, etc.

Finally, you may incorporate affinity keywords –keywords that are more broadly related to the category that you participate in. These are interests or problems that your keywords can address.

For Example: How to remove grass stains, how to soften clothes, how to prevent stains, how to pre-treat clothes, etc.


While search works best when it is more directly related to your product, consider your marketing strategy and objectives, and choose an SEO keyword strategy that reflects what you are trying to achieve for your business.

Step 3: On-Page SEO

Once you know your strategy and keywords, the next step is to optimize your site and your site content to signal relevance to Google.

On-page SEO also involves technical setup, but we covered this earlier in the chapter, so here we will focus on the content of the page.

Depending on how your site is structured and the content you already have in place, this may involve optimizing existing content and copy, or you may need to build a strategy to create new content over time.

A few questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you have content specifically related to the words you want to rank for?
  • Do you have posts on these specific topics?
  • Do you have socially sharable content on the topics or keywords you want to rank for?

Step 4: Off-Page SEO

Once your site is relevant, off-site SEO focuses on activities that you can do outside of your website to signal authority to Google.

The focus here is usually on link-building or getting other sites to link to yours. Some links happen naturally for most businesses, for example when they are featured in the news or as members of business associations.

It is good to be deliberate and aware of opportunities to have other websites that mention your link back to your site. If you are serious about SEO, you’ll want to have a dedicated link-building strategy.

Step 5: Measure and Improve

Analytics are critical to a successful SEO plan. Google provides lots of tools between Google Analytics and Google Search Console to help you understand if your SEO efforts are generating results.

You can use a variety of sources to understand the performance of your website including:

  • Google Analytics: To track information about how people get to your site and what they do once they are there. Analytics will help you to understand the quality of the traffic that you are getting from search engines.
  • Google Tag Manager: To manage tags and track traffic without editing the website code directly.
  • Google Search Console: To get information about the keywords that are sending traffic to your site and how you rank for them.

There is a lot of information available about the performance of your website and how you rank for core search terms.

If you are investing in an SEO strategy, set KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for your search efforts to track the metrics that matter to you.

You may choose to set rankings for specific high-value keywords as a target for your efforts, overall traffic from search, or performance relative to other benchmarks.

Learn about earning an SEO Master Certification with Boot Camp Digital

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