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The 3 Main Approaches to SEO

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SEO is a big world, stretching across multiple online marketing strategies to become unified in a single, focused campaign. From onsite optimization and ongoing content, to social media activity and offsite link building, the most successful companies are the ones that pay attention to every facet of SEO.

There are a thousand “wrong” ways to do SEO, including spamming backlinks or writing fluff content stuffed with keywords, but what many people don’t know is that there are actually several “right” ways to do it. Even as you do your best to follow best practices in every SEO-related vertical, there are three possible approaches you can take for your campaign.

The Aggressive Approach

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The aggressive approach is generally used by companies looking to rank high and as quickly as possible. Sometimes, this is a startup looking to make a big impact with a low budget, and other times this is a well-established company looking to break into the world of digital marketing for the first time. No matter the case, this company is either new to the scene or otherwise desperately motivated to get more online attention.

The aggressive approach is all about rapid expansion. It involves the creation of multiple onsite posts—usually at least one per day—high-volume social media activity, and a sharply scaling offsite link building process. The key benefit of this is the rapid build of rank and domain authority; taking all these actions quickly and uniformly over the course of as little as two months can have a substantial impact on your long-term rank. However, you must keep in mind that domain history plays a part in its authority—if you’ve just purchased your domain, don’t expect to build a great authority in your first year.

There are two major downsides to the aggressive approach. First, it costs money. Unless you plan on doing everything yourself, you’ll need to pay for all those high-quality blog posts and all the time that must be spent vetting external link sources. Second, it’s risky. Even if you prioritize the quality of your production, the fact that you’re working quickly leaves you vulnerable to errors and quality slips. If you choose the aggressive approach, take extra caution.

The Competitive Approach

articleimage1010 competitive approach

The competitive approach may sound similar to the aggressive approach, but it’s possible to perform work based on your competition without becoming aggressive. Usually, this company isn’t sure about their SEO strategy. They may not have specific goals, they may be wary of SEO’s effectiveness, or they may have no idea what they’re doing. In any case, they’re mostly interested in SEO only to gain an edge over their competition or stay afloat in the competitive digital landscape.

Because of this, the competitive approach is all about using your competitors and gaining ground on them wherever possible. It involves looking at your competitors’ blogs and finding inspiration for topics of your own. It involves researching your competitors’ backlink profiles and mirroring those profiles the best you can. It also involves performing highly detailed keyword research and finding the keywords valuable to your company that your competitors haven’t yet touched. It’s a way of analyzing your competition, mirroring their strengths and taking advantage of their weaknesses.

In many respects, this approach is the most efficient. It doesn’t require the budget that an aggressive approach would, and it has a surgical focus intended to get you one rank higher than your biggest competitors. However, this focus on beating the competition also has some drawbacks. First, positioning yourself in line with a competitor could damage public perception of your brand by making you indistinguishable. Second, you’ll be spending less time developing your infrastructure, which makes you poised more for short-term gains than long-term sustainability, thus reducing the total eventual value of your SEO campaign.

The User-Focused Approach

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Finally, the user-focused approach can be implemented without any prior knowledge of SEO. You’ll still have to make some onsite tweaks, such as ensuring your meta titles and descriptions are in order, but for the most part, this approach can be implemented by anybody. It’s usually reserved for companies interested in gaining higher ranks, but aren’t concerned with meeting specific traffic numbers in the short-term, and aren’t too worried about the competition. Instead, they want a steady, long-term path for growth with minimal risk and a minimal budget.

The user-focused approach is simple. Make moves and produce content that is going to make your users happy. Design your website so a visitor enjoys the experience. Write content that is truly valuable for your users. Post on social media in a way that’s funny or entertaining. Dedicate yourself to making your users as happy as possible. Happy users will share your content, post links to you, and generally behave in a way that will naturally increase your domain authority—and you’ll never have to worry about getting penalized for sneaky or unnatural practices.

This strategy’s biggest drawback is the fact that it takes time and commitment to execute properly. You won’t see the immediate pragmatic results of the competitive approach or the quick scalability of the aggressive approach, but you’ll also pave a risk-free road to steady long-term growth in the process.

Which Is Best?

The best approach is the one that does the best job of meeting your goals. If you have some extra money to spend and you’re looking to rise quickly, go aggressive. If you’re only interested in SEO to get a quick leg-up on the competition, go competitive. However, most companies will stand to benefit the most from the reliable, long-term user-focused approach. As long as you’re making your users happy, it’s hard to go too wrong.

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Nick Wilson

Nick is AudienceBloom's publication wizard. He works his magic to perform outreach for external content marketing campaigns.

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