I don’t want to give you visions of your 5th grade math teacher right now, but when it comes to your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, you have to check your work. Validating your SEO strategy is important, because time passes. Your digital presence evolves, the market evolves, and your content changes to reflect all of this. You can’t possibly keep track of every title, tag, keyword, and link you’ve used in the past. But… you’ve got to. Sooner or later, you’re going to repeat yourself. Eventually, links are going fail. At some point, your keywords will lose relevance and you’ll distance yourself from your target audience. So, let’s get a jump on things and work on validating your SEO strategy before the list piles up too high.

Validating Your SEO Strategy: Know Your Competition

Choosing keywords that align to customer search patterns and set you apart from your competition is a balancing act. You want your keywords to be unique, but not unique to the point that it’s unlikely potential customers would use them. So, you must look to your competitors if you want to validate your keyword use. The folks over at Affilorama sum up this dilemma nicely: “When it comes to doing market research, competition is usually your friend: it means that there is money to be made in a market. However when it comes to optimizing your site for the search engines it’s a slightly different story: you need to be able to take a look at the competition that’s out there and decide how good your chances are of ranking well” for the keywords you’re employing.

The Google Keywords Tool can help you strike the right balance between popular and overused keywords. And Startitup.com has a helpful step-by-step guide complete with examples to help you work your way through identifying keywords used by your competition and popular keywords consumers are using. Armed with this information, you can bolster your SEO through crafting original but market-oriented keywords.

Even if you’re already mindful of your keywords, this validation should not be a one-and-done effort. Revisit and refine your keyword strategy often to maintain a strong SEO game.

Validating Your SEO Strategy: Know Your Target Audience

While sweating the small stuff is important, all of the keyword refining in the world is not going to set your SEO strategy straight if you’re not operating with a strong grasp of who your target audience is–and what they want. Why is this step so important? Laura Lippay, writing for moz.com, makes a persuasive case. She notes that targeted keyword discovery goes hand in hand with a good grasp of your target audience: “You want to provide content and tools that are as relevant and useful as possible to your target audiences…  Ideally you’ll want to do keyword research based on what the audience wants, not solely on what content the site already has… which may be limited.”

Maybe you spent a lot of time thinking about your target audience from the start… maybe not. If you feel confident that you have, take a moment to step back. Consider whether your target audience has changed or grown with your business. If you skipped the question altogether in the past, now is the time define your target audience before you move forward in SEO strategy validation. How? Lippay offers some helpful advice depending on how well you know your target audience. For those who know their target audiences, but lack a strong grasp of their needs, she suggests getting to know their “pain points” via a diverse set of approaches:

Finding the Pain Points

  • “Conduct surveys of your audience by putting surveys on your site, sending emails, hiring survey professionals, or using survey sites like ..
  • Use social media listening platforms that provide topic buzz volume and sentiment by demographic (Nielsen Buzz Metrics and NetBase are two options, although not cheap)
  • Forrester has a nifty little demographic profiling tool for social behavior online by audience”

And for those who know their industry but are having trouble narrowing down a target audience, she suggests you:

  • “Check out industry research studies online (you can find many free reports, but in-depth ones will usually cost you some money).
  • Search for industry statistics online.
  • Use social media listening platforms that provide topic buzz volume and sentiment by industry.”

A strong SEO strategy starts and ends with a clear vision of your competition and your target audience. You need to keep both in mind as you proceed. If you’re looking for more on this topic, check out these resources.

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