Check your inbox. How many emails have you received in the last week telling you that your SEO is terrible and you’re missing out on opportunities? Odds are you’ll need more than two hands to count all those terrible SEO consultant emails.

But is that a reason to turn your back on SEO? Numerous articles always claim that SEO is dead, but is it really? Even though there are countless phonies and wannabe SEO experts out there, that’s no reason to think you won’t get value from leveraging an SEO strategy.

Think of SEO as the gift that keeps on giving. If you put together a sound strategy that leverages keywords and topics based around specific targets, and tie it all in to specific offers that drive revenue, then you’ll reap the rewards. But that’s easier said than done.

Most so-called “SEO experts” will use the Google Adwords tool, pull a list of relevant keywords, and tell you to create a single article for each keyword. But that kind of strategy is so 2009. SEO should be a foundational element of your greater marketing efforts. Meaning, when you build your content and social media plan, the content should be rooted in SEO. Same goes for your outbound email campaigns. You’ll want to build them out based on the existing content you have, your calendar, and what’s being searched by your audience.

I’m going to show you how to build an SEO strategy the Astronaut way. Yes, it’ll take you more time to put together, but it’s worth it if you care about results.

How to Build an SEO Strategy

It all starts by thinking like an astronaut — aim high. This means looking at your product or service with a 1000 foot view. Typically what you’ll see bottom-feeder “SEO” consultants do is take your main product keyword and run Google Adwords keyword tool for that. For example, if you’re an IT Service firm, then your consultant would run a search on “IT Services” and “IT solutions.” However, they’ll fail at considering several thousands of other relevant and amazing opportunities for revenue.

To get started on the right foot with your SEO Strategy you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions:

What is it that you do? What are your features? Who are your competitors? What are the differences in your products/services and theirs? How do you describe your product/service? What pain points does your product/service resolve?

You’re building this strategy because you want it to be your golden goose, but it doesn’t just happen overnight. Use the words you use to describe your product/service and the benefits to build a spreadsheet and list out phrases and words that address each of those. This should take you at least an hour.

1. Use Google Adwords Tool the Right Way

After you’ve done this, then go ahead and load those into Google Adwords to get a rough idea of other related keywords. You should have at least 1000 relevant search terms. You’ll want to export that to an Excel file. If you hate spreadsheets, then you’re in for a world of hurt.

2. Competitor Keyword Research

Next, fire up a competitor keyword tracking tool (we like SEM Rush). Use SEM Rush to analyze the keywords of your top competitors. Also, take a look at complimentary products and services. If you’re an IT service firm, then also look at what keywords are being used from top IT software providers. The reason why: There will be significant overlap in terms of keywords that are used, and you’re both targeting very similar markets. When it comes to building an SEO strategy from scratch, you’ll want to make sure you have great coverage into areas that your target market are interested in.

3. Categorize and De-Dupe

After running SEM Rush on a few competitors and your initial Google Adwords list, you should have 10,000 or more keywords in your spreadsheet. It’s a lot I know. Now comes the very manual and frustrating part. You’re going to want to go through that entire list of keywords and start categorizing them by topic and stage of the funnel/buyer’s journey. Keep a key of your topics handy so you don’t double categorize or create multiple similar categories. Once you’ve made it through the entire list give yourself a high-five!

4. Pivot Table Your Way to Estimated Revenue

Now, you can go through and pivot each set of categories to get estimated traffic volume from each grouping. With this level of detail you can even see which categories create the most opportunities at each stage of the buyer’s journey. Pretty awesome right!

5. Asset and Content Optimization and Creation

But the fun doesn’t stop there. Once you have your categories and estimated search volumes, you’ll want to look at which categories have the highest volume of search and where they are in the customer lifecycle or buyer’s journey. You’ll want to create a downloadable asset for that category, and use all of the content you create for those keywords to drive traffic to that asset. What this does is create a focal point for your traffic to turn into leads.

Using the IT service firm example, I may determine that the most trafficked category is “IT Problems.” A great lead magnet for this may be something titled “99 Common IT Problems and How to Solve Them.” Then, for every blog post written under the category of “IT Problems” I would add links and content ads that drive visitors to the landing page for “99 Common IT Problems and How to Solve Them.” The result would be several leads at an early stage in the funnel where visitors are aware of the problems they’re experiencing.

From here, you’re going to replicate this across all of your categories. This is what I like to call Stage 1 of your SEO strategy. It will set up a good foundation for you to continue to build and learn from. You’ll need to continuously check your Webmaster tools and SEM Rush accounts to see what keywords you’re picking up traction with, and spot new opportunities for growth. If an SEO firm doesn’t take this kind of approach with their keyword and content strategy, then RUN. They don’t have a clue what they’re doing.