Basic SEO / Aug 15, 2019 / Zack Reboletti

The SEO Process Explained in Plain English (6-Steps)

When I tell people what I do for a living, I usually say something to the effect of, “I help businesses appear higher in Google search results for words and phrases related to the products and services they offer”.

It’s an over-simplification… but also the simplest answer.

9 times of 10, they’ll nod their head to show me they understand, let it stew for a few seconds, and then ask, “… so how do you do that?”.

Interestingly, most of the small to mid-sized companies I talk to about my SEO Consulting services ask the same question.

Here’s my best attempt at explaining my typical SEO process, step-by-step, in plain English, as well as the value each step provides.

Quick preface

I was recently talking with a small, but fast-growing brand about working with them on SEO.

After a couple of phone calls, they still had some questions about the work I’d be doing and how/why it would be valuable to their business.

So, I decided to write them an email that I hoped would help explain both. The rest of this post is, verbatim, what I sent.

Note: the brand makes plant-based protein bars (they’re awesome), but for the purposes of this post I’ll refer to them as “Protein Brand”.

Without further adieu…

Step 1: Identify the highest ROI search terms for your business

Imagine a person who has never heard of Protein Brand, but is trying to find a plant-based protein bar. What words and phrases are they going to type into Google to find one? Maybe “plant-based protein bar”? “dairy-free protein bar”? “best vegan protein bars”?

While we could just guess using our own knowledge and intuition, there are tools and research methods at our disposable that actually tell us all the different variations people use, and how frequently they use them. In other words, which variations are used the most (and thus, will bring the most visitors to our site once we rank on page 1 for them)?

The Value: As much as you think you know your target audience, who (and how) they find you online will surprise you – I promise! Keyword research allows us to find search terms that are: 1. highly relevant to what you offer, 2. searched for with the highest frequency, and 3. can realistically be ranked for in a 6 – 12-month time-frame.

Step 2: “Optimize” different pages of your website for these terms

Google ranks pages, not websites. What this means is that every page of your website has the ability to appear in Google for various search terms related to the content on the page.

The goal here is to “map” the search terms we identified in Step 1 to the pages on your website that best match the topic and intent (of the person searching for them). Once mapped, each page can be “optimized”… which simply means making sure each page is relevant to its intended terms and ultimately keeps the promise of why someone would have clicked onto your page.

The Value: If you’re not deliberate about assigning well-researched keywords to individual pages and then optimizing each page for those keywords, it’s unlikely you’ll rank them. So the value here is: 1. you’re giving Google the best chance to rank your pages for your keywords, 2. in doing so, you help ensure you’re getting the correct people to your site, and 3, you’re providing the people who land on your site the information they’re seeking.

Step 3: Fix any technical issues that may be holding you back

There are a million and one (exactly) technical issues on a website that can prevent Google from finding (or “crawling”) important content or pages on your website. Many of these issues impact your visitor experience as well.

Some examples include: broken links, missing or empty pages, slow loading pages, un-secure pages, etc. Here’s just a snapshot of your current technical issues (see here and here). You don’t need to know what each of these means (although I’d be more than happy to tell you) – just know that they may not only be hindering your ability to rank in Google but also hindering your customer experience.

The Value: Performing regular technical audits ensures you’re ranking and receiving as much traffic from search engines as possible. Perhaps even more importantly, it helps ensure a seamless path for your user from landing on your page through conversion (however that may be determined).

Step 4: Create new content for continued traffic growth

There are only so many search terms you can rank for (and traffic you can receive) with your existing website content. New content, based on more keyword research, is required if you want to continue growing.

Your blog is the best place to consistently serve new, useful content that can rank for meaningful keywords and drive more traffic to your site. While your main pages will rank for highly-targeted commercial terms like “plant-based protein bars”, the blog is the place to target more informational terms like “plant protein vs. whey protein”, “best dairy-free snacks”, “healthy post-workout meals”, etc.

The Value: If you want to put your business in front of tens of thousands of new prospective customers each month, you need to write and publish great blog content around topics they’re searching for. While these visitors may not turn into customers immediately, many of them will join your email list, follow you on social media, and convert into paying customers over time.

Step 5: Get other relevant websites to talk about you

By “talk about” I mean link to. Think about it like this: every relevant, high-quality website that links to your website is a “vote”, and Google’s search engine rankings are a popularity contest. Simply put, the more votes you have, the better your web pages will rank for your keywords.

There are a lot of ways we can get other websites to link to yours, but most will involve either doing something noteworthy offline or creating something valuable (like content) online. In either case, the goal is getting the sites you want a link from to recognize it and link to your site as the source. This is more or less “digital public relations” with an extra focus on earning links.

The Value: A growing business such as yours will likely earn some links naturally, over time – however, the top-ranking businesses in your space are actively promoting themselves to earn links online. Dedicated link building efforts will dramatically expedite the process of ranking for your target search terms, driving online traffic, and ultimately growing your business.

Step 6: Track progress, analyze results and make improvements

Is what we’re doing working? Such a seemingly simple question, yet many businesses engaged in SEO (or any marketing initiatives for that matter) don’t know the answer to it. Of course, this is never the case with my clients. (wink, wink)

At the most basic level, you can expect to receive the following information from me each and every month: total website traffic and organic website traffic (i.e. traffic from search engines like Google), conversion metrics like online sales, new business leads and newsletter sign-ups, and of course, search engine rankings for our top-priority keywords.

The Value: Monthly reporting allows you to see both quantitative and qualitative results of our SEO campaign so you can know for certain if our efforts are (literally) paying off. Additionally, it will give you insight into how people are finding and using your website, and where we can make improvements to both.

Bottom line

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of the things we’ll be doing from an SEO perspective – and of course, I’ll be reporting on our progress each step of the way.

I’d like to end by summarizing the overall value of SEO, as I see it, for Protein Brand:

  • Currently, more than 96% of your traffic is “branded” – meaning, people that are already familiar with your brand and are finding you online by searching “protein brand”, “protein brand bars”, “protein brand cookies”, etc. This is great, but…
  • There are hundreds of thousands of people who have never heard of you but would LOVE your products if they found them (I was one of them!). I’m more than confident we could begin reaching these people online – slowly at first, but snowballing over-time – with a dedicated SEO effort.
  • The value won’t just come in the form of sales through your website; we’ll be leveraging your website to create awareness of your brand. Sure, some of these people will buy products through your site, but others will go to their nearest CVS or The Vitamin Shoppe to buy them in-person, or land on your site but ultimately purchase through Amazon or another online retailer.
  • At the end of the day, this is an extremely low-cost way of reaching prospective customers, increasing your online and offline sales, and growing your brand compared to your other sales and marketing efforts.


This is far from the best or most comprehensive explanation of the SEO process that exists online – however, my hope is that it’s the most straight-forward explanation you can find on how the SEO process works and the value it can provide.

Whether you’re an SEO Consultant or Agency trying to explain the SEO process to a prospective client – or, you are that prospective client and are trying to understand what an SEO professional is pitching you on, I sincerely hope you find this useful.

If you have any questions about this process or additional insights to share, please let me know in the comments.