Build an SEO Moat in 5 Easy Steps

Leeds MoatThis was my reaction when first hearing of an SEO Moat: "Like as in a moat? One of those things with water and alligators and dragons, around a castle?" Our sales executive, Stephanie, says, "Yeah, one of those."

A Moat. Huh. This deserved some research and apparently a few people have breached the subject. It makes sense, people/companies want to ensure that the work they are doing now is not going to erode over time -- or have their "territory" be taken over by competitors.

After reflecting, this is like my last presentation I gave at ConvergeSouth in Greensboro, NC. It was about how to do SEO so that your site is algorithm proof. This is not about hats or what is right and wrong in terms of morality. It's about doing things right the first time so that you are not spending thousands of dollars in the future to get back traffic you thought was guaranteed. (Hint: Nothing is guaranteed in SEO.)

I believe that the smartest (and almost richest) man in the world gets it right in one sentence (in a Forbes video as he's talking to Jay-Z)

"The best moat you can have is your own talent." Warren Buffett

If you don't want to read further (we are all busy, I understand that totally), meditate on that statement. For SEO purposes, "your talent" on a company level is the core USP (unique selling proposition) of your website. It's about finding what you are good at, owning that, and telling others about it. Building a moat is making your website untouchable by doing things that are not replicable. Being you.

To be more specific, here are five things you can do to start forming that moat.

  1. Build an Air Tight Website I will keep saying this, your website code is your foundation. It's the first thing any SEO will take a look at in an audit. The perfect site uses modern coding techniques such as CSS3 and HTML5. Nix the tables, get your code simplified, use alt tags on images, place javascript in files off the page. You want your site's pages to load as fast as possible and good code is how to do that. The less is needed to crawl, the faster the search engines can find your content.
  2. Design Simple Site Structure Flat. We say that all the time, for most sites you don't want to go beyond 3 levels, meaning all of your content should be within three clicks from any landing page. This gets tricky with major ecommerce sites, but the trick is to look at your site from a user standpoint. Can you find what you need quickly? If not, time to simplify. And if users can't get to content quickly, neither can search engines.
  3. Specific Keyword Research Those last two are things everyone can do (but don't ... believe me). They help dig the moat, but to really take your stance you have to know your territory. Keyword research is not about finding the head terms that have tons of traffic (cough-insurance-cough). It's also not about long tail terms, that just happens with good content (coming soon). What you want to focus on in keyword research are those terms that perfectly describe your business. To a tee. The terms that have traffic but maybe not a giga-ton. Own those terms and make them more popular with your other marketing avenues.
  4. Link Building by Build Advocates and through those Advocates You have to link build in a way that is not replicable. The only way to do that is to build relationships. No, not sending 100 templated emails, real relationships. You want that moment when your competitor looks at your backlinks and goes "How do I replicate THAT?" The real relationships guarantee that they can't cover the ground you already have. Alligators, all moats need them.
  5. Writers: Know, Love and Hire Them Content. It's how you get links, build a community, and rank for long tail terms. Content is how you get that low hanging fruit. There are no magic numbers, no perfect length or number of articles per month on your blog. You don't have to have infographics, but you might think about it if you have good data to share. A team of good writers is more important than anything else you can do long term. If I had to spend money as a business owner to ensure my success it would be an awesome team of writers and relationship builders. #Done.
Now this isn't everything, but then again, SEO and Online Marketing are not the same process for everyone. I know we all hate hearing best practices ... we want concrete answers. But for a blog post being read by a few different people, this will have to suffice. Your answers and processes are your own, that is what fills the moat with the dragons after all.

Get blog posts via email