It’s easy for online marketers to become distracted by the search engines and forget the real reason they’re doing SEO in the first place: the customer. Customer demand is the driving force behind search and must be the foundation for your SEO strategy.
Whether you’re a SEO newbie or already running a few SEO campaigns, it’s important to take a step back and determine what techniques really align with your customers’ needs.
An effective, simple concept every search marketer should leverage is the process of developing a search persona.
Similar to a marketing persona, creating a search persona helps marketers to accurately identify their target customer, to understand how users are actually searching for their business online, and to ultimately drive higher conversion. This isn’t a very time-consuming process, and will have a significant impact on your marketing efforts.
1. Know Your Target Audience
Identify a target audience that is most likely to turn into customers. Ask yourself: Who's my perfect buyer? For any businessperson (regardless of SEO), this is something you should be able to answer.
Example: Let’s say you’re a shoe supplier looking to grow your online audience, specifically for women’s athletic shoes. Your perfect buyer is a woman, age 18 to 35, searching for Adidas, Asics, New Balance, Saucony, or Nike running shoes.
2. Understand Your Audience's Pain Point(s) & Know How They Search to Solve Them
How would your target customer articulate their need for this in terms of keywords? How do they search? Determine the queries that are used by your target audience, are aligned with your business goals, and appear in significant enough volumes.
Example: Your customer is looking to buy new running shoes. You've decided your target keyword phrase is "womens running shoes." How do you reach your target customer, though? Where is she searching? Perhaps, you determine she uses Bing to do her price comparison shopping, browses Zappos.com, and only searches at night when she gets off work (you could use this timing criteria if building PPC campaigns).
3. Provide Real Solutions
Create great content that’s well optimized for the search engines, but also meets the needs of your target customer and provides calls-to-action that encourage users to further explore and engage with your product or service.
Example: Design a landing page that’s optimized for conversion, such that it includes actionable content (e.g., descriptions, images, and reviews for the shoes) and calls-to-action that allows the user to take action (e.g. “Add to shopping cart” or “Purchase now”).
4. Be Compelling
Offer a call to action that compels the searcher to dive deeper into your conversion funnel. This might be a discount code or an online form. Basically, a feature that allows you to keep in contact with a user and offers them sort of incentive to stay engaged with your website and product or service.
Example: Perhaps this is offering users multiple related running shoe options as they interact with search results. For example, if a user clicks on a pair of Adidas women’s running shoes, perhaps you include images of the rest of the shoes you have in stock that are a similar style and color to the ones the user has shown interest in.
5. Know Your Data
Make sure you’re regularly tracking performance metrics that help demonstrate the efficacy of these campaigns.
Example: As this shoe supplier, you should make sure you’re tracking specific metrics for each user’s visit to your website, including rank and traffic for your target keyword phrase.
One of the most overlooked aspects of this process is to truly try to understand the target searcher’s agenda. Think of yourself as you search for something. All the pages you bounce off of, because they aren't relevant, trustworthy, or are too complex for one reason or another.
Search persona only works in context with business goals, and content that was designed for them. Doing only one thing out of the overall list above won’t bring the desired results.
Now that you’ve built your search persona, examine your website’s content and existing SEO campaigns and make any adjustments necessary to align with the criteria you’ve identified in this process.