Customer Segmentation and SEO -- A Beautiful Couple

SEO can be a very useful tactic to drive rankings within search engines and bring leads to your site. But people often stop there and assume the rest will take care of itself.

When "the rest" means driving conversions or leads online, most people assume that user experience takes over as the primary catalyst once the visitor reaches the Web site. Although it's fair to say that SEO involves only "bringing the horse to water," content optimizers can also do a little to help ensure that the horse's lead is pulled down gently (or yanked in some cases) to ensure that a drink is taken.

Through developing a deeper understanding of your primary market(s), customer segmentation becomes an important SEO consideration when applied to two factors that can lead to a higher probability of end conversion: the meta description and optimized page content. Here are some best practices to consider when creating compelling descriptions, as well as mixing SEO-strong copy with the right amount of calls to action.

Meta Descriptions -- Not Just for SEO

As a general rule that is accepted by most experienced SEOs these days, the meta description isn't considered too important to the actual ranking ability of a page. The primary value of the meta description is that it will often be used by the search engines to provide the first introduction to the page's content.

Thus, our content writers optimize this tag with user experience and "call-to-action" primarily in mind. The search engines are most likely to use at least part of the meta description when it includes the keyword searched-for; thus, we still recommend that primary keyword phrases are included within the tag, because it becomes bolded within the search result.

Having a compelling optimized meta description can lead to a higher CTR, and also serve as a pre-qualifier to increase the chance of a valuable visitor. It's crucial to have a solid understanding of your target market(s) demographics to craft the most effective meta description.

Additionally, when occupying a first page organic position for a keyword search, and also bidding on the term within paid search advertising (PPC), having dual first page positions can yield the ability to provide complimentary messaging. For example, an organic meta description can focus on product or service benefits, while the PPC listing creative can be more sales/conversion-oriented.

On-Page Content -- Think Optimized Plus Incentivized

When analyzing the conversion performance of organic-ranked pages versus specialized paid search landing pages, the organic pages generally have a lower conversion rate. Over the past few years, as search engines have incorporated a quality score into the PPC listing placement rules, search marketers have begun to understand that deeper descriptive content can sometimes lead to a higher quality score for a landing page used for PPC. This has led sophisticated search marketers to begin to create more "hybridized" landing pages that could technically rank well organically.

The reverse of this process is to consider the conversion funnel more seriously when creating organic pages, which can serve as "landing pages." This is much like the old school "doorway pages" which became outdated with the addition of links into search engine algorithms.

The best way to talk to your customers is to understand what they want. Usability testing should go beyond simple navigation questions to asking participants to rate the quality of the content on the page itself. Does it speak to their needs? If the answer is generally yes, and the content still maintains enough keywords and semantic equivalents within the copy, then you're closer to the "perfect page."

In some cases, clients have at least two vastly different target markets. For example, someone may want to target both B2C and B2B online searchers: if you sell a product online, but also have a large client base of distributors, your message to each group can be quite different.

In these instances, the actual search terms used to find the products may not include tip-off modifiers such as "bulk" or "reseller discounts." To satisfy both markets, the copy has to be clearly compelling to both. In this specific example, it may be wise to create two subheadings on the page that is most likely to rank for the "root" term, and then lead visitors down the path that is most appropriate to them.

Many marketers still try to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to SEO, assuming that once the visitor gets to the page, they'll find the content that speaks most compellingly to them. But this is sometimes a click or more away.

Instead, Web content owners should think about segmentation from the beginning to the end of each page. They should start to speak to multiple targets within the meta description, and ensure they close the loop for all possible segments by developing multi-purpose landing page content that provides clear and compelling paths to conversions.

Frank Watson Fires Back

Smart use of the meta description tag -- given its placement in the search results -- is definitely something any good search marketer should have in their marketing system. Finding the best relationship of pages and search terms and descriptions is more important now. We know the SEO basics that work well for improving rankings, but it's time for advanced optimizers to be looking at conversion.

Looking at the links clicked on a site's pages is another area marketers need to start adding to the influence and method of working to improve conversions.

Smart marketers see the move to CPA advertising as the next big way people will buy advertising.

Conversions need to be the main focus of any marketing effort. Just like choices in advertising, marketers need to move to conversion -- if they're not already using it as the central force. You can be very effective with lower-ranked pages if they're using strong meta description messages and grabbing the customers ready to be converted.

About the author

Chris has been a digital marketer since 2000, starting in-house in the insurance space and subsequently assuming growing leadership roles across large agencies and SEM firms. He recently founded Web Traffic Advisors, LLC, in upstate New York. Chris consults with and coaches business and agency teams ranging from senior executives to technical, brand, content, and legal groups; helping to improve validation, efficiency, internal acumen, and implementation. Chris has diverse experience across major e-commerce platforms, pharma, retail, and other industries.

Since 2004 he has been a highly rated speaker and moderator at conferences and partner events all over the world, covering search engine marketing, social media, analytics, and evolving tactics including the promotion of better SEO integration across marketing channels. He has served on the Global Board of Directors of SEMPO since 2006, and co-hosts the weekly podcast SEO Rockstars from Webmasterradio.fm. Chris blogs for various industry publications, but most of his writing involves analysis and recommendations for clients, while promoting integrated online marketing and branding to a qualified target audience.