SEO - three letters that have instilled fear, confusion, and doubt on marketers everywhere. With a reputation ranging the gamut, from scam to gamechanger, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a topic that many still have difficulty understanding almost 20 yearsafter the phrase was first coined.
I’ll cut to the chase - SEO is real. Websites and content can be structured (or optimized) so that they’re more easily crawled and indexed by search engines, and considered more or less related to the keywords and phrases being searched for on Google, Bing, Baidu, Naver, Yandex, and the myriad of other search engines out there. In the eyes of a search engine, the more related a website or piece of content is to a search phrase, the higher it will appear in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
SEO has changed heavily over the years, and tactics that were once easy to abuse - such as spamming a keyword or phrase repeatedly throughout a site - are much less likely to result in high search rankings, and may even get your site penalized. Geolocation, browsing habits, and device used (mobile, desktop) are just some of the many attributes that are now being used to determine a site’s ranking for a search. Moz has compiled a couple of excellent resources that list many of the primary influencing attributes for local (SEO targeted to narrow geographic locations, such as for a local business) and standard SEO.
But at the end of the day, you’re looking to build out an incredible marketing plan, and you’re wondering how SEO fits into the puzzle. Have no fear, Stratus is here!
SEO should get you thinking about the language of the customer.
SEO has long been keyword-driven - use a keyword the right number of times and in the right places (body copy, metadata, URLs) and there’s a chance your site will start to make its way through the search rankings, especially if there isn’t much keyword competition. But as Bob Dylan once said, the times they are a changin’, and the keyword game is evolving. While some may be quick to shout the death of keyword SEO, keywords are simply becoming key topics as Google and other search engines are becoming better at connecting search intention to subject matter.
What does that mean? Simple. Don’t spend as much time trying to associate search volume to every single keyword you’re considering, and instead focus your efforts on using the language of your customer to develop content. Start listening to sales calls, looking through your site search, and crawling through your chat logs. What are customers looking for? Are there recurring questions? Are they using terminology that differs from your messaging?
Uncover the customer’s intent.
For example, let’s say you own a toy company that manufactures stuffed animals, and you’re positive that your newest creation - a stuffed catamount - will be all the craze. For some reason, though, online sales just aren’t picking up. You’re confused. Catamounts are well known in the Americas, and a common mascot for sports teams. You’re positive that these should be flying off the (virtual) shelf!
Your site search history reveals the issue - while you’re using the term catamount, your potential customers are looking for alternative names of the same animal: puma, panther, cougar, and mountain lion. You haven’t been using the language of your customers, and have lost business because of it.
Write content to capture the long tail.
A long tail keyword is a multi-word phrase (think three keywords or more) that is very specific to the searcher’s intent. Whereas puma is a short tail keyword in that it is highly generic, stuffed animal puma is a long tail because it easily identifies the searchers intent.
With your new knowledge of popular catamount terminology, you can start developing content that incorporates the alternative names, and addresses customer needs. For instance, your chat logs reveal that customers have frequently asked what the difference between a catamount and mountain lion is: your long tail topic. Consider writing about and titling a piece of content “What’s the difference between a catamount and mountain lion?”
As you continue to develop content that’s written for the customer, you’ll naturally include additional terminology and phrases that may be used by the customer.
Use your lessons from SEO to influence your marketing plan.
As you discover your leading sources and topics of organic traffic (traffic that is coming from a search engine, but not from a paid advertisement), start using this information to influence your other marketing material. Rather than using stuffed catamount in your social ads, consider using one of the more popular alternative names. Develop white papers that address the common questions that are bringing people to your site. Take a look at your most popular organic landing pages, and identify keywords for your paid search campaigns. Use what you’ve learned from SEO, and apply it elsewhere.
SEO is more than a traffic driver.
Bringing qualified traffic to your website is almost always the primary role of SEO, but it’s also an incredible means for identifying new ways to connect your audience with your marketing as a whole. While the complexity of your SEO initiatives and capabilities may differ, the fundamental concept of SEO as a means to identify the language of the customer should be emphasized in every marketing plan.
Examining your SEO is just one of the many tips we’ve included in our 2017 Marketing Checklist. Download your copy of the checklist today, and see how SEO and the other 19 tips can help you reach and surpass your marketing goals.