Focus on what Google focuses on: the customer, the user, the person. What are their needs, interactions and intent? This is the only constant in the SEO environment, so ignore at your peril.
This article was provided for republishing courtesy of Huffington Post and James Moffat, Founder and Chairman at Organic.
I’ve got news for you. You’re missing the fundamental point of SEO and google is laughing at you.
Why? Because while you tinker with your backlink profile and worry about the semantic variety of thematic keywords, Google is doing the one thing you aren’t: thinking about the customer.
The future of SEO lies in a customer-centric approach to search. Don’t get me wrong – we still need to build technically fast, competent platforms for the wider search environment. Technology and content KPIs and traditional streams of work are still critical in the doing. However, optimising for traditional Search KPI’s alone is akin to chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Reality is far removed from this world of fiction. I liken SEO to medical diagnosis and treatment – you may know the anatomy of a body on paper and the different effects of medicines, but every patient is different and constantly messing around with dosages and treatments ultimately debilitates the patient.
The same rings true for SEO. You know what works in principle, but there are many variables, so what you get out does not always equal what you put in.
You need to have a constant which can filter your strategy and planning decisions; in this case, the customer. When we take a customer-centric approach to SEO, we must adopt new KPI’s that put the focus on the customer and what they want.
Let’s explore the three ways you can analyse SEO content to increase sales.
Step 1: Focus on understanding customer interactions with your website and content
This is a universal KPI that helps you understand three things: a) what the customer is interested in, b) if users engage with and value you your content, and c) ultimately is it worth creating content on specific subjects and ranking for it.
Once you know what content users interact with, you can work out if you have enough of it and whether the quality is good enough. You can utilise this to see ‘gaps’ in your ranking and search profile. This means analysing areas where you have too much content and others where there’s not enough.
To do this requires two things. First, you must be able to tag and measure interactions with specific elements of your content. Then, you need to semantically analyse and understand the meaning behind what you publish.
Ultimately, assume Google will rank content that users want to interact with. Interactions are the source of all the signals that Search engines take into account. This is a good place to start the process.
Step 2 – Understand the intent of the user and develop your keyword profile on that basis.
Just because a user interacts with something doesn’t mean they are going to buy or complete the action you want.
Let me tell you a story. I once had a client who had a hotel in Devon that ranked very high for Paella. The website generated lots of traffic, but it was about as much use as a chocolate teapot! Content and functionality often receives high levels of interaction, but that doesn’t necessarily attract or drive users towards the end goal or objective you want them to achieve.
In order to understand user intent, you must relate content interactions to tagged goals and actions later in your funnel.
For example, let’s say we’re looking at a holiday booking website to Greece. We’ve analysed the interactions and found that users are interacting with content about flight transfers and content about places to eat. Those looking at flight transfer information are consistently booking flights, however (and here enters the problem!), those reading about places to eat aren’t booking flights – or reserving tables. Therefore, we can deduce that users looking at flight transfers have intent to buy. This helps you understand what content is working, what isn’t and what is worth ranking in search engines.
Step 3 – Understand this intent in the context of the wider user journey so that you can justify keywords across the whole user journey.
The third and final step to increasing sales from SEO content focuses on action. At this stage, you can begin to apply the above learnings to the user journey.
When you understand where the consumer is in the buying cycle, you can begin to build the business case and ROI for content and keyword rankings that drives purchases that aren’t necessarily related directly to the buy now visit.
This is achieved when you map visits and time to purchase against what content the user interacted with on each visit.
Consider this: a user makes an initial search and interacts with content about places to stay in Greece. A week later, on the final booking visit, the user arrives on the site via a brand search term. Only by analysing your content and mapping it across the entire customer journey could you understand that there was intent to buy from the original content.
Let me simplify this for you. You need to understand that a keyword may have intent associated with it, but that intent may be to research and evaluate – not necessarily to buy. This still have value. When you analyse SEO content in this way, you can justify investment in the most effective content at all stages on the journey. This not only helps you organise your site’s structure and navigation, but can lead to a noticeable (and trackable) increase in sales.
Focus on the Customer
Each optimisation activity you undertake does not happen in a bubble. There are too many variables. You might not get the outcome you expect from your SEO, because websites, algorithms and search engines are complex parts of a wider and even more complex environment.
Instead, focus on the only constant – what Google focuses on: the customer, the user, the person. What are their needs, interactions and intent? This is the only constant in the SEO environment, so ignore at your peril.
Use this as a universal filter for your work and SEO planning. Maybe then you can stop chasing that elusive and imaginary pot of gold at the end of the SEO rainbow.