Putting the consumer research journey at the heart of SEO strategy

At Digital Breakfast, Alec spoke a little about how to maximise the efficiency of SEO activities by putting the customer at the heart of the strategy.

Key points discussed:

  • SEO largely consists of having an optimal technical set up, finding the keywords with the highest volume/demand, finding the best content possible for these keywords, and getting people to link to it.
  • While the tactics to achieve the above have changed significantly recently, they have still (mostly) maintained the tendancy of SEOs to prioritise keywords by search volume, and link targets by PR. Meaning that in many industries, every business is targeting the same set of keywords and aiming to get coverage on the same set of sites. This has led to a situation of parity between competitors – the business with the most SEO resource wins.
  • At Allotment Digital, we make SEO strategies more efficient by putting the customer at the heart of strategy. By targeting all areas of work at your customers rather than general topics within the industry, we can get much higher returns from investments.
  • We need to group customers into personas or tribes using the problems that they are likely to encounter – we can roughly do this by segmenting with demographics, life stage, and worldview.

Case study

  • The case study used is about a woman (Sheila) who is trying to solve a problem (needing a new dress to wear to a wedding at a fancy venue).
  • Sheila’s tribe, or customer group, is female, in their late 20’s/early 30’s, no kids, high disposable income, and fairly fashion-savvy. A problem that this group experiences fairly often in this life stage is that they go to a lot of weddings, so need to find clothing to wear.
  • Sheila’s research journey starts by searching very generic terms (“dresses to wear to a fancy wedding”) where she finds and visits inspirational content by publishers and platforms she already knows & trusts (Elle, InStyle, Pinterest), even though one of them is a sponsored and influenced by an external party.
  • Based on this, she decides that she wants a red long dress. Her search queries get more specific, and she continues looking through retail websites.

How can SEOs use this information to better target Sheila?

  • Keywords & content – by knowing that Sheila’s group regularly faces this problem and the type of content that helps to solve this problem for them, we can begin putting together content plans to help move them through the purchase journey while gaining brand awareness. The flipside of this is that the content works to solve specific problems for specific people – there is no such thing as “universal” early-purchase style content; a good example of this is a high street consumer electronics retailer – if selling TVs to a mass market, a buying guide outlining the difference between LCD and plasma screens makes sense, and probably helps bring non-technical consumers to purchase. If that same retailer was selling graphics cards to very technical gamers, however, they are probably not interested in a generic buying guide – these people want benchmarks of bleeding-edge technology.
  • Technical – as Sheila’s searches got more and more specific (“long red lacey dresses”), less retail sites appeared. We recently conducted a study which showed that 80% of UK ecommerce sites are not correctly set up to rank for these types of terms. Technical SEO is critical here.
  • Link building – while the industry has got better at this in recent years (moving from spam to PR), it perhaps hasn’t gone far enough. Sheila’s group would never be interested in the opinions of an 18-year old fashion blogger, so (if you were targeting her) why would you bother attempting to get coverage there? It’s generally agreed that relevant links are “good enough” now, but as Google tries harder to emulate the real world, links from websites that your customers/core audience actually visit will hold more importance than they do currently.
  • No retailers in the UK ranked for the exact product that Sheila was looking for (“Red Coast Lori Lee Lase Maxi Dress”) – technical SEO would have helped here. Again, we’re not saying that colour should be indexable by default across the board, but in some product forms, it is a critically important attribute.
  • For new customers, reviews of a retailer are very important. We all know that unhappy customers are much more likely to leave reviews than happy ones; poor reviews do not mean that a company is bad, just that they are bad at getting good reviews.
  • A “Reviews” page would have ranked highly easily if this retailer had one. This page could have contained social proof for the brand – Twitter and Pinterest feeds of happy customers, Facebook reviews, etc. A formal reputation management program aims to get more of your happy customers leaving reviews – Alec shared an anecdote of a bathroom supplies retailer who grew their TrustPilot rating from 1.5 to 9.9 in two months (from authentic reviews) by implementing a simple system to email customers who hadn’t complained/tried to return the product.
  • Finding customer journeys involves a lot of research.

Drop us a line if you’d like to know more about how our customer-centric approach to SEO can help your business

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