As long as useful answers can be found on search engines, optimizing content for search discovery will remain a key to online success.
The degree to which marketers must align creative, technical and customer centric resources for content may vary, but optimized content is vital for reaching and engaging customers that are actively looking for solutions.
Buyers are continuously seeking answers from the web, whether it’s via PC, mobile, or tablet, at every stage in the buying cycle. So it’s important that brands ask themselves: Are your digital assets and media properly optimized to capture these visitors at every phase—from discovery to purchase?
Of course, the days of optimizing a web site as a single source of interaction with customers are long gone. Buyers are becoming far more sophisticated in how they access information, often consuming media of different formats on multiple devices at the same time.
While a company may do well with web pages on Google search from a lap top computer, their competitors might be dominating with images on mobile search and using video within relevant social networks.
If your business isn’t “the best answer” where and when customers need you, then the competition will be.
Integrated digital marketing across earned, owned, paid and shared media is the answer, but can be complicated for marketers that are structured for single channel efforts. As a starting point (and a solid reminder for pros) here are three simple tips on how to use search optimization as part of a more sophisticated digital marketing program.
1. Know Your Customer
How well do you know your customers? What characterizes your best customers? Your worst customers? Have you quantified and qualified these observations?
One way to anticipate the demand for topics that can drive your content creation and performance optimization is to research keywords with tools like Ubersuggest and Google AdWords Keyword Planner (AdWords account required).
Use that research to create a keyword glossary and then map topics that are most relevant and in demand to the corresponding categories and pages on your website, blog and other web content. While Google has masked organic keyword referrers from web analytics, this mapping tactic will help you connect traffic performance to the topics and keywords that you’ve been optimizing for. Knowing what your buyer wants is the first step to delivering and then optimizing valuable content that will prove meaningful to new and returning customers alike.
Use what you already know about your best customers to create, promote and optimize content that helps them answer key questions during all phases of the buying cycle. Don’t just focus on transactions. Once you have engagement with that content, you can use social media monitoring and web analytics data to further refine messaging, creative and calls to action.
The future of optimization with digital marketing is a never ending effort to improve the ability for search engines and buyers to find understand and act on your content.
2. Align Sales with Search
Businesses should analyze KPIs (key performance indicators) that lead consumers to conversion. What pages are driving conversion? What pages serve as stepping stones to conversion? Take inventory of these pages and ensure that they are optimized for discovery, engagement and action appropriately.
For each customer segment, there may be a unique sequence of steps along the buying journey from awareness to interest to consideration and purchase. With each step there are different questions to be answered and different calls to action. Make sure you anticipate what KPIs make the most sense at each stage and that they align with the business outcome you desire.
Trying to instigate transactions on a page that is optimized for customers that are just learning about your category of solution for the first time is a disconnect. Optimizing a page with a case study, pricing or competitive comparison is a better match for inspiring educated buyers to transact.
Align appropriate sales messaging with optimized content across the buying cycle and you’ll deliver a better customer experience that will lead to more sales whether the pages are discovered from search or links from other sources like social media, industry publications or the company blog.
3. Track Performance & Facilitate Change
Once you’ve implemented an SEO strategy into your digital marketing mix, the job of optimization for search is far from finished. Track the organic search visibility of your optimized content and digital assets to see if there are correlations between keyword ranking and the performance of pages that have been optimized for specific phrases.
Moving forward, tailor your content and topic optimization strategy to reflect buyer preferences, and refine messaging on destination content like landing pages as well as feeder content like blog posts, earned media and social networks based on performance indicators. The process of optimization is continuous.
The future of optimization within a digital marketing strategy means creating a search strategy that encompasses all devices, channels and media that customers are using. Modern business buyers and consumer shoppers are discovering and interacting with content on multiple channels. What does that mean for marketers? The days of single channel are dead. The days of multichannel are maturing and the world of omnichannel is where marketers need to gain proficiency in order to truly deliver on “the best answer” experience for buyers.
According to Google Think Insights, “90% of people use multiple screens sequentially.” Today, and in the coming year, your search optimization strategy must span all channels, reach your customers on all screens and be integrated with your overall online marketing strategy. Know your customer and revisit the data that supports your hypothesis about what drives each of your most important customer segments. Optimize across the sales cycle, not just for transactions and make sure you’ve committed to optimizing for content performance in search on an ongoing basis.
Have you tackled these three basic steps? Are your SEO efforts still focused on keywords and rankings or are you optimizing for customer experiences?
This post was adapted from an edited interview I did with LivePerson for their eBook: The Future of Digital Engagement: 10 Thought Leaders Share Predictions for 2014