We don’t doubt that you understand the importance of SEO and how it’s a critical piece to the marketing puzzle that can drive traffic, conversions, and ROI. However, in our extensive experience working with brands across a variety of industries, we’ve found that not everyone truly understands the foundation needed in order to take on their larger SEO goals. In fact, true optimization starts long before you even begin developing an SEO strategy. It actually starts with developing a real understanding of the user journey.
Why the User Journey Matters
A mirror of the customer’s decision journey, the user journey serves two purposes: to create the experience the user desires from your brand, and to create the experience that guides the user toward conversion. Customers will come to your site at various stages of their path to purchase, and crafting the right user journey is a proactive approach to ensuring you’ve developed touchpoints to engage them across every one of those stages.
SEO, of course, is a critical component for this. Consider the fact that 40% of shopping searches begin with queries into broad categories while customers are looking for inspiration. SEO is what allows your site and your brand to be present in that micro-moment (i.e., to rank well on SERPs), and from there, the user journey is what proves your brand’s value as a good choice to meet their needs through the rest of their path to purchase.
However, it’s important to remember not to put the cart before the horse. SEO may be what opens the door to the user journey for customers, but in truth, it’s the journey which is the foundation for your SEO strategy.
Starting with a Solid Foundation
To put it simply, even the best strategy — i.e., one with all the right keywords in the all the right places — will never be as successful as it could be if you don’t have the right foundation in place. Much like a skyscraper, if you attempt to build without a blueprint and on uneven ground (i.e., with no foundation), construction will be difficult and the odds of collapse are high. It won’t matter what materials you use or what ideas you have.
How do you ensure you’ve got the right foundation for building your SEO strategy?
Our recommendation to all of our SEO clients is to start with a content audit that thoroughly addresses the user journey. It allows us, and by extension, you, to check that all the necessary pieces are both in place and optimized.
While there are many areas that a content audit can include, we feel there are two important and valuable insights that an effective audit should reveal. Each offers benefits that are key pieces to the foundation of your SEO strategy.
Determine Optimization Opportunities Across Your Site
Marketers need to first understand the way that customers experience their brand through the website as a whole, and ensure that everything flows together in a logical, meaningful, and obvious way. There’s a number of questions that a content audit can answer about this.
For example, are calls-to-action and next steps clear? Do they make sense, and do they move visitors logically through the site? Are they directing visitors to the action you want to take place in a way that aligns with their journey toward conversion?
Broadly speaking, you’ll want to ensure people that do visit your site (organically or not) are able to find the content they need and that they are effectively engaging with it. This onsite experience will not only affect your rankings but also your overall conversions. When performing a content audit, this is why we look for optimization opportunities through identifying pages that have metrics like:
- High bounce rate
- Low time on page
- Unique page views vs. website exits from that page
- High page views in conjunction with low conversions
With this information, you’re able to optimize these pages and ultimately solidify your SEO foundation. This can include steps like adding more relevant and contextual links and CTAs, or updating urls, page titles, and meta descriptions to better align with your keyword strategy. Often, it encompasses our next point as well.
Why this is important:
What you need to remember is this: If your customers won’t convert because of a poor user experience, it won’t matter if you rank for the right keywords to drive lots of organic traffic to your website. Plus, if your website continues to perform poorly, that will eventually reflect negatively on your rankings as well.
Your SEO goals need to encompass more than merely ranking high in results; they need to be directed toward improving the user experience in order to increase conversions and generate meaningful ROI.
Determine if Your Content Is Aligned with Your Brand Story, Your Sales Funnel, and Your Buyer’s Purchase Decision Process
While part of the user experience mentioned in the last point plays into how the user experience drives the buyer’s journey, this benefit picks up where that point leaves off and really dives deeper into how well you understand your customers. In this respect, the questions you want to be addressed in a content audit include:
- Do you have the right pages and content to adequately share your brand story?
- Are you effectively speaking to your target audience with the right copy and language?
- Do you have content touch points that will reach and appeal to potential customers at various moments throughout their customer journey?
Simply having well-written and compelling content might not be enough to keep visitors on your site or to increase conversions. This process requires having perspective, and at this stage, many realize that they need to conduct some market research and/or content testing in order to be sure everything is integrated in a way that’s relevant to customers.
When you uncover opportunities to better align your brand story and sales funnel with your buyer’s journey some of the areas you might want to improve include:
- Creating new website pages to more appropriately address the questions and needs of your visitors.
- Updating content and/or other copy.
- Revisiting your site design architecture, aesthetic and imagery.
- Finding better ways to engage visitors with a more effective path to conversion.
- Addressing customer needs and providing actions for visitors at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
Why this is important:
While branding and awareness play an important role in marketing, when looking to leads and conversions as your primary KPIs, a properly optimized site will not be enough. SEO doesn’t truly accomplish anything if those visiting (especially organically) don’t find what they’re looking for or if the content fails to meet their expectations; they’re more likely to quickly leave your site without converting.
Once a thorough content audit has been conducted and required improvements have been made, you can begin to work on more in-depth SEO tactics. The content audit and related optimization will not only strengthen both your position and your rankings, but it will give you a much more efficient launching point to have a fully optimized strategy.
We’ll leave you with this final thought…
Remember, winning at SEO can be a long and time-consuming process. One that does not happen overnight. The benefits are worth the effort, but those that really want to find long-term success with their SEO strategy need to keep this in mind when managing your own SEO or working with a partner like Add3.