At its core, everything about Search Engine Optimization is about your customer. If your business is looking to increase traffic and boost sales, then you depend on the right customers finding your products. Since your customers go through various stages to arrive at a purchasing decision, your SEO strategy should be based on customer research and optimized for unique customer journey of your audience.
You can have the flashiest site, the best copywriting, and a solid on-page SEO strategy, but the truth is that if you are not producing content that your customers are searching for, then your efforts will be in vain.
It’s great to drive traffic to your site, but the truth is that traffic doesn’t pay the bills. People do. And more specifically, a defined demographic of the population make up your paying customers.
Customer research is the first step to developing an SEO strategy by serving the needs of your clients and aligning your company’s products and services with qualified leads. Customer research is often the longest and most resource dependent stage of digital marketing because it takes a considerable amount of upfront time and ongoing testing.
However, the time and energy you spend on customer research will give you valuable insight that will save your business lots of time and money in the long run.
Google is always working to make their search results more relevant for their users. This is because they know online searchers have many options to find information. Since Google depends on third-party data to drive their online business, this means your company needs to produce high-quality content that is relevant to your customers.
Since your competition wants drive qualified traffic to your site, you should work to align your content with the needs of your clients. The only way to create valuable content that is relevant for your audience based on their needs.
The first thing you should do before producing any content is to build a thorough customer persona. This blueprint will help you understand key dimensions of your audience, including:
This information is vital if your business wants to create an SEO strategy to drive qualified leads and boost your bottom line. The truth is that SEO is no longer about robots because Google employs thousands of psychologists and engineers who are updating their search engine around user intent.
Your SEO strategy needs to complement the goals of your business while also attending to the needs of your customers. Here is an overview of the steps and processes you should follow if you want to create an SEO strategy that will get your business noticed by search engines and attract qualified leads to your website.
It is impossible to create high-quality content that will get found on search engines and boost conversions without first conducting basic customer research. The only way to stand out in a crowded market is to produce compelling content based on the needs of your clients.
Since you need to understand your customers to make content that drives sales, then the need for robust customer research is more important than ever before. Customer research has a variety of purposes, and you can collect different data based on what you want to understand.
Among the various benefits of customer research for your SEO strategy, you can uncover valuable information, including:
This information is not optional to produce a profitable online strategy. If you want to attract more qualified leads, then your business must respect your customers by taking the time to understand them.
Your customers know if you understand their needs, and they will thank you with their open wallets. Here are some tips to help you understand various tools, tips and approaches your business can use to conduct customer research and what you will learn through your efforts.
To help illustrate these steps, I will use carry-on luggage for an upcoming business trip. This will help us evaluate the thought process that a luggage company should use if they want to gain my interest and trust for an online purchase.
These examples will be specific to a carry-on luggage company, but you can tailor the examples for your business. The tools and process I use here are not the only way to do customer research, but they serve as an outline for how I approach customer research for the SEO strategy of my clients.
First, I started looking for tips on the best way to pack carry-on luggage. This search query signifies pretty early stage research, but it tells your business something about me if you are in the luggage industry:
While this information isn’t going to make you a sale right away, a luggage business could leverage this information by producing content about packing tips for carrying on luggage. With a little research in SEMrush, you can see some keywords that your business could use to capture attentions from qualified readers.
From here, the luggage company could build content for the early stage researchers to build brand awareness and increase authority.
Keywords are the way users interact with Google, and anytime someone enters a search query into Google they are asking a question. Your business, no matter the industry, needs to use keyword research to understand how you get found in search engines, attract qualified leads, and convert readers into paying customers.
Now that the luggage company sees that carry on luggage could be a great topic for early stage researchers, we should continue investigating a particular niche.
To do this, a carry-on luggage company should research different niche segments to focus on.
Considering the various types of people who use air travel for their transportation needs, the company could concentrate on several groups, including:
These are only a few of the elements a luggage company should consider before producing content for a given segment. Here is a quick look at confirmation that writing content around carrying on luggage tips could be a good angle.
While writing about “business luggage” is too broad of a topic to secure quality traffic, these results from SEMrush indicate that the market is relatively large (based on search results). This means that the available customer base is there to gain traction and get the business found in organic SEO rankings.
If I were working with the luggage company, I would advise them to continue drilling down into “business carrying on luggage” vertical until they found very specific segments to focus on.
Once 3-5 specific segments were identified the company could create a list of long-tail keywords. These keywords would have less traffic than broad keywords, but the customer research we found through this simple process shows high interest and user intent to drive qualified leads to the site to purchase carry on luggage.
While customer research is vital to creating a strong SEO strategy, you also have to know your competition. This information will help your business understand if the market is saturated, and the strengths of your competition.
If your competition is dominating your market on a particular topic with years of content and a high budget, then you might consider cornering another angle of the market. This will save you time and money, and give you the angle you need to get early wins and generate momentum for your online strategy.
Since I am in the market for carrying on luggage, I searched Google for the simple search query of “carry on luggage businessmen.” As expected, the top results are shopping ads, followed by PPC ads and then organic SERPs.
The shopping ads at the top don’t tell us much helpful information, since they are stores run by Walmart, Amazon, etc. However, the PPC ads can be useful since they are likely going to be run by independent stores looking for direct sales. You can use these ads as a starting point to build a list of your top competition and develop a strategy for content production and optimization.
The Organic results are mainly informational content provided by third party sites like Men’s Health, Forbes, and The Travel Channel. This shows that information content around this topic will be difficult to rank for, so the luggage company will need to find a unique angle not covered in existing content.
This leads us to the next step of customer research for SEO strategy. We will need to discover a content gap in this topic if we want to enter the market and attract qualified leads.
As you continue to research your customers and learn about how your competition is positioned in the market, you will begin to find content gaps that you can leverage for your SEO content strategy.
A content gap is a difference between what your customers are searching for and what they are finding in current online content. There are several tools to help you find inspiration and discover content gaps, but the easiest approach is to run a topic through a tool like Ahrefs to find a short list of content that exists around that theme.
The luggage store we have been using as an example could use a tool like Ahrefs to find the top performing content for searches on “carry on luggage packing tips business travel.” This research is crucial for several reasons, including:
We can see from this list that there are several articles for carrying on packing tips for men. However, there are not many for females, or for business travels based on professional descriptions or length of stay.
Instead of focusing your content creation efforts on building content for male business trips, the luggage company could benefit more by producing content that answers questions for females business leaders.
You can use similar tools to get a snapshot of existing content and help you discover content gaps that your business can use to attract qualified readers.
At this point, your business should have a solid base of keywords for a given topic. You should have also built out 3-5 market segments that you want to focus on, and defined the terms and type of information your readers might be looking for.
As an extra step to ensure your content is aligned with the needs of your customers, should take some time to add related keywords to your core set of terms. These are called Latent Semantic Keywords and they are used by Google to associate your business with specific terms.
One tool you can use to find great LSI keywords that match what your customers are searching for is LSIGraph.com. This free tool helps you discover supporting ideas and search terms that are relevant to your main topic.
For our luggage store example, I searched for “carry on luggage men” to see if there are secondary concepts that could capture additional market share.
I highlighted some of the more interesting results because they represent unique concepts that were not covered in our previous research. Some of the concepts that stand out are:
Widening the focus of your SEO strategy with LSI keywords can help you identify secondary concepts and ideas that you might have overlooked before. This information can uncover untapped ideas and valuable themes.
Finally, it is time to produce valuable content for your customers based on a solid foundation of customer research. I like to use content curation tools to help me overcome the creative barrier and help me find reference material for an SEO strategy.
Even with great customer research, your SEO strategy depends on creating compelling content that engages the needs of your customers. Once your business goes through the process to understand your audience with customer research you can use a tool like Article Insights to help you produce valuable content.
Once you insert your keyword phrase, Article Insights will retrieve similar content on the web. You can use these results to help guide your marketing team write high-quality content and analyze existing content for reference.
Your business is facing a level of online competition that has never been seen before. This means that your content could get overlooked by search engines and provide no value for your customers.
As a result, your online presence and sales will decline. The only way to create relevant content for your target audience is to perform in-depth customer research. Through this process, you will find interesting topics and inspiration to help your business grow and convert more customers.
Use the above tips, tools, and processes for your business today if you want to build a proven SEO strategy based on customer research!
Chris Giarratana is a professional Orlando copywriter and digital marketing consultant. With 13 years of experience helping small business owners make more money. He focuses on customer needs balanced with freelance copywriting, PPC, and market analysis.