10 Must-Knows About SEO & Online Marketing - Beyond Links and Keywords SEO is all about keyword selection, links and content, right? Wrong. To the average person looking in, one would assume that SEO only consisted of these three elements, because it’s the only thing that 99.99% of search engine optimization blogs and experts talk about. Yes, they are very important (and huge parts of any SEO campaign) but if you focus on them alone you will never come out on top. Yes, that pun was intended. Think about this for a minute.. What triggers a search on Google? Someone with a thought or a need turns to Google for answers. They are looking for a specific answer and/or solution so wouldn’t it be important to understand the user you are trying to attract? That’s a huge part of SEO that just isn’t mentioned nearly enough. If you relied on the household SEO blogs for information you would simply build links and assume the sales will come pouring in. I’ve said it a million times before: your rankings don’t mean squat unless your website delivers a great user experience and provides exactly what that user intended to find when he or she clicked through your SERP to land on your website. The days of #1 rankings only are long gone. You need all of the pieces of the puzzle to align perfectly and work together if you want to convert organic traffic. Know why the best SEOs aren’t talking about this? Because they are killing it while the rest preach about content being king and links are still important. We all know this. It’s no secret. I’ll tell you this: understanding customer behavior and thinking is just as important as the number of links you build and how much content you publish on your blog. You have to understand your customer in order to build out an effective organic SEO strategy these days. This isn’t exclusive to SEO. The same applies to social media marketing, email marketing, pay per click advertising, display advertising, and native advertising. You HAVE to understand the consumer you are trying to attract in order to be effective. I put together a list of 10 things you have to know that go far beyond links and keywords. Let’s dive right in… 1. Must understand the intent of your customer. The search engines have drastically evolved over the years and their algorithms now dish up exactly what the user intends to find when he or she enters a search query. Years ago, it was all about ranking for very broad keywords. Everyone was fighting to rank for exact match terms with the highest search volume. Now Google and the other search engines are understanding the intent of the user, which is how they are able to display such precise results in the SERPs. You need to understand the intent of your customer in order to target the correct keywords and search terms. Are you a discount retailer and your main customers are searching for deals? If so, using add-on’s like “sale,” “discount,” etc. in your long tail keywords will help to attract your ideal customer. This will also help you identify the right topics to produce content around. Remember, you want your content to rank organically, so your topics need to be on par with what your ideal customer is interested in. The only way you will get this right is by understanding the intent of your ideal customer. 2. Must understand what search terms your customer is really using on Google. So many people think that they can use a keyword research tool that spits back search volume results and base their keyword strategy around that. Let’s just assume you own a dental practice in Dallas, Texas. Sure, the keyword “dentist” has a lot of monthly searches but targeting that exact match keyword is going to prove very expensive and completely useless in terms of attracting new business. Instead, you need to think like your customer. If you lived in Dallas, TX and needed to get ahold of a dentist what would you type into Google? You would type in something like… dentist in Dallas Texas dental office in Dallas TX reviews of dentists in Dallas Texas teeth cleaning in Dallas TX root canal dentist in Dallas The terms would be location specific and often times specific according to the service the customer is looking for. Think like your customer and not like some piece of software that’s only pulling number and not using logical thinking. 3. Must know the true power of social sharing. It’s important that you understand WHY social sharing is so important. Everyone says “make sure your content is easy to share” but why? It’s simple: social sharing can work to promote your business, attract website visitors, and make you money around the clock, without any additional capital spend on your part. Want people to share your blog posts? It’s simple: publish great content that’s better than anything else out there in your niche. If everyone else is throwing up 500 word generic blogs that are only posted for SEO, then step up your game and publish 2,000 word in-depth posts that give the reader what they want, without worrying about SEO. If you do this, then the SEO benefit will be far greater than a “SEO article” because more people will engage with it, for a longer period of time, share it on social media, and help your website attract more traffic. 4. Must know what problems your customer is trying to solve. What problem does your product or service solve? You need to be able to answer this. For example, a marketing agency solves slow sales or low conversion rates, while a teeth whitening kit solves stained and yellow teeth. You have to design your SEO strategy around helping your customers solve their problem by purchasing from your company. You need to create content that addresses the problems they are trying to solve. To keep with the same topics, a blog that is targeting consumers that are the right fit for a teeth whitening product will want to create blog posts that discuss how to remove coffee and cigarette stains or how whiter teeth can help improve your confidence. Remember, nobody is going to buy your product or service unless they feel that you are going to solve their problem, whatever that might be. The most successful companies know what problems they solve and build their online marketing campaign around that, in an effort to show their target customers why they are their best option. 5. Must be able to explain your product/service value immediately. Why is your product or service the best value? What makes you the better choice that the other 9 websites on the Google SERPs? Sometimes even the smallest value can be exploited to draw attention away from other options. Do you have a superior warranty? Do you offer a guarantee that others don’t? Do you offer a special perk like free shipping? Anything that you do better than other options can be presented as value. To give you an example of how this can work with very little effort I will talk for a minute about an e-commerce company I was working with last year. They sold a very popular electronics product and offered free shipping, where the other retailers didn’t give its customers this same perk. We simply included this in the page description and the click-through rate went through the roof. A simple, “We ship throughout the U.S. for Free” almost doubled their website traffic overnight. 6. Must know your customer inside and out. You have to know how your customer will react to marketing tactics before you invest money to split test different variations. For example, if you are selling a high end product to wealthy consumer, you don’t want to use gimmicks like a count down timer that says there is a limited amount of time before the price goes up. They will call out your bullshit and find someone else to purchase from. But, if you are selling low priced consumer products that are impulse buys, then an exit intent popup with a 10% off coupon code would be a great way to help sell more products, because it’s an impulse buy and you have that one time to convert the visitor. If they get annoyed because of the popup who cares, because it’s unlikely they will return, so you want to do everything possible to get the sale immediately. 7. Must understand that you have to lead your customers to the desired end point (conversion). The worst thing you can do is expect or assume that your customer is going to do exactly what you intend for them to do once they land on your website. Want them to fill out a form to turn into a warm lead? Then you need to place that offer right in front of their nose. Want to show consumers that are searching for specific terms to purchase from you? Then you need to direct them to the product page immediately and not expect them to search for the particular product on your website. When running paid ads, never just send your visitors to your home page and expect them to navigate throughout your website to find the desired product or service. Always send them to a page with a dedicated offer. One choice/option. If you give them too many you will overwhelm them and they will leave. Treat every potential customer like a 5-year old. You must hold their hand throughout the entire process, from initial visit to the final conversion step. 8. Must understand the importance of user experience. Years ago, nobody even took user experience into consideration. It wasn’t even mentioned in the same sentence as SEO. The goal was to rank #1 on Google and it didn’t matter what the website looked like. You see, back then everyone was visiting websites on big clunky desktop computers. There were no smaller screens to worry about. No mobile devices and no tablets. Now, the majority of traffic is on a mini screen. Mobile internet browsing is so convenient, as everyone is always on the go, which makes user experience ultra important. It’s important that you spend a lot of time testing the UX of your website. Make sure that your customers can buy or complete your conversion on their phone without any hassle. Big buttons, simple navigation, and as few steps as possible needs to be the goal. If not, they will find a website that is easier to engage with and doesn’t make them want to pull their hair out. 9. Must develop ways to keep your customer on your website as long as possible. The longer someone stays on your website, the greater the odds are that they complete a conversion. A good website is packed full of information, so you want to keep the customer reading as much information about whatever it is that they are interested in. Product reviews, free information, helpful resources, etc. Bounce rate also plays an important role in SEO. Think about it for a minute. If someone lands on your website and immediately leaves or doesn’t view any other pages on your site what does that tell the search engines? They assume the website isn’t relevant or helpful. Little things, like showing related posts at the end of your content, or having hard to miss calls to action that bring visitors to additional pages are easy ways to keep them engaged longer. 10. Must know that your customers respond better to visual content. If you want to delight your visitors, you need to give them content in a format that they love. If not, do you really expect them to share it or spend time engaging with it? Blog posts are great, but don’t limit your visitors to just text posts. Mix in visual content. Videos and infographics are both excellent pieces of visual content that can attract a lot of shares and links. Every website has a blog these days. Make sure you stand out and by providing content in a visual format you will appeal to a much larger audience. Conclusion When you are able to put yourself into the shoes of your customer, it allows you to create an SEO strategy that will convert traffic. SEO isn’t just about rankings or traffic. All the visitors in the world doesn’t mean a thing if they aren’t converting. As SEO evolves, the goal is to develop a campaign that satisfies your customers and not necessarily the search engines. That is a byproduct of delivering a great experience to your customer. Think about this: if you do it right, your visitors are going to share your content on social media and even possibly link to it, providing the SEO kicker that the search engines love. You can build links until you are blue in the face, but without fully understanding your customer you aren’t going to make much progress, and especially progress that equals sales and money into your business. If you have any questions or would like to add your input, please leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer as quickly as possible. Until next time.. Ciao for now!