Today's marketplace emphasizes the immediacy of the mobile moment coupled with the connection and personalization that's now expected in the customer experience. That makes it a real challenge for any business to identify who your potential customers are, what they want - and where you need to reach them.
Fortunately, that same data-driven environment provides some of the answers to the questions that it's created, but getting good data and knowing how to use it is only part of the story.
That's one of the reasons why, in our work with clients, we encourage them to consider their search engine optimization priorities in a new way: focus on creating an online presence within the search spectrum that delivers the discovery that customers, rather than the company, look for.
In the past, SEO strategies - even the best of them - were entirely aligned with top-tier visibility in search results, a visibility that answered the company's goal: "I want the right audience to see my business, and that's how I'm going to build it." Shifting that same goal into alignment with what the customer is looking for, and not merely throwing keywords at the wall, is critical to the business growth you want to see, and let's face it: That's always been true. Customers drive the search process, so a good reassessment of how you're trying to reach them needs to include how you're using SEO but it doesn't stop their.
We've looked at a few ideas for combining market research insights with content that's designed for marketing value - and think the "new SEO" will better target the segments you want.
Starting With: What's A Search For?
According to Outbrain, search is the top driver to content sites. That makes intuitive sense - after all, people don't search for what they're not looking for - but only if your business is capitalizing on content. The business that crafts quality blogs, content marketing pieces and a smart thought leadership presence, one that meets the need of potential customers seeking information, is making connections and building brand for the reason people do searches in the first place: they're delivering information.
When the creation of that content is informed by good market research, designed to help shape the vision of who your target customers really are, then it's actually the message itself that helps improve your visibility in the online marketplace. Frantically obsessing over the perfect long-tail phrase to boost results - or conversely, throwing SEO keywords at the wall to see what sticks - aren't really necessary.
In fact, doing that may be counterproductive. Shifting your idea of SEO performance instead, into the content marketing space that's designed to reflect real value and relationship for a potential customer, aligns with the expectations that customers, and millennials in particular, have in the new mobile era and economy.
Building your business on content that connects means investing more in that content to deliver more than the old "defeat the Google algorithm with new SEO tricks" models ever really did. So generate solid content that customers trust, and use social media to drive traffic to that smart content.
More Ways That Mobile Has Changed The SEO Game
It's easy to lose sight of the fact that "what's a search for" has a really simple answer, one that's not subject to complex formulas or word counts. It's even more imperative for business to understand how simple that answer is to potential customers in the mobile-first environment. Half of all searches on mobile are local searches, and they're focused on transaction.
Again, it's simplicity that rules - no one with a plumbing emergency wants a contractor in another state, few finance executives are looking to take a client to dinner on another coast, and few people are looking for a B2B cleaning service provider from another country. It's true that there are limits to the value of a hyperlocal focus, because that finance executive might just as easily be looking for a global VC firm or a cloud-based SaaS provide.
But the sophistication in data-driven geolocation techniques now used in marketing means that finding your target customer is more about precision than about spraying SEO keywords and hoping one sticks. The SEO strategy still has value, in the new environment, because your precision is as good as the data you use. Businesses that bank on data and know how to use it to reveal insights about their markets are already ahead of the game - and those still relying on old formulas that yield few results simply aren't.
Ask The Market What It's Searching For, Not The Other Way Around
One overlooked aspect of identifying your market opportunities is that you may not know what they are! Innovation, product development, your communication strategies and more are evolving in the same way that search strategies always are because of who your customers are and what they want. Don't hesitate to connect with the marketplace by asking questions that build trust and loyalty, as well as providing answers!
Look for creative ways to engage existing customers, or potential clients in a wide range of market segments, in a conversation about your brand, your reputation, what they think you do - it may not be the same answer as what you think you do! - and what creates affinity in their worlds.
The possibilities available through social media channels, in webinars, online chats and forums, through community stewardship projects and partnerships, or at public events are all moments that your brand visibility supports a conversation about what that means - and how to identify your target markets. This experiential and sometimes anecdotal information delivers real value in understanding how to build your business, especially when it's integrated into what you know on the basis of solid data.
It's the real deal when it comes to knowing what your market looks like, and what real people are searching for - and that means that, ultimately, you'll know what language choices make sense in the real world too!
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* Adapted lead image: Some rights reserved by sk8geek