An effective SEO strategy can be informed by the answers to a few simple questions. These questions can be a great place to start when formulating your own SEO plan, and they can set you on the path to outstanding results.
Asking The Right SEO Questions
One of the most effective ways to start a successful digital marketing strategy is to ensure SEO professionals and their clients are aligned as quickly as possible. So how can you reach this alignment without rushing and missing key points, and what important SEO questions can you ask on both sides for better results?
1. What is the search intent of our users?
Search intent refers to the primary objective(s) that underpins what a user is searching for within a search engine.
So, when seeking to understand search intent, a good starting point is to ask: who searches for our business? Who needs – or who do we want to need – our business’s products or services? What are these people hoping to find? Which keywords are related to what we offer?
The purpose of searches – the search intent – explains why people search for what they search, and how they search for what they search. Therefore, understanding this from the very beginning helps put a campaign immediately on the right path.
Google has spent years building and refining their service, efficiently delivering results which best satisfy a searcher’s intent. This essentially means showing people what they are looking for in as natural a way as possible.
To take a simple example, someone searching for “chocolate” may be looking to understand what chocolate is. They may also be looking to explore the different types of chocolate that exist. Or, they could be trying to buy some chocolate online.
Typically, a user will narrow down such a generic search term to something more specific (long-tail) such as “buy chocolate online”. In this case, the search intent of the user is very clear: they want to buy chocolate online.
Google’s job is to then present results to the user which satisfy this search intent by displaying feasible options which will allow the user to, you guessed it, buy chocolate online.
Thus, in this example, Google will highlight a number of vendors who sell chocolate online. By navigating to one of these businesses’ websites, the user will then be able to purchase some chocolate, meaning that Google has satisfied their search intent. For Google, this means mission complete.
The way that Google understands which websites, web pages and, ultimately, which businesses are likely to satisfy a user’s search intent, is through the content that such businesses provide within their website/web pages.
For example, a business which sells trainers online is highly unlikely to satisfy the search intent of someone who is seeking to buy chocolate. Therefore, Google will not show a shoe reseller at the top of the SERP when someone searches for keywords related to chocolate.
Imagine searching for a sweet treat and being presented with Adidas – you’d be unlikely to use the Google search engine ever again. And that is why Google would never intentionally serve up information which is not relevant to what a user is searching for.
The reason that the Google search engine is so ubiquitous across the world is because Google is extremely good at satisfying search intent.
So what does this mean for your business’s SEO?
The fact that the Google search engine is so good at its job is something which can be leveraged to benefit your organisation.
In order to do this, you have to truly understand the search intent of users who are seeking results which are relevant to your business.
Without this understanding, you will not be able to optimise your content so as to satisfy the search intent of potential customers.
If Google decides that your content is unlikely to satisfy a user’s search intent, then Google will not show your pages within SERPs when people search for keywords relevant to your website.
To avoid this outcome, you have to place yourself firmly in the shoes of the searcher/potential customer.
You can do this by asking yourself: “If I was seeking the products and services that my business offers, what would I search for? And what would I want to see?”
Straight away, this simple exercise will help highlight if you have any missing gaps in terms of your online content.
If your website doesn’t have what you would want to see when viewed through the lens of a prospective customer, then this discrepancy is a great starting point from which to create/optimise content.
For example, your on-page copy may not contain – or be optimised for – keywords/search terms which your business should definitely be targeting.
This can be further explored and developed through keyword research (such as by looking for missing keywords which are related to your business through tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner).
Thinking like a customer will help enormously on your journey towards developing a website which engages with and answers the queries of your customers, both existing and prospective.
Aim to create content which will satisfy the search intent of users relevant to your business and you will be well on your way to remarkable results.
2. What do the results within SERPs look like for the keywords that we want to rank for? What does this mean for our SEO strategy?
Analysing the current state of SERPs for the keywords which mean the most to your business can glean actionable information that can be applied to improve your strategy.
For instance, by running a search within Google for questions which you believe should lead users to your business, you can very quickly establish if you have any gaps in your strategy.
Let’s take the search term “what is SEO?” as an example.
Here is what the SERP looks like:
A few key elements immediately jump out:
- Firstly, it is interesting that the top four results are for paid adverts as opposed to organic results. This suggests a couple of things:
- Competition is likely very high for the keyword in question as advertisers are willing to pay for the privilege of being the first thing people see. Moreover, Google is willing to show four adverts for the keyword before any organic results, which is relatively uncommon.
- A potential strategy may be, at some point, to look to a Google Ads campaign in order to become visible for the keyword in question.
- The ordering of the results categorisation bar (immediately below the search bar) begins with ‘All’, then moves to ‘Videos’, and then onto ‘Images’. This would suggest that, for this search term, video content is important for satisfying user search intent.
Where videos satisfy a user’s query, it is likely that a searcher is seeking information about a given topic (such as through tutorials, product reviews, or in the explanation of concepts). You can use this to your advantage by:
- Producing your own video content geared towards satisfying the search intent of search terms related to your business’s top keywords. This content should then be keyword-optimised for YouTube.
- Focusing your written content so that it is relevant to users who are in the information-gathering stage of their journey. This means producing content such as:
- How-to guides.
- FAQ pages.
- Comprehensive articles/blog posts which cover every key aspect of a topic (longer form content – 2000 words or more – has been shown to consistently rank better in Google over time).
- The top-ranking organic (non-advert) result is a high-level, introductory guide to the topic. This further confirms that in order to rank well for this keyword, an effective strategy would need to focus on answering key user questions – thus satisfying their information-gathering intent.
Another useful element within the Google SERP to pay attention to is the “People also ask” section.
The questions here can be a great pointer for the kinds of things that any content you produce will need to address in order to rank well. (This could be either as separate articles/blog posts, or as sections and headings within one comprehensive piece.)
Moreover, ‘People also ask’ questions can serve as a useful basis from which to conduct keyword research.
The questions here show search terms which are related to the overarching keyword (the seed keyword) – which in this example is “what is seo”. These related terms can signpost where to focus additional keyword research.
In turn, this can indicate which topics to cover, how to cover them, and which keywords to include/optimise for in your content.
By addressing these related questions within your website’s content, you are far more likely to rank for the keywords which are important to your business.
3. What does a typical customer journey look like for one of our clients?
The customer journey defines the path that your clients take when interacting with your business. Along this path are all of the touchpoints between you and your customer. As a customer progresses along the journey they become more accustomed with your products and services.
For example, a typical retail customer journey looks something like this:
- The need to purchase is identified.
- Initial research, begins to understand options (usually on a phone).
- The customer then visits a shop (physical or virtual).
- A purchase is made (either in store or online).
- Product or service is then delivered and used.
- After sale support is provided to the customer where needed.
- A repeat purchase is made.
Understanding what happens at these various touchpoints means that, as a business, you are able to establish customer experience – what it feels like to interact with your business as a customer.
Place yourself firmly in the shoes of a typical customer and ask yourself what happens at each of these stages along the customer journey.
As an example, you might start by thinking about how a customer first comes to be aware of what you offer. How is it that a potential customer knows that you could potentially solve the problem they are experiencing? Do they see your messaging on social media? Have they seen an advert on TV? Have they found your website because it is well optimised for the keywords relating to the products and services you provide?
By answering these questions, you will be able to see things from a customer’s perspective. This helps to highlight what you’re doing well and what requires some more attention.
Eventually, by repeating this process for each stage of the customer journey, you will end up with a detailed, holistic picture of what the experience is like for a customer when interacting with your business. Because you now know where you are, you can begin to focus on where it is that you want to be.
This understanding has many useful implications for your ongoing SEO strategy.
For instance, you might identify that it’s actually more difficult than it should be for your customers to complete a purchase via your website. Maybe your transaction process needs to be redesigned and optimised with UX in mind. Maybe your product page template isn’t as functional as it should be. Or Maybe your conversion rate is sub-optimal. If this is the case, then your average bounce rate is likely to be higher than it should be. This sends a signal to Google that your website is not adequately satisfying user search intent, thus hindering your SEO performance.
Whatever is the case in reality, accurately mapping your customer journey will help to illustrate what you need to focus on as a business in order to make interactions between you and your customers as seamless as possible. Smoother interactions between a business and its customers is a great thing for both parties, and focussing on these interactions goes a long way towards informing a logical, effective SEO strategy.
Thinking like a customer: The ExtraMile Way
The 3 questions we have discussed above help us to deeply empathise with a customer’s unique perspectives.
At ExtraMile, we do this on two levels. We empathise with you as our customer by getting to know your business properly when undertaking any project together. And in doing so, we then empathise with your customers by seeing your business through their eyes.
This allows us to make informed decisions about the most effective way to develop your unique SEO strategy. A cookie cutter approach simply will not work as efficiently as an SEO plan which adequately accounts for your business’s individual circumstances and aspirations. As such, we design every SEO project from the ground up and place you and your customers at the very centre.
And we are proud to say that the results speak for themselves. Here are some of the incredible outcomes we helped achieve for Lindt UK, for example.
If you want expert help in formulating and implementing your SEO strategy to drive phenomenal results, then get in touch with us today.