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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

C-Suite Agenda

Reimagining The Customer Journey In SEO Terms

The customer journey is a marketing phrase that most marketers, SEOs, and business owners have heard before. The customer journey simply refers to how an online consumer becomes aware of a brand, and how they interact with the brand throughout the sales funnel.

However, implementing SEO techniques that maximize customer journey ROI seems to fall short for most brands. The touchpoints needed for an online consumer to go from awareness to purchase are sometimes not optimized.

The failed attempts to optimize customer journeys are fairly easy to pinpoint. Why? The phrase “customer journey” is a bit misleading, because the optimization begins way before the customer becomes an actual customer.

The true customer journey begins prior to brand awareness. And it actually never ends, since remarketing and tracking current customers is an ongoing process. This is the truest form of the customer journey, impacting business decisions, and customer retention.

As a digital marketing strategist and SEO, I have seen plenty of brands miss the mark when it comes to the customer journeys. How does this happen? Most brands simply forget to tether the customer journey with powerful optimization.

This makes reimagining the customer journey in SEO terms essential. Let’s take an in-depth look at how SEO plays a role in the customer journey.

SEO Impacts The Customer Journey More Than One Would Think

Understanding how SEO fits into the customer journey is critical to how a potential or current customer sees a brand. In fact, most touchpoints happen via organic search, regardless of where an online consumer is in the buying funnel.

For example, let’s take a look at the common conversion funnel . . .

From awareness to actually buying a product, there is organic search throughout each step potentially.

Here’s how the organic customer journey often plays out:

  1. You Google search, “How to teach kids about money management.”
  2. A money management app for kids answers this question in a blog post.
  3. You click and read the blog post and all of a sudden become aware of this brand/app.
  4. From here, you dig a bit deeper and begin Google searching, “Money apps for kids.”
  5. This leads to the comparison stage of the buying funnel.
  6. You then continue down the funnel until you download an app for your kids to help them learn about money management.

The above also includes sharing and talking about the different choices with family, friends, and even colleagues. You can see how SEO can be very beneficial for the above example.

But let’s go even deeper and analyze the customer journey in SEO terms before, during, and after a conversion is made.

The Role SEO Plays Pre-Conversion

Employing key optimization techniques before conversion is very important to overall customer journey success. Why? Because organic search is usually how online consumers find new brands. And how can brands increase online visibility? SEO.

This happens on either Google, or YouTube, the second largest search engine in the world. These searches fall into two categories; Discovery and exploratory searches.

  • Discovery Searches: Discovery searches are exactly how they sound. An online consumer will search for a service, product, or attempt to have a question answered, and your brand comes up in search results. Having an SEO strategy within your customer journey makes discovery searches valuable for your brand. You can also utilize the power of social media hashtags to accomplish this as well.
  • Exploratory Searches: Exploratory searches happen when an online consumer hears something about your brand. For example, someone may search for, “Nike Labor Day sales.” This could also be a negative, “Nike store calls police on kids.” Utilizing SEO, you can amplify the positive, as well as push the negatives further down the search results.

The Role of SEO Plays During Conversion

During conversion is a very important stage of the customer journey. And SEO plays a pretty vital role in making the conversion happen. Typically you have consideration and comparison during conversion.

Consideration

When an online consumer is considering your brand, having optimized content on your website that clearly points out solutions to problems they may have. It builds confidence to buy as well since all those consumer blockers are done away with via optimized content.

For example, if you sold high-quality energy bars that increased energy and focus without sugar, you would want to address all questions that consumers may ask via search engines or via your website. Questions like:

  • Are energy bars healthy?
  • How do energy bars increase focus?
  • How do energy bars boost energy?
  • Is sugar in energy bars healthy?

For example, the Google search, “How do energy bars increase focus?” led to this energy bar company . . .

By creating SEO content around these questions, you are knocking down all obstacles during conversion in the consideration stage. When applied to the customer journey, this SEO technique benefits organic search and direct search within your website.

Comparison

Let’s face it, there are a ton of choices consumers can make when it comes to products and/or services. There is rarely one product and/or service that stands alone without competition. This makes SEO valuable for your customer journey when comparisons are made online.

For example, an online consumer may be aware of your brand, but wants to ensure you are the best brand. This may result in a Google search like, “Best energy bars without sugar.”

If you applied SEO techniques to your overall customer journey, a consumer will find comparison articles that feature your brand’s energy bars. Here’s a great example . . .

This can be an article published on your website, or articles you had collaborated on when building your online visibility and link portfolio.

Developing content that does direct comparisons to your competitors is good SEO too. For instance, “Energy Bar X vs. Energy Bar Y.” With confidence to buy, consumers will convert. But the impact of SEO on the customer journey doesn’t end there.

The Role SEO Plays Post-Conversion

Did you know that SEO is essential even after a sale is made? That’s right, keeping those optimization efforts up post-conversion boosts retention rates via increased customer loyalty.

This is tough for many brands to wrap their heads around. Why? Most would think the customer journey is pretty much done in the traditional sense. However, it is far from over. If you want to grow your brand exponentially, you need to rely heavily on your current customers.

This is where those FAQ pages come in. When customers have a question about a product and/or service, they are more likely to Google search a solution before calling customer support.

Here’s a great optimized FAQ example from prettylittlething.com . . .

With a powerful SEO strategy for your FAQ web page, or a series of web pages that answer common customer questions, can strengthen the customer journey big time. And the more satisfied customers, the more Google My Business reviews you will get, which happens to be a major SEO technique for brands.

All Good, But How Can I Use SEO More In The Customer Journey?

As outlined above, reimagining the customer journey in SEO terms can add value to business growth in a variety of ways. But many of you may be wondering how you can implement SEO into your customer journey.

Make SEO Part Of Every Marketing Channel And Campaign

The marketing efforts of your brand need to coincide with SEO on nearly every level. For instance, ensuring you are employing optimization techniques that will strengthen a specific marketing campaign.

How does this look? Let’s say you want to promote a new product, mainly via social media. Instead of directing social users to your home page, connect with your SEO and content team to create an optimized product landing page that can be found via Google and YouTube search.

Doing this will create a stronger customer journey where online consumers can enter the top of the sales funnel in a number of ways. There are more ways to tether SEO to all marketing channels and campaigns too.

Integrate SEO Into Other Business Departments

The customer journey is not always a marketing initiative. In many cases, the customer journey applies to several other departments, making SEO important for those departments as well.

By integrating SEO into other business departments, you have the ability to understand how users navigate your website, or other brand material online. UX and UI teams, developers, engineers, and even HR can benefit from SEO when it comes to the customer journey.

SEO Gives You Insightful Data Via Analytics

How many people in your company across all departments know how to utilize Google Analytics to make informed business decisions. Most likely, just your SEO, or team of SEOs, know how to pull insightful data via analytics.

Tracking users by utilizing Google Analytics, Ahrefs, SEMrush, Moz, and other user data tracking platforms is a must in today’s highly competitive digital ecosystem. SEO is critical to this process. Insight from data includes:

  • Key user demographics (location, age, device, etc.)
  • Time spent on specific web pages
  • Points of entry to the website (home, about, blog, etc.)
  • The overall behavior of a user once landing on your site
  • Exit percentage for specific web pages
  • Time it takes a page to load (major Google ranking factor)

Armed with the above data, you and your team can develop better customer journey strategies to increase conversions, boost customer retention, and more.

Is SEO Part Of Your Customer Journey?

The customer journey is very important for your business to grow exponentially. But only when done right. By reimagining the customer journey in SEO terms, you can build out your strategy for maximum effectiveness.

Throughout each stage, key optimization techniques can be applied. And this is a cross-channel effort. If SEO is not part of your customer journey, you may be losing customers to competitors. Reimagine your customer journey today.


Written by Matt Bertram. Have you read?
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Matt Bertram
Matt Bertram is the Co-Host of the most popular SEO podcast on iTunes. He is the Lead Digital Marketing Strategist and CEO at eWebResults, a top internet marketing agency since 1999 focused on driving traffic though multi-channel marketing built on Organic SEO as the backbone. Matt Bertram is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on LinkedIn.