Build an SEO strategy that draws visitors, drives sales and gives you data to improve continuously.

We want to let you in on a secret: most people think SEO is all about the search engine. In reality, SEO is all about the user.

How do we guide customers to our website in the exact moments that they are focused on a problem our business can solve? Once they’re on our site, how do we understand their needs in order to present them with the right options and guide them to a sale?

In 2018, resolve to make your SEO strategy all about your customers. Whether you’re a keyword guru or completely new to SEO, these principles will keep you grounded in the techniques that are essential to connect customers with your business.

Know Your Sale: Transactional Or Educational?

There are a staggering number of SEO tools available to marketers — but to pick the ones that are right for you, you must have a clear understanding of your business’s sales process, and how that sales process works online.

Broadly speaking, an online sale can be transactional or educational — and your SEO strategy must be tailored accordingly.

In a transactional sale, the user has a clear vision of the problem or need they are seeking to address, and what product or service might help them to achieve their goal. Your job is simple: to make the case that what you’re selling fits the bill and provides the best value.

In an educational sale, the user doesn’t know the solution to their problem — they may even struggle to articulate what the problem is! In contrast to a transactional sale, in which the shopper is well-informed and doesn’t need expert advice, an educational sale requires guiding the shopper toward the most effective solution — your product — and maybe even providing them with the vocabulary to make their exact need known.

Your SEO strategy will depend on what type of sale you’re pursuing.

If your sales process is transactional, you should maximize the performance of visual content in image searches and Google shopping results along with investing in SEM and paid social ads.

If your sales process is educational, you should seek to understand how users express their problems and pain points through Google search. This allows you to create content that meets your customers when they’re still deciding what they need or what problem they’re dealing with — and ensures that you’re top of mind when it comes time to make a purchase.

Finally, the way you measure results should flow from your sales process, too. For example, many marketers measure “time on page” to gauge the quality of website content. But if their business has a transactional sales process, visitors who spend a long time on-page probably aren’t highly engaged — they’re just having a hard time finding what they’re looking for!

Develop a clear plan for how to measure and improve your content for both kinds of sales — and know the difference in consumer behavior between the two.

Take Control of How Your Website Generates Data

In business, what gets measured gets managed, but in SEO, what gets managed gets measured. If your website doesn’t have a clear structure, the data that your website generates won’t have a clear structure, either.

In order to understand how your website works, you need to make sure that your URL structure reflects the content groupings that will yield the most meaningful data for your company about user behavior. Otherwise, it’s extremely difficult — not to mention time-consuming — to group your website data after the fact.

For instance, every article in the L&T blog lives in a /blog/ subfolder and has a date attached to its URL. Thanks to this kind of planning, we can quickly evaluate the blog’s overall performance, the performance of content published within the last month, and which pieces of older content have hit evergreen status.

By monitoring older content that’s still generating traffic months or years after we’ve published it, we can develop a better idea of what concepts are ripe for revisiting, and how best to tailor new articles to an evolving audience.

Structured Data

Outside of SEO, “first impressions are everything.” But in the world of SEO, an impression isn’t particularly meaningful if it doesn’t lead to a click. When users review search results, they often rely on the brief text underneath your website’s name and its URL — known as the “snippet” — to determine which results they’re going to click on.

The snippet may seem random, but with a few extra lines of HTML, you can tell search engines and mobile applications what product information you most want displayed to users.

Rather than displaying a random blurb that describes your site, you can use your snippets to show review ratings, product availability, and other information of immediate value to the consumer.

This year, don’t just make your “first impressions” count — make them click!

Longneck and Thunderfoot offers search engine optimization and analytics services to help businesses transform their websites into visible sources of knowledge online and answer the questions that matter most to your prospects. Learn more about SEO and analytics here.

Author Luke Babich

Luke runs strategy and sales at L&T. Luke brings a background in data analytics from Stanford University to help business leaders evaluate opportunities for growth, develop a roadmap for digital transformation, and harness L&T's powerhouse editorial team to execute. Outside L&T, Luke is active in local politics and real estate in St. Louis.

More posts by Luke Babich