Most marketers are aware of these benefits and are keen to capitalise on them. Despite last year’s budget disruption, Gartner research found that SEO still ranked in the top five key spending areas for global CMOs, while over two thirds (69%) planned to increase investment in 2021. But many forget that SEO is a long-term game, with organic searches taking time to develop.
In other words: the sooner work commences, the faster the results will roll in. Instead of waiting until new products are well established and generating larger search volumes, SEO efforts should be active from the get-go. This lesson is more important than ever, considering that 50% of CMOs aim to enhance company performance by unveiling fresh offerings in existing or new markets this year.
With future success dependent on early action, a firm grasp of how to use SEO efficiently to target audiences at every stage of the marketing funnel — including the considering, curious and unaware — is paramount.
Growing pains: what obstacles do marketers face?
What’s good for a brand is frequently good for SEO. Typically, this phrase refers to powerful and consistent content that wins user attention, drives loyalty, and helps make businesses easily discoverable online. However, there are also notable parallels between fundamental brand challenges and SEO challenges. For instance, checking out the competition for product names is crucial from an SEO perspective, to ensure minimal rivalry for brand keywords and secure robust positioning for more generic terms.
From an SEO-specific point of view, when launching a new product offering or brand, marketers must carefully navigate several potential issues. In particular: the possibility of confusion around where products sit in the search arena and which categories they fall under, as well as how to produce content that targets every stage of the funnel. All of which means campaigns should drive more than high-speed and blanket exposure. Instead, initiatives need to centre on securing effective reach across multiple types of users, from those already considering your goods or services to those who are simply curious or may be unaware of your offering.
Hooking users who are primed to buy
Focusing on users with the highest conversion probability is an obvious priority. So is the first step for SEO strategy, which is to check that the chosen domain name isn’t already in use or too broad to stand a chance of ranking — think “Max Bright” for toothpaste or “All Weathers” for new outdoor gear. Less immediately apparent is the need to look beyond just the product page when selecting keywords for a website, and to understand core requirements, tastes and search behaviours for individuals in the ‘considering’ phase.
One valuable reference point for gathering this information is in-depth competitor analysis; covering not just products, but also search tactics. By pinpointing the terms rivals are currently targeting to talk about themselves, marketers can obtain a comprehensive understanding of what audiences shopping for products in their vertical are searching for and home in on the most relevant keywords. Meanwhile, assessing competitor rich search results can highlight opportunities to spark purchasing inspiration, by selecting similar terms and topics such as branded knowledge panels, ‘People Also Ask’ boxes, and Featured Snippets.
Combined with smart keyword research tools that identify areas where marketers can hit the highest iteration volume for specific keyword variations, this will offer the means to own the branded search landscape. Additionally, incoming insights about keywords with rapidly growing search volume can also be continually mapped to site content and URLs, ensuring user queries are rapidly answered and maximising the likelihood that great experiences will lead to more purchases.
Harnessing SEO to convert the curious
Curious audiences are a positive indicator of progress, but custom can’t be guaranteed. Therefore, after product awareness and traffic begins to climb, it’s vital not to assume that SEO’s job is done. Marketers should set their sights on limiting the risk of lost user attention and sales by streamlining the path from initial interest or curiosity to further exploration of your brand and engagement.
Achieving this requires your search strategy to make it simple and quick for users to access information. Again, a large part of this involves keyword and competitor research. Identifying overlapping products and evaluating their digital footprint — such as associated search suggestions and the search engine results pages (SERPS) they feature in — can give marketers a clear picture of where they should be aiming. Equipped with this knowledge, marketers can ensure that search efforts appear in the right places to reach those intrigued by new products and encourage investigation; not to mention seizing interest and leading them towards your site instead of competitors.
It’s also worth recognising that curious audiences are at a different juncture in the funnel than considering users, meaning search terms and needs will be different too. As a result, analysing their unique queries and habits is equally as important to collect the insights necessary for refining keyword use, optimising content, and bolstering traffic.
Reaching the unaware before your competitors
There comes a point in every new product or service journey where driving long-term growth means moving into unknown territory. To keep bringing in fresh prospects, marketers must connect with users who haven’t heard of their brand or offering and aren’t yet browsing for such items. Once more, SEO can help them cut through the online noise.
An integral aspect of attracting wider audiences is, of course, expanding search activities. Seed keywords — including broad terms of one or two words — have a key role to play in enabling marketers to extend their reach, before narrowing back down. For marketers, determining seed keywords related to their brand provides a base they can leverage in conjunction with research tools to isolate and target more detailed, long-tail queries using modifiers. For example, that could entail starting with “ways to de-stress”, building to “running to de-stress”, and finally “size 5 trail running women’s trainers”.
Stepping outside of familiar audiences also requires creative thinking and experimentation. In addition to standard procedures for finding the best opportunities — such as analysing SERPS, autocomplete phrases, and rich results — marketers should tap into a variety of sources including listening tools such as AnswerThePublic, forums and comments sections, to produce more diverse digital content that’s underpinned by a deeper perspective on industry trends, topics and user questions.
To make the most of SEO, marketers must be realistic about its abilities. While instant floods of traffic are unlikely, it can put new products on track for something that’s more valuable than quick, and often fleeting, volume hits. Marketers must appreciate that a sizable element of long-term product growth is reliant on speedy and multi-faceted SEO activation that not only gets new wares in front of relevant audiences, but also engages users across the buying lifecycle. Ultimately, by developing search strategies to reach the considering, curious and unaware, savvy marketers can build long-lasting relationships, loyalty, and sales.