Many of you are likely familiar with the basic benefit of SEO: Your website’s pages rank higher in search engine results for target keywords. The more people exposed to your site through search results, the more they engage with your brand (albeit earning significant traffic from search only occurs if you are among the top five results).
However, this benefit can go much deeper if properly leveraged by your company. Specifically, you can use SEO to engage your target customers as they travel through the conversion funnel. If you rank for search terms and queries that correspond to each stage of the conversion funnel (awareness, interest, decision and action), you can engage customers throughout their entire buying process.
To do this, you need to tailor your SEO so that your customers are both exposed to and inclined to engage with your site’s content at each stage. That includes keyword optimization, strategic content marketing and tracking metrics that help you determine how well you engage customers at each stage.
This article explains how to design such an SEO strategy and the value you can earn from engaging with your customers at each step in the path to conversion.
Start broad: General search queries and content
According to Forrester, 71 percent of customers begin their purchasing process through search.
When they begin their journey, your target customers are in the “awareness” stage of the conversion funnel. For them, this stage is devoted to learning about your industry, product, company, etc.
Their broad intent typically leads to broad search queries, such as, “What are SEO services?”
To engage your customers at this stage, you should target broad key terms and create content that addresses those broad interests. For example, if you are an SEO company, you can dedicate a landing page on your site to explaining the range of services that a typical SEO agency provides.
While it may seem somewhat trivial to describe the type of services that your company provides, customers in the awareness stage are more interested in that content than they are a sales pitch. Creating content that directly addresses the intent of the searcher is more likely to rank for the given search terms, which in turn makes it more likely that they engage with your content.
At this stage, your company is establishing brand awareness by engaging with customers, which helps to smoothly transition customers to the next stage of the buyer’s journey: interest.
Engaging “interested” customers
The customer journey is fluid. Directly following the awareness stage is the “interest” stage, a sort of “curiosity with intent” phase.
During this stage, your company should seek to inform customers about not just about your broader industry (i.e. “This is what an SEO company does”), but also communicate details about your business and unique value proposition. To engage customers at this stage, as the same SEO company mentioned above, you could target keywords and search terms such as “SEO service providers in New York.”
These sort of queries indicate a higher level of intent from searchers. For example, it is fairly likely that someone who searches “What are the best SEO firms in New York” is interested in working with an SEO expert of some kind. On the other hand, broader queries such as, “What is SEO?” would belong to customers in the awareness stage, given the broad scope of their intent.
SEO services that help your company engage with interested customers at this stage are those that highlight the exact forms of products or services you offer and how they provide value for customers.
- Keyword targeting of phrases with intent: See above.
- Optimization of site content: Create and maintain individual pages dedicated to the key products and services that your company offers. Each one of your pages needs to have a title, which helps rank for queries that relate to that product or service.
- Reviews and directory listings: Make sure that your company has reviews, testimonials or case studies published on third-party directory and reviews websites. These sites generally rank well for the queries typical of searchers at this stage, and are particularly useful for small businesses that target local customers. They also give customers the opportunity to research your company using more objective measures than your website.
Converting searchers to customers
The latter two stages, decision and action, represent the bottom of the conversion funnel. At this point, your primary goal is no longer to convince potential customers to invest in your type of services but to invest in your company in particular to provide those services.
Customers at these stages are interested in the logistics of your business, including pricing, product comparisons and installation/setup.
Search queries such as, “Cost of SEO services” are common for searchers at this stage. If you have site content that directly answers this question, you are more likely to rank for these queries.
For example, make sure your site has pages dedicated to the logistics associated with partnering with your company. While your page does not have to necessarily detail your exact pricing, customers deciding on which service provider to choose from want to know how you price your products or services. Ensuring that your site is included in relevant industry directories is also incredibly valuable for customers at this stage, as these platforms feature content specifically designed for customers that have decided that they do need or want to procure the services that you provide.
One approach to convince potential customers to choose your company is to hire an outside expert or to do a product comparison that measures your products or services against direct competitors. You can also encourage and facilitate discussion about your product on your site.
These approaches may seem risky because they provide valuable information about your competitors. However, modern customers will find that information anyway. If you are able to rank for search queries and direct customers to your site to learn about pricing, you have an opportunity to frame your company in a comparatively positive light.
SEO services engage customers throughout their buying journey
The core benefit of SEO (ranking for target keywords) goes deeper than simply brand awareness and potential site traffic value. Instead, SEO services can help your company connect with potential customers at each stage of their buying process, which are defined by the stages of the conversion funnel.
If you are able to optimize your site, produce content and target keywords and search phrases that correspond with each stage of the conversion funnel, you have the opportunity to drive customers from initial awareness of your company to converting on your product or service.