Discovering Customer Pain Points to Improve SEO

Jonas Sickler SEO Manager
Key Points
  • Customer pain points don’t exist in a vacuum. They tie into related problems and can have a major impact on a business’s overall performance.
  • Identify customer pain points through research, search data, surveys, polls, discussions with customers and internal teams, and industry reports.
  • Address customer pain points by mapping them to the customer journey, building a content and SEO strategy around applicable keywords, and conducting strategic outreach.
  • Customer pain points help you match content to search intent, which results in a better user experience and ultimately leads to more conversions.

How can you make sure your target audience discovers your content at the precise moment they need a solution? Produce content that addresses customer pain points and amplify it through SEO.

When a prospective customer turns to Google to solve a problem, you have a prime opportunity to be the solution.

The Business ramifications of customer pain points

Customer pain points are the source of many Google searches. However, those pain points are often the tip of the iceberg of much larger underlying issues.

Make no mistake. These aren’t just tiny problems that small business owners talk about when cashing out customers. These are huge opportunities for enterprise companies to show up in the search engine results pages (SERPs) and capture qualified traffic that converts.

When you build a content marketing strategy around your customers’ pain points, you’ll be able to solve the root cause of their problem as well as many related issues. Ultimately, this approach presents even larger SEO opportunities to rank for lower competition keywords that your customers are searching for.

Let’s look at a customer pain point analysis

Let’s say you sell legal practice management software. One of your potential customers is a law firm that’s frustrated with their inability to track time accurately.

That financial pain point, in turn, is an underlying indicator of a much larger problem within the firm. There’s no standardized time-tracking system, so most people keep track in spreadsheets. The tendency to ballpark and the likelihood of human error create a significant amount of missed revenue for the law firm.

So what’s the larger, underlying issue here?

Deficient project management is eating into corporate revenue and profits. Ah, now we’re on to something big.

Now your software company can develop a marketing strategy that targets a variety of related billing challenges. Here’s a list of customer pain points you may target:

  • Integrated time and expense tracking
  • Time management analytics
  • How to keep case details organized
  • Batch invoicing
  • UTBMS billing codes for improved billing analysis
  • LEDES (Legal Electronic Data Exchange Standard) compliant billing,
  • etc.

The related but diversified targeting means they will be more likely to find you repeatedly in the SERPs as they update their searches and progress through the funnel.

How to identify customer pain points

The first step to identify customer pain points is to capture the voice of the customer. There are many techniques for this, such as search data, surveys, and talking with sales reps, support teams, and customers.

Look for common themes to generate content ideas. Then, adjust your messaging to resonate with your audience and match their search intent. That approach will increase conversions as well as search visibility.

Let’s look at several great ways to gather some insights about your customers’ pain points.

Understand customer frustrations with market research

Conduct market research

Market research takes many forms. You can analyze search data, social data, and competitor analytics to determine what your audience frequently searches for. What problems do they need to solve, and what modifiers do they use to indicate their needs?

You could also hire market research consultants and analysts to provide a detailed view of your audience.

In addition, you can use the old-school market research tactics: focus groups, interviews, and “in the wild” observation. At Proctor & Gamble, for example, members of the Tide team watch people use washing machines in their homes. This strategy lets Tide gain valuable insight into customer issues that they couldn’t have unearthed any other way.

Send surveys to current customers

Current customers intimately know your brand and what you offer. Send your customers surveys to learn exactly how your brand helps them. But don’t lead the jury or you’ll miss valuable insights about where you may be falling short. In other words, ask for constructive criticism, too.

Include contextually relevant surveys and polls on your website

One of the best ways to discover pain points is to connect with your audience when those frustrations are top-of-mind – i.e., as the audience uses your site to find a solution. You can ask your site visitors contextually-relevant questions based on which pages they visit. This, in turn, helps you generate high-quality, real-time data via surveys and polls.

Your live chat software, too, can trigger specific messages and questions for different pages. As a result, you’ll capture contextually-relevant data to improve your website and customer experience.

Conduct industry-wide surveys

Conducting an industry-wide survey can give you a broad understanding of the topics, issues, and trends that are important to your target audience. It can also show you how attitudes have changed over time.

For surveys like these, you’ll acquire data not just from your customers but from the industry at large. Whole Foods, for example, wouldn’t just want to hear from the foodies who are currently shopping with them. They’d want to hear from the ones who aren’t shopping with them. What do those customers care about?

Whole Foods may not be able to make the changes required to accommodate certain needs, but sometimes they’ll find that they are meeting those needs. They’re just not messaging it properly. If the average organic-loving customer really cares about shopping local and that’s why they’re steering clear of Whole Foods, then it’s Whole Foods’ job to reinforce their messaging around their local partnerships in each city.

Industry-wide surveys are also a great way to proactively identify shifts and trends. New technology can change customer behavior in the blink of an eye, often in unexpected ways. For example, Tide would want to know how “smart” washing machines change the process of doing laundry. Those insights allow them to adjust their product or message accordingly.

Talk with customer support

Your customer support team listens to pain points all day! Talk to them to learn what frustrations and problems your customers have when they call in. Often, your support team can reveal the thorniest of your customers’ problems.

Then use those conversations to inform your SEO and content strategy. You can also formalize this process with customer support software like Zendesk. This allows your support team to formally log each problem and create data-rich reports that ideally you can tap into.

talk with sales to understand customer problems

Talk with sales

Your sales team knows better than anyone what features and solutions your audience is searching for. After all, it’s their job to sell your product. Ask them about the prospect’s pain points that come up during calls or meetings. Then ask them to clarify the typical objections they hear from prospects and how to counter those objections with the right messaging.

On the flip side, do some messages or value props typically not work? This is crucial information, too, as you can focus your SEO more reliably on the messages that work.

Read comments and forums

Your customers talk to each other differently from how they’d talk to you in a survey or on the phone. Check out comments on blog posts and in forums to get unfiltered insight into how your audience thinks and feels.

Online reviews, particularly off-site reviews, are also useful sources of information. And your customer will often include in their review why they purchased the product, revealing a pain point.

Read analyst reports

If Forrester, Gartner, IDC, IHS Markit, or another market research firm publishes a report on your industry, consider purchasing it. These provide a third-party’s objective and highly revealing insights into pain points for customers. They can help you to identify customer behavior and possibly open your eyes to new, undetected viewpoints.

Systematize account team feedback

Account teams address customers and their pain points every single day. But then what? If there’s no established process in place to capture that intelligence and make use of it, it’s a lost opportunity. Make sure your account teams are wrapped into a feedback system, and leverage your CRM software as needed.

Just Ask!

Why guess what your audience’s pain points are when you could just ask! Take customers and prospects out to lunch or dinner. People open up and talk much more over food than they would in a bland, corporate conference room. A restaurant, cafe or bar can be the perfect environment for authentic insight.

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Addressing customer pain points to improve SEO

What does any of this have to do with SEO? Customer pain points provide a deep, rich pool of insights to give you an advantage over the competition. You can directly address your audience’s biggest challenges and frustrations throughout the funnel and provide solutions where your competitors are missing in action.

A content strategy centered on solving customer problems and powered by enterprise SEO leads to traffic and conversions. To that end, here’s a fool-proof, seven-part process that will help you translate the customer pain points you identify into SEO gold:

7-Step SEO process to address customer pain points

Follow the process outlined below to strengthen your SEO initiatives based on your audience’s real frustrations throughout the funnel:

1. Define customer pain points

Use the market research you conducted to define and prioritize your customers’ pain points in writing. A brand, such as Clio, that sells project management software for law firms may focus on pain points associated efficiency loss. For example, unorganized case management, unstructured document management, and leaks in billing (as touched upon earlier).

A larger company like Dick’s Sporting Goods might want to define a unique set of customer pain points for each department. Within the camping category, for instance, is your target market expert campers? Maybe, but there’s a much larger population of casual camping enthusiasts, and they’re hungry for information. For the latter market, you might consider pain points like feeling confused by too many options when it’s time to choose a tent or hiking boots, for example.

The important thing here is to document the pain points in writing in a structured manner so that they will be actionable.

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2. Map pain points to the customer journey

Your customers don’t stop having pain points as they move down the decision funnel (from awareness to consideration to preference to purchase), but their problems do change.

A customer in the “awareness” phase may start by searching for a tent to take backpacking. That’s because they don’t yet know that they need a lightweight, weatherproof tent. Since their real problem is not knowing which tent to buy, you can solve it with guides and articles to help them find the right tent for their situation.

As the customer moves down the funnel, they will begin to realize that a heavy tent is a pain point, along with a tent they can’t set up quickly and easily. Oh, and where they live, it rains all the time.

As customers search for solutions to these issues, they’ll discover your articles, posts, and videos about the best lightweight tents for rainy weather. Then they’ll narrow their decision down to just a couple of tents, and then they’ll know exactly which tent they want.

But they just have one final pain point: they don’t know if they’ll use it enough to justify the cost. That’s when you can come in with an offer or incentive that will make their decision easier.

3. Identify applicable keywords

Because of their varying needs, your customers will make different search queries at each point of the funnel. So once you’ve identified their pain points and mapped them to the customer journey, think about what they might search for to address their problems.

Someone in the “awareness” phase might search for “best tents,” (which has nearly 5,000 Google searches per month according to Ahrefs) or “best family tents” (1,200 searches). Someone in the “consideration” phase will search for something like “best tents for backpacking” (450 searches) or “best tents for rainy weather” (20 searches).

Generate a list of keyword ideas for each of your pain points. Then use any of these SEO tools to expand your list into other possible keyword iterations.

Finally, take a look at the data to narrow your list down to the most optimal ones based on search volume, competition and relevance.

4. Conduct a competitive analysis

Check out your competitors’ websites, blogs, and other digital properties to identify the specific customer pain points that they are targeting in their messaging today. You can also use your keyword research tools to see what queries your competitors rank for.

These insights are helpful in a few ways. First, you’ll uncover your competitors’ SEO strategy. Next, it can create a benchmark for your content. If a competitor has a 10-page guide about the best tents for rainy weather, then you should aim to make something even more useful. Last, the competitive research can help you discover additional pain points and uncover value propositions that you hadn’t considered before.

Brainstorm content to address customer pain points

5. Brainstorm content ideas for the different stages of the customer journey

Once you have your topics and keywords, brainstorm content ideas for the different stages of the customer journey. At the top of the funnel, your customer will probably appreciate a 10-page guide or video series because they’re purely on the hunt for information at that point. But once they know what they want, comparisons, charts and other types of visual content, will help them choose between options. Brainstorm ideas for each part of the funnel and narrow down the format and purpose as you go.

6. Build content

Once your content ideas are outlined, operationalize them. Put each piece on a content calendar, assign responsible parties, and map each piece to a topic, keyword, persona, and stage of the funnel.

Address customer pain points with different types of content to accommodate different types of learners. That approach will also help your content to dominate specific categories.

Provide whitepapers and guides for those who love to read as much as possible when doing their research. Produce and optimize videos and infographics for those who are visual learners. Offer podcasts for those who lean towards auditory intake during their commutes, for example. Deliver tools to help your audience make decisions and take action.

Make sure your content makes sense seasonally, too. Use Google Trends to hit your topics while they’re hot. For example, you might decide to back-burner your rainy weather guide until April. On the other hand, if you have a staple of “evergreen” content, like your guide about “how to choose a tent” or comparative pages, you’ll have more flexibility to prioritize according to search opportunity instead of calendar date.

7. Conduct strategic outreach

Last but not least, once you’ve produced all of your amazing content, don’t just sit and wait for the traffic to come. Be proactive and kickstart the traffic flow by conducting outreach to the people who will be most interested in your content. Wrapping each piece of content into your social media, email, and PR activities is only the beginning.

Strategic outreach means going beyond the basics. Identify the publications, influencers, and partners who would find the content to be valuable to their audiences. Then make it easy for them to either share the content or to create complementary content.

Let’s say that you’ve created an awesome video series about helping law firms to eliminate revenue leakage. Publications and bloggers in the legal space may want to simply link to your content, or they may prefer instead to create their own content and embed your videos.

Whenever possible, do the work for your outreach target. Tell them what the story is and how they could share it with their audience; don’t make them guess.

Done right, strategic outreach helps you secure high-quality, organic backlinks to your content which strengthens your organic search results for those topics and keywords.

Strategic outreach is so important in producing SEO results, in fact, that here at Terakeet we’ve built a database called Chorus of more than nine million publishers and influencers for this area of SEO. Chorus enables us to hyper-target the right audiences and truly scale SEO operations. That leads to a great deal of organically produced content and backlinks, which in turn helps our clients to improve their organic visibility.

Search volume does not always equal conversions

As you outline and implement your SEO strategy, you’ll want to keep just a few other things in mind. First and foremost, do sufficient research before you decide that a high-volume keyword is the one you should dedicate half of next quarter’s resources to. If your keyword never converts, you’ll simply end up with a lot of readers who were never going to buy in the first place.

Here’s an example: “law firm” may have 11,000 Google searches a month, but if you’re trying to sell law practice management software the term is far too vague with the wrong search intent to put your SEO efforts into.

The term doesn’t address the customer pain points that you want to focus on. Even if you somehow were able to secure a top listing in the Google SERPs, it’s doubtful that you’d have the right people coming to your site nor that they would have a good experience.

Targeting terms like “law firm software,” “legal software,” “legal practice management software,” “case management software,” “law firm technology,” “law firm management,” “law firm billing,” “law firm profitability,” “case management,” “law firm case management,” and “how to run a law firm” would lead to conversions at a drastically higher rate. This is the power of using long-tail keywords for SEO.

Pain points help you match content to search intent

Content that addresses an actual pain point helps you to precisely match your content to their search intent. Let’s say you’re looking to sell tents. A quick look at Google’s autocomplete for “music festival tents” will reveal one pain point right away: music festival tents flying, and music festival tents blowing away.

example of customer pain points in Google autocomplete

Here, your audience’s pain point isn’t just the obvious one. There’s something else behind this search. Our festival-goers probably didn’t set their tent up properly, or they bought the cheapest tent they could. So if you want to sell tents to them, your keywords will need to address what they actually need: a low-cost, easily set-up, wind-proof tent.

Whenever you see a pain point come up right in the autocomplete like that, it’s a good indication that you should target those exact keywords, like “windproof tent,” which sees 200 Google searches per month.

Matching search intent = more conversions

When you step in with the solution your audience was searching for, what are they going to do? If you’ve genuinely found the best solution for them and made a compelling case for it, they’re probably going to buy.

Or, if it’s early in the funnel, they are going to like your brand and consider it an authority. This sets up the opportunity for you to guide them through the rest of the funnel.

People want to feel confident in their purchase decision. Double down on your SEO efforts, and help them out with all the information they need, tied to a call to action and an offer they can’t refuse.

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