- Many companies treat SEO as an afterthought, first developing a marketing strategy and the corresponding initiatives, campaigns, and assets.
- It’s only then that they look to optimize what has already been developed.
- Instead, by using search data as an insights engine, SEO can act as a powerful compass upstream in the marketing strategy development process.
- An SEO-driven marketing strategy provides you with human-driven data that reveals unique marketing opportunities.
- Build an effective marketing strategy by defining your marketing goals, gaining audience insights, and conducting competitive research. You can then target the entire funnel and create a unique plan that leverages SEO for each channel.
SEO isn’t a marketing tactic that you can just plug into your larger marketing strategy like a LEGO block. If you think of it that way, you’ll miss out on the power enterprise SEO has to guide the overall direction of your marketing strategy.
In terms of audience insights, SEO is rare in its ability to capture the way your audience thinks throughout the funnel. More importantly, it accomplishes this at the precise moments when they are most receptive to your message.
It behooves any brand to stop retrofitting digital marketing initiatives with SEO band-aids. Instead, view SEO as a strategic driver for better overall marketing planning, decisions and results.
Marketing Strategy Vs. Marketing Tactics
When you set business marketing goals, the direction you’ll take to get to those goals is your marketing strategy. Your goals could be general, like “reposition our brand in the public eye as a technology leader.” Or, they can be more specific, like “increase our Q2 online revenue by 10%.” Then just as a coach arranges players on the soccer field, you’ll outline your strategy based on what and where these goals are.
Marketing tactics, on the other hand, are the tasks that must be completed to achieve those goals. Your strategy relates to the big-picture arrangement of your players (think SWOT analysis). Your tactics relate to the physical movements of each player.
Putting your largest player on defense is a strategy; heading the ball is a tactic. Making a hard push to enhance your company’s reputation for thought leadership is a strategy. On the other hand, publishing expertly-written byline articles or speaking at industry conferences is a tactic.
Marketing goals take both strategic and tactical work. But you need the strategy before you can focus on the tactics. The more customer centric your marketing strategy, the easier it is to implement tactics to achieve your goals.
Why an SEO-Based Digital Marketing Strategy is So Effective
When you use SEO to power your online marketing strategy then your marketing team will have a structured framework to identify audience insights. SEO also ensures your marketing is in alignment with how your audience thinks and provides a superior customer experience. Why?
That’s because SEO’s tight focus on topics, phrases, content, and credibility requires you to squarely think about the target customer across brand touchpoints. Approaching each touchpoint from an SEO perspective provides you with human-driven data. That information uncovers ways for your brand to connect more authentically and powerfully with your audience.
Those are all key elements that help you to increase sales.
Audience Alignment & Customer-Centricity
Search is a window into the psyche of your target audience. It’s a form of market research that reveals precisely what they are thinking about at every stage of the purchase funnel. If you know how your audience thinks (and how they themselves articulate their needs) you can meet them at the time when they are most receptive. That allows you to connect more directly, engage more deeply, and provide an excellent customer experience.
The more you understand your ideal customer, the more deeply you can empathize with them. In turn, your marketing strategies can more effectively connect with them. And your marketing messages can more compellingly resonate with them. The more you align with your audience and put their needs first, the more you can provide the content, education, and the solutions they’re eager for. That means your marketing strategy can be more successful.
Superior User Experience (UX)
At the end of the day, your digital marketing strategy should deliver a superior experience for customers and prospects. Forrester has done extensive research into the impact of customer experience on business results. They found that customer experience leaders grow revenue faster, drive higher brand preference, and are able to set higher prices. In addition, better customer experience yields “staggering” stock performance improvements.
With this in mind, developing a marketing strategy that delivers a better experience has critical ramifications for your brand. And used correctly, SEO significantly influences your site visitors’ experience.
In fact, search engine optimization and your site’s user experience (UX) are codependent. When you do great SEO, you’ll attract the right people to the right pages in your site. As a result, you’ll likely deliver a positive user experience.
For SEO to enhance your UX, use search data to inform the way you structure your site. Insights can help you guide the user from a landing page all the way to the checkout page (or other conversion pages).
You can also use search data to create the content your target audience will love. This may include product/service descriptions, use cases, blogs, articles, tools, and other resources designed to answer the up-to-the-minute questions they’re asking. It ideally also includes the “Wow, this was exactly what I was looking for” solutions they’re aiming to find.
On the flip side, the better your user experience the easier it is to generate high engagement metrics. That’s crucial because it signals to Google that your site delivers what it promises in the SERPs. Plus, the better the user experience, the more you can convert your audience into a happy, loyal customer base.
6 Steps to Building an Effective Marketing Strategy Powered by SEO
1. Marketing Goals
It’s hard to achieve a goal without knowing what and where that goal is. So before you get started, outline your marketing goals as specifically as possible:
- Who are you trying to reach?
- What would you like your audience to do? What actions should they take?
- When should you be hitting each milestone?
- Where will you be meeting your audience, and through what channels?
- Why should your audience care and how will you know that your efforts are working?
Start with this framework and work backwards, identifying the areas you hope to impact. Provide specific, time-constrained numbers whenever possible.
Be sure to document your marketing goals so that they are crystal clear to the team. Documented goals enable you to track progress over time.
And be specific – a goal to increase leads by 20% is not as useful as a goal to increase leads by 20% for Product ABC in North America while increasing leads by 35% in Southeast Asia by the end of Q2 without increasing budget. Specificity enables your team to take more focused action, increasing the probability of success.
2. Audience Insights
Use search data to gain valuable insight into customer pain points. That information helps you understand what they want and how they articulate their thoughts. Dig into keyword search volumes, autocompletes, related queries, search trends, social shares, and Google Search Console data:
- What questions are they asking?
- Is there something they’re trying to learn?
- What do they want to achieve?
- Can you identify their problem and provide a solution?
- Are there certain attributes and qualities they want in products like yours?
- What types of content are they consuming with each search?
- What information do they need as they approach a purchase decision?
How to find and use search data to drive marketing strategies
For a company like Revlon, for example, this would include words like “lipstick,” “black lipstick,” “lip gloss,” “lip tint,” “lip plumper,” “lip treatment” and “lip liner,” as well as “makeup,” “makeup stores,” “makeup websites,” “makeup brushes,” “makeup organizer,” “makeup looks,” “makeup tips” and “makeup tutorials.”
You should also investigate the long-tail keywords that could drive significant organic traffic. This helps to provide you with a more holistic, deeper understanding of their interests.
In addition, utilize tools such as Answer The Public and BuzzSumo Question Analyzer. The data you uncover can help you create a detailed map of the questions people ask related to their challenges. As a result, you’ll be able to position your products or services as the ideal solution.
For example, since we know that Revlon’s audience members search for makeup tips and tutorials, we can conduct a deeper dive into this topic area. An Answer The Public search for “makeup tips” reveals a wealth of content ideas, including:
- for tired eyes
- for over 60
- to hide wrinkles
- for dry skin
- for beginners
- without foundation
- to cover pores
The final search listed here would reveal another important clue about Revlon’s audience: they are eager for video tutorials. Revlon knows this, and has taken to YouTube to give their audience what they’re searching for. Use your own search data to uncover the unique preferences of your own audience to understand how to best connect with them.
3. Upstream Input
To build a powerful marketing strategy, it’s important to incorporate audience insights upfront in the process. Doing so helps to guide the direction of your marketing activities.
Some companies develop their marketing strategy in a vacuum, and look to map audience insights at the campaign development stage. Think of internal teams that devise strategies and build out marketing programs in isolated corporate conference rooms. This is a risky approach and distances the brand from the customer.
Successful marketing teams integrate the customer at the outset.
It’s also all too common to build out web assets and campaigns first. Then when it’s time to launch, the SEO team is pulled in to “optimize” what has already been built. In other words, SEO is retrofitted to the campaign at the last minute.
This thinking is backwards.
To maximize the impact of any campaign, search insights should provide direct upstream input into the marketing strategy. That way, your campaigns will be better aligned with your audience’s unique needs. Further, SEO will be embedded in the very DNA of the campaigns.
This type of upstream input helps your brand to understand what matters most to your audience. It also helps to develop compelling, differentiated strategies that resonate more deeply.
4. Conduct Competitive Research
What topics and SEO keywords are your competitors targeting? How does their website structure reveal their priorities and areas of focus? To which audience segments and personas is their targeting mapped? What content on their sites is the most popular, and why? Which websites link to your competitors’ pages, and what compelled them to do so?
Answering those questions will help you gain insight into what’s working for your competitors. It also reveals any content gaps where you’re falling short and opportunities you can strategically exploit to gain a competitive advantage.
Your competitive analysis shouldn’t stop at your “traditional competitors.” It’s also essential to Google your high-priority keywords and see who’s ranking for them. Analyze the top content to see why Google favors it. Note things such as:
- Content formats
- Quality of content
- Content length
A thorough analysis will allow you to pinpoint what resonates with your shared audience.
5. Target the Entire Funnel
To maximize the results of your marketing strategy, target prospective customers at every stage of the funnel: awareness, consideration, preference, and purchase. Users in each stage have different needs. You can use search data to discover more about your customers’ behavior at every point in their decision-making journey.
When a customer is in the “brand awareness” phase, for example, it means they haven’t yet discovered that your product or solution exists; they’re simply searching for any solution.
Let’s say you’re the head of marketing for iRobot, which makes the Roomba. Your prospects, during the awareness phase, are looking for a solution to any number of problems. Perhaps they:
- Hate vacuuming
- Want to automate daily tasks
- Don’t have time to clean
- Want “productivity hacks” for the home
You can satisfy those top-of-funnel searches through informational blog posts, videos, infographics, resources and articles.
If your customer is in the “consideration” phase, on the other hand, they’ll be making comparative searches. This group may want to know which robot vacuum will give them the most bang for their buck.
If they’re in the “purchase” phase, buyers will examine your brand specifically. They may seek out product reviews, investigate your return policy or look into shipping costs. All you need to do is to give them that final push with an offer, incentive or warranty.
If your entire marketing strategy is focused on users at the top of the funnel, you’ll find it difficult to push potential customers to the purchasing stage. On the other hand, if your strategy is focused on the bottom of the funnel, you’ll miss out on reaching those crucial new prospective customers in the “awareness” phase.
By using search data to explore the unique needs of each phase in turn, you can segment your marketing to maximize your results throughout the entire funnel. To do so, plan the right marketing for the topics, SEO keywords, and questions your audience is asking at each unique stage in the funnel.
6. Choose Your Channels
SEO is a powerful marketing driver. But that’s only a fraction of how SEO impacts your brand overall. SEO actually boosts the performance of your investments in other marketing channels, as well. When SEO is done holistically, it plays an integral part of maximizing your ROI through your entire marketing mix.
By allowing SEO insights to drive your decision-making, you’ll be able to give each medium a data-informed framework, compounding the effect of your marketing overall, as outlined below:
Your website acts as your digital command center. It ties together your various marketing efforts and is a direct conduit to sales. As such, SEO should play a major role in shaping your website, its architectural structure, its content, and its conversion paths.
Identify the topics, SEO keywords, and questions that matter most to your audience, and ensure that your website includes pages to fully satisfy the query intent of your audience.
Use search data to identify evergreen content as well as specific campaign ideas.
Study the behavior of your site visitors from different searches. Going back to the Revlon example, how does the digital body language of someone looking for lip gloss differ from someone searching for lip plumper on your site? By understanding the differences in site behavior of visitors with different source queries, you are better able to optimize your content and enhance the experience of each type of visitor, strengthening your marketing to each segment.
Content Marketing Strategy
Search data is the fuel that drives superior content performance. By understanding your audience’s interests (as well as problems), you’ll be able to use content to capture their attention, drive them to your site, engage them, differentiate your brand, build a relationship, and ultimately convert them.
As you explore your website’s entry points and the keywords that bring people there, pay special attention to the performance of blogs, how-to’s, vidoes, resource pages, and other content that captures informational, long-tail searches. These pages should have healthy time-on-site metrics, showing that people are actually reading the information. Ideally, they’ll inspire visits to additional pages and deeper engagement.
Once you understand your top-performing content, you can style more of your content to match the format and subject matter that resonates.
Email Marketing Strategy
Your SEO drives your content, and your content helps drive your email marketing strategy. So as you build out your content calendar, don’t forget to tie in email, allowing your content to become the “talking point” you’ll use to gain your customers’ attention.
The data from email makes a wonderful foil to your SEO data, providing you with faster, more simplified answers about what resonates with your audience. While it will take months to validate the results of a given keyword or topic organically, email will allow you to validate almost immediately based on open rate, click-throughs, and conversion rate.
A/B test different subject lines against one another, broadly testing one topic against another and then getting more granular. Allow this information to feed back into your other types of marketing, fine-tuning your focus as you gain a deeper understanding of the language, incentives, and subject matter that moves your audience.
Social Media Marketing Strategy
SEO can help guide a powerful social media strategy. Collect search data to understand your audience, and then couple it with social listening data for even greater, deeper insights.
You can use social listening to uncover conversations about your brand, your products, your category, your competitors and your industry. Use it to understand what your audience is talking about, as well as sharing online.
Cross reference all of this with your search data:
- Where are the overlaps?
- What search data is pointing to opportunities yet untapped on social media?
- Where are search trends indicating how you might adjust your social marketing moving forward?
- What are the linking relationships where you can focus outreach efforts and engage in online discussions?
In these ways, use SEO to not only inform your social media efforts but to also strengthen your social marketing results.
Video Marketing Strategy
Organic search and YouTube are deeply connected, so much so that “YouTube SEO” is its own independent branch of SEO.
Because YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine, even just existing on the platform has the potential to expose your brand to new customers. But it’s also owned by Google, and videos that have been deemed helpful have their own place in the search results.
That means a useful, SEO optimized video won’t just rank on YouTube; it could also rank organically. That can widen the net of keywords you could appear for or take up additional SERP real estate.
With this in mind, you can use YouTube search data to help power your video marketing strategy. Use tools such as YouTube Suggest, YTCockpit, vidIQ, and Ahrefs Keyword Explorer (YouTube setting) to glean video-specific audience insights to deliver the types of videos that will meet the query intent of your audience.
These insights will complement the search insights you acquire through Google search data, helping you to deepen the understanding of your audience overall for all of your marketing channels.
Influencer Marketing Strategy
Influencer and micro-influencer marketing can have a staggering impact on your ROI, with your strategically-chosen influencers taking over the tough and critical job of securing audience engagement and trust. On social media, links from influencers and their audiences not only drive traffic, but they also boost credibility signals as interested customers visit the site, engage with the link, and convert. And on blogs, links from influencers have an even more substantial impact, with the website itself serving as a crucial vote of confidence along with the traffic it sends.
With micro-influencers, you can reach a passionate and loyal audience efficiently, and an audience far more likely to convert than with larger, more mainstream, celebrity influencers. Although the audience of each micro-influencer may be smaller than of a celebrity, you’ll be reaching the right audience. Use competitive keyword, topic and content research to find the creatives who address what your audience cares about, and focus on building strong, long-term relationships.
Advertising is a means to reach a lot of people, and to reach them quickly. But let’s face it, advertising is not cost-effective. Brands with an overreliance on advertising are handcuffed into continuing the outflow of ad spend in order to maintain traffic, leads and conversions. Turn off the ads, and marketing results nosedive.
However, you can use SEO to drastically reduce your Adwords spend and your corresponding cost per acquisition (CPA), while moving your advertising into a more strategic role.
By focusing on SEO as a strategic marketing driver, you can gain real estate in the search engine result pages (SERPs). As a result, you’ll reduce your reliance on expensive paid search.
However, insights from advertising provide faster insight into the messaging that resonates with your audience. With this in mind, you can use advertising to test new concepts, offers, and keywords. This new learning can then feed your longer-term strategies and organic initiatives across multiple channels.
By using advertising as a test-and-learn platform and by using SEO as a complementary long-term acquisition funnel, you can gain key insights quickly while reducing your cost per acquisition massively for the overall business.
Your organic and paid strategies can also fill the gaps for one another.
For example, PPC can temporarily capture search traffic for a valuable keyword until your SEO results gain traction. Conversely, if PPC keywords are too expensive to produce a decent ROI, you can make an organic push for those keywords. As a bonus, when you put effort into ranking a page organically for a given keyword, the CPC for that same keyword will usually come down due to higher quality scores.
In these ways, SEO plays a powerful role in maximizing your advertising spend, mapped to your overall marketing strategy.
SEO can help steer your PR efforts, as well. You can vet potential websites, blogs, podcasts and other digital properties from an SEO perspective, using back-end tools like Spyfu, SEMRush, or Ahrefs to determine the site’s backlink profile, authority, and traffic.
Search data on the front end can also guide your marketing decisions. For example, you could capitalize on spikes in search for hot topics in the news (“newsjacking”) by providing content and conducting outreach that responds to that subject matter in a highly timely manner.
And remember, your PR campaigns don’t just have to focus on media exposure or product reviews alone. The right content can become its own link building asset, providing an opportunity to earn backlinks, shares, and mentions through content amplification efforts.
A well-researched infographic, for example, is a highly shareable visual aid that many blogs would be happy to include in their posts. An industry survey report can be the source of snippets, charts, and excerpts that many websites would welcome.
The options for gaining exposure and backlinks through creative content is nearly endless, with SEO giving your team the data to set priorities and understand where the big potential wins exist.
If your PR and SEO teams operate independently, remove silos and empower the teams to collaborate and support each other. For example, have your SEO team train the PR team in link building best practices, so the PR team will know what to do when they gain exposure from a third-party source, thus compounding the results that your PR team is able to achieve over time.
Your Marketing Plan
It’s one thing to have a marketing strategy; it’s another thing entirely to have a business plan for executing the strategy.
- What will your marketing achieve?
- How will you achieve it?
- How will you adjust your initiatives for each audience segment?
- Who is responsible for each task?
- What is the timeline for each objective?
- How will you know that you’re appropriately targeting each stage of the conversion funnel?
- What will your KPIs and success metrics look like?
- How will you report on these metrics, and at what frequency?
Once you have your objectives clearly outlined, build out your tactical approach by aligning it with a marketing calendar. This lets you start with your main objectives for each month and zoom in from there, filling out more process-oriented details as you go.
By allowing SEO to guide your overarching marketing strategy, you’ll have a clear understanding of how your target market thinks. You’ll have clarity into the topics, content and answers they want, and you’ll be able to integrate that understanding into every marketing channel. And once each member of your team knows what plays they’ll be making and when, it’s just a matter of refining and optimizing the strategy, until your marketing department can win the game every time.