We all knew that marketing had changed forever once consumers began using smartphones to price-check products and services. True, in-person shopping still has the considerable advantage of immediacy — customers can take your products home right now — but profit margins had to shrink to overcome the willingness to wait a bit for competitors to ship to the doorstep. Suddenly, it seemed, SEO and content strategy were separating the successful from the dwindling.
This dynamic has affected every industry, whether you provide products or services. Consumers nowadays show an endless appetite for calling out price gouging or poor service on social media. Bad online word of mouth can sink a business seemingly overnight. On the flip side, prospective customers are more willing to believe positive reviews submitted by verified buyers. When someone speaks well of your company, it can help nudge others into action.
In this ever-shifting terrain, it’s no longer enough to be highly skilled in your specific niche. Your expertise must be visible online if you hope to achieve any significant growth. What you say about yourself is a great starting point, but what other people say about your business (both online and offline) matters now more than ever.
Learning to Train Your SERP Dragon
Assuming you’ve been actively marketing your products or services online for more than 15 minutes, you already understand the incredible importance of search engine optimization (SEO).
By now, most of us are well aware that “The Holy Grail” for all forms of eCommerce is to have your content displayed on Page 1 of search engine result pages (SERPs). In a perfect world, a prospective customer or client would enter a keyword directly related to your niche, launch that query into the vast wilderness of cyberspace, and BOOM! Your specific expertise would land on the top of the SERP, prominently displayed for all to see.
If only it were that simple, right? Unfortunately, experts estimate that well over five billion — with a “B” — comprise our worldwide digital population. That number is hard to imagine, let alone compete with! Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to raise your odds of engaging with your target audience.
- Optimize all of your online content to the search intent of relevant keywords.
- If the goal of a keyword is to sell products, you must have a landing page for every product to perform well in SERPs.
- If the keyword intent is primarily to inform and educate, you must provide long-form content that offers lasting value.
Are you keeping tabs on what are other businesses doing?
To guide your content development, spend some time studying the competition. What type of content is currently performing well in your niche? In other words, what shows up today when you search your keywords? Where are the pain points? How can you provide solutions that address a problem that prospective customers are trying to solve? Can you narrow your content’s focus to attract your ideal audience?
At this point, longtail keywords become crucial.
For example, suppose you hope to rank for the keyword “computer repair” but you don’t have any helpful content on that specific topic published to your website. In that case, your business is likely to struggle to rank well, if at all. It could end up all but buried on SERPs by the big box stores with massive marketing budgets. If, on the other hand, you effectively optimize all of your content to “computer repair,” your local shop can reasonably expect an uptick in clientele once you begin to rank.
Onsite Topical Authority Is the Meat and Potatoes for SEO and Content Strategy
If you are unfamiliar with the term “topical authority,” it’s pretty much what you would guess. In short, modern search engines crawl the web endlessly, sniffing out authentic expertise.
Suppose, in the example above, your computer repair shop in Biloxi has a website crammed with helpful content, an online reputation as affordable and competent, no shortage of stellar reviews verifying great customer experiences, and backlinks from other trusted providers. In that case, your topical authority should elevate organically.
Simply stated, you will rank higher on SERPs if search engines confirm that you know what you are talking about.
On the other hand, your team might very well comprise the most talented and efficient computer repair techs across the American South. But if you do not have trustworthy, authoritative onsite content — and the subsequent topical authority to go along with it — your business is unlikely to rank well in SERPs.
Of course, you may not have entered the computer repair business to spend your time optimizing and curating online content. However, this is what it will take if you want to grab the attention of someone using a smartphone to search for help.
The good news is that whether you realize it or not, you generate valuable content every day. Whenever you assist a client with a real-world issue, that’s valuable content. Developing strong, rankable online content is primarily a matter of communicating solutions in digital format. Build a website crammed full of helpful solutions. You are far more likely to attract the attention of Google and other search engines. You will also build customer loyalty as they look to you for the expertise and (you guessed it) increase your topical authority.
Better Optimized Content Grabs More Search Traffic
The best roadmap for pursuing a winning SEO and content strategy is (thankfully) reasonably simple. Solve problems for other people.
True, some of the people you help will never darken the doors of your business, but that’s OK. Keep in mind the thousands upon thousands of people in your local area. If every single one of them showed up at your door, you’d have a seriously tough time accommodating them. If millions (let alone billions) of people emailed you with a relevant question, your servers would spontaneously combust. You are not trying to interact with everyone but rather target those most likely to need what it is you have to offer.
What’s the Search Intent Behind Your Target Keywords?
Once you boil down the essence of your business to relevant longtail keywords, it’s time to focus your efforts on search intent. Is your target audience of that target keyword trying to find a specific online resource…or conduct research? Are they actively shopping to make a purchase…or just learn more before they commit? While you might hope to push all four of these online searchers to your product pages, long-term success comes by providing content tailored to each.
Online audiences tend to shy away from pushy content. Can you provide a link to your product or service on an informational tutorial? Absolutely! Just make sure that your tutorial is the primary focus. Your goal should be to establish trust and reliability. You are more likely to gain authority if the content you serve up directly relates to search intent.
Returning to our modest computer repair shop in Biloxi, a smartphone user might read an article stepping them through a confusing software upgrade. Assuming your information was easy to find, easy for anyone to understand, and easy to implement, that person is highly likely to commit some portion of the experience to long-term memory. Months or even years later, when the need arises to replace an outdated machine, they recall the excellent customer experience you provided. Your shop suddenly becomes the first stop on the shopping circuit.
Optimize Content to Relevant Longtail Keywords
Keep in mind that even small bits of additional online traffic can add up to a significant boost to your bottom line. No, it probably won’t happen overnight, but SEO and content strategy is a process that will yield results as you continuously create, post, monitor, evaluate, and tweak.
Your content establishes your authority. Your longtail keywords should act as arrows pointing to the center of your expertise. Marketers often refer to this as the hub and spoke strategy for content development. If you select keywords that garner a lot of online traffic but aren’t directly related to your niche, misled users will leave (quickly) with a negative impression.
When done right and appropriately maintained over time, your value-laden information can start an SEO and content strategy snowball rolling down the hill. You increase your domain authority by optimizing your blogs, videos, and online materials around longer-tail keywords. As third-party voices — customers, industry experts, influencers, etc. — begin touting the value of your product or service, you gain additional authority. Every time your niche SEO snowball rolls over in the hills of cyberspace, it will pick up even more credibility.
Putting Yourself in the Buyer’s Shoes Meets Search Intent Needs
Why would someone go to the internet to poke around? Because they have a specific problem, they need to solve. Typically, in this realm, patience is at a premium. If your target customer happens to land on one of your resources and does not immediately find it helpful, they will bounce. Knowing your audience’s search intent is the North Star for creating content designed to solve the immediate problem.
The best way to offer your potential clientele a rewarding online experience is — this may sound overly simplistic, but it’s true — treat others as you would like them to treat you. You can do this by being relentless about crafting an online buyer’s journey that doesn’t leave your target audience with cartoon question marks popping out of their heads. Treat your users’ time as valuable (it is) and move them along with purpose and clarity.
How can I buy from you if I’ve never heard of you?
Your first step is to create awareness of your niche expertise. Awareness content is information designed to educate and inform, not sell. At this point in the buyer’s journey, overly promotional content simply does not work. Your goal is to solve problems, answer commonly-asked questions, and provide solutions. The user has a problem. You’re helping to solve it, regardless of whether it results in a sale or not.
If you can solve problems and make a sale, great! But keep your primary focus on offering helpful, evergreen, bulletproof content. If you can do that, just trust that your niche authority will rise over time…and so will your sales.
We understand that most businesses would prefer to reverse the sequence, but the online world doesn’t tend to work that way. You don’t have any customers “trapped” in your showroom. As a result, they feel zero reluctance to bounce off your site if they sense you are not trying to help.
Domain Authority Stems from Reliability and Trust
The world of SEO and content strategy can be complicated and confusing, but it doesn’t need to be. As you develop your online presence, it might help to remind yourself of a simple truth. People prefer to buy products and services from people who know their industry inside and out.
Hopefully, you also bring a great deal of enthusiasm to your niche. Is it your desire to help people find solutions to real-world problems? If that desire is authentic, that authenticity, combined with expertise, will put you on the path to sustainable growth. If you’re unsure as to your best next move, we can help. Schedule time with one of our marketing experts today.