We have already looked at the changing landscape of SEO and provided some tips on how to ensure you don’t get left behind, however perhaps the biggest shift we have seen is the move towards ensuring the user is at the centre of your long-term SEO strategy. For some traditional SEOs, this is a daunting prospect, however here at Digital Hothouse, we have been putting the customer front and centre for years.
Why should you focus on the user?
In order for your site to be successful, you must make it easy for the user to find a) what they are looking for and b) what they don’t know they are looking for but what they will find extremely useful. How do we do this you ask? By providing quality content resulting in quality experiences for the end user. Ideally, these will be targeted experiences as every visitor to your site is looking for something slightly different from the last.
By creating an environment where each individual customer is the focus, this allows you to target them with content that is directly relevant to them, thus leading to higher satisfaction and ultimately to conversion.
Sounds simple – where do I start?
Hopefully you will be sold into the idea that focusing on the user is a good thing. So I guess the next question to answer is how do we focus more on the user?
· Developing user personas
In my previous role working at the University of Huddersfield in the UK, one of the best pieces of work we did was generating a set of user personas. The whole process allowed us to think long and hard about who our customers are, what are their needs and how do we best communicate with them. It also allowed us to look at specific and relevant keywords, core messages and channels of communication.
· Keyword research
This is one area where we have perhaps seen the biggest shift in terms of SEO. Previous keyword research was all about finding the highest volume keywords, whether they were relevant to the target audience or not and looking at how we could optimise our copy for those keywords. Now we have to switch that around and look at how people are actually finding our site, what are they searching for when they get there and what are the terms that are most likely to convert. These terms may not necessarily be the ones that have the highest volume, however you will see a much better return on investment if they are the ones your user is using and more importantly, they are the ones that lead to conversion.
· Measure the right things
One thing we like to focus on with our clients is ensuring they are measuring the right things and for us, that all revolves around ROI – how do we get you the most conversions? By identifying the right metrics for your business, this allows us to demonstrate our success with the tactics that we implement and also allows you the client to continually monitor and tweak your content as necessary.
Content auditing – painful but so worth it
Another big piece of work that will be required if you are to truly look at putting the customer first is auditing. The biggest audit to carry out is a content audit. In my last role at the University of Huddersfield, we had 20,000+ pages so this was a daunting task and one that was still not complete when I left. Hopefully it will be easier for you to audit your own pages to see how you are positioned against the keyword research and persona development you have carried out. If you see any gaps, this is a great place to start your user focused work.
As well as auditing your own content, you may want to take a look at what your competitors are doing and see where you can replicate and build on any good work that they are carrying out. Which are their high performing pages that rank well? Which keywords are they targeting and what pages do these link to? You can also include a social media audit as part of this, looking at their activity across all platforms will give you a better idea of how user-focused they are and let you identify gaps where you can outperform them.
This may form part of you content audit or you may choose to do it separately but take a look at any technical issues you may have on your site. Are your header tags all in place and well structured? Do your pages have unique titles? Are you meta descriptions optimised for the new keywords? What does your link profile look like? These are all crucial questions and must work in tandem with the right content for the end user to ensure the highest possible SEO benefits.
Whether you have an existing SEO strategy or not, we think it is crucial that you revisit/think about that strategy and start planning for the long term. By putting the user first, you are ensuring that you are complying with Google’s latest (and most likely future) algorithm updates and future-proofing yourself for any further developments.
If you want to talk about any of the things mentioned in this article, from persona development to SEO strategy, why not drop us a line today and let us help your business maximise its potential online.