Seo strategy

How to align your SEO strategy and your buying journey

Assuming that your customers find you exactly when they’re about to buy isn’t only ignoring, it also hurts your ability to develop leads and customers. Although it varies from company to company, all customers take a trip when making a purchase. Today, this journey often involves the use of search engines.

As a marketer, I have to admit that when I first started implementing SEO strategies I was so fixated on keywords and proper formatting on websites that I forgot that there was an actual human being who would use the search engine (for the record, that was over four years ago when everyone and their mom approached SEO the same way). However, the buyer’s journey is one of the most important aspects of SEO, as search engines like Google ultimately want to help buyers on their journey.

What is a buyer’s journey?

A buyer’s journey, put simply, is the path that a person or business will take when purchasing a product or service. This path can sometimes be quite short (for example, I hopped on Amazon to do all my holiday shopping in a record 30 minutes), but it can also be quite long (for example, I spent two months to research the car I rented because of the cost and the impact the investment would have on my life). Every action the customer takes on their way to a purchase is considered an important step in the buyer’s journey.

The buyer’s journey is a critical part of inbound marketing because it can help you identify gaps in your existing strategy. The buying journey of one business will be extremely variable compared to that of another business. Additionally, your business will likely have a different buying journey for each of your buyers. The image below illustrates the journey of a typical buyer:

Identify buyer personas

Before you jump into SEO or the buyer’s journey, you need to have a clear understanding of your buyers. A buyer persona is basically a profile of your ideal prospect. You can read more about creating buyer personas in our Ultimate guide to inbound marketing personas, but here is the basic information that is important in creating a buyer persona:

  • Role
  • Responsibilities
  • Type of business they work for
  • Goals
  • Pain points
  • Common objections
  • Identifiers (e.g. risk taker)

Once you’ve developed 3-5 buyer personas, you can start to identify how well existing content matches the buyer persona, map it to the buyer’s journey, and then use that information to build your SEO strategy.

Map content to the buyer’s journey

Because SEO is used to help people find your content, aligning your SEO strategy and the buyer’s journey starts with mapping your content to the buyer’s journey first. To do this, you’ll take each piece of content you have and identify the scene and buyer persona that content applies to (content may overlap for some buyer personas). Since this exercise is meant to help align the journey with SEO, you should also do this with the website’s product and service pages and also with your blogs, as we’ll want to be sure later that we have queries. search for all of your content, even if it’s not a gated offer. If you have a large number of blogs, map by grouping topics. Below is an example of what this mapping should look like (you can actually download some of the sample offers in the SmartBug Resource Center).

Screenshot 2014-12-11 at 8.02.51 AM.png

Once you’ve compiled a list of your content and mapped it to the appropriate stage, you can perform further analysis to identify what content you’re missing for each stage of the buyer’s journey. For now, let’s move on to SEO.

Create categories and topics for current and future content

During the buyer persona exercise you should have identified a few buzzwords, issues, goals, and terminologies used by each buyer personality. Use this information to compile a list of topics or categories which will then be used to form the basis of your keyword strategy. For example:

  • Lead generation
  • website creation
  • SEO

From there, you can start to explore further to ultimately identify the target keywords.

Identify keyword possibilities

Now that you’ve identified the 5-10 different topic categories, which are actually the categories for your keyword strategy, you can move on to identifying keywords for your content. To do this, follow each step below:

  1. Start by identifying your existing ranked keywords using a tool like HubSpot.
  2. Explore new keyword opportunities (Click here to learn more about good keyword opportunities) using the following:
  • Start with a general approach by checking your categories / topics
  • Discover long-tail opportunities by combining the query words from each step with the topic (e.g. [query type = improve] + [topic = lead generation] = improve lead generation)
  • Map every possible keyword target to a funnel stage. Some keywords may not apply to each of your Buyer’s Personality journeys, and some may work for more than one. Below is an example of what this might look like.

Screenshot 2014-12-11 at 8.29.41 AM.png

When are keywords most important in the buyer’s journey?

While a buyer can research a product or service during the review and decision stages, most research takes place during the awareness stage, when the buyer first finds out about the problem and the opportunity. . So when doing keyword research, you will likely see more monthly keyword searches entering the awareness phase.

Additionally, there is a much lower search volume for keywords that can fall into the decision stage. In some industries and for some buying journeys, the buyer may not research at all during the decision stage.

For these reasons, you should consider the following tips:

  • Start by researching keywords in the Think and Decide stage. A low monthly search volume may mean that the search is not being used by your buyer in these stages.
  • Concentrate more target keywords in the awareness phase. It basically widens your lead funnel by helping people find you before they figure out the best way to solve their problem.

Where should the keywords be implemented?

After identifying 20-30 target keywords optimized for your buyer’s journey and personalities, you will be tasked with implementing them on your website. The intention behind the keyword or, in other words, the step in the funnel largely dictates where the keywords should be placed. There are logical steps you should take in implementation, but let’s start by going over the important elements of on-page SEO. Here are all the basics you need to make sure to add target keywords:

  • H1 tag or title
  • Title of the page
  • Throughout the page copy
  • Image alt text

To learn more about optimizing website pages for SEO, download this guide.

Then you need to follow these logical steps in implementing the keywords (a Referencing sheet will be valuable at this point):

  1. Product / Service Pages: Start by identifying the target keywords from your keyword list that best match your service and commodity website pages. These are usually the keywords found in the decision stage.
  2. Custom pages: You have already divided your keywords by persona. If you have website pages suited for a character, optimize that page for keywords that are only relevant to that page and that character.
  3. Content Offers: If you already have landing pages for content offers, make sure they are optimized around one of your target keywords. Once you’re done optimizing for existing content offerings, identify the areas where you need to develop content for a keyword and the funnel stage that is missing.
  4. Blogs: Your blog posts can contain keywords from each stage of the funnel and for each character, which is why they are so useful for increasing search engine traffic. Start by optimizing existing blogs for SEO, and then make sure that any blogs you create in the future meet these guidelines.

Please note that one size does not fit all

As stated, it’s important to identify buyers, map content, and then develop keywords because you need to have a good understanding of who will be doing the research and when they are doing the research before you implement SEO. Use the advice in this article, but by all means be careful in considering what works best for your buyer’s journey.

If you want help developing your buyer’s journey and the content that meets the buyer’s needs every step of the way, contact SmartBug Media today for a consultation.