Becky Simms believes that by being more human you can have greater success as an SEO in 2023 and encourages you to consider the motivations of your users when developing your SEO strategy.
Becky says: “It’s important to remember that the algorithm is chasing humans, not the other way around. Google is edging closer to how we search, interact with one another, ask questions, and help each other. By focusing more on the human side of a strategy, you can think about your audience first and understand the motivations behind their behaviour. By assessing what people are looking for, we can build a strategy that has a much greater chance of being successful.”
Does being more human mean understanding the customer better or being a better human to other people in the marketing department?
“It’s important to work closely with people across your department and avoid focusing too much on channels and silos. Your customer won’t care about where they find the solution they’re looking for. What they’ll care about is finding it when they’re looking for it - in the right place at the right time. It needs to be the right solution. As marketers, if we get hung up thinking that SEO is always the answer, we could easily miss that the customer isn’t necessarily looking on Google at that time.
We can better understand the customer journey by visualising the user as a baton in a relay race. As a brand or business, it’s your job to get hold of that baton in your ecosphere and have it with you as an awareness point where you’ve answered a question along the journey.
You need to find a way to keep hold of that baton, and every single point that the customer touches within your world. The more you can understand all of those touchpoints, the stronger your SEO will be. You can then appreciate where you need to be visible, where organic can play its role, and how it can work with other channels. You can understand touchpoints better by using methods like paid media or email marketing.
Success has lots to do with being a human in a marketing department and not being too focused on your niche.”
Regarding being aware of other aspects of the customer journey, where does an SEO’s role fit into the consideration phase?
“It is very much on a customer-by-customer basis. Suppose you’re looking at a more holistic digital marketing strategy. In that case, you should begin with a customer piece to better understand who they are, their buying motivations, and what they care about. This approach works well from a B2B perspective because you’ll start to focus on things that make a difference to the human that’s going to buy it.
Once you’ve done this, you can go on the process of customer journey mapping. You can look at all of the potential touchpoints and ask what it is they’re doing, where they are, and whether they’re looking for reviews, to build confidence, etc. You can also work out the format of the content they’re seeking - for example, long-form articles or videos.
TikTok is a great place for research because you can get an up close and personal look at the modern consumer. In this sense, it’s important to broaden your research horizons and not limit your search to Google. Think about where your audience is spending their time and what it is they’re doing. Take time to evaluate this, but be open to testing and refining to ensure you’re getting things right.”
Is TikTok only for those under a certain age bracket or does everybody use TikTok nowadays?
“You’ll find lots of people of all ages there. It’s a common misconception that TikTok is just for silly, fun things. The content viewers are shown there has a lot to do with what they’re feeding the algorithm. If you so desire, TikTok can be used as a learning resource. Social platforms rarely used to offer this type of content, so it’s evident the landscape is changing a lot.”
If there are multiple touchpoints for getting traffic from SEO, how do you attribute its value?
“It’s getting harder, especially with all the tracking challenges. GA4 is an emerging method that’s better than Universal Analytics. As digital marketers, we’ve done ourselves a disservice by making everything so measurable. We’re often enamoured with measuring and forget there is a massive brand and relationship piece that’s integral to driving results. This is very difficult to measure at the top of the funnel, where we are inspiring with content.
Try to tie email in with the upper funnel as much as you can. You can do things like grabbing email addresses in exchange for some amazing content, providing you do things that make sense to the consumer. From this awareness content, you’ll have another way of bringing them into your world and tagging when something is generated from SEO.
There are lots of routes for mapping and tracking, however, we as SEOs must collectively take our foot off the pedal and accept that awareness in a relationship is a big part of marketing. Failing to focus on this will cause sales to drop because you’ll need to fuel people with the confidence to convert in the area you normally track closely.”
What are your thoughts about how email and SEO can work together effectively?
“It’s more about looking at things from the user journey perspective and deliberating whether they can work well together. Once you’ve passed the baton onto email you’ll need to drive that person back. When we look at audiences and personas and try to determine motivations, we often look at how we can layer that into emails to see if we can bucket users into the personas we’re trying to understand.
For example, if you’ve got a hypothesis of four or five personas, you can test out different messaging throughout the email. If it’s box B they click on, and that’s tied to persona B, you can begin to understand the type of messaging they prefer and the direction you need to lead them in. It has a lot to do with how you can drive the person through to conversion using email and SEO together.”
Is the future of big marketing teams creating small teams within that department or is it more effective to keep those different channels working together?
“It’s great to have pods that work together within the same department, structuring your team across the funnel. Introduce an ‘awareness pod’ where an SEO person can confidently make sense of their environment.
For example, they might say they’re having great success with a group of keywords within awareness. However, they’ll know the customer is not going to buy at this stage because it’s awareness. You can then use a combination of email and paid to determine how you can push them through to conversion. If you’ve got them to this point but do nothing, your job will feel somewhat pointless. This would be similar to the first salesman touchpoint, where you manage to get someone on the phone and have a conversation with them but then fail to follow up. From a sales point of view, you wouldn’t do this if you’ve had a little bite.
As an SEO person, you need to be saying that you’re doing a great job and driving this traffic on these keywords. It’s then important to look at things from an internal perspective and get help to ensure you’re not being rude when you reengage with the customer. If you know a customer is weeks from making a decision, you should do everything you can to ensure you’re still interacting with them.”
What shouldn’t SEOs be doing in 2023? What’s seductive in terms of time, but ultimately counterproductive?
“Being too blinkered and assuming that SEO is the only answer. Often, people are so passionate that they get over-passionate and lose their influence within a team. If you find yourself in this position, others might think that you’re failing to see the bigger picture.
There’s a danger of being too focused on chasing the algorithm and chasing certain keywords while ignoring the overarching objective. Your ultimate job will be to drive sales, inquiries, revenue, etc. Keep your eye on the prize and ask whether your actions are a priority and will help you to meet your targets/goals. If you can’t confidently say ‘yes’ then you need to reassess what you’re doing.”
Becky Simms is Founder and CEO at Reflect Digital and you can find her over at reflectdigital.co.uk.
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