As your brand’s virtual storefront, your website can be a powerful tool to communicate your message, attract prospects and generate leads online. But how do you get there? Google’s Panda update was a high-profile example of how search engines are changing the way they view online content, favoring fresh and original content over static keyword-laden copy. Business owners, SEO experts and content marketers the world over are trying to figure out the best way to react to these changes. I’ve been reading and writing a lot about this in recent months – confusion about the future of search is widespread.
The move to emphasize fresh and original content has been influenced by society’s increasing adoption of the Internet, social and mobile. This mass migration to online media is putting pressure on search engines to deliver better and more relevant user experiences. Businesses are not immune. Consumers are looking for deeper online engagement with brands, forcing companies to improve their website and social media offerings to meet the demands of an increasingly-sophisticated online marketplace.
In this new world order, SEO continues to play a critical role for business. The need for SEO hasn’t dissipated; if anything, it has increased. What has changed is the methodology. Today’s SEO (SEO 2.0, if you will) is customer-focused and content-driven.
As the hub of your online marketing efforts, your website must accept new SEO best practices to maintain a viable online presence. In short, you must embrace the four pillars of SEO 2.0.
THE FOUR PILLARS
This idea has been largely adapted from an awesome presentation given by Jonathon Colman, Internet Marketing Program Manager for REI, almost two years ago. Though dated by Internet standards, his explanation of the four “pillars” of a strategic SEO program provides one of the best summations of the core philosophy behind SEO 2.0.
In today’s SEO 2.0 world, your site must accomplish four goals:
- Provide solutions to address the needs of your target audience.
- Build valuable on-site content to give your audience a unique visitor experience.
- Optimize your message with an easily-navigated site structure.
- Drive your vision home with off-site evangelism.
This blog will elaborate on the first goal, providing solutions your target audience needs and /or wants.
TARGET IN (WEB)SITE
Before doing anything, you need to clarify:
a) Exactly who your target audience is,
b) What they are searching for online.
People usually have three goals when performing an Internet search:
- Informational – They’re interested in a broad topic with many results. Using Facebook as an analogy, the prospect might type in “social network."
- Navigational - They’re searching for a particular brand, i.e. “Facebook.”
- Transactional - They’re ready to make a purchase or perform an action - “avoid my girlfriend on Facebook”
The point is that each type of visitor should be offered different web content to meet their individual needs. Take this into account when reviewing the functionality of each webpage.
- Informational pages are for people who may have a general interest in your product or service, but need more information to figure out if you’re a good fit. These pages need to provide valuable high-level content infused with broad keywords relevant to your business. These are good places for top-of-the-funnel offers such as tip guides, e-books, and white papers.
- Navigational pages speak to people with a specific interest in your brand’s products and services. These are hotter prospects looking for actionable ways to move forward. Page content should be optimized for longer-tail keywords and more specific queries. You also want to provide clear actionable copy, incorporating phrases like “to get started...” Navigational pages are a prime place to include middle-of-the-funnel offers like a presentation download, webinar or free assessment.
- Transactional pages target prospects that are ready to purchase your product or service now. Optimize these pages for specific product and category terms, and have clear calls-to-action with landing pages or links to a bottom-of-the funnel offer such as a pricing sheet, order form, demo, or free consultation.
Clarifying your target market allows you to better cater to the needs of your intended audience. Informational, navigational and transactional web pages engage your inbound traffic at various stages of the buying cycle. If your website navigation and content is structured in a progressive manner, it will naturally lead prospects through the sales funnel, and in so doing increase website conversion.
Remember, people will visit your site for a number of different reasons. Some are looking for information, some are tire kickers, some are want to buy now, and some are just plain lost. Your website should provide all of these visitors with the solution they are looking for (except the lost ones), offering a one-stop shop for prospects at every stage of the sales funnel. To do otherwise would be inefficient and foolish.
Stayed tuned for part II of this blog series, where I’ll touch on how you can provide visitors a unique online experience with valuable website content.
Question: Is your website providing solutions to address the needs of your target audience?
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