How User Personas Can Improve Your SEO Performance


How User Personas Can Improve Your SEO Performance
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We’ve come a long way as search marketers over the past few decades – a long way in the right direction.

If you’ve been doing SEO for a long time, then you remember the days of building websites with countless pages to target specific keywords.

We had a few crawlers to impress and thoughts on user experience were often low on the brain.

Where did that mentality get us?

Not far.

We got a lot of organic visibility for terms that didn’t produce much more than a high bounce rate.

A refreshing trend I’ve been seeing over the past few years is the persona-driven SEO strategy.

Website marketing teams are actually decreasing the size of bloated websites.

Now, we build websites that are large enough to satisfy our target market while following SEO best practices.

Rather than spending time churning out thin content and pages that will likely never convert, you can spend time promoting your best content.

Persona-driven SEO won’t necessarily make your overall visibility better. However, user personas can make your organic visibility more profitable with less time and resources wasted.

How User Personas can Improve your SEO Performance Final

Let’s Get Personified

You will draft your personas for your SEO and digital efforts using a combination of analytics data and internal team discussion.

Don’t hurry this crucial process. It will take some time to complete.

Digital Persona Creation

The process of identifying and creating “digital personas” will allow you to understand the following:

  • The age, gender, market segment, and geo-specifics of your organic audience. More importantly, those who are converting into side goals or engaging positively with your site.
  • Which site content is popular with your ideal digital audience?
  • How does this preferred audience traverse your website? Due to site bloat, are they overwhelmed in their experience? When reviewing their landing page, second page, third-page behavior, does there appear to be any roadblocks or confusion due to navigation flaws, lack of supporting navigation, or lack of calls to action in the page body area?

Persona Research for SEO

Non-Digital Persona Creation

Now that we have a pretty good sense of what our site users are doing on-site, broken down by demographic and market segment, it’s time to close the laptop and put down the phones.

Start some good conversation about the organizational customers we know through interaction.

Members from the following teams should attend this roundtable discussion:

Marketing

The marketing team should run this meeting. It helps to corral the conversation around the intended persona topic.

Leadership

Company leadership is needed for big picture concepts and, most importantly, to understand personas so they will buy into the new approach.

Sales

The sales team is an integral part of the discussion. They can help everyone at the table to understand the most profitable group of people for the company:

  • What this audience is asking for.
  • Pain points.
  • What excites them.

Web Development

If the meeting goes well, often, there will be a lot of lofty “blue-sky” ideas generated, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, having the technical know-how in the room can help bring everyone back to reality. Web development staffers can provide the time scope of what site integrations may actually cost in the long run.

What You’ll Get Out of This Process

A productive few-hour discussion will yield answers to these questions:

  • What types of questions are prospective customers asking the sales team?
  • Do they use specific words or terminology?
  • Are there specific types of content that they have mentioned as a reference from the website.
  • How do they like to talk to us (e.g., web form, email, phone, live chat, other)?
  • Is our “sweet spot” audience as described by the sales team closely mimicking those that we see as positive performers in our digital personas creation from above? If yes, great, you likely have a little less work to do on the site. If no, you may have a website that was built for crawlers and you may need more of a web overhaul. 

Extra Credit: Surveying Past Customers

While the digital persona creation and internal persona discussion may lend well to getting you down the road with a persona-focused SEO strategy, if you want to be an over-achiever you can take advantage of surveying previous customers via email outreach.

In this, you will want to ask:

  • Demographic questions to help reinforce persona findings from the digital and non-digital assessment. (Don’t go overboard here though.)
  • What is it specifically that we did to help service your need?
  • If we could be of assistance in the future, would there be a web related resource that would help you (i.e., tool, calculator, resource guide, video series)?
  • How do you like to communicate with our company, web form, email, phone, live chat, etc.?
  • What is the general grade you would give out the website in overall navigability, user experience, quality of content, and explanation?

Enter SEO

By this point, you should have a wealth of information about your typical website user (those who are profitable and those who are not) as well what they are in search of.

Now, we must couple SEO best practices with this newly gleaned insight. We are going to tackle the SEO component within the three main areas below via giving them what they want but also making it easy for them to get to it.

Content

In the initial review of digital personas, we walked through which content was popular and which content resulted in lead generation and sales.

Once you have identified these pages, it’s time to move to the Search Analytics section of Google Search Console. Now you can identify which keywords are providing this traffic to the site.

You will likely only see one or two standout, non-branded terms that are driving traffic.

Google Search Console Keyword Research

Now, assess whether you need to integrate these keywords into the page more without seeming spammy, reviewing anchor text on the site which links to these pages for additional SEO benefit, as well as helping to usher users to these pages.

Review these keyword terms with Ubersuggest or Answer the Public to see if web users are asking other questions.

If you need to add authoritative content then we at least know we are educating a specific need.

Also, assess the terms that the sales team mentioned in the non-digital persona collaboration (such as frequent customer or prospect needs, worries, etc.) through the aforementioned tools to see if you need to be adding specific content on your website.

Don’t fall into the SEO rut of creating pages simply to chase keywords.

Instead, create pages only for the purpose of having a great website for users.

Navigation

From our previous review of analytics, specifically, common pathways through the site, we now have to consider if we have users moving into the site and then bounce back to the homepage. This can indicate confusion if they are reversing their site journey.

Take into account:

  • The top performing pages of the site.
  • Those pages our favorite persona prefer.
  • Those webpages that relate to what our customers and prospective customers expect us to have.

You are likely going to have to do a revamp of the main navigation as well as the include of supporting navigation in internal site sections.

Do you have a breadcrumb navigation on your site? Remember that the more we link to important internal site pages, the more we’re telling Google that these pages are nearest and dearest to us.

On-page

Link, link, link to internal content within your site.

Just as you want to facilitate a search crawler to travel deeper and deeper in your site, you want users to make it to your most important pages.

You will also want to visit all of the pages found in our persona’s typically site visit.

Is the preferred contact method available on site pages or are we ushering them through content that has no call to action?

Summary

A persona-based SEO strategy takes a lot of work. Members from multiple departments need to take part in the process.

Consider this as a clean-up in our SEO methodology in order to focus on ranking for all the keywords but only for the important ones.

Your organic visibility won’t necessarily explode, but you will hone in on profitable keyword terms that help nurture your audience.

Perform this exercise and your keyword rankings may improve over time, but not as fast as your bounce rate, time on site, page per visit, and lead/sales generation will!

More SEO Resources:


Image Credits

In-post Photo #1: iStockphoto edited by author through Canva, July 2018
All screenshots taken by author, July 2018

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