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Empathy & SEO: The Power of Search Intent

Mar 30, 2020
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While SEO has continued to grow as an essential part of digital marketing, it's often seen as a very technical and less creative part of marketing. SEO encompasses many technical elements, but the core of SEO is about  user intent. In order to grasp user intent, we must first learn to empathize with our target audience. In this video, I'll share how to leverage empathy, with SEO, to create lasting results. 

 

Video Transcript: 

As SEOs, this is extremely important for us to understand and sometimes we are so caught up in the technical elements of search, whether it be on-page, off-page or trying to do link outreach and all these other aspects that impact search. We can sometimes forget about the people. The people on the other side who are making these queries and the ones that need to take action once they come to our website. You see, SEO isn't just about driving traffic, it's about driving the right traffic. And this means we shouldn't only target broad searches or these broad terms and try to increase the amount of visitors to our site. We should be narrowing our focus and making sure that we are attracting the right people.

So what is the goal of marketing?

I love the way that Seth Godin talks about this in his book, "This is Marketing." He narrows it down to this simple thing, marketing is about creating change. Marketing is about solving the problems that our audience is experiencing, that our users are experiencing. That's the goal of marketing. It's about creating change in people so that they take action and engage with us.

So what's the purpose of SEO?

Now, SEO is considered a part of digital marketing, right? So what's the purpose of SEO? It's to increase our targeted search visibility. We're looking at very specific things that our users need, and the goal of SEO is to increase our brand awareness, our search awareness within those different markets.

Now the reality is Google has 3.5 billion searches per day, and more than 99% of those searches don't care about your brand. They don't care about what you're selling, they don't have any interest because it's not for them. This broad market of people have something that they uniquely need. Google is dealing with a lot of new searches every day because people always have new questions. They're always trying to find new ways to solve old problems.

We need to ask better questions.

What we need to do as SEOs is start to ask better questions before we start digging into creating content and then doing keywords and title tags and all of these other elements that we're looking for. We have to start digging a little bit deeper so that we have a long viewed focus that we're creating a long term growth in our search visibility and sustainability as a brand.

So we need to ask questions like:

  • Why does that company exist?
  • What are you there for?
  • What's the purpose?
  • What are the principles that drive your business?

Then you've got to know who is your product for and why should they care. This is understanding empathy and being able to put ourselves in somebody else's shoes and saying, why is our product helpful?

  • Why is it useful?
  • Why should the people who need our product care?
  • Why should they change what they're currently doing and do something different?

Creating change is not an easy thing.

We have to make sure that it's for the right people and that they have enough leverage in their lives where they need to create or make that change and they're willing to try something new. And until we understand why they need to do that, they're not going to take that action because we haven't shown them that we understand where they're coming from. And this greatly impacts our SEO profitability and search-ability because they're going to ask very specific questions and they're going to need very specific and unique answers.

  • How can we change how people feel?
  • How does our product or how does our service shift the way they're feeling now so that they can begin to be in a place that they're ready to decide to do something new?
  • And what do they believe?
  • What do they believe about what they're currently doing?
  • What do they believe about our industry and our products?

Being in the marketing industry, people have beliefs about marketing. Some people believe it's a really powerful tool to reach new audiences. Other people believe that marketing is all about gimmicks and forcing people to buy products that they don't need.

Both of those belief systems are true because they are beliefs, but one allows somebody to step in and engage with you, another will push somebody away. And honestly, I shouldn't even try to attract or do work with people who don't believe that marketing is helpful because they don't even understand my message.

It's not for everyone, and that's ok.

They're not willing to step into my store because it's not for them. And that's okay. And that's part of just understanding that most of these people aren't searching us but asking these questions and finally, what do they really need?

What's at the root of their problems that they're really trying to solve?

When we take time to empathize with our audience, we take time to really understand where they are, it allows us to set ourselves up for long term sustainability because we're targeting the right people.

We're driving the right traffic to our site. We can always increase numbers, we can always push more people to our website, but if those people don't have a reason to be there and a reason to engage, it's really pointless.

But if we can begin to empathize and apply that to our search and our SEO strategies, we can start to engage with people who are ready to take action, who want to try something new, who are looking for different solutions to their problems.

So what are some practical things for us to do as SEOs and search marketers?

We can look at the long tail opportunities and begin to see how people are forming these search queries. We know that a lot of people ask questions right in search engines. That's another area we can look. We can look at the people who also ask for bucks. Understanding what's ranking also understanding the types of visits and the types of sites that our audience is on, going to and engaging with.

And there are tools that we can do to leverage. There's SparkToro, is a really cool tool that you can do with SEMrush. Has a lot of really cool marketing tools that you can use to dig a little bit deeper, just really gaining an understanding of where our audience is going, the problems they're trying to solve, and how what we do can step in and engage with them and help give them that success that they're looking for.

If you have any questions about empathy and SEO or even a little bit deeper on search strategy, please comment below. We'd love to continue the conversation with you and until next time, Happy Marketing.

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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