Breathe Life Into Search Engines: The Role of Buyer Personas in SEO Campaigns
When you think SEO, you probably think link building, website optimizing, or a bunch of tech jargon that somehow makes you rank higher in Google. While SEO is a component of marketing, it’s often not really regarded in the same breath. There’s nothing fun, creative, or sexy about SEO. Just build your links, write your metadata, throw some keywords into your content, and viola! You rank above your competitors in Google. . . .
Well . . . no. Any SEO expert would tell you to join the modern world. Google’s algorithm grows more sophisticated by the hour, and more in tune with what searchers want. Coupled with increasing amounts of businesses running SEO campaigns, and frankly SEOs can’t afford not to explore more creative approaches to the industry. This is no secret. SEO has been going this direction for a while, and yet many digital marketing professionals don’t think to implement traditional market research and exploration to their SEO campaigns. For this article, we’ll explore one particular marketing 101 concept and its uses for SEO: the buyer persona.
There are plenty of articles out there that explain what a buyer persona is, and what its benefits are to a marketing campaign. I won’t waste your time reinventing the wheel here. I’ll simply remind you that buyer personas are designed to help you determine who your target audience is and how to speak to them. They essentially “breathe life” into otherwise data-driven campaigns. So why is this important for an SEO campaign when you’re probably just going to end up link building anyway?
Well buyer personas in SEO help you:
Clearly define your target audience’s search intent. SEOs are all familiar with the term “searcher intent”, but we often seem to take it lightly. We research keywords and push rankings for them, which is often an effective strategy, but it can be easy to forget what people searching for those words actually want.
Consider this example: You are ranking a client for “costumes in Austin”, because . . . well because they sell costumes and their store is in Austin. You assume the searcher would type in similar keywords because they want to purchase a costume in the Austin area. However, imagine that your searcher is actually looking for costume makeup advice. Your site wouldn’t show up. You may be thinking this isn’t a big deal because they’re not looking to buy, however part of your job as the SEO expert is to drive traffic to the site.
Now consider if you had created a buyer persona:
Interests: music, art, fashion, movies, theater, design, fantasy
Who is Alex: A student at UT Austin who is aspiring to be a costume designer. She likes to look up costume makeup tutorials and ideas and, being a hands-on kind learner, seeing it in person is preferable.
Now walk through Alex’s search journey. Let’s say she Googles “costume makeup advice” and comes across your site. Your store sells all the costume makeup she needs, so this may still be a great potential customer, if though she’s not actively looking to purchase. If you had this buyer persona before you started your campaign, you might try adding tutorial content to your website to try to capture people like Alex. You don’t sell her the products first. You sell her your expertise, build her trust and her interest. She stands a much higher chance now of becoming not just a site visitor, but a fan and potential customer.
This is what a buyer persona can help you establish in SEO.
Ask yourself how does your target audience search? What do they search for? How can we provide them (and Google) with what they need?
Properly leverage Google’s increasing focus on relevance. The relevance side of Google’s algorithm is all about quality, informative content on your website. What makes content high-quality and informative? Grammar and readability of course. If it sounds like crap, Google will agree with you. But more than grammar, your content has to address the concerns of your audience in a meaningful way.
One of the ways you can figure out what content you should have on your site, and what search terms you should optimize it for, is through your buyer personas. Take Alex in the above example. If she’s purchasing, she would need size information on the costumes, color and material information, encouragement that the costume is going to look realistic, not just great for a Halloween party.
Consider what Alex is likely reading in books or other sites, and write your content accordingly. Alex is clearly a creative, so perhaps you’ll want to keep your tone light-hearted and excited. Regardless of the personas you develop, they should give you guidelines on how to ensure your content is relevant to your target audience, which in turn makes it relevant to Google.
Develop a more targeted link building strategy. There is of course a lot of value in building links for the authority they create with Google. However another benefit is the potential traffic these links can bring to your site outside search engines. By considering what kinds of information your buyer personas would likely be interested in, you can hone in on specific publications that your audience is likely reading. If they come across the link to your site, and the article is compelling and engaging for them, they are more inclined to click on your site. More traffic means higher rankings, which means more traffic. And all of this means more business for you.
Increases your chances of shared content, which in turn increases site traffic and brand awareness. In the scheme of the larger marketing plan, your buyer personas implemented on the SEO level continue to serve their purpose when you think of its impact on social media. If you are creating links built through quality content that is of clear interest to your personas, these content pieces are more likely to lead to shares on social media, and let your target audience do the footwork for you. This is where the SEO and communications teams collide.