How B2B Marketers Can Win at Search with Best Answer Content

Winning Search with Best Answer Content

Winning Search with Best Answer Content

Marketers are engaged in a continuous battle to gain an edge when it comes to SEO, seeking those crucial advantages provided by top visibility where customers are looking. Multiple disciplines from technical SEO to creative content can be leveraged to win the search marketing game. At TopRank Marketing, we believe the best answer to this quandary is… well, to be the Best Answer.

To simplify and clarify, it might be helpful to take a step back.

In October of 2000, Larry Page laid out his ambitious vision for Google, a company he’d founded along with Sergey Brin just two years earlier.

Page foresaw his creation as “the ultimate search engine that would understand everything on the Web. It would understand exactly what you wanted, and it would give you the right thing.”

“We’re nowhere near doing that now,” he admitted. “However, we can get incrementally closer to that, and that is basically what we work on.”

At the time, here’s what the Google homepage looked liked (prepare for nostalgia shock in 3… 2… 1…):

Fast-forward almost 20 years. Google’s interface looks decidedly more modern and its functionality is now much closer to what Page envisioned. Through artificial intelligence, machine learning, and sophisticated algorithms, the search engine is amazingly adept at understanding a searcher’s intent and motives.

And digital marketers are just out here trying to keep pace.

The Answer Machine

Back in the day, we had these wacky contraptions called “answering machines,” which hooked up to “landline phones” (!) and recorded messages on little cassette tapes (!!) when calls were missed. This precursor to the voicemail now seems prehistoric — a sign of the speed at which technology is advancing.

In 2019, answering machines are mostly gone, but the digital “answer machine” is a staple of everyday life for many of us. In fact, Google’s brand name itself is now used as a verb, describing the act of asking the internet a question. Input query and receive answers, in order of relevance. Bleep, bloop.

Our hunger for knowledge is insatiable: Google processes 35,000 searches per second, and 3.5 billion each day.

With this kind of volume, the high end of a search engine results page (SERP) is critical real estate; one study found that the top position gets one-third of all search traffic on average. So it’s easy to see why SEO has become a cornerstone of marketing strategies everywhere.

At TopRank Marketing, we talk often about gaining this coveted visibility by being the best answer for customers, and how to achieve it through deep, comprehensive, high-quality content. But before a brand can go about creating best answers, it must determine which crucial curiosities it wants to satisfy.

Herein lies the key to developing a search marketing approach that integrates with a customer-centric strategy.

Hearing Your Customer’s Voice

In many ways, the advent of voice search really crystallizes Google’s function as an answer machine (or “answer engine” as our CEO Lee Odden has put it). ComScore predicted a while back that by 2020, more than 50% of searches would be conducted by voice, and suddenly that’s less than a year away.

This fast-rising trend strengthens the wisdom of a “best answer” strategy for two primary reasons:

  1. Featured snippets (aka “answer boxes”) are gaining more prominence as the default result delivered by a voice search. These excerpts are deemed by Google to be the “best answer” for a particular query, based on various factors.  
  2. We’re moving toward a more literal question/answer format with search, because while people might type a string of keywords to research a particular topic (“best answer seo strategy digital marketing”), they tend to be more colloquial when speaking to a voice-search device (“What does a best answer SEO strategy mean for digital marketers?”).

Structuring SEO around conversational keywords is nothing new. As we wrote here on the TopRank Marketing Blog a couple of years ago:

Google has been encouraging this type of behavior for years, especially with the Hummingbird update back in 2013. People communicate with conversations, not just keywords. Associating the right keywords with concepts helps the overall content quality as opposed to targeting only one or a couple keywords per page.

In other words, you want to address not just a specific keyword with your content, but rather the breadth of what someone is trying to learn when they search for that keyword.

And so, search marketing today is less about building traditional keyword lists, and more about using those lists – along with other resources – to make deductions about which questions your customers (and potential customers) are asking. Your findings should become the foundational basis for both organic and paid strategy.

Unfortunately, no machine will serve up a quick-and-easy answer in this case. It’ll take meticulous research and deep insight about your audience. Let’s walk through that process a little to set you on the right path.

How to Identify Best Answer Opportunities

Here are a few tactics for making confident determinations about the burning questions you want to answer for your customers

Reverse-Engineer Keyword Data

Marketers have a wealth of SEO data at their fingertips, and can use this information as breadcrumbs tracing back to a user’s starting point. Dig into Google Search Console to learn which queries are bringing people to your site and how many people are clicking through from particular searches. Instead of simply parsing out keywords, seek patterns and greater meaning in this data. What is it telling you about the mindset of searchers who end up on your page?

By connecting search terms to pages on your site, you can get a better idea of the intent behind them (e.g., searches that are bringing people to solutions pages likely represent a more advanced stage of research).

Use the “People Also Asked” Feature in Google

I love this little feature. When you run a search, Google will often serve up a list of related questions, and these can be extremely helpful when it comes to building out your best answer content. If you want to create an authoritative resource on the topic you’re targeting, chances are you’ll want to account for each of these tangential queries in some way.

Leverage Schema Markup

Schema structured data helps search engines (and their users) understand the purpose of a page, and the questions it is trying to answer. Adding these tags to your source code enables a SERP to display rich snippets that are directly relevant to a searcher’s query.

Why is this so powerful and relevant? Last summer Google confirmed that it had been testing a new featured snippets in the form of FAQs, Q&A, and How-tos. And as it turns out, Schema.org has a lot of this markup readily available.

Rely on the Right Tools

There are three in particular that I like to use for this type of research:

  • SEMrush: Awesome SEO tool that shows real-time keyword volumes and (more importantly in this case) “Phrase Match Keywords” and “Related Keywords, which can lead you down other branching paths for that search journey. The Keyword Magic tool is very helpful for finding question keywords.
  • BuzzSumo: A great site for finding trends around any topic or keyword. In particular, I recommend using its Question Analyzer function, which is perfectly suited for the purpose at hand. This enables you to identify questions being asked on Q&A sites or forums, clustered by topics.
  • AnswerThePublic: The “auto suggest” feature in Google is similar in function to “People Also Asked,” but can provide more extensive insight. AnswerThePublic helpfully takes these snippets and turns them into conversational keywords, delivering a “question wheel” of longtail inquiries stemming from that term.

Example of an AnswerThePublic “question wheel”

Go In-Depth with Marketing Attribution Models

Multi-touch attribution is not easy to master, but those marketers who gain proficiency are able to tap into key buyer signals. When you follow the string backward on a purchase someone made, identifying touch points along the way, you can learn a great deal about the questions they asked and the content they consumed to reach that decision.  

As you start to gain a better grasp of the searches that carry clear commercial intent, you can begin to situate your PPC strategy around them. Those are usually the clicks worth paying for.

Search for Whitespace in SERPs

Not every priority question for your audience will be worth attacking. Make honest assessments about the existing search results for certain terms. If another company (or, in many cases, Wikipedia) is already owning the answer box with a stellar page, you may want to turn your attention elsewhere or at least push it to the back burner.

The sweet spot is when you can find popular questions among your audience that aren’t already being definitively covered. This also applies to paid keywords with lower competition. Those are the gaps you want to fill with your best answer strategy. As your site gains authority and backlinks, you may find it easier to topple some of the entrenched leaders for other high-volume queries and higher-cost keywords.

Break Down Questions and Build Up Best Answers

The late businessman Arnold Glasow once said, “It’s easier to see both sides of a question than the answer.” Very true. When marketers make the effort to see every side of the questions their customers are asking, we can see the bigger picture and craft content to fully satisfy the extent of a searcher’s interest. At TopRank Marketing, we’ve built our search marketing philosophies around this belief.

Google has come a long way since its early days, and our approach to working with it must evolve in kind. In the age of RankBrain, you’re not going to game this ultimate search engine through keyword-stuffing or other gimmicks. Google is continually getting better at understanding exactly what a searcher wants and giving them the right thing.

If we want to be that “right thing,” we also need to understand exactly what our customers want, and we need to deliver it.  

To paraphrase the great Ricky Bobby: If you’re not best, you’re last.

via GIPHY

Want to learn more about TopRank Marketing’s take on modern search marketing? Go ahead and peruse our SEO service page.

The post How B2B Marketers Can Win at Search with Best Answer Content appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.


Source: SEO blog

How B2B Marketers Can Win at Search with Best Answer Content

Winning Search with Best Answer Content

Marketers are engaged in a continuous battle to gain an edge when it comes to SEO, seeking those crucial advantages provided by top visibility where customers are looking. Multiple disciplines from technical SEO to creative content can be leveraged to win the search marketing game. At TopRank Marketing, we believe the best answer to this quandary is… well, to be the Best Answer.

To simplify and clarify, it might be helpful to take a step back.

In October of 2000, Larry Page laid out his ambitious vision for Google, a company he’d founded along with Sergey Brin just two years earlier.

Page foresaw his creation as “the ultimate search engine that would understand everything on the Web. It would understand exactly what you wanted, and it would give you the right thing.”

“We’re nowhere near doing that now,” he admitted. “However, we can get incrementally closer to that, and that is basically what we work on.”

At the time, here’s what the Google homepage looked liked (prepare for nostalgia shock in 3… 2… 1…):

Fast-forward almost 20 years. Google’s interface looks decidedly more modern and its functionality is now much closer to what Page envisioned. Through artificial intelligence, machine learning, and sophisticated algorithms, the search engine is amazingly adept at understanding a searcher’s intent and motives.

And digital marketers are just out here trying to keep pace.

The Answer Machine

Back in the day, we had these wacky contraptions called “answering machines,” which hooked up to “landline phones” (!) and recorded messages on little cassette tapes (!!) when calls were missed. This precursor to the voicemail now seems prehistoric — a sign of the speed at which technology is advancing.

In 2019, answering machines are mostly gone, but the digital “answer machine” is a staple of everyday life for many of us. In fact, Google’s brand name itself is now used as a verb, describing the act of asking the internet a question. Input query and receive answers, in order of relevance. Bleep, bloop.

Our hunger for knowledge is insatiable: Google processes 35,000 searches per second, and 3.5 billion each day.

With this kind of volume, the high end of a search engine results page (SERP) is critical real estate; one study found that the top position gets one-third of all search traffic on average. So it’s easy to see why SEO has become a cornerstone of marketing strategies everywhere.

At TopRank Marketing, we talk often about gaining this coveted visibility by being the best answer for customers, and how to achieve it through deep, comprehensive, high-quality content. But before a brand can go about creating best answers, it must determine which crucial curiosities it wants to satisfy.

Herein lies the key to developing a search marketing approach that integrates with a customer-centric strategy.

Hearing Your Customer’s Voice

In many ways, the advent of voice search really crystallizes Google’s function as an answer machine (or “answer engine” as our CEO Lee Odden has put it). ComScore predicted a while back that by 2020, more than 50% of searches would be conducted by voice, and suddenly that’s less than a year away.

This fast-rising trend strengthens the wisdom of a “best answer” strategy for two primary reasons:

  1. Featured snippets (aka “answer boxes”) are gaining more prominence as the default result delivered by a voice search. These excerpts are deemed by Google to be the “best answer” for a particular query, based on various factors.  
  2. We’re moving toward a more literal question/answer format with search, because while people might type a string of keywords to research a particular topic (“best answer seo strategy digital marketing”), they tend to be more colloquial when speaking to a voice-search device (“What does a best answer SEO strategy mean for digital marketers?”).

Structuring SEO around conversational keywords is nothing new. As we wrote here on the TopRank Marketing Blog a couple of years ago:

Google has been encouraging this type of behavior for years, especially with the Hummingbird update back in 2013. People communicate with conversations, not just keywords. Associating the right keywords with concepts helps the overall content quality as opposed to targeting only one or a couple keywords per page.

In other words, you want to address not just a specific keyword with your content, but rather the breadth of what someone is trying to learn when they search for that keyword.

And so, search marketing today is less about building traditional keyword lists, and more about using those lists – along with other resources – to make deductions about which questions your customers (and potential customers) are asking. Your findings should become the foundational basis for both organic and paid strategy.

Unfortunately, no machine will serve up a quick-and-easy answer in this case. It’ll take meticulous research and deep insight about your audience. Let’s walk through that process a little to set you on the right path.

How to Identify Best Answer Opportunities

Here are a few tactics for making confident determinations about the burning questions you want to answer for your customers

Reverse-Engineer Keyword Data

Marketers have a wealth of SEO data at their fingertips, and can use this information as breadcrumbs tracing back to a user’s starting point. Dig into Google Search Console to learn which queries are bringing people to your site and how many people are clicking through from particular searches. Instead of simply parsing out keywords, seek patterns and greater meaning in this data. What is it telling you about the mindset of searchers who end up on your page?

By connecting search terms to pages on your site, you can get a better idea of the intent behind them (e.g., searches that are bringing people to solutions pages likely represent a more advanced stage of research).

Use the “People Also Asked” Feature in Google

I love this little feature. When you run a search, Google will often serve up a list of related questions, and these can be extremely helpful when it comes to building out your best answer content. If you want to create an authoritative resource on the topic you’re targeting, chances are you’ll want to account for each of these tangential queries in some way.

Leverage Schema Markup

Schema structured data helps search engines (and their users) understand the purpose of a page, and the questions it is trying to answer. Adding these tags to your source code enables a SERP to display rich snippets that are directly relevant to a searcher’s query.

Why is this so powerful and relevant? Last summer Google confirmed that it had been testing a new featured snippets in the form of FAQs, Q&A, and How-tos. And as it turns out, Schema.org has a lot of this markup readily available.

Rely on the Right Tools

There are three in particular that I like to use for this type of research:

  • SEMrush: Awesome SEO tool that shows real-time keyword volumes and (more importantly in this case) “Phrase Match Keywords” and “Related Keywords, which can lead you down other branching paths for that search journey. The Keyword Magic tool is very helpful for finding question keywords.
  • BuzzSumo: A great site for finding trends around any topic or keyword. In particular, I recommend using its Question Analyzer function, which is perfectly suited for the purpose at hand. This enables you to identify questions being asked on Q&A sites or forums, clustered by topics.
  • AnswerThePublic: The “auto suggest” feature in Google is similar in function to “People Also Asked,” but can provide more extensive insight. AnswerThePublic helpfully takes these snippets and turns them into conversational keywords, delivering a “question wheel” of longtail inquiries stemming from that term.

Example of an AnswerThePublic “question wheel”

Go In-Depth with Marketing Attribution Models

Multi-touch attribution is not easy to master, but those marketers who gain proficiency are able to tap into key buyer signals. When you follow the string backward on a purchase someone made, identifying touch points along the way, you can learn a great deal about the questions they asked and the content they consumed to reach that decision.  

As you start to gain a better grasp of the searches that carry clear commercial intent, you can begin to situate your PPC strategy around them. Those are usually the clicks worth paying for.

Search for Whitespace in SERPs

Not every priority question for your audience will be worth attacking. Make honest assessments about the existing search results for certain terms. If another company (or, in many cases, Wikipedia) is already owning the answer box with a stellar page, you may want to turn your attention elsewhere or at least push it to the back burner.

The sweet spot is when you can find popular questions among your audience that aren’t already being definitively covered. This also applies to paid keywords with lower competition. Those are the gaps you want to fill with your best answer strategy. As your site gains authority and backlinks, you may find it easier to topple some of the entrenched leaders for other high-volume queries and higher-cost keywords.

Break Down Questions and Build Up Best Answers

The late businessman Arnold Glasow once said, “It’s easier to see both sides of a question than the answer.” Very true. When marketers make the effort to see every side of the questions their customers are asking, we can see the bigger picture and craft content to fully satisfy the extent of a searcher’s interest. At TopRank Marketing, we’ve built our search marketing philosophies around this belief.

Google has come a long way since its early days, and our approach to working with it must evolve in kind. In the age of RankBrain, you’re not going to game this ultimate search engine through keyword-stuffing or other gimmicks. Google is continually getting better at understanding exactly what a searcher wants and giving them the right thing.

If we want to be that “right thing,” we also need to understand exactly what our customers want, and we need to deliver it.  

To paraphrase the great Ricky Bobby: If you’re not best, you’re last.

via GIPHY

Want to learn more about TopRank Marketing’s take on modern search marketing? Go ahead and peruse our SEO service page.

The Influence of Voice Search on Featured Snippets

This post was originally published on the STAT blog.


We all know that featured snippets provide easy-to-read, authoritative answers and that digital assistants love to say them out loud when asked questions.

This means that featured snippets have an impact on voice search — bad snippets, or no snippets at all, and digital assistants struggle. By that logic: Create a lot of awesome snippets and win the voice search race. Right?

Right, but there’s actually a far more interesting angle to examine — one that will help you nab more snippets and optimize for voice search at the same time. In order to explore this, we need to make like Doctor Who and go back in time.

From typing to talking

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and queries were typed into search engines via keyboards, people adapted to search engines by adjusting how they performed queries. We pulled out unnecessary words and phrases, like “the,” “of,” and, well, “and,” which created truncated requests — robotic-sounding searches for a robotic search engine.

The first ever dinosaur to use Google.

Of course, as search engines have evolved, so too has their ability to understand natural language patterns and the intent behind queries. Google’s 2013 Hummingbird update helped pave the way for such evolution. This algorithm rejigging allowed Google’s search engine to better understand the whole of a query, moving it away from keyword matching to conversation having.

This is good news if you’re a human person: We have a harder time changing the way we speak than the way we write. It’s even greater news for digital assistants, because voice search only works if search engines can interpret human speech and engage in chitchat.

Digital assistants and machine learning

By looking at how digital assistants do their voice search thing (what we say versus what they search), we can see just how far machine learning has come with natural language processing and how far it still has to go (robots, they’re just like us!). We can also get a sense of the kinds of queries we need to be tracking if voice search is on the SEO agenda.

For example, when we asked our Google Assistant, “What are the best headphones for $100,” it queried [best headphones for $100]. We followed that by asking, “What about wireless,” and it searched [best wireless headphones for $100]. And then we remembered that we’re in Canada, so we followed that with, “I meant $100 Canadian,” and it performed a search for [best wireless headphones for $100 Canadian].

We can learn two things from this successful tête-à-tête: Not only does our Google Assistant manage to construct mostly full-sentence queries out of our mostly full-sentence asks, but it’s able to accurately link together topical queries. Despite us dropping our subject altogether by the end, Google Assistant still knows what we’re talking about.

Of course, we’re not above pointing out the fumbles. In the string of: “How to bake a Bundt cake,” “What kind of pan does it take,” and then “How much do those cost,” the actual query Google Assistant searched for the last question was [how much does bundt cake cost].

Just after we finished praising our Assistant for being able to maintain the same subject all the way through our inquiry, we needed it to be able to switch tracks. And it couldn’t. It associated the “those” with our initial Bundt cake subject instead of the most recent noun mentioned (Bundt cake pans).

In another important line of questioning about Bundt cake-baking, “How long will it take” produced the query [how long does it take to take a Bundt cake], while “How long does that take” produced [how long does a Bundt cake take to bake].

They’re the same ask, but our Google Assistant had a harder time parsing which definition of “take” our first sentence was using, spitting out a rather awkward query. Unless we really did want to know how long it’s going to take us to run off with someone’s freshly baked Bundt cake? (Don’t judge us.)

Since Google is likely paying out the wazoo to up the machine learning ante, we expect there to be less awkward failures over time. Which is a good thing, because when we asked about Bundt cake ingredients (“Does it take butter”) we found ourselves looking at a SERP for [how do I bake a butter].

Not that that doesn’t sound delicious.

Snippets are appearing for different kinds of queries

So, what are we to make of all of this? That we’re essentially in the midst of a natural language renaissance. And that voice search is helping spearhead the charge.

As for what this means for snippets specifically? They’re going to have to show up for human speak-type queries. And wouldn’t you know it, Google is already moving forward with this strategy, and not simply creating more snippets for the same types of queries. We’ve even got proof.

Over the last two years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of words in a query that surfaces a featured snippet. Long-tail queries may be a nuisance and a half, but snippet-having queries are getting longer by the minute.

When we bucket and weight the terms found in those long-tail queries by TF-IDF, we get further proof of voice search’s sway over snippets. The term “how” appears more than any other word and is followed closely by “does,” “to,” “much,” “what,” and “is” — all words that typically compose full sentences and are easier to remove from our typed searches than our spoken ones.

This means that if we want to snag more snippets and help searchers using digital assistants, we need to build out long-tail, natural-sounding keyword lists to track and optimize for.

Format your snippet content to match

When it’s finally time to optimize, one of the best ways to get your content into the ears of a searcher is through the right snippet formatting, which is a lesson we can learn from Google.

Taking our TF-IDF-weighted terms, we found that the words “best” and “how to” brought in the most list snippets of the bunch. We certainly don’t have to think too hard about why Google decided they benefit from list formatting — it provides a quick comparative snapshot or a handy step-by-step.

From this, we may be inclined to format all of our “best” and “how to” keyword content into lists. But, as you can see in the chart above, paragraphs and tables are still appearing here, and we could be leaving snippets on the table by ignoring them. If we have time, we’ll dig into which keywords those formats are a better fit for and why.

Get tracking

You could be the Wonder Woman of meta descriptions, but if you aren’t optimizing for the right kind of snippets, then your content’s going to have a harder time getting heard. Building out a voice search-friendly keyword list to track is the first step to lassoing those snippets.

Want to learn how you can do that in STAT? Say hello and request a tailored demo.

Need more snippets in your life? We dug into Google’s double-snippet SERPs for you — double the snippets, double the fun.

SEO Channel Context: An Analysis of Growth Opportunities

Too often do you see SEO analyses and decisions being made without considering the context of the marketing channel mix. Equally as often do you see large budgets being poured into paid ads in ways that seem to forget there’s a whole lot to gain from catering to popular search demand.

Both instances can lead to leaky conversion funnels and missed opportunity for long term traffic flows. But this article will show you a case of an SEO context analysis we used to determine the importance and role of SEO.

This analysis was one of our deliverables for a marketing agency client who hired us to inform SEO decisions which we then turned into a report template for you to get inspired by and duplicate.

Case description

The included charts show real, live data. You can see the whole SEO channel context analysis in this Data Studio SEO report template.

The traffic analyzed is for of a monetizing blog, whose marketing team also happens to be one of most fun to work for. For the sake of this case study, we’re giving them a spectacular undercover name — “The Broze Fellaz.”

For context, this blog started off with content for the first two years before they launched their flagship product. Now, they sell a catalogue of products highly relevant to their content and, thanks to one of the most entertaining Shark Tank episodes ever aired, they have acquired investments and a highly engaged niche community.

As you’ll see below, organic search is their biggest channel in many ways. Facebook also runs both as organic and paid and the team spends many an hour inside the platform. Email has elaborate automated flows that strive to leverage subscribers that come from the stellar content on the website. We therefore chose the three — organic Search, Facebook, and email — as a combination that would yield a comprehensive analysis with insights we can easily act on.

Ingredients for the SEO analysis

This analysis is a result of a long-term retainer relationship with “The Broze Fellaz” as our ongoing analytics client. A great deal was required in order for data-driven action to happen, but we assure you, it’s all doable.

From the analysis best practice drawer, we used:

  • 2 cups of relevant channels for context and analysis via comparison.
  • 3 cups of different touch points to identify channel roles — bringing in traffic, generating opt-ins, closing sales, etc.
  • 5 heads of open-minded lettuce and readiness to change current status quo, for a team that can execute.
  • 457 oz of focus-on-finding what is going on with organic search, why it is going on, and what we can do about it (otherwise, we’d end up with another scorecard export).
  • Imperial units used in arbitrary numbers that are hard to imagine and thus feel very large.
  • 1 to 2 heads of your analyst brain, baked into the analysis. You’re not making an automated report — even a HubSpot intern can do that. You’re being a human and you’re analyzing. You’re making human analysis. This helps avoid having your job stolen by a robot.
  • Full tray of Data Studio visualizations that appeal to the eye.
  • Sprinkles of benchmarks, for highlighting significance of performance differences.

From the measurement setup and stack toolbox, we used:

  • Google Analytics with tailored channel definitions, enhanced e-commerce and Search Console integration.
  • Event tracking for opt-ins and adjusted bounce rate via MashMetrics GTM setup framework.
  • UTM routine for social and email traffic implemented via Google Sheets & UTM.io.
  • Google Data Studio. This is my favorite visualization tool. Despite its flaws and gaps (as it’s still in beta) I say it is better than its paid counterparts, and it keeps getting better. For data sources, we used the native connectors for Google Analytics and Google Sheets, then Facebook community connectors by Supermetrics.
  • Keyword Hero. Thanks to semantic algorithms and data aggregation, you are indeed able to see 95 percent of your organic search queries (check out Onpage Hero, too, you’ll be amazed).

Inspiration for my approach comes from Lea Pica, Avinash, the Google Data Studio newsletter, and Chris Penn, along with our dear clients and the questions they have us answer for them.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

Analysis of the client’s SEO on the context of their channel mix

1) Insight: Before the visit

What’s going on and why is it happening?

Organic search traffic volume blows the other channels out of the water. This is normal for sites with quality regular content; yet, the difference is stark considering the active effort that goes into Facebook and email campaigns.

The CTR of organic search is up to par with Facebook. That’s a lot to say when comparing an organic channel to a channel with high level of targeting control.

It looks like email flows are the clear winner in terms of CTR to the website, which has a highly engaged community of users who return fairly often and advocate passionately. It also has a product and content that’s incredibly relevant to their users, which few other companies appear to be good at.

There’s a high CTR on search engine results pages often indicates that organic search may support funnel stages beyond just the top.

As well, email flows are sent to a very warm audience — interested users who went through a double opt-in. It is to be expected for this CTR to be high.

What’s been done already?

There’s an active effort and budget allocation being put towards Facebook Ads and email automation. A content plan has been put in place and is being executed diligently.

What we recommend next

  1. Approach SEO in a way as systematic as what you do for Facebook and email flows.
  2. Optimize meta titles and descriptions via testing tools such as Sanity Check. The organic search CTR may become consistently higher than that of Facebook ads.
  3. Assuming you’ve worked on improving CTR for Facebook ads, have the same person work on the meta text and titles. Most likely, there’ll be patterns you can replicate from social to SEO.
  4. Run a technical audit and optimize accordingly. Knowing that you haven’t done that in a long time, and seeing how much traffic you get anyway, there’ll be quick, big wins to enjoy.

Results we expect

You can easily increase the organic CTR by at least 5 percent. You could also clean up the technical state of your site in the eyes of crawlers -— you’ll then see faster indexing by search engines when you publish new content, increased impressions for existing content. As a result, you may enjoy a major spike within a month.

2) Insight: Engagement and opt-ins during the visit

With over 70 percent of traffic coming to this website from organic search, the metrics in this analysis will be heavily skewed towards organic search. So, comparing the rate for organic search to site-wide is sometimes conclusive, other times not conclusive.

Adjusted bounce rate — via GTM events in the measurement framework used, we do not count a visit as a bounce if the visit lasts 45 seconds or longer. We prefer this approach because such an adjusted bounce rate is much more actionable for content sites. Users who find what they were searching for often read the page they land on for several minutes without clicking to another page. However, this is still a memorable visit for the user. Further, staying on the landing page for a while, or keeping the page open in a browser tab, are both good indicators for distinguishing quality, interested traffic, from all traffic.

We included all Facebook traffic here, not just paid. We know from the client’s data that the majority is from paid content, they have a solid UTM routine in place. But due to boosted posts, we’ve experienced big inaccuracies when splitting paid and organic Facebook for the purposes of channel attribution.

What’s going on and why is it happening?

It looks like organic search has a bounce rate worse than the email flows — that’s to be expected and not actionable, considering that the emails are only sent to recent visitors who have gone through a double opt-in. What is meaningful, however, is that organic has a better bounce rate than Facebook. It is safe to say that organic search visitors will be more likely to remember the website than the Facebook visitors.

Opt-in rates for Facebook are right above site average, and those for organic search are right below, while organic is bringing in a majority of email opt-ins despite its lower opt-in rate.

Google’s algorithms and the draw of the content on this website are doing better at winning users’ attention than the detailed targeting applied on Facebook. The organic traffic will have a higher likelihood of remembering the website and coming back. Across all of our clients, we find that organic search can be a great retargeting channel, particularly if you consider that the site will come up higher in search results for its recent visitors.

What’s been done already?

The Facebook ad campaigns of “The Broze Fellaz” have been built and optimized for driving content opt-ins. Site content that ranks in organic search is less intentional than that.

Opt-in placements have been tested on some of the biggest organic traffic magnets.

Thorough, creative and consistent content calendars have been in place as a foundation for all channels.

What we recommend next

  1. It’s great to keep using organic search as a way to introduce new users to the site. Now, you can try to be more intentional about using it for driving opt-ins. It’s already serving both of the stages of the funnel.
  2. Test and optimize opt-in placements on more traffic magnets.
  3. Test and optimize opt-in copy for top 10 traffic magnets.
  4. Once your opt-in rates have improved, focus on growing the channel. Add to the content work with a 3-month sprint of an extensive SEO project
  5. Assign Google Analytics goal values to non-e-commerce actions on your site. The current opt-ins have different roles and levels of importance and there’s also a handful of other actions people can take that lead to marketing results down the road. Analyzing goal values will help you create better flows toward pre-purchase actions.
  6. Facebook campaigns seem to be at a point where you can pour more budget into them and expect proportionate increase in opt-in count.

Results we expect

Growth in your opt-ins from Facebook should be proportionate to increase in budget, with a near-immediate effect. At the same time, it’s fairly realistic to bring the opt-in rate of organic search closer to site average.

3) Insight: Closing the deal

For channel attribution with money involved, you want to make sure that your Google Analytics channel definitions, view filters, and UTM’s are in top shape.

What’s going on and why is it happening?

Transaction rate, as well as per session value, is higher for organic search than it is for Facebook (paid and organic combined).

Organic search contributes to far more last-click revenue than Facebook and email combined. For its relatively low volume of traffic, email flows are outstanding in the volume of revenue they bring in.

Thanks to the integration of Keyword Hero with Google Analytics for this client, we can see that about 30 percent of organic search visits are from branded keywords, which tends to drive the transaction rate up.

So, why is this happening? Most of the product on the site is highly relevant to the information people search for on Google.

Multi-channel reports in Google Analytics also show that people often discover the site in organic search, then come back by typing in the URL or clicking a bookmark. That makes organic a source of conversions where, very often, no other channels are even needed.

We can conclude that Facebook posts and campaigns of this client are built to drive content opt-ins, not e-commerce transactions. Email flows are built specifically to close sales.

What’s been done already?

There is dedicated staff for Facebook campaigns and posts, as well a thorough system dedicated to automated email flows.

A consistent content routine is in place, with experienced staff at the helm. A piece has been published every week for the last few years, with the content calendar filled with ready-to-publish content for the next few months. The community is highly engaged, reading times are high, comment count soaring, and usefulness of content outstanding. This, along with partnerships with influencers, helps “The Broze Fellaz” take up a half of the first page on the SERP for several lucrative topics. They’ve been achieving this even without a comprehensive SEO project. Content seems to be king indeed.

Google Shopping has been tried. The campaign looked promising but didn’t yield incremental sales. There’s much more search demand for informational queries than there is for product.

What we recommend next

  1. Organic traffic is ready to grow. If there is no budget left, resource allocation should be considered. In paid search, you can often simply increase budgets. Here, with stellar content already performing well, a comprehensive SEO project is begging for your attention. Focus can be put into structure and technical aspects, as well as content that better caters to search demand. Think optimizing the site’s information architecture, interlinking content for cornerstone structure, log analysis, and technical cleanup, meta text testing for CTR gains that would also lead to ranking gains, strategic ranking of long tail topics, intentional growing of the backlink profile.
  2. Three- or six-month intensive sprint of comprehensive SEO work would be appropriate.

Results we expect

Increasing last click revenue from organic search and direct by 25 percent would lead to a gain as high as all of the current revenue from automated email flows. Considering how large the growth has been already, this gain is more than achievable in 3–6 months.

Wrapping it up

Organic search presence of “The Broze Fellaz” should continue to be the number-one role for bringing new people to the site and bringing people back to the site. Doing so supports sales that happen with the contribution of other channels, e.g. email flows. The analysis points out is that organic search is also effective at playing the role of the last-click channel for transactions, often times without the help of other channels.

We’ve worked with this client for a few years, and, based on our knowledge of their marketing focus, this analysis points us to a confident conclusion that a dedicated, comprehensive SEO project will lead to high incremental growth.

Your turn

In drawing analytical conclusions and acting on them, there’s always more than one way to shoe a horse. Let us know what conclusions you would’ve drawn instead. Copy the layout of our SEO Channel Context Comparison analysis template and show us what it helped you do for your SEO efforts — create a similar analysis for a paid or owned channel in your mix. Whether it’s comments below, tweeting our way, or sending a smoke signal, we’ll be all ears. And eyes.