3 ways the customer journey can guide SEO

Understanding how your users engage with your brand is vital to delivering a great customer experience.  

This is why you shouldn’t overlook the customer journey. It allows you to shape your website’s user experience (UX) and content strategies based on the people who matter – your customers.

Let’s explore how the customer journey can help guide your SEO program.

Customer journey and SEO

A well-mapped customer journey can greatly benefit SEO. 

Because SEO is a broad discipline, it is easy to scatter your efforts. Some people get too immersed in perfecting one aspect – either technical, on-page or external. 

Putting a premium on the customer journey helps align your SEO program and focus your efforts on what’s valuable. 

Whether you look at the customer journey as a linear or multi-touch path, four-level funnel, or a flywheel, you must implement an overall strategy. 

Within that strategy and even tactical activities and plans benefits from aligning with the customer journey.

Here are a few areas where the customer journey can guide your SEO efforts.

1. Mapping keywords and topics to the journey

Are you struggling with an extensive keyword list? Do you want to optimize for all the terms that you know are relevant but find it challenging?

Using your customer journey maps, you can get your content right overall and leverage the clarity for SEO. 

For instance, the best time to educate prospects is when they’re still in the research and exploratory phase. 

When someone is just gaining awareness of your brand, you should aim to become their trusted resource. Help them understand their problem and identify possible solutions. Avoid the urge to sell.

This strategy often works for B2B, but it can play out even in ecommerce and B2C. 

Let’s say you’re selling groomsmen gifts. You can plan on creating a comprehensive guide for everything an engaged couple needs to know when planning for their wedding. 

Doing so will help you get found as a great resource – even before they realize they need specific groomsmen gifts.

Building awareness and brand affinity early in the journey will help customers keep engaging with you until they’re ready to buy.

At that initial awareness stage, take the terms that you know are not likely to convert but are important. Then, strategically plan your content and optimization so you can be found at this stage in the customer journey.

The same is true for terms where you know the intent is to convert. Terms that show purchase intent – like a search for a specific product’s part number or action-oriented lead generation terms (e.g., “dentist near me”) – are further in the customer journey. 

Mapping the right keywords to this stage is critical too. At this point, we want to get them close to a purchase, contact form or another way to engage with us.

Don’t bury the call to action. Avoid hitting them with thought leadership or general awareness content.

Based on your customer journey mapping, you will also find a lot of in-between queries and topics to tie your content to. Use your understanding of the journey to categorize keywords and topics and map them to the right content on your site.

Hopefully, by categorizing your keywords this way and looking at content needs through this lens, you can gain some refreshing focus and clarity for your content plans and investment.

2. Conversion rate optimization goals and objectives

So you’ve invested a lot of time in mapping keywords and topics to respective stages of the customer journey and developed the content to fill any gaps. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that everything will work perfectly as intended.

Regardless of how objective and specific you are, there will always be something to test, optimize, and build upon.

In some cases, you might find out new things about what the customer journey looks like.

In others, you’ll get the impressions and traffic you want but won’t see the user move to the next step you expect in the journey.

This is where conversion rate optimization (CRO) comes in. 

Go back to your historical data and your projected data. 

  • What percentage of users typically do what next? 
  • What do you expect them to do?
  • Do they return to the site three days later on a more specific page? 
  • Do they usually visit certain pages or take specific actions?

Dig deeper. See what other keywords you could be optimizing for. 

Understand when they bounce back to Google and how they might refine searches. Leverage data from other channels.

Getting granular with Google Analytics, heat mapping and CRO tools, and your customer relationship management (CRM) platform will help. 

Leverage them to learn where the journey is accurate, whereas the UX or content needs improvement. Find areas where you can optimize the assumed or planned journey.

SEO elements must be incorporated here to include technical factors (site speed, Core Web Vitals, indexing), on-page, content strategy and calls to action.

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3. Measurement and attribution

I could have listed this first as it is woven through my look at how the customer journey and SEO converge. 

I assume you have a well-defined journey. However, as I noted above, using CRO and other ways to optimize the journey and website overall, you will need to measure what is happening to make informed decisions fully.

Are the keywords you’re focused on at each stage driving traffic to your intended pages? 

Are the users doing what you want them to do and going deeper in the journey?

You’ll find weaknesses in your analytics setup and how you look at SEO and overall web analytics when you put it to the test. That’s a good thing.

Find new ways to view and measure the customer journey. Also, align your measurement of SEO factors and performance against that journey. 

This will help you focus your efforts and not broadly bucket global stats like rankings, impressions, traffic, and conversions.

Getting this deep, you can see what you’re leaving on the table. Perhaps you’re focusing too heavily on awareness keywords (and not getting conversions). Or you might be fixated on just action/”convert now” terms without fostering “unaware” users through the journey.

Conclusion

Focus and objective guidance is essential for SEO. Any prioritization and alignment with web and broader strategies can help, whether you have extensive resources to invest or can only adopt a lean approach.

Through leveraging a mapped-out customer journey, you can define needs, strategies, tactics, and goals for content. At the same time, you can manage expectations and investments.

SEO should not be done on an island. It’s best implemented as part of the whole. Customer journey thinking brings you closer to the overall marketing plan and strategy. Leverage it as an opportunity.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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About The Author

Corey Morris is a skilled marketing professional with 15+ years of experience developing award-winning, ROI-generating digital strategies for local and national brands. He was recently honored as the recipient of the KCDMA 2019 Marketer of the Year award. Corey serves as the chief strategy officer at Voltage – a marketing firm based in Kansas City, MO. Previously, he founded the KC Search Marketing Conference to help build a local community for search marketers for career growth. He was recognized for his involvement in the conference and invited to join the global board of SEMPO (now part of DAA) as the VP of Cities.

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