You and I are in the business of optimizing websites and helping businesses grow.
And, as a reader of SEJ, you understand the importance of high performing websites to serve your web visitors.
Things like page speed, the accuracy of keywords to content match, relevancy from links, overall user experience, call to action clicks and forms engagement.
However, what I’ve seen over many years now is that most of the website optimization strategies begin with a technical audit.
They miss the most obvious aspect of audits: the customer. Since we buy with emotion and justify with logic, let’s review an alternate, complimentary beginning.
Tech is OK, But Not at First
A fast page SEO audit will typically point out things like:
- Robots txt file use
- Title tags, meta description, headings
- 404 error pages
- Duplicate content
- Page speed analysis
- Schema markup
- Crawl errors
- Mobile friendliness
- Link neighborhoods
- Social platforms
- Domain and page authority
There are many software tools available to help that process. Most of these audit tools scan your page and informs you of what’s missing.
The final report card will show a total score and a percentage of optimization compliance according to technical findings and rules.
The truth is, none of that matters if you don’t create your overarching message, products, and brand uniqueness in a healthy, responsive place.
That means that you have done excellent market analysis, including your product and audience research. In fact, you’ve spent good time “auditing” and discovering your perfect customer, and you know who s/he is.
But this goes beyond just demographics.
Product to Market Fit
When you are planning to lift your brand online, or when you are launching a new product to your market, consider building a deeper, more emotional impact with your audience.
The process and details around your “product-to-market” fit should be recognized, executed and iterated upon.
“A product-market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market” – Marc Andreessen
The product shall serve your customers with significant value, and ought to stand out, and on its own.
This is what all business owners want. However, they might not place too much thought into it. Or worse, completely ignore it.
There is an incredible leverage created by making sure you understand the market and how the product serves it.
The “Standard” SEO Audit
For clarity, the professional’s approach to a website and SEO audit are divided into three core areas. Not necessarily listed in order of importance:
- Technical / Architecture: Tactics and technical, mobile friendliness, hosting, caching, databases
- Content / Architecture: Engagement, usability, content maps, conversions, links, meta data
- Links / Architecture: Analysis, history, bad neighborhoods, growth patterns, internal navigation and link use in body copy
The User Experience
This is clearly more comprehensive than a simple audit software tool that checks for correctness of tags and missing links, broken pages, etc.
It’s also looking at the website experience from a user’s perspective, including search engines (bots).
All SEO work and especially audits should focus on users first, then search engines.
This is a much better way to begin, however, it’s not enough.
The Empathy Map
Here’s where we’re making a different shift in your approach.
Some questions to ask:
- What are users thinking and feeling? Worries and aspirations?
- What would users say about using your products?
- Do their friends or co-workers say or do the same?
- What are the pain points this product will solve, and what positive experiences will they share?
Can’t you get this from a comprehensive SEO audit, you say?
Do you have a detailed blueprint for your content strategy, social media engagement, content and traffic analysis (page performance from your analytics reports) and competitive market reviews?
Specifications of avatars/personas that support the customer journey and attribution tracking from clicks?
Many SEO audits don’t get to this level of detail. Clients often feel overwhelmed.
Start With the End in Mind
My mission here today is to convince you to start with the empathy map first.
Get clear on your audience types, your market, your products and services and how you best can match your content (messages/copy) and offers to the searcher.
You can learn a lot from the lean startup world.
There are many tools out there in that category. They are significant, but from my experience, underused.
It’s time to get your team into a conference room. Begin with this framework and new approach.
Your copywriting and brand message plays a big role here.
It will help support the encouragement of long clicks (users don’t hit the back button). Create a compelling message to market match with relevant content that answers questions for your visitors.
They will appreciate, share and recognize your voice and content as authoritative and trusted material.
Putting it All Together
Imagine the fun you’ll have when gluing your new research together!
Consider this an ongoing effort. It’s not a “one-and-done”.
Here’s what you can do:
- Keywords: More easily perform non-branded keyword research to support the problems and solutions for your audience. No need to obsess over competitive metrics and traffic — include long tail phrases, targeting and relevancy instead.
- Content: Write very specific solution oriented and educational content, either from scratch or by finding and revising old content from existing inventory.
- Tags: Addition of on-page elements to key driver pages, like evergreen content, news, curated items, expert interviews and tips.
- Links: Building highly focused links that drive better-targeted traffic that helps you rank at the same time.
- Ask: Promote via targeted outreach to top 50-100 influencers who write about what you do, and ask to share via a tweet or similar.
- Interaction: Provide rich commenting on relevant blogs.
- Expert: Research and offer to guest post on other authority websites.
- Education: Create additional materials (videos, podcasts, whitepapers, tools) that help users with their well-defined problems.
- Technical: Apply a scheduled launch of fixes from the technical audit. A simple audit may take a few days, more complex, up to 3-4 weeks.
And, yes, you should perform the technical audit, including web analytics and search console insights to make sure everything is user and search friendly.
You’ve just changed the way your business runs online, and your customers and search engines will love you for it. Your website and content is now worthy and “emotionally ready” for traffic, sharing and sales.