Amplifying Discoverability & Engagement with Your Search Audience Data

In our work, we spend a lot of time focusing on the digital experiences we create for our audiences. We do this because it provides a meaningful way to engage in a digital conversation that, hopefully, results in a mutually beneficial relationship for both the customer and the business.

In our work, we spend a lot of time focusing on the digital experiences we create for our audiences.

We do this because it provides a meaningful way to engage in a digital conversation that, hopefully, results in a mutually beneficial relationship for both the customer and the business.  One of the most challenging aspects of this is not only knowing what content to write, and when to deliver it, but how to make it visible to search engines, and subsequently, to the audience you need to reach.

In fact, according to Infront Webworks, the first page of Google receives 95 percent of web traffic, with subsequent pages receiving 5 percent or less of total traffic.

But how do you make it to that coveted page one and amplify your discoverability?

According to Reflexive Media's Managing Director Tom Rusling, the key is understanding how your audience is searching in the first place.

"A good way to think about any SEO problem or program is to understand how your audience is searching for information about your products, services, company, etc. and then how do you support that through both technical content and authority/link building mechanisms," Rusling says.

Mapping can be really hard if you get stuck - you're not sure, so you don't make a decision. Go out and map everything.

However, there's no magic trick to automatically increasing your search ranking, unfortunately.

"I'm often surprised by the frequency that people still have this concept that there's this SEO wizardry and black box approach to it," Rusling says. "It's a very straightforward thing - there's no secret. It's difficult because there's a methodology that you need to follow and adhere to, and it takes some experience to do that."

But it's not impossible to learn. Rusling says that there a few things you can do right off the bat to increase your discoverability and engagement, and it all starts with your search audience data.

Quantify and Measure Your Audience Search Behavior

In 2003, John Battelle, a well-respected SEO consultant, coined the idea of 'The Database of Intentions', or the aggregate results of every search ever entered, every result list ever tendered, and every path taken as a result.

If you can assign a dollar value to a keyword, you can better understand the investment and potential profit of a keyword before going after it.

According to Rusling, a good way to start amplifying your discoverability is to leverage 'The Database of Intentions' to better target customers and give your business a higher return on investment. But how do we harness the Database of Intentions and turn it into a database of audience insights for actionable content strategy?

Rusling suggests considering a few key questions. What's the quantifiable size and value of your search audience? How visible are you currently to this prospective audience? And what's the pathway to realizing full search potential? Once you answer these questions, you can start building out your audience database.

Part 1: Build the database of intention for YOUR audience:

  • Quantify your audience: the basis for building a sound strategy

  • Content is the conduit to connect your company with your audience's search behavior

"Go out and discover all the ways people are searching for your business," Rusling says.

He suggests using tools, such as the Google keyword tool, to get estimates on the monthly search behavior for any keyword phrase. Then start aggregating that data into a large list. This will help you build and quantify who your audience is. "That's the beginning of a foundation for a good strategy," he says.

Part 2: Segment and Analyze

  • Organize your keyword list in 'database' like structure

  • Apply useful attributes to your keyword query list

  • Consider multiple rankings as applicable

    • National

    • Geo-Specific

    • Desktop vs Mobile

  • Visualize your keywords using a Word Cloud tool to help "see" keyword clusters

"What you're setting yourself up to do here is to be able to slice and dice and segment all this search information in a lot of different, interesting ways," Rusling says. "You're then able to ask questions and gain audience insight."

Bucketing Keywords & Search Volume Into Rank Zones

Once you have quantified your audience and segmented and analyzed your keywords, Rusling suggests bucketing each keyword and its ranking into a ranking zone, or where that keyword appears within search results. "This becomes really helpful to start understanding opportunities," he says.

Then, once you sift through the thousands of keywords, apply attributes to those keywords, and bucket the keywords into rankings, you can start doing basic segmentation. Two ways to do so are to analyze by keyword market or to analyze by ranking zones.

Analyze by Keyword Market

If you can assign a dollar value to a keyword, you can better understand the investment and potential profit of a keyword before going after it.

"It starts to help make decisions on how you should actually invest and pursue this and put it into terms," Rusling says. "We've found that's usually one of the biggest obstacles in helping a company start to understand what the potential is out there."

Analysis by Ranking Zones

Take a look at both branded and generic search volume. Are you getting traffic from the first page of search? If not, focus on those keywords that are within striking distance. "There are two really important buckets to look at. One is striking distance - you've got content that you're ranking for, but your just not quite page one."

And while moving from page two to page one can take time, Rusling says that when companies realize they are that close it's worth the effort. "That's a huge 'aha!' moment for a company when they realize, 'holy cow, we're really close to a huge amount of value.'" And Rusling says often times, getting to page one can be the difference of just a small amount of content optimization, technical optimization and link building.

Tying Content to Keyword Strategy: The Golden Rule

Once you've really started to understand how people are searching and you've quantified all the different keyword phrases, now is the time to take that keyword information and start developing a content strategy. Here's how:

  • Group your keyword phrases into themed clusters

  • Map the clusters of terms to specific pages

  • Craft each page around supporting its designated keyword phrases

  • Avoid blurring: one page dedicated to a keyword theme

  • De-optimize conflicting pages

Mapping: Every Keyword Needs a Home

Now that you've gathered keywords and grouped them into clusters, the next big step is to figure out how to use them. Your ultimate goals are to find new opportunities on existing pages and create new content for those keywords that don't yet have a home. Before you can do either, you need to map the keywords to pages on your site.

"It's usually easy to map keywords to pages you have but then you quickly find out that you've got huge holes in your content," Rusling says.

So to make the mapping process easier, Rusling gives these tips:

  • Make mapping an iterative process

  • Don't let the current taxonomy of the site impede your thinking

  • Focus on one section at a time

  • 'Orphaned' keywords serve future content strategies

  • Map to the broadest level pages first, then re-analyze

  • Find opportunities to turn pages into full sections

"Mapping can be really hard if you get stuck - you're not sure, so you don't make a decision. Go out and map everything," Rusling says. "You're going to have to whittle away at this and go through a few rounds so focus on one section at a time."

One Page at a Time

In order to successfully map keywords, it's important to look at every single page, one at a time. "Once you get that mapping nailed down, now it's time to roll up your sleeves and it's a page-by-page battle," Rusling says. "You have to optimize each page based on the keyword strategy that you've mapped to that page."

Page Level Optimizations:

  • Based on your keyword-to-page mapping

  • Optimize existing pages

  • Create new pages and new sections

  • Support with internal linking and navigation updates

"This can take some time but you can see the rewards when you do it with clear intention," Rusling says.

The exciting part of this is that once you've put in the time and effort, it is the gift that keeps giving. And while you can't wave a magic wand and appear on page one, ultimately, there are some key strategies that will reliably help your website perform well. The key to this is to take the time to study and truly understand your audience and their search habits.

More from Tom Rusling and Blueriver

One of the most challenging aspects of creating digital content is not only knowing what content to write, and when to deliver it, but how to make it visible to search engines, and subsequently, to the audience you need to reach.

In this free on-demand presentation, Reflexive Media's Managing Director Tom Rusling explains that the key is understanding how your audience is searching in the first place.

getmura.com/resources/videos/amplifying-discoverability-engagement-with-your-search-audience-data