The digital nature of our current business landscape has caused a dramatic shift in the way companies market their products. More customers are turning to the internet to research, test, and purchase products and services. As a result, SEO has become an essential modern marketing skill.

Yet, if you’ve worked in marketing for any length of time, you know bridging the gap between traditional marketing and SEO isn’t that simple. Marrying the creative side of content marketing with the more technical parts of SEO is an art form many have yet to master.

So, what is a modern SEO professional to do? Glad you asked! In today’s blog post we explain why buyer personas are a critical—but often missing—element of your SEO strategy. Let’s get into it!

What is a buyer persona?

On a basic level, a buyer persona is essentially a fictional representation of the person who is most likely to buy from your company—your ideal customer. Buyer personas are created using quantitative analysis, market research, anecdotal observations, and many other data sources.

For a more complete guide to buyer persona creation, check out the following article: The B2B Marketer’s Guide to Buyer Personas.

Why must SEOs pay attention to buyer personas?

Traditional marketers have relied on buyer personas to fine-tune their strategies and target more qualified buyers for years.  Yet, buyer personas aren’t typically included in conversations surrounding SEO. And we say, that’s a mistake.

Here are three ways in which buyer personas can help to improve and scale your SEO efforts:

1.     Combine keyword mapping and buyer personas for better lead nurturing.

In sales and marketing, content mapping is a term that refers to the process of mapping marketing content to each stage of the buyer’s journey. Content mapping involves strategically crafted marketing materials that drive customers to take a particular action. Because of this, content mapping is an essential part of lead nurturing.

But, in order for content mapping to be truly effective, it must closely intertwine with keyword mapping. Here’s what we mean: Consider your list of target keywords and the intent behind each of them. Can this intent be matched to any particular phase of the sales funnel?

Let’s pretend you work at an agency that specializes in SEO. Here are three examples of search queries that incorporate the word, SEO:

Query One: What is SEO

This particular query has extremely low buying intent behind it. The person searching this phrase is merely trying to figure out what SEO is. It’s highly unlikely that this searcher is ready to spend money at your agency.

But, this doesn’t mean the person searching this term will never be ready to buy. Therefore, this keyword should be mapped to content served at the beginning of the buyer’s cycle.

Perhaps you publish an in-depth guide to SEO on your blog and optimize it accordingly. This searcher who lands on this page has now learned something of value and familiarized themselves with your brand—potentially moving them to the next stage in the sales funnel.

Query Two: How to improve SEO strategy

This next phrase has slightly more intent behind it. The searcher has indicated they’re familiar with the concept of SEO and they’re interested in improving their current strategy. This person may or may not be ready to spend money on your services.

For this reason, we recommend mapping this type of keyword to middle-of-the-funnel content. Using the same example, we suggest creating a piece of content that positions SEO agencies—like yourself—as a method of improving SEO strategy.

Because the intent behind this keyword is a little more ambiguous, we would stay away from mapping it to extremely salesy, vendor-specific content. However, it might make sense to gate content like this. Those who are genuinely interested will submit a form.

This allows you to capture each person’s contact information and further nurture them through the sales funnel with targeted campaigns.

Query Three: Best SEO agency

Out of all the search terms we’ve discussed, this last phrase has the most buying intent. The person searching this term has already determined they’re looking for a service like yours and have actively started searching for an agency to work with.

This last phrase should be mapped to the bottom of the funnel content—a product demo, a free trial, or a targeted landing page.

Marketers who closely integrate their keyword mapping and content mapping strategies, will not only rank higher for target keywords, but they’ll also generate more leads and ultimately make more sales.

But, in order to understand what your prospects are searching for, you must first consult your buyer personas.   Ask yourself, where is each persona in the buyer’s journey? What are they actively searching for? And, what types of content are they seeking with their searches?

2.     Use the pain points identified within your personas to pinpoint high-intent keywords.

If you’re like most modern businesses, you’ve already conducted keyword research and have a good grasp on popular keywords within your industry. But, in our crowded content landscape, the competition for popular keywords is tough. So, if you’re looking to identify new high-intent keywords, we say: Consult your buyer personas.

An important part of buyer persona creation is to identify common pain points that ultimately lead a person to seek a solution—i.e. your products or services. Once you have done this, you essentially have the key to unlock SEO success.

Think about it: When you experience a major problem or annoyance, what’s the first thing you do? If you said, “Google it!” you’re not alone.  In fact, a recent study reports that a whopping 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine (source).

For this reason, we recommend working backward. Use your buyer personas to figure out what problems or inefficiencies your company fixes. Then, dive deep into your keyword research to figure out all common variations of each persona’s pain points. You’ll likely discover high-intent terms that you’ve never even considered.

When you optimize your content to rank for this type of keyword, you have the unique opportunity to present your business as the answer to each prospect’s prayers.

Let’s revisit the fictional SEO agency from the previous example. As you might have predicted, the agency has optimized their website for obvious keywords like SEO agency, SEO consultant, SEO tips, best SEO company, and so on.

Yet, after consulting their buyer personas, the agency realized they were still missing out on a large chunk of prime Google real estate. In fact, most of their qualified sales prospects were searching terms like google penalty, how to recover from bad SEO, increase organic traffic, get more customers to my website, etc.

By directly optimizing their content for pain points, the agency discovered a wealth of new, high-intent keywords to go after.

3.     Decipher the subtle language differences between different buyer personas and tailor your keyword strategy to include your findings.

When it comes to things like language and word choice, there’s no way to predict what one particular person is going to say at any given moment. But, certain factors can influence the colloquialisms, sentence structure, and dialect of specific groups of people. These factors include things like age, location, and gender.

Here’s a quick example: You run out at lunchtime to pick up a sandwich with a few of your coworkers. Do you order a hoagie, a grinder, a sub, or a hero? The answer to this question will likely depend on where you grew up. The same goes for the age-old debate—pop or soda?

Although these differences have very little impact on your personal life, they can be catastrophic in a business setting. Think of it this way—if you optimize your website with one phrase, but half of the country refers to the same item with an entirely different word—you’ll miss out on a huge segment of your potential customer base.

Avoid this problem by digging into these subtle language differences. Note anything of importance within your buyer personas and optimize accordingly. Remember, this isn’t about how you want to position or brand your company. It’s about understanding how your prospects think about your products.

Key Takeaways About Buyer Personas and SEO

The modern sales funnel is fueled largely by digital channels. As these channels grow increasingly crowded, you’ll need to put more effort into thoroughly understanding your buyers, hyper-personalized communications, and more targeted marketing campaigns.  So, make your job easier by creating and utilizing high-quality buyer personas. Your business and your customers will thank you.

To learn more about ZoomInfo, the leading people information database, contact our sales team today. We have the tools you need to improve and scale your marketing efforts.

About the author

Ryan Hadfield

Ryan Hadfield is a content marketing director at ZoomInfo, the leading B2B contact data solution.

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