By Caitlin Brennan

May 9th, 2016

SEO can seem like a battle of wits between the content creator and a faceless, malevolent algorithm. It doesn’t have to be that way. Smart use of social media tools and metrics can make your SEO strategy about getting the clicks that count from the people who buy.

Keyword-based SEO: blending in with the crowd
Keyword research is the traditional starting point when creating SEO-friendly content. Keywords can predict the potential relevance and resonance of content, but they only tell part of the story. Social listening completes the story by revealing the intent behind the searched keywords. An ideal content strategy utilizes both keyword and social listening tools.

Tools like (Adwords) Keyword Planner offer only quantitative data about what goes into the search engine, not how the people who use it are thinking.

Let’s say you sell organic dog food. Normally, you would start by researching traffic for terms like “organic,” “dog food,” and, as it may not shock you, “organic dog food.” The marketplace is crowded. There is only so much you can do to get your share of that traffic. Keyword research may turn up related search terms, but they all share the same problem: everyone sees the same list you do. Automatically. How do you stand out in a crowd with a strategy like that?

Not only are you stuck duking it out with the rest of your industry over those clicks, you risk not connecting with your audience if you create a campaign based on assumptions rather than on customer sentiment. You know people are searching for organic dog food, now you need to figure out how people are talking about organic dog food.

Social listening can break the keyword logjam
Qualitative information about your customers can let you know what they are looking for. It can uncover who is finding your website – and who you missed. Your goal should be to know what your customers want before they come to your website. That way, when potential customers arrive, they find exactly what they’re looking for.

Social Listening tools can give you a broader picture of what drives people to switch dog food brands by uncovering the casual conversations that real consumers have about you, your competition, and the factors that sway their decision-making. A broad social listening approach can identify the common experiences and sentiments that you can then in turn cater to. Consumers are out there making public statements about exactly about what they want and how they feel. Listen to them!

Tap into customer conversations about your brand, competition and decision-making data with Falcon’s Listen.

Catering to the pain points
In our dog food example, social listening might discover that many consumers have been talking about pet foods that contain unhealthy and unnatural ingredients.

Knowing that customer pain point, go deeper and research its origins. You find that a popular YouTube vlogger has been doing a weekly series called “Doggie Delight or Pooch Poison?” in which she discusses unpronounceable ingredients and their supposed health effects to pets. Every week, hundreds of thousands of people check the labels to see whether their beloved pup is eating something that sounds like it was invented in a lab.

With this information, you can find new keyword clusters that reach the right audiences with less competition. Instead of looking for keywords about your product, focus on keywords around the ingredients this vlogger is getting pet owners in a tizzy over. Create content which speaks to the benefits of dog food with wholesome, natural ingredients. Assure customers that your product does not have the controversial additives.

Unilever’s “All Things Hair” campaign is a testament to the benefits of using social listening in keyword research. Data analysis revealed there are close to one billion monthly searches related to hair care. Recognizing the enormous need for information, Unilever hired influential vloggers to respond to questions about hair in real time based on rising search queries.

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As a result, “All Things Hair” has become the most-subscribed hair brand channel globally. The award-winning campaign has 300,000 subscribers and 64 million channel views. This campaign succeeded because it was relevant and authentic – the content responded exactly to the needs of the customer. “All Things Hair” provided brand recognition and useful information. Unilever established trust by engaging influencers to drive the conversation.

This information is also important for brand reputation management. Sentiment analysis and targeted interventions in conversations, two of the keystone concepts of social listening, can help you develop content that increases relevance by acknowledging and affirming the feelings of consumers.

Not only can you provide a real service to the kind of people who would be open to a pitch from a company just like yours, you can improve SEO outcomes by finding keywords that get traffic but are not naturally clustered around the most obvious choices.

Focus on real people, not search engines
Your goal should be to inform and establish trust, not just sell your product. If you can provide search-oriented content that answers real questions posed by real people, everybody wins. Remove the guesswork and let people interested in your brand be your guide.

If SEO tools are the engine, social listening is the steering wheel. By adopting a strategy of keyword analysis and social listening, you will gain access to all the thinking and discussion that took place before a search is conducted. As a result, you will have a better understanding of what your audience wants to find once that search is made. Ultimately, you will have a better chance of optimizing for people rather than just engines.

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