Search engine optimization, commonly known as SEO, is a complicated marketing strategy that eludes even the best entrepreneurs. But it has the potential to create huge sales, if done properly. And most of the time it is not done properly.
That’s the view of Eli Schwartz, author of one of the top-selling books on SEO, who brings to the table more than a decade of experience with big tech companies.
“Too often, SEO efforts begin with just a group of keywords, developed by the marketing team or founders, based on their own knowledge of the product,” says Schwartz, author of the contrarian book Product-Led SEO. “Keyword-based SEO is limited and inadequate, and there is a better way.”
Typically in SEO, keywords become the stems of keyword research. They are entered into a keyword research tool, and related words are the output. “The new, longer list becomes the seed for content ideas that will be written and posted on the website. The problem?” asks Schwartz. “The keyword list becomes a checklist and content roadmap, which doesn’t change much over time.”
According to Schwartz, whatever the actual performance or real-time metrics, content keeps getting cranked out using the words from the original keyword checklist.
“In this paradigm of SEO, there’s no room for a user’s feedback loop,” says Schwartz.
He advises that rather than develop a straight dictionary product like any other online translation library that merely targets one-to-one word definitions (Google included) and try to jam as many keywords as possible onto the page, there is a better way: build pages that are focused on user experience first.
Schwartz has helped clients like Shutterstock, WordPress, Blue Nile, Quora, and Zendesk execute highly successful global SEO strategies. As head of SurveyMonkey’s SEO team, he oversaw the company’s global operations, helped launch the first Asia-Pacific office, and grew the company’s organic search as a key driver of global revenue.
Schwartz says that within the technology industry, and especially in Silicon Valley, there is the idea of “product-led growth.” This means that, instead of relentlessly marketing the product, companies pour resources and effort into perfecting the product so that it speaks for itself.
“In this model, the satisfied customer becomes your biggest marketer,” he says. “They love the product so much, they tell others; they leave reviews on the website. They become your most important spokesperson.”
This model upends the whole premise of marketing the product to promote adoption. Instead, the focus shifts to getting a great product into the hands of users who get excited enough to then become marketing agents on the product’s behalf.
Unfortunately, most of our modern-day SEO efforts ignore user feedback.
“Instead of focusing on the quality of the search experience for the user, we often focus on keywords and ignore the user’s preferences almost entirely,” says Schwartz.