Keywords used to be the be-all and end-all of SEO. If your clients’ sites contained enough keywords, you’d consistently drive traffic. Simple. Unfortunately, that led to companies trying to game the system with keyword stuffing.
That’s why Google has spent the last few years placing an increased emphasis on behavioral analytics instead of just keywords.
This trend has now fully come to a head, meaning it’s crucial that you focus primarily on your clients’ behavioral analytics when seeking to optimize their SEO. Even more so today because of COVID — as online competition increases, clients are turning to SEO as a revenue lever.
So, where do you start? And what should you focus on to build strong SEO strategies for your clients?
We answer these questions and more in our eBook, ‘Why you need to re-think your SEO approach in 2021.’ Here’s a preview of the insights you can expect.
The rise of behavioral analytics
Over the past decade, Google has been shifting its goals towards understanding search intent and prioritizing personalized SEO. RankBrain, released in 2015, helped Google better understand search intent.
It analyzes complex, unknown long-tail queries and links them to other search queries that it has previously encountered — tying an unknown search to known phrases (and the topics related to these phrases).
When a searcher clicks on a particular link, RankBrain assesses various metrics like ‘bounce rate’ or ‘time spent on page’ to discern how satisfied they were with the results they interacted with.
If the user didn’t appear satisfied, the algorithm will take this on board and adjust the results it displays the next time the searcher has this particular query. Over time, sites perceived to be the most valuable rise to the top.
BERT, unleashed in 2019, took this one step further. For each search, it analyzes both the keywords themselves and the surrounding words that were included. This helps it better understand the context behind these words (the meaning of the entire phase) so it can provide searchers with more accurate, more valuable SERPs.
Google’s January 2020 update showed its continued commitment to transitioning away from keyword-based SEO. It explained that companies looking to rise to the top of SERPs should follow the E.A.T approach (expertise, authority, and trustworthiness) in favor of keywords alone.
Those that ignored this advice not only fell behind in the eyes of Google’s latest update but, more critically, failed to provide searchers with valuable information — and so rapidly fell behind their more SEO-savvy competitors.
Simple keyword optimization started to deteriorate with the release of Hummingbird and has been in slow decline ever since. If your agency has typically relied on age-old keyword-based SEO tactics, then you’ve probably seen your clients’ traffic steadily decline before your eyes.
If this sounds familiar, you can still flip the script for your client’s SEO strategies. Here are three tips to get you started while using Google’s push for behavioral analytics to pull it off.
Tip 1: Focus on ROI, not traffic
When it comes to modern SEO, traffic is no longer the gold standard.
You might be thinking: “Wait — what? I mean, driving traffic is the whole reason why you invest in SEO in the first place”. Sure, that used to be true. Nowadays, however, analyzing traffic on its own will see you miss valuable insights.
Think about it. Would your clients rather that a landing page attracted 100 visitors, none of whom ended up converting, or would they rather attract five visitors, with three of them converting?
Traffic might make you and your clients feel good — but it can often just be a vanity metric. The end goal is to attract visitors that provide your business with value instead of attracting a ton of non-converting visitors (even if your content does satisfy their search intent).
The Point? Focus on ROI. And that means focusing on behavioral analytics to ensure you are attracting the ‘right’ kind of traffic.
To get it right, you have to use behavioral analytics — data that provides insights into online consumer behavior – to reverse-engineer your clients’ SEO.
Start by examining what high-value visitors are searching for and feeding this back into the content that you produce going forward. By focusing on ROI, you’re able to hone in on high-value SEO strategies.
Tip 2: Replace keywords research with first-party data
Look, we’re not saying keywords are useless — far from it. Keywords play an invaluable role in displaying subject matter expertise and building topical authority.
If one of your clients wants to be known as their area’s preeminent orthodontics practice but fails to mention keywords like “Invisalign” or “retainer,” then searchers might not believe that they truly are experts.
That being said, keywords should not be your primary means of attracting high-quality, valuable traffic.
This is where first-party data (i.e., data that your clients possess regarding their visitors) comes in. It lifts the lid on visitors, revealing what they’re looking for and how they interacted with your site — in other words, whether they found what it was that they were looking for.
Let’s take the orthodontics example mentioned above.
Perhaps your client receives a huge volume of calls from prospects that want to find out more about retainers: how much they cost, whether you get them before or after braces, how they should care for them, and so on.
By analyzing this first-party call data, you identify a massive gap in your client’s current content strategy — so you work with them to create an all-encompassing retainers FAQ page.
The results? They attract more traffic, rise up the SERPs, and win more clients.
Of course, you might think that manually pouring over your clients’ call transcripts is too time-consuming. You’re not wrong. Fortunately, call tracking tools (such as CallRail) allow you to automatically analyze call transcripts in just a few clicks.
Conversation Intelligence leverages AI to transcribe calls while Call Highlights reveals key terms the caller mentioned that might be valuable to your business.
Tip 3: Prioritize retention
It’s been said that it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than to retain one. That’s why it’s so important that your clients invest in creating post-acquisition content.
Not only will they power up their SEO game, but it will also drastically boost their retention rates.
But how do you know where to start? Neither you nor your clients can simply push a button and miraculously redesign their site to prioritize retention. This requires lots of effort and, most importantly, means that your clients have to listen to their clients.
They need to understand what it is that drove them to their site in the first place.
They need to find out what customers don’t like about their site as things stand: what they’re struggling with, what frustrates them, and where they struggle to acquire key information that will help them solve their particular pain points — even after they’ve converted.
Just because a customer has bought your clients’ products doesn’t mean they have solved all their problems. Nor does it mean that your clients have done all they can to retain this customer over the long run.
The most successful companies focus just as much (if not even more so) on retaining existing customers over simply attracting new ones.
And the best part is, the key to retaining customers at scale lies in one unexpected place: your calls. Tools like CallRail can instantly record and analyze thousands of calls, leveraging AI-based tools to rapidly unearth critical insights.
This will show your clients what their customers are struggling with, what they’re looking for, and how they can ultimately retain them over the long run.
The effects will be profound. Your clients will attract more traffic as existing customers return to their site in droves to find answers to their post-acquisition questions. You’ll reduce inbound calls to agents, meaning they’ll be able to dedicate their energy to other customers.
Most importantly, your clients will transform their retention rates — leading to an improved bottom line.
The ‘new’ SEO normal
Google’s recent changes might take some getting used to, but there’s no time to waste. You need to get up to speed with the new rules of the SEO game as soon as possible.
CallRail’s new guide spells out the precise steps that agency marketers can take to safeguard their clients’ SERPs going forward. It provides a roadmap on how to hone in your client’s SEO strategy, ensuring that they not only meet their searchers’ intent but that they retain customers long after they initially converted.
Most importantly, it will demonstrate how you and your clients can flip the switch: focusing on satisfying your prospects and customers’ search intent rather than merely trying to satisfy Google.
Ready to get started? If so, download ‘Why you need to re-think your SEO approach in 2021’ to begin your journey.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.