How to ‘Hack’ SEO to Gain Intel About Your Audience
When people hear “SEO,” they tend to think of working hard to improve how your website ranks in Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. Some people think of spamming keywords, and others think about content marketing and how a well-done SEO strategy can take your content to another level.
So, what exactly is SEO? We like to think of defining SEO as an iterative process designed to increase the amount of traffic to a website or specific piece of content by increasing the rank on search engine results pages. This can be done through keyword usage, increasing links to a page to build “authority” and making sure your content is relevant and consumable. As search engines grow more intelligent and complex, more and more emphasis will be placed on how the reader perceives and engages with your content, rather than your ability to beat an algorithm by stuffing your page with keywords.
But what if SEO could be more than that? What if you could reverse engineer SEO as a strategy to gain insights on your customers or, better yet, your competitors’ customers? What about finding out more about your target audience?
Let’s take an example: You’re launching a new organic snack food that is aimed primarily at middle-class-and-above millennials, but you need to understand their behavior and habits in order to reach them effectively. You know the Super Bowl is coming up, so maybe you want to include that, too.
Let’s start with social interest targeting and see if we can find any new information about the habits of this ever-elusive group.
1. Look at some interests on Facebook using the Audience Insights tool, and just enter some general demographic information.
Here, we’ve narrowed Facebook demographic interests to people ages 18–34 who make at least $50,000 and have no kids. Then, we add organic food as an interest, which is based on a combination of page likes and purchase behavior matched back to Facebook profiles.
2. Start to look at things such as what pages they like, to get an idea of where they spend their time, what websites they may visit and what they engage with.
For example, we see that this demographic tends to visit pages like The Penny Hoarder, a website based on deals. That seems like a solid lead, so let’s take a look at the SEO information we can gather about this domain using another tool, SEMRush.
3. Taking a look at The Penny Hoarder’s paid keywords, we can see the words for which they pay for ads on Google are focused around getting free coupons from stores and manufacturers.
While this may seem like a simple thing, it gives a leg up to know this particular site is already being visited by your target audience, and the website itself is paying for the Google ads to rank! Free SEO, anyone?
Outside of the direct chances for exposure and SEO, you can use this information to learn more about the tone, subject matter and content that resonates with this audience. Seeing which pages they engage with and investigating the popular posts is a great start.
Discovering the organic and paid keywords these popular websites are using can not only inform your content marketing decisions but help uncover potential branding opportunities, influencers and more.
Use this information to understand your audience and their motivations. Their habits and tastes can help you determine the types of content, the tone and voice that resonates, and the proper strategy for reaching them. Good content doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel if we know what already works.
Consider your target audience and think how your content can be tailored to fit their habits. The more seamless and less intrusive your content is, the easier it is to consume — a major ranking signal for search engines.
Don’t think of social media or SEO in a vacuum. New tools like Google AMP will make the web even more interconnected in the future, and your strategies on both need to be audience-focused.
Learn from your competitors and partners. Piggyback on their success where you can. Create partnerships with people already spending money on Google ads. See what is driving traffic to the places your audience is already visiting and consider how to use those learnings in your own strategy.