Use Searcher Personas to Connect SEO to Conversions

September 13, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

Hey, hey! You guys still with me? I hope so. It’s the last session of Day 1 of SMX East and we’re going to go out talking about using personae [that’s the plural of “persona”. Rhea taught me that.] to boost SEO and conversions. Pretty sexy, right? Helping us get our sex appeal on are Lena Flanigan, Vanessa Fox, and Michael King. Also, everyone wave to Vanessa.  She’s letting me steal her Internet access so that I can hit publish on this liveblog and you all nice people can read it.

It takes a village, people. It takes a village.

Vanessa is going to start because she likes the spotlight. Did I mention she’s also moderating? Yeah. Seriously. We’re gonna have to yank her off the stage pretty soon. ;)

She talks and talks and talks and a few minutes later we realize there were supposed to be slides. We didn’t see any. Oops.

Vanessa recovers and says that SEO is about figuring out what people are searching for, making sure that you’re ranking, etc. She thinks search starts at the search results display, not on the site.

An easy way to figure out how to look at the content on your site from an SEO perspective and factor in the usability aspect is to build out personae.

Clarify Business Goals: This is the first thing you need to figure out.  This is a common problem for both SEOs and usability folks. People usually say their “business goal” is that they want more traffic. We could get you lots of traffic, doesn’t mean it’ll do anything for ya.

Instead, ask:

  1. What is the project goal? [What does success look like?]
  2. What is the brand objective? [How do you want your audience to perceive you?]
  3. What is your value proposition? [What can you offer the user? Why should the user care?]

When you’re looking at goals – what are you really looking for people to do? How do you want to acheive the goals?

Primary examples include getting someone to buy something, create an account, view ads.  Secondary examples can be reading articles, watching videos, saving content, etc.

The Yellow Sticky Exercise

One user per sticky note. On the sticky note include the person + the goal (or activity or action or problem).  That enables you to create clusters based around similar actions or problem. Then you use a different color sticky to categorize each cluster. It really helps to get people on the same page and it allows you to turn these personae into actual people. Like.

When you’re building out your personae, give them an alliterative name (makes it easier to remember) and then create a story around them.  Building out the person helps you to see them as real and adds depth to what you’re doing.  At the end you’re able to see what tasks Bargain Becky wants to accomplish, sample queries she’s entering, what you want her to do, why she’ll do it and what success metrics you should be looking at.

Where Do Tasks Come From?

  • Persona Research
  • Competitive Research
  • Social Media
  • Insights & Trends

From there you build a Design Map you can use to create an execution plan for what your pages need to have on them to meet that persona.

Next up is Michael.  He has a huge grin on his face and is asking everyone to make some noise. I immediately love him. You don’t get to be on the stage for very long (well, unless you’re Vanessa….), USE IT.

Michael says that we, as search marketers, are short-sighted. We need to grow up and stop being big kids in strollers. He also shows photos of big kids and strollers and, again, there is love going on in the room.

Keywords must be categorized by need states of personae and messaging must reflect what they want to encourage conversion. If you don’t already use personae in your search efforts, you are trying to strike an invisible moving target while your competitors are effortlessly hitting the bullseye. Basically, you’re a moron. Okay, that last part was me talking. I called you a moron.

Use the existing conversation in social media to identify need states and inform keyword research to define personae. To do this you can use social listening like Scout Labs and Alterian SM2. But those are expensive. He suggests using Social Mention if you can’t afford the big tools and are a hustla like him.

Identify Need States

Distill the conversation in social media down to the need states of people talking. What are they looking for? Use social listening to isolate key types.  The conversations allow you to understand what words personae naturally associate with elements of your product or service and apply those to keyword research and messaging.  From there, create targeted messaging that will resonate with personae and the goal of maximizing conversion.

This is the magic behind Facebook ads.

Testing Everything. Test it in paid search, on landing pages, etc to get  sense of how they will perform in organic search.

He gives a case study from an airline he worked with. They looked at what people asked when looking up airlines and what they’re trying to do (go to a wedding, go on vacation, etc). They mapped those into semantic groups and with the client’s business goals. Conversions improved in every need state in concert with improvements of traffic from Organic Search. It worked.

All of that is what you SHOULD have been doing. Now he’s going to talk about what you CAN do.

There is a free way to find out who every person is that comes to your site per keyword.  Want to know what it is? It’s through this new site that the kids are using called “Facebook”.  If you put your site onto the Open Graph as an object and people opt in, every person that comes to your site, you can get their Facebook data.

All. Of it.

FB:Admin + Search Referrers = Keyword-level demographics.

He shows the code to how you set that up but, well, I can’t liveblog code. I AM NOT A MACHINE, PEOPLE!

It takes up to 72 hours for Custom Variables to appear in Google Analytics.  Once a statistically relevant dataset is compiled it can be determined which demographic and/or persona is more likely to convert for a given keyword. Using the Facebook data user experiences can be tailored dynamically to reflect properties when they visit.

Since you have this powerful keyword attribution you’ll be able to find that on a subsequent purchase a person may have started from a different keyword.  Then you’ll be able to PREDICT what people will buy next. It’s the fuuuuture.

Based on how often an initial keyword leads to future conversions of subsequent keywords businesses will be able to measure the annual value of a keyword and react accordingly.

I love Michael King. Just so you know.

Next up is Lena.

If you don’t care about your customers, somebody else will.

Why: Do We Need Search Personae

Understanding your customers’ needs and wants is critical to the success of any digital marketing initiative, including SEO. It helps you control your marketing budgets and connect with customer.

Customers start their online journey outside of your Web site. That’s why personae are important. You have to make sure you’re optimizing your site experience for your organic search users.

Case Study 1: When: Defining Search Personae is Important

In tough times, understanding what your user personae are and matching them with your company trends will allow you to create the best user experience possible on a limited budget.

When should you be using them?

  • New Product Launch
  • Marketing Campaign Development
  • SEO Strategy
  • SEM Strategy
  • User Community
  • Facebook Fan Page/Twitter Account
  • Website Redesign and More

Choose and optimize your Web experiences for searcher personae important to your business. You must create a limited number so that you’re able to optimize for them.

Case Study 2: How: Using Searcher Personae Could Improve Your Conversion Rates

Targeting your searcher personae = high customer engagement.

Insights from Neuroscience and Final Thought

  • Brand Awareness
  • Emotions
  • Recency

And that’s it for Day 1! Thanks for hanging out with us today and we’ll see you tomorrow when hopefully I’ll actually have WIFI access. ;)



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