- SEO aligns with how your audience thinks better than any other channel.
- Search engine optimization helps you to target the right audience at the right time at any point in the purchase funnel.
- SEO lead generation doesn’t just capture leads and pass them off to the sales team. It also assists throughout the customer journey, all the way through to purchase.
SEO and lead generation go together like PB&J.
Consider the HR director whose corporate division just switched to a work-from-home model. She’s not sure how to help her employees through the ensuing changes in project collaboration and meeting styles. So, she Googles “virtual teams,” “remote work,” “work from home tips,” and similar types of searches.
Then, she clicks on one of the top results which includes a tip about using video conferencing.
Her division doesn’t have a standardized video conferencing solution in place yet. So, she clicks on a link referenced in the article about using Zoom. She begins to explore more Zoom-related content, ultimately landing on Zoom’s website. As she browses, she decides to watch a webinar: “5 Steps to Adapt Company Culture for Remote Work”. It’s exactly what she needs! She signs up and enters Zoom’s lead funnel, but she’s not a true lead yet.
As the HR director does more research, she finds articles, videos, and guides that reference Zoom and are from Zoom. Zoom’s ability to earn mentions and backlinks from trusted sources alongside their own on-site content delivers a one-two punch. It seals the deal and turns the HR director’s entire company into a fresh batch of active new customers.
Sound familiar? It should, because in the past few months, the HR director’s behavior has been replicated across millions of people. As a result, Zoom’s stock has soared by triple digits.
That’s the power of SEO lead generation.
Why SEO is perfect for lead generation
No other channel aligns with how your audience thinks quite like SEO. Every question, every frustration, every quality they’re looking for: it all comes out in organic search.
When you tap into and optimize for these upstream insights, you create pages that are fully aligned with your audience’s needs throughout the purchase funnel. You can use your content to attract and to nurture leads through the sales cycle.
Best of all, SEO lead generation ensures prospects discover your content precisely when they’re actively searching for it. That’s a recipe for receptive, active, high-quality leads.
Furthermore, according to this commissioned study by Forrester Consulting, SEO leads to increased brand loyalty and greater customer lifetime value (CLV). Read the full study below.
SEO lead generation techniques: target the right audience
What’s the difference between a lead and a qualified lead? A lead is someone who enters your funnel. Perhaps they signed up for one of your webinars or they downloaded a white paper. However, they may be in the wrong industry, the wrong location, or not have the required budget.
A qualified lead, on the other hand, is someone who checks the boxes for your ideal customer. Industry? Budget? Geography? Job title? Critical need? Decision-making ability in the purchase process? Check, check and check!
They aren’t just a bigger audience. They are the right audience.
Before you execute your SEO lead generation plan, target the right people and chart their path by mapping the customer journey.
While no business’ audience is homogeneous, that’s especially true in the B2B world. You’ll probably have different audience segments in a broad sense. But, you’ll also have more sub-segments based on all the customer touch points before a final decision is made.
Imagine, for example, that you sell CRM software. You might consider B2B companies, B2C companies, and nonprofits to be three of your broad customer segments. Within each of those, you have further segments. For example, perhaps within your B2B segment, you focus primarily on financial services, healthcare, and manufacturing companies.
The searches you optimize for and the messages you share should precisely target the audience. Segment your audience so you can build an SEO strategy that’s tailored to each group for greater SEO ROI.
For a more granular view, it’s helpful to create buyer personas for each of your audience segments. For example, you may have already defined healthcare companies as one of the B2B targets for your CRM software. However, you might need to engage with top-level decision-makers, CRM managers, the sales team, the marketing operations team, IT, and others who implement or use the software.
It’s incredibly difficult to connect with buyers if you don’t understand the pain points behind their search queries. Reverse-engineering search intent for each persona is largely data-driven. However, a healthy dose of instinct and empathy also help you match your customers with the ideal keywords.
In-depth buyer persona examples enable you to go beyond the “What” to uncover the “Why”. A customer persona is a representation of a prospective customer brought to life as a single “character.” For example:
- Who are they?
- What are their goals and motivations?
- What do they value?
- Which problems do they experience?
- What keeps them up at night?
- What enables them to get a promotion?
- Why would your solution make their life better?
- From where do they get their news and information?
- Who do they report into?
A fully-realized persona will help you write marketing messages and anticipate needs on a more personal level. This is a natural, intuitive, and actionable way to understand the customer and engage with them on a deeper level.
Customer journey mapping through the conversion funnel
It’s important to grasp SEO lead generation holistically, throughout the entire customer journey. Needs and their corresponding search queries don’t just change by the persona. They also change as your audience moves through the conversion funnel. In other words, the same persona will make different searches as they progress through the sales funnel. Read our post about Tofu Mofu Bofu to learn more.
Check out the conversion optimization software company Optimizely for an excellent example. The brand masterfully targets full-funnel search terms, particularly in its robust resource library. Watch how they provide different content for different funnel phases within one particular audience segment, Retailers:
- Awareness: 5 Personalization Strategies for Retailers – This gated guide targets retailers who are interested in learning about cutting-edge digital marketing concepts like personalization. They aren’t necessarily interested in A/B testing or A/B testing products at this stage, but this content will plant the seed and move them into the funnel.
- Consideration: Better Decisions with Experimentation – At this phase, the searcher is interested in A/B testing and considering their option. This webinar cleverly blends useful, step-by-step information with a case study featuring one of Optimizely’s clients, Atlassian.
- Decision: Product Vision Webinar – During this webinar, the head of Optimizely’s engineering team shares Optimizely product features and discusses what’s in store for the future. For people who are very close to making a purchase decision, this might be the information they need to reassure them they’re making a smart choice.
As you document the customer journey, pay close attention to the emotions that drive decisions. For this, you’ll need to create an empathy map. When you empathize with your audience, you’ll be able to move them to action more effectively.
SEO lead generation strategies: uncover how they think
SEO keyword research
What do the different funnel stages have to do with search engine optimization? Everything. Because in order to provide content that delights your potential customers, you need to know what they are thinking about. In order to understand that, you need to know what they’re searching for. And in order to reach anyone with that content in the first place, you need to pick relevant keywords with search volume.
Keyword research will help you uncover the searches your persona might make as they move through the funnel. Create a list of your audience’s biggest pain points at each stage of the funnel and identify the related keywords. You can use keyword research data not just to identify the most popular searches or the best opportunities, but also to uncover search intent and to gain a deeper understanding of your audience.
SEO is so powerful because it helps you understand how customers think as well as how deeply your marketing strategy resonates throughout their journey.
Search volumes and share of voice
Your brand’s share of voice is a combination of your rankings in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for specific keywords, as well as the projected search and organic traffic volumes (based on CTR of each SERP listing) associated with those rankings.
Too often, companies (and executives) assess their SEO success purely on rankings. However, that ignores the importance of weighting among your keywords. Doing better with certain keywords is going to impact your share of voice far greater than other keywords.
The higher the search volume for a keyword, the more it will contribute to your share of voice for a given SERP position. A position five ranking on a keyword with 50,000 monthly Google searches is going to mean more for your share of voice than a position one ranking on a keyword with 500 searches. Learn more about the top Google ranking factors.
In other words, share of voice helps you to ensure you are aligning your marketing with what matters most to your audience.
Use search volume as a guide to help you understand what matters most to your audience while using share of voice as a metric to ensure you’re connecting with them in substantive ways throughout the journey.
Social media is another great way to uncover how your audience thinks. Use a social monitoring tool to track mentions of your brand, competitors, product queries, audience pain points, and other high-value keywords. Customer mindsets are perpetually evolving, and social media gives you a raw, unfiltered look at what your audience needs today. Not last month or over the past 12, but right now. This is a powerful way to stay in the loop.
Gather Voice of the Customer (VoC) feedback
One of the benefits of B2B companies is that they really do form strong relationships with their customers. If they’ve stuck with you through the long sales cycle and now trust you with a portion of their budget, it’s hard not to!
Enlist the help of your account managers or other customer-facing team members to gather Voice of the Customer feedback. Focus on interview questions like:
- How did you learn about our product?
- What product (or service) were you using before? What didn’t you like? Why did you decide to search for a new solution?
- Why did you pick us over the competition?
- What was your first impression of our brand?
- What content would you like to see more of?
- If there’s one additional thing we could do for you that would make a significant difference, what would that be?
Customer interviews are a fantastic way to uncover real-life stories of actual users interacting with your products or services. It’s rich information that’s much more valuable than what you can glean from a social media post or from seeing a customer list.
Surveys and polls
Surveys and polls can help you uncover audience insight, as well, but where these tools differ is that they can do so at scale. You can use them to gather not only quantitative data, but also qualitative.
Polls and surveys are easily deployable, and can be used successfully with current customers, leads, and at the broader industry-wide level. If you use them on your website, make them 100% customized to the content on the page so that the questions will be contextually relevant to the site visitor. In this way, aim to have multiple surveys or polls running in parallel at any one time.
Most live chat systems now come with built-in audience segmentation options. Using filtering criteria like the web pages visited, the location of the user, the channel or campaign that sent them, and the actions they’ve taken on your site, you can tailor your chats so they’re sharing the right messages with the right people.
Segmenting your chats can also help you dig deeper into the needs of different personas. Let’s say for one of your segments, a chat offer triggers when they visit an informational page related to their specific industry. If they respond to the chat, what are their next questions?
Sales and support conversations
Finally, your sales and support teams are at the frontlines of customer insight. Your sales team will know which problems are most frustrating and which solutions are most important to your audience, and which offers and messages help them take the next step. Sales will also know the common objections of potential clients, and the most effective ways to address and eliminate those objections.
Your support team will know what the most common customer questions and problems are so you can write more targeted messages.
SEO lead generation: fill the funnel
If you want to know how to improve your SEO, this section details some best practices to increase traffic.
Align with search intent
Now that you’ve spent the time targeting the right audience, uncovering how they think, and identifying what they care about most, it’s time to use SEO lead generation to fill your sales funnel.
When your audience makes a particular keyword search, what type of content are they looking for? A product page? Informational page? How-to guide? Template? Checklist? White paper? Case study? Online calculator?
Your content must meet search intent or you’ll have a ridiculously high bounce rate. Fortunately, the top 10 results for your keyword are a direct path to content that does meet the search intent. View each result’s destination page and note the type of page and format, where in the funnel it is, topics covered, word count and other clues about what content performs best for the keyword. Then aim to beat it by aligning with the searcher’s intent even more directly and deeply than the others.
Produce compelling content
How do you beat the best of what’s ranking for your target keyword? Quite simply, produce amazing content. Make it useful, helpful, entertaining, or emotional. Tell a great story. And allocate plenty of time for research, writing, editing and design – great content is an investment.
And remember that, as mentioned, great content must fulfil the search intent. It’s not going to help you if you put together an informational blog post if what they are seeking is a free tool. Or if you publish Hollywood-quality videos touting your brand, when what they really need are how-to instructions.
Put it through a “You” lens. What do they want? Walk through the process of your audience searching for the keyword, and map the journey. Identify the best experience that you can deliver for someone in their shoes. It’s not about your products or services. It’s all about them.
Get published and featured on third-party sites
Inbound links from relevant, high-authority sites are a critical way to boost your SEO authority and generate new leads. Build thought leadership by publishing byline articles about your industry, securing interviews about your area of expertise or being featured on third-party webinars and podcasts. Pay attention to the news and think about the insight you can uniquely contribute to the dialogue surrounding current events. Then reach out to reporters and make your pitch.
Invest in high-quality link building
Besides great content and relationship-building, what’s the secret to high-quality link building? Strategic outreach at scale. Here at Terakeet we use our proprietary software Chorus to sort and filter through a database of 9 million+ publishers and influencers to create large but hyper-targeted campaigns. This lets us perform highly targeted outreach at the scale it takes to move the needle for enterprise sites with millions of existing backlinks.
Ensure your SERP listings are differentiated
Ranking on the first page is half the battle, but you still need to convince people to click on your listing over the others. And this only becomes more true the further you move from position #1.
Schema markup is one way to help your listings take up more real estate on the page, stand out from the pack, and provide the type of experience Google wants to serve users. Your title tag and meta description is the other. These create the first impression the searcher has of your page, so don’t just write them for SEO – write them for clicks.
Add benefits, compelling adjectives, and a call to action. Use your meta description to ask a rhetorical question, captivate them, or call out a pain point specifically. Approach your SERP listings like advertisements in order to hook your lead from the very beginning.
Offer lead magnets for demand generation
Lead magnets are long-form resources that you offer to leads in exchange for their contact information. The classic example is the downloadable ebook or white paper, but it’s not the only option. Here are several more demand generation strategies to consider:
- Online courses
- Survey results
- Original research reports
- Access to a private Facebook group, Slack group, etc.
There are subtle differences between lead gen vs. demand gen. But, they both work together to amplify your brand and convert your audience into customers.
Use IP detection
IP detection software keeps track of which businesses are visiting and returning to your site. Unless your IP detection is connected with your CRM and the contact is already in your database, the software will keep the user’s identity anonymous, but that’s not a problem (as you’ll see).
When an individual visits your site, they may not become a “proper” lead right away; that is, they may not leave their contact information. But if you can see that the same business is repeatedly visiting your site, you can plan a strategy that targets that business and helps get them engaged in a conversation. IP detection software options include LeadFeeder, Lead Forensics, and Albacross.
Even if they visit only a few times, you’ll know that the company is seriously interested in your types of solutions, giving you an opportunity to reach out to the account at precisely the time you are top of mind. You can use DiscoverOrg or a combination of LinkedIn with email identification software to define a group of relevant contacts to target. Email identification software options include Hunter, RocketReach, Norbert, and FindThatLead.
Customize your outreach based on the specific content they are consuming on your site. This is one of the most effective ways to make your outreach produce a higher response rate.
Implement behavioral analytics
Behavioral analytics tools and heat-mapping software help you identify where your users are spending their time on your site, which elements they click on, where they stop scrolling or get bored, and much more. The insight takes you far beyond Google Analytics’ basic behavioral analytics like user path and exit rate.
Using behavioral analytics is a crucial way to identify friction points, learn how to improve the site experience, and strengthen the performance of your website and content. By doing this, you also increase your B2B lead generation in the process.
If your visitor doesn’t trust you, they’re never going to offer their contact information or stick around to engage with your business. Signals of trust are essential to the success of your SEO lead generation strategy. These include:
- Client logos
- Success stories
- Client testimonials
- Relevant stats
- Ratings & reviews
- Association logos
- Industry leadership
- “Featured in” logos
Additionally, make sure your website ticks off the fundamental trust signals like HTTPS protocol and a clean, bug-free web design. HTTPS is critical for SEO too, so much so that you’ll have a more difficult time ranking without it.
A/B test your lead generation landing pages
If you want high-performance lead generation landing pages, then you need to be testing what works and what doesn’t. A/B test different messages and design choices against each other incrementally. Change one element at a time, testing it against the alternate version. If there’s a clear winner, move forward with that option and conduct a new A/B test. In this manner, A/B testing should be a continual process rather than a one-off project. By making A/B landing page testing a process, you’ll continually increase your conversion rates and achieve higher-producing lead generation.
Test your CTAs
CTAs are the precise point of conversion on your site. Therefore, they play an absolutely critical role in all SEO lead generation process. A/B test your CTAs so you can learn what messages and CTA formats entice people to click.
Test different sizes, colors, and messages to get a general sense for the type of button or display that works, but test the CTA language, too.
Test different behavioral triggers for your CTAs, such as time-on-page or scroll rate or pages visited, etc.
When you pair a CTA with a specific benefit or offer, what happens? How does the CTA perform on different types of content? What position on the page or stage in the user’s journey produces the best results?
Optimize your forms
What’s one of the most direct ways to fill your funnel in the SEO lead generation process? Use robust form builders like FormidableForms or FormStack to add advanced form functionality and conduct tests of your forms at the exact point of conversion. This will help you create the forms that deliver a higher conversion rate or get you more information without increasing form abandonment.
Whereas much of the SEO lead generation process involves increasing website traffic or guiding them through the funnel, your forms are a pivotal moment when they will decide whether to engage with your brand or not. It’s one of the most high-value moments in the journey, and so it’s important to give it your full attention if you hope to maximize your leads volume.
Nurture your leads
How SEO plays into lead nurturing
SEO doesn’t just capture leads and pass them off to the sales team to nurture. It also assists the sales team through the entirety of the lead’s journey, all the way through to purchase. As your lead’s knowledge grows and their requirements get more specific, they’ll bring their questions not just to their sales contact but also to Google.
By anticipating these questions, you can capture these searches and satisfy the lead’s ongoing needs, reinforcing your brand’s position as an authoritative expert. You also keep them engaged with your brand instead of giving them the chance to land on a competitor’s site as they spend time moving through the funnel.
With SEO lead generation, it’s important to have an efficient process that’s scalable. To that end, use marketing automation throughout the process. When SEO delivers the right individual into your funnel, make sure they receive automated yet targeted and relevant information in an effective sequence. This means aligning SEO with content marketing and email marketing.
Marketing automation software options include Adobe Marketing Cloud, Pardot, ActiveCampaign, Act-On, and HubSpot.
Leverage other automation tools, as well, to keep your SEO lead generation efforts scalable. This includes tools for keyword research, competitive analysis, content optimization, backlink analysis, rank tracking, and SEO and website performance dashboards. Useful SEO tools you may want to consider include SEMRush, Ahrefs, and SERPStat.
Convert qualified leads to sales
As leads progress through the funnel, turn your content into a high-conversion playground that will guide them to make the purchase. Provide ample social proof and offer calculators, comparison charts, or a proof of concept to show them the ROI they can achieve. Address last-minute concerns. Remove risk.
Really spell out the cost/benefit of purchasing the product so they can think of the purchase as a net win, not an expense.
Effective SEO lead generation starts with getting in front of the right people at the right time and bringing them to your website or other digital properties. From there, it works holistically with your website and other marketing. SEO guides them through the funnel, answers their questions, opens their minds to new possibilities, informs and encourages, alleviates concerns, and finally, helps to close the sale.