Google’s moves to ensure that search results are delivering a better customer experience, and one that is driven by the generation of credible and quality content, is posing an interesting challenge for SEO professionals.

The rules of traditional SEO are changing at a fast pace and this challenge presents a unique opportunity for how we should work better with our content marketing teams to ensure that we are providing an integrated SEO campaign that delivers better search rankings, greater levels of brand awareness, and a great user experience.

We can become blinkered by the chase of delivering new traffic through high-volume, low-converting generic keywords. The reality is that the long-tail can actually deliver more traffic. There are infinite keyword variations, it’s much more targeted and it converts well. That however is not the end of it, that’s just the beginning.

There is a single fundamental concept that runs through the veins of my own content strategies. That concept is awareness!

I picture a website as a series of five concentric circles, the sale or conversion is the nucleus, the bullseye, the ultimate goal. Each of the outer circles represents a differing level of awareness, from the outside in.

A visitor can enter into the website through any circle; my task is to see that they visit every other circle in order to move towards the nucleus.

As they progress through the circles, their state of awareness increases. I am educating the visitor, I am systematically giving that visitor everything that they need to convert, one step at a time.

Think about it for a second. Your visitor comes to Google and asks it a question; they have a need, but no solution - this visitor is at level one on the scale of awareness.

Level one

They are looking for answers and solutions. They are at the beginning of their journey; it would be totally ineffective to force a sale on this visitor. Surely it would be better to provide an answer to their question and introduce them to a solution.

Invite them to click the link at the bottom of your content to read more about the solution. Now your visitor knows of a solution to their need. They enter the next circle on their journey to the centre.

Level two

They have a solution to their issue. Guess what? They want to know more about it! So tell them.

They don’t want to know about you just yet, just how the solution will satisfy their need. Did you mention that you have that very solution? They really should follow the link at the bottom of the content to find out more about it!

Level three 

Your solution. Here is where things get real. They know they want the solution, it’s all about the features and benefits now. What does your product do? How does it benefit them? These may well be pages that already exist on the site.

At this stage, some people may be sold; some may be aware of your brand but are looking for reassurance that your brand is the one for them. Here is where you offer two distinct options, they can find out what makes your brand better than the rest (level four) or they can buy buy buy (level five)!

Level four 

Sell your brand. What is your USP? What makes you better than the rest? Here is where you can and should pull out the testimonials, the tick box graphics and the rest.

Really go to town here and blow your own trumpet. This is the final stage, your last chance to change a ‘maybe’ into a ‘yes!’

Level five 

Sold. Showcase your beautiful basket page, complete with up sell and cross sell.

Putting all of this into practice requires a little thought. You could be thinking that level one content could be quite labour intensive, and you would be right.

Pull up Google’s external keyword research tool and start asking it questions. You can also use Google’s Autocomplete function here as well; while the ‘related search’ function is also useful.

If you’re like me, you may find hundreds (if not thousands) of ‘need’ related questions that are appropriate to your client’s website.

Utopia would dictate a page to cover every ‘need’ - question & answer, while common sense would dictate that you cluster a number of these questions together and cover it off in a single piece of informative and engaging content. The choice is yours!

As you progress through the levels of awareness, less and less content is required. The visitor is becoming more focused at every level, and your content should follow suit.

I implore you to think about this post the next time you are tasked with a content strategy – it works – it makes perfect sense and your clients will love you for it.

Stu Foster

Published 27 November, 2012 by Stu Foster

Stu Foster is SEO Manager at Stickyeyes and a contributor to Econsultancy. Add him to your circles on Google+ or connect via LinkedIn. 

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Comments (4)

Graeme Benge

Graeme Benge, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

Enjoyed your post Stu. User intent can now be understood so much more better (but not entirely) than say 5 years ago. It's this that should be at the heart of online strategy now I think.

over 5 years ago

Stu Foster

Stu Foster, SEO Manager at Stickyeyes

Thanks for your comment Graeme.

I agree with your sentiments. We have so much behavioural data at our disposal that it astounds me when I see many new web builds following the same old principles.

Surely an 'outside-in' approach would be the smarter way to ensure you convert as many different types of visitor as possible?

High-bounce rates and low conversion rates, which are commonplace, only serve to add weight to this theory.

over 5 years ago


Gerrid Smith

I couldn't agree more, Stu.

A webmaster should know his audience and what they need and absolutely offer them that.

over 5 years ago


Mònica Olivé, Consultant at personal

hello stu,

thanks for your post. i understand what you mean but it would be much clearer with a real example. is there any chance than you can tell us one that you found is a best practice?

many thanks

over 5 years ago

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