SEO focuses on the top of the customer acquisition funnel—lead generation—but has an important impacts on branding and lead nurturing as well. The role of SEO in lead generation is clear—prospects discover your business or product through Google, visit your website, and eventually convert into a lead. Just as important, however, is how SEO impacts branding: capturing the top search results for many keywords within a particular topic signals that your business is an industry leader—an implication that is then backed up by the thought leadership content that secured those results in the first place.
In this article, we’ll discuss how to optimize your SEO campaign for both lead generation and branding, thereby ensuring your company has a reliable, low CAC source of new customers.
SEO and Lead Generation
The foundation of SEO is a concept called search intent. Search intent refers to the implicit reason users type in a particular keyword. When viewed through a customer acquisition lens, search intent can be placed on a spectrum, with one end representing intent to learn and explore, and the other representing intent to buy:
At the lead generation stage, your SEO campaign will focus on keywords on the transactional end of the spectrum. Examples of these keywords are:
|These keywords indicate that a searcher knows what type of product will solve their problem, but doesn’t yet know which option to choose.
|“best cpu 2024” “trello vs asana”
|Commit keywords represent a searcher with a clear interest in purchasing a specific product, but wants more information before committing.
|“intel vs amd cpu”“trello for nonprofits“
|Buy keywords are searched by prospects who have decided to commit to a purchase and are looking for the instructions on how to do so.
|“buy ryzen 7700x”“trello app”
Grasping search intent improves your visitor engagement since readers are more likely to stick with content that effectively meets their needs. By that same extent, other experts in the field are likely to take notice of your expertise, resulting in more backlinks that also improve your domain authority. Both lead to improved search rankings.
These transactional keywords should be selected according to the Hub & Spoke model, which focuses your website’s content on 3-5 core hub keywords, with each longer-tail transactional keyword containing the hub keyword in its entirety. By doing so, you will signal to Google that your website is a niche expert, thereby achieving higher rankings than otherwise possible.
Next, you must create and publish content targeting each of those keywords. Our research has found that the minimum publishing schedule for SEO is 2 pages per week. This is for three reasons. First, each piece of content represents a new opportunity for a prospective customer to reach your website. The second is that Google’s algorithm highly values consistent publishing of high quality content. Third, SEO provides highly stratified rewards, with only a single page achieving the #1 position—and with it, 39.6% of the total clickthroughs available.
Targeting these transactional keywords will bring in visitors that are ready to buy, and will convert quickly into leads. Most prospects, however, aren’t yet at this stage. This is where the branding side of SEO comes in.
SEO and Branding
Whereas lead generation SEO focuses on the most highly transactional keywords, branding SEO will target the more research-oriented keywords, providing searchers with helpful information that both:
- Give an authoritative answer to their search intent, establishing your company as a valuable resource and establishing your brand as an industry leader, and
- Encourage them to move further down the funnel through CTAs and links to more content that will help nurture their interest.
As with lead generation, this is best understood through search intent.The table below shows examples of keywords on the more research oriented side of the spectrum:
|Purely informational keywords, often searched by novices in a subject attempting to familiarize themselves with new concepts.
|“what is a cpu?”“what is project management?”
|Keywords used by searchers who are starting to wonder if they need a specific product/service, but aren’t in any rush to buy.
|“do i need a new cpu”“why do i need project management software?”
|Keywords searched by people who know they have a problem, but they aren’t sure what it is.
|“cpu bottleneck symptoms”“benefits of project management software”
|Keywords searched by people who have a problem, know what it is, and are actively looking for a solution.
|“how to upgrade cpu”“how to monitor project progress”
While still important for lead generation, a thought leadership approach is crucial for branding. Prospects interested in the more general, research-oriented content have less interest in making a purchase. As a result, sales pitches encouraging them to buy your product will lose their trust, and cause them to leave in search of less obviously partial sources. Instead, meeting their needs directly with highly informational material builds trust and establishes your website as a valuable resource, leading to later sales when they’re ready to buy. For example, a company that makes fleet management software might publish a guide to reducing costs, bringing in searchers who type in clarify and solve keywords.
Using SEO for branding has another benefit when it comes to customer acquisition. Because the lead nurturing stage of the customer acquisition funnel relies on supplemental marketing channels, you can increase the budget efficiency of your customer acquisition program by repurposing this SEO content across email campaigns, organic social media, and any other channels your company uses. This allows your team to quickly create new material to reach a wide range of prospects.
Implementing SEO into Your Customer Acquisition Funnel
SEO is not easy to implement. The process of evaluating search intent, developing a keyword strategy, and adjusting based on leading indicators is difficult even for experienced teams. Furthermore, keeping up with a regular publishing schedule is expensive and time consuming, often beyond the means of in-house teams who also have additional responsibilities.
Often, this leads companies to discuss a partnership with experienced agencies. Our full-service SEO agency specializes in customer acquisition, providing your company with ghost-written thought leadership that generates and nurtures leads. Contact us if you’d like to learn more about our services.