For this webinar, our host, Jason Barnard, was joined by the following guests:
Rory kicked things off with a presentation. The presentation was followed by a panel discussion. The key points are summarized in the below recap.
Audience-first SEO is about integrating search engine data from the likes of Semrush, Google Ads, Search Console and combining/integrating it with social media behavioral data.
It’s best to understand the audience-first strategy by way of an example. Using the UK property industry as an example, the common keyword structure you’ll see when researching keywords is X number of property type in location. For example, one bed flat London. That keyword structure will probably be in 80 to 90% of the keywords that you identify.
As an SEO, you could then target niche keyword segments within this common keyword structure. For example, you could look at luxury property and new homes as segments. To target these segments effectively, you’re going to need to develop content and digital PR strategies that are hyper-relevant to those keyword segments. You can’t just adopt the same strategy as you would do for the common, broader keyword structure.
Audience-first SEO can provide the following benefits:
The audience-first strategy works by using Google’s algorithms as an identifier of exactly which entities you should upload into an audience intelligence platform. You find out which sites rank well for keyword segments, such as luxury homes, and you upload those entities into an audience intelligence report. This gives insights that will allow you to develop better keyword-level content and digital PR strategies that help turn the needle with SEO.
The keyword intelligence process is familiar to SEOs. It involves keyword research, SEO gap analysis, or search landscape analysis, and then a keyword targeting strategy.
The audience intelligence process becomes relevant during the SEO gap analysis part of the keyword intelligence process. This is when you’ll start to integrate audience intelligence reports on those entities that rank best in Google for the keyword segments that are important to your business.
You will identify all of the influence entities that are important to the people that search around given topics that are important to your business e.g. luxury property or new homes. This will help you to develop an audience-first SEO strategy that’s fully in line with your keyword targeting strategy.
Staying with the property industry example, you start with keyword research, which involves keyword identification, keyword segmentation, and keyword cleaning. With appropriate keyword segments chosen, you move on to SEO gap analysis, which determines the entities to upload into your audience intelligence report.
The SEO gap analysis is where you overlay audience intelligence with keyword intelligence. The steps are:
Use these main SEO competitors to inform your upload into the audience intelligence report. Before uploading, make sure you find the corresponding Twitter handle for each entity because the audience intelligence platforms focus on social data.
You can then start to develop keyword-level search audiences with relative ease by identifying entities that are influencing your keyword-level search personas. The influence entities are people you want to target for backlinks and build relationships with.
Upload the influence entities into a social listening platform like Pulsar or Meltwater. You can set up dashboards for each keyword segment that’s important to you and get insights and real-time data streaming through to your content digital PR teams. Now, you’re using social behavioral data, social insights, and social listening to inform the content you produce for your website or come up with creative campaign ideas for more relevant backlinks.
You can start to build out all of the supporting blog posts for your SEO pillar pages that aren’t just based on informational keywords. These posts are based on audience insights.
In the long-term, formulating an audience-first strategy involves ongoing content analysis of the keyword level search audiences, digital PR targeting of those influences for each keyword-level search audience, and regularly refreshing your keyword intelligence using Semrush and of course, audience intelligence.
Some of the tools you can use to help formulate and co-ordinate this type of strategy include:
You could ‘hack’ such a strategy to some degree. Several tools have free trials, so that’s a good place to begin. By checking out the free versions, you can evaluate whether or not it’s going to work for building a strategy. Budget-wise to go all-in with everything stacked together, you’re probably looking at $2k per month minimum; this is quite an enterprise-level strategy.
Manually, you could look up keywords in google and then find the top ranking websites for the keywords you care about. You’d then have to find out their Twitter handles and upload those into a tool like Hootsuite. You would then set up manual dashboards to monitor Twitter analytics for each account.
The more you invest, the more flexibility you have because everything can be automated and it’s scalable and you get a lot more data.
It’s worth remembering that really great content can naturally begin to attract links. If your content is really good, it becomes quite easy then to reach out to a publisher that you’ve identified through the audience-first method and say, “You spoke about this really interesting subject. We have this fantastic article on it. It supports what you said.” The key thing is that if the article is timely and relevant, you’re very likely to get that link.
With the power of social listening, you end up reaching out to the influence entities for a keyword you care about at the precise time those entities are talking about that keyword.
Try to identify which pages could be ranking, but aren’t. And they should be ranking because they’re the right solution for what people are looking for. And the reasons they might not be ranking are that they don’t target the right keywords, other pages on your site are cannibalizing them, or your technical SEO is not on-point.
If you need to, put some of those pages together into one so that you’ve got a hub page that’s more powerful. That should start driving your page up the rankings over time.
SEO has three vital pillars: technical SEO, PR and backlinks, and good content. You can do a great job with any one of them, but it’ll never be as powerful as all three together. If you’re driving people to your website because your keywords are great and your content is great, but the technical SEO is not there, it’s going to be terrible for your site in the long term.
Bad technical SEO also impacts search engines’ likelihood of sending people to your site. If you’ve got too many redirects, or your pages are really slow, or your core web vitals aren’t right, that’s not going to be great at all for your user experience. At the end of the day, the whole point of technical SEO is user experience. Technical SEO is the foundation. And if you miss that, you’re going to miss the entire boat.