The problem with SEO is... copying the wrong tactics

It's not Google you're targeting, it's your customers

Reading time: 7 mins.

Today’s email is written by a guest! It’s a fresh take on SEO, which definitely gave me some new ideas. Nick completely deconstructs one of the main SEO tips: produce as much keyword centered blog posts and suggest a fresh take instead.

Nick manages SEO for startups and also has a newsletter The Founders Project. He interviews founders on building (and selling) businesses as well as their niche expertise on hot topics. I really enjoyed reading this post on SEO and learned more about link building. Check it out after reading Nick’s tips below 👇

In today's post, I'll touch on the topic of SEO. SEO can get overwhelming quickly, but as with any other discipline, the Pareto Principle applies. If you’re a solopreneur, you might not need all the advanced techniques, but you have to get the basics right. In SEO, 20% of efforts lead to 80% of results.

If you've previously collaborated with SEO agencies or attempted SEO on your own, you may have noticed your efforts aren't yielding the results you hoped for. This situation isn't unusual, and I'm here to explain why it's happening.

SEO (when done properly) is one of the cheapest ways of customer acquisition and driving attention to your brand, but figuring out the right strategies for increasing traffic, generating leads, and boosting sales isn't straightforward. To truly differentiate yourself from the competition, your SEO strategy needs to stand out.

Success in SEO often comes more from the approach you take than the actions themselves. If driving traffic is your only objective, you're likely missing out on actual sales.

The Common SEO Strategy 

Whenever I partner with a startup that's previously worked with a SEO agency, I can almost predict the strategy they used. Typically, it involves fixing a few technical errors, pumping out loads of blog content, and occasionally, some link building. 

In most SEO campaigns, SEO begins with just a group of keywords developed by the marketing team or founders based on their knowledge of the product. The keywords then become the stems of keyword research. They are input into any keyword research tool, and related words are output. 

The new, longer list becomes the seed for content ideas that will be written and posted on the website. The problem? The keyword list becomes a checklist and content roadmap, which doesn’t change much over time and possibly isn’t even a part of an overall strategy. 

The Real Issue: All Blog Content, No Direction

The biggest issue with this all-too-common strategy is its heavy reliance on publishing vast amounts of blog content without a clear focus. Let's say you're selling lawnmowers. An agency might produce tons of articles on using, cleaning, and understanding lawnmowers. While this can boost your site's rankings for certain keywords, it primarily drives top-of-funnel traffic. This means you're attracting visitors who aren't necessarily ready to buy. While top-of-funnel traffic is important, relying solely on it won't drive sales or meaningful ROI for your brand.

Nothing about this is unique, and the seed keyword list is available to anyone with similar access to the same keyword tools. Budget is not a barrier since most keyword tools are free or very cheap. 

The main goal of focusing on content for SEO is to improve where the content appears in search engine results. Achieving a high ranking might eventually result in making money, but it's a complex process with many steps.

Producing blog posts based on a list of keywords might seem like a solid strategy. However, this approach may get you more traffic, but not necessarily more customers. Why? This approach makes several big assumptions, and if any of these assumptions are off, you could end up wasting your budget:

  • Assuming the target audience will search using specific phrases: Just targeting keywords doesn't mean you're addressing what people are actually looking for. Users have specific questions, needs, or problems they're trying to solve. If your content doesn't hit the mark on providing real value or answering their questions, you're not going to see any meaningful conversions. 

  • Believing the content will match well with the chosen keywords: Imagine someone landing on your site because one of your keyword-stuffed articles showed up in their search. But once they get there, they find the content is shallow, not helpful, or just a rehash of what's already out there. They're going to bounce, and high bounce rates tell search engines that your site might not be providing value, which can hurt your rankings.

  • Hoping to get a top spot in search rankings: Search engines are constantly evolving, getting better at understanding context, synonyms, and the quality of content. They're focusing more on content that serves the user's intent rather than just content that has the right keywords. This means that simply having the keywords isn't enough; the content needs to be genuinely useful and engaging.

  • Expecting that visitors will take action or make a purchase after reading the content: Is your content structured around the exact problems your product is solving?

What's more, relying solely on keywords to drive content can be both costly and short-sighted, especially as new technology like AI starts to change the game.

How Solopreneurs Should Approach SEO

Instead of relying on SEO as the main strategy to promote a product, the product itself should be the driving force behind the SEO.

When developing the product, the team should consider:

  • The identity and needs of the users;

  • What users are searching for on their path to the product;

  • The users' expectations upon landing on the page;

  • The potential of the user to contribute to the business's goals.

This user-centric, product-led strategy has led many websites to naturally become leaders in their space online, often without overt notice.

Be a user-centric SEO, not a Google-centric SEO. 

Start with your product first; analyze all aspects of your products, map the buyer's journey, and try to come up with the questions your buyer might ask at each stage of the journey. What are your buyer's problems? What are they looking for? What are the common discomforts they face? 

Only after you've analyzed your buyers and written the content outlines can you proceed to SEO optimization, keywords, structure, and so forth. Most business owners will do the reverse; they'll start by focusing on SEO and keyword research instead of focusing on their customer. Do you need 10K traffic with a 3% conversion rate or 2K traffic with a 20% conversion rate?

User-led SEO is about crafting a product that genuinely serves the users' needs, not just generating content based on what a keyword tool suggests. It's about creating content that users are actually eager to consume because it's genuinely interesting or useful to them, not just because it might rank well. This approach focuses on delivering real value to the users from the moment they land on your page.

Even when it comes to content, it's important to start with "Why":

  • Why is there a need for this blog post?

  • Why choose this keyword for content creation?

  • How does this content add value for my users?

By shifting the emphasis to the users rather than just the numbers, you create a more meaningful engagement. And that’s the most relevant aspect of your business.

Actionable Tip of the Week: Forget about keyword research for a moment and focus on envisioning your sales funnel. Consider the journey your potential customer takes from discovering your product to making a purchase.Structure your content to match every stage of the buyer's journey. 

Let’s say you run a website selling lawn mowers.

Top of the Funnel (Awareness): Here, your potential customers are just beginning to recognize their need or problem. They might not even know they need a new lawnmower yet. Create content that addresses broad topics related to lawn care, such as "10 Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Lawn All Year Round." This type of content draws in those at the earliest stage of the buying cycle.

Middle of the Funnel (Consideration): Now, your audience understands they have a problem and are considering solutions. Offer content that positions lawnmowers as the solution to their needs, like "The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide to Choosing a Lawnmower: Electric vs. Gasoline." This helps them evaluate their options and see your product as a potential solution.

Bottom of the Funnel (Decision): At this stage, your potential customer is ready to make a purchase decision. Provide content that nudges them towards choosing your product, such as "Why Our Brand’s Lawnmowers Offer the Best Value in 2024." Include customer testimonials, comparisons with competitors, and special offers to seal the deal.

Keep in mind that BOFU is where the $$$ is.

Whenever you are ready, here’s how I can help:

Book a consultation: If you’re feeling stuck, need idea validation, or not sure what’s stopping you to have more sales and need an e-commerce audit.

Join the Sales Accelerator Program: 5 weeks of 1-1 guidance to build your brand, learn the skills needed to get more offers, and prepare a roadmap to achieve your next milestone.

Custom Marketing & Sales Strategy: Ideal for established brands or those launching new products.

P.S.: Share this email with a friend who’s been giving you tips on keyword targeting for SEO. 🚀