SEO hasn’t always been seen as a revenue channel.
And it doesn’t always work like one, either.
With KPIs to meet like traffic and rankings, who can blame SEOs for not driving business? Why wouldn’t it be just another box to check?
If we switch the script and look at SEO as another department in growth—with growth-related KPIs and a revenue-led strategy—it can exponentially contribute to real business goals.
Today I’m going to talk you through how to create an SEO-focused content marketing strategy that drives the most important metric of all: revenue growth.
How does SEO contribute to revenue growth?
Growth SEO doesn’t follow old-school SEO strategies like creating tons of thin content and chasing bad links. The metrics are different, too: while some SEOs might talk about number of links acquired or numbers of pages published, revenue-led SEOs track business metrics, like any other growth department.
SEO helps growth in two ways:
- Acquiring new customers, leads and subscribers
- Improving brand traffic and increasing LTV
The primary purpose of SEO is to go after users that have not yet found the product or service you offer, but that are definitely looking to learn about it. The SEO team can also work together with the product team to make sure the brand and all of its products can be found organically by people looking for them.
That said, you’ll have to move away from the traditional SEO mindset, and instead look at it from a long-term investment perspective. Here’s how to do it.
How to build an SEO strategy that drives revenue
When you ask marketing leaders what metrics they track to measure SEO success, most will tell you traffic growth or rankings.
While both are still valuable and can help drive revenue, the real magic comes when you optimize your metrics for revenue. Search is an intent channel, which means there are people out there looking to buy.
That means you can aim for metrics like qualified traffic growth (traffic growth that also comes with conversions), demo requests, and free trial signups.
This doesn’t mean you’ll only write bottom-of-the-funnel posts.
SEO is holistic and topic-driven, so you’ll have to create content that touches every part of the funnel. But you can build a strategy that makes organic search one of your primary revenue growth channels.
Here’s the strategy I’ll walk you through in the piece:
- Choose your metrics
- Talk to your current customers
- Build a voice of customer document
- Do bottom-of-the-funnel keyword research
- Get conversion data from Google
- Build (a few) topic clusters for growth SEO
- Remember internal links
- External link audit, research and building
- Every page gets a CTA
Shall we get into it?
Choose your metrics to track
Strategies will change depending on your KPIs.
If you know your website converts and you just need more traffic to it, you’ll have to create different content than if you have traffic already and just need more leads.
Decide on why you think SEO is important to your business and set SEO KPIs to track. Keyword rankings are important but should be a secondary metric. At the end of the day, you could rank for any keyword—it doesn’t mean it’s going to drive revenue.
Examples of revenue-related SEO metrics are:
SEO-sourced pipeline (you can track how many demos have been booked in Google Analytics)
Qualified organic user growth (cross-checking with how much of that traffic turns into pipeline)
Non-branded clicks (if you’ve selected money keywords, how are your clicks growing for new people discovering your company)?
That said—do still track keyword rankings as a secondary metric. Most of the clicks go to the top half of page 1, so you’ll still need to make sure you stay there for this strategy to make any sense.
Talk to your current customers
Before you do keyword research, you’ll need to talk to your customers.
Yes, to understand their pain points and goals, but also to help drive your keyword research. When talking to them, you’ll ask:
- How they describe your product or service
- How they describe similar products or services
- What alternatives they tried before you
- Why those alternatives didn’t work
- What problem they believe your product or service solves
- What their day-to-day looks like
- What the greatest challenges are in their current role
All of these will provide a plethora of keyword and topic ideas that you most likely wouldn’t find in Google suggest or Ahrefs, because you wouldn’t have thought of it. Using this information, you’ll soon be ready to start building your keyword strategy.
In the best-case scenario, you can get on calls with your current (and favorite) customers. Don’t choose any customer—choose the ones you’d like to replicate, the ones that bring in the most revenue and are easiest to work with.
The next best option is to have them fill out a survey. Surveys aren’t as good as calls because people fill them out quickly and without much detail.
Sometimes they just provide one-word answers that you can’t do very much with:
Save recordings of all your interviews, upload them to Otter.ai or some other transcription software to be able to look back at your conversations and identify any themes that come up. You’ll use these again during your keyword research.
Build a voice of customer document
We’re not ready to get into keywords quite yet.
Keyword tools will get you search volume, but if we’re focusing on revenue metrics, we need to figure out how your customers talk first.
Now that you’ve spoken to your customers, you’re going to scrape the internet for how other people speak about the problem you solve or the solution you offer.
Luckily for most companies, people talk about products and companies online. If it’s not about your company, it’ll be one similar to yours. Great places to understand how people talk are:
- Review websites like Trustpilot, G2, Capterra
- Forums, Facebook Groups, Slack communities, Reddit
- Social media
Create a spreadsheet where you can collect quotes from all of these sources and identify whether it’s a pain, goal or barrier to using your product. In the sheet, you’ll need a column for:
- Source of the quote
- Is it a pain/goal/barrier?
The more quotes you can find, the more you can start to identify patterns.
What are the main things customers bring up?
Using this, you’ll start to have an even deeper understanding of what kind of content to create that will truly drive business growth.
Do bottom-of-the-funnel keyword research
If you haven’t done the work above, don’t skip to this section.
Seriously—go back and do the above work before you start doing keyword research. Not only will it give you business-driving keyword and topic ideas that you won’t find in keyword research tools, but it’s also necessary for your SEO strategy to succeed.
If you’ve done the above, we can start doing keyword research now.
Bottom-funnel keywords are sometimes also known as foundational SEO.
It’s the high purchase-intent keywords you need on your page before you start working on growth or higher-funnel SEO.
These are the kinds of keywords you target on Google Ads. We’ll cover Google Ads keywords in the next section. Other kinds of bottom-of-the-funnel keywords are going to be:
- Competitor comparison pages ([Competitor] alternatives, [Competitor] vs you, [Competitor 1] vs [Competitor 2] vs you)
- Best X tools
- Best X solutions
- Best X software
In B2B, most of the modifiers are words like ‘services’, ‘software’, ‘tools’, ‘solutions’, ‘development’, ‘management’, or ‘procurement’.
In SEO, most of the time these pages need to be organized as lists, not product pages. That means you’ll need to benchmark your company against your competitors.
There’s a mindset to overcome here: While you may be afraid to “introduce” your readers to your competitors—that’s not the case.
If you choose not to publish these pieces, which include competitors, out of fear of introducing people to them. Know this:
- The search traffic is already there. If you don’t own the keyword, your competitors will. And I bet you’ll be left out of the conversation.
- You will be intentionally choosing not to show up and control the narrative when people search for this keyword.
- Not publishing a piece mentioning your competitors won’t stop searchers from finding out about them. It will just stop them from finding out about your brand.
Make a list and plan to exhaust your bottom-of-the-funnel keywords.
Another thing to note is that most bottom-funnel keywords are low in search volume. So if getting more traffic is also an important metric for you, you can do this alongside other posts touching on different parts of the funnel.
Get conversion data from Google Ads
Most companies will have separate departments or teams running SEM and SEO. But if you want SEO to drive revenue, you’ll want to tap into your SEM data to get a full picture of what converts.
Your SEO department doesn’t need to get into Google Ads—you can simply get reports for the information you need.
You’ll first want to look at your Search Terms Report and see which ones get the most clicks and conversions. You’ll find additional bottom-funnel keywords that you might not have thought of in the above research.
For example, if you’ve created a page for “managed IT services”, you might find that other keywords show up in the Search Terms Report, like “managed IT provider” that may have a different search intent.
Create new pages, as necessary, for keywords that perform well. Set a reminder to check in with the SEM team every month for new keywords.
Build (a few) topic clusters
Now that all of the foundational SEO is in process or “out of the way”, you can start thinking about growth and scaling your SEO.
Real SEO success doesn’t work at the page level: you can’t just work on ranking on page or for one keyword. Success comes at the topic expertise level: your website should publish frequently and deeply about only a handful of topics.
Focusing on going deep on a few topics means things like domain authority and backlink profile won’t be as important. You can take full control of your own website, and most likely outrank your competitors with bigger budgets.
So how do you go deep on only a few topics?
Bear in mind your revenue-generating topic clusters should focus only on topics that matter to your buyers. Steer clear from the temptation of only going for high-volume keywords and topics. If your goal is to build long-term, revenue-generating content assets, then focus on the topics that matter.
That’s the point of all the upfront work we did talking to customers and researching them.
Topic clusters mean you choose one overarching topic, and then address every possible angle within it.
For example, if you sell sewing products and want to rank around sewing, you can build topic clusters around the following:
- How to cut silk
- How to cut linen
- How to cut from a pattern
- How to cut without fraying
- Best sewing needles for thick fabric
- Best sewing needles for jeans
- Best sewing needles for fleece
- Best sewing needles for leather
- Best sewing needles for hand sewing
- Best sewing needles for cotton
The example I’m giving is straightforward, but when it comes to complex B2B sales cycles, your content will benefit from the earlier interviews and research you did with buyers. You’ll need to invest in strong copywriters that can truly understand your audience (most likely executive-level) and address their real pain points.
Remember internal links
Internal links are more powerful and important than most people think.
When you want a page to rank, one of the fastest ways to do that is to link to it from other pages on your website. It helps Google find that page faster and, if you’re following a topic cluster strategy, Google will more quickly understand that you write frequently about a certain topic, helping all pages rank faster.
When you publish a new well-optimized, high-priority page, make it a habit to add links from your other high-authority pages to this new page.
External link audit, research, and building
Link-building strategies aren’t the same as they used to be.
It’s not just PBNs and scammy backlinks that have gone out of style—it’s important to manage a clean and relevant link profile, and to focus on building relationships while creating linkable content.
Examples of highly linkable content are data-driven reports, industry statistics (even if curated), and resource pages. Additionally, you can collaborate with other website owners who run high-quality blogs and have their own link building strategies and create a triangle backlink exchange.
Every page gets a CTA
Without CTAs, the only SEO metrics you can track will be vanity metrics.
Every page should get a tailored CTA that matches the point in the funnel. A top-of-the-funnel piece would perform better with a content upgrade, while a BOFU piece can directly ask for a demo request.
What to remember when building a revenue-led SEO strategy
SEO can work cross-departmentally to achieve the best growth: with product, other revenue departments, and other marketing departments. It takes a team with different skills: copy, engineering, SEO specialist, design and project management.
It doesn’t support growth if you treat SEO as an afterthought or a commodity. It works when you treat it as a long-term growth strategy.
It’s not just about publishing blog posts anymore. Today, search engine optimization for growth is more about creating relevant content often, making content accessible, doing A/B testing, improving load times, UI/UX, building community on social networks, marketing through other channels, and staying on top of security and design trends.
It’s more than I could fit into a blog post, but this is a good place to start. The more you can view SEO as a part of your growth department, the more it will work that way.