How Personas Benefit SEO

Personas are a key element not only in successful SEO strategy, but in any type of digital or traditional marketing initiative. Personas are descriptions of the types of customers your business is looking to attract, based on data (both qualitative and quantitative) associated with your existing customers. A well-developed persona helps to create a foundation for determining the most effective marketing strategy for your company.

“A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”

Personas provide a reality check when creating your website, paid search initiatives, billboards, commercials, and any other marketing efforts. They help to ensure your campaigns are aligned with your target customer’s needs. They help not only with search engine algorithms, but in identifying the strongest Usability and User Intent experiences among your competitors. For all of these reasons, personas play a critical role in the creation of a marketing plan.

If personas are so important, every company must be using them, right? Not even close. Surprisingly, even though personas are a critical part of the development process for a marketing strategy, not all companies have them, or understand how to use them. According to Content Marketing World, only 44% of companies surveyed in 2014 had them—and even fewer understood how to use them.

Does your company’s marketing team have personas?

Here are some of the reasons to create personas, and the benefits they offer for your SEO campaigns.

Information Architecture (IA)

The way your website is organized can impact the overall understanding of the site hierarchy by search engines. More importantly, though, is ensuring that your site’s visitors can easily understand and access the site’s navigation structure.. By understanding your ideal customer, you’ll have a head start in the site development process by anticipating how they will interact with your site. Information architecture is typically designed during the wireframe layout process, and having strongly-developed personas can help managers prioritize the user experience and prevent an unwieldy, non-user-friendly site structure.

Usability

Once the website’s wireframe phase is completed, moving into the site design process can be dicey if no personas are available for reference. This continual referencing to the wireframes and customer personas ensures the designers are truly creating a website that is both usable and SEO friendly at the same time. Too often, design teams can create stunningly beautiful websites that nonetheless rank poorly in search results due to a lack of best design practices based on what customers actually want and need to see on a website. The stronger your customer personas are from the start, the more this risk can be mitigated.

User Intent

Personas are beneficial for understanding user intent. When you know what tasks or goals they are trying to accomplish, you will have a great chance of understanding the questions they’ll be asking. Additionally, this process will help keep your marketing and sales teams focused on the user, versus their own perceptions of what they “think” should go on the site for content.

The verdict is in: Personas are clearly beneficial for strong site design. How do you go about creating them? Here’s a simple three-step process for getting started:

(1) Surveys

Start with surveys posted on your website, direct mail, e-mail campaigns or focus groups. This can provide a wealth of information based on the attributes of people who are already interacting with your brand.

(2) Sales & Support Departments

Sit in on phone calls with prospective customers to get a sense of frequently asked questions and the most popular services and/or offerings your company provides. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn about your customers. A company I worked for earlier in my career required everyone to work in the field for their first week on the job—an invaluable experience that provided a wealth of information about our ideal customers. The personas I created from that experience alone later contributed to a site design that helped the company create a whopping 54% year-over-year online revenue growth.

(3) Write Your Personas

There are some great templates available on the web, such as the online version offered by Xtensio.com. Once you have all the information filled out review with your team and get everyone’s buy-off. These will grow over time as your company adds or remove product or service offerings.

Sean Van Guilder About the author

Sean Van Guilder has been helping businesses get found on the internet for over 20 years. He has a 10,000 foot view of digital marketing that helps shed light on SEO as a business driver.  Sean has worn almost every digital marketing hat out there and brings strategies and tactics that have knocked the socks off of companies such as Microsoft, MSN and WONGDOODY, to name a few.  Currently, Sean is leading the SEO Practice for premier digital marketing agency, Point It, in Seattle.  Sean is a self-taught digital marketer and loves every minute of it.  When he’s not in front of a computer, he’s teasing his co-workers, playing sports, hanging with his kids, making music and collecting HO scale trains.

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