Google Rankings: Using Customer Questions to Get to Page One
Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published in July 2018. It was revised March 2021 with updated statistics and new information.
In the constant battle for Google rankings, what is your company prioritizing?
Trying to climb to the top of the ranks for broad product, crop, or pest/disease keywords will feel insurmountable – for good reason. The field is too wide, and the dollars poured into owning those keywords is often too high for a good return on investment.
However, being buried near the bottom of page one, or on the next page, means it’s unlikely that Google users will find you at all. This can have a tremendous impact on your bottom line, even if your product offers more to your customers in the way of features, benefits, ROI, etc, than competitor offerings.
Maybe you’re thinking, so what? What does it matter if my brand is on the first page of Google, or the third, or the 12th?
Among the many facets of search engine optimization (SEO), content plays an important role. It should respond directly to the ways in which your customer persona thinks about your brand, product, or service, or, if they haven’t heard of you yet, how they think about the challenges, pain points, job or desire that your brand, product, or service will help them solve.
We know that B2B buyers are also researchers – 85% of them research their purchase decisions through an internet search and 66% visit the website of potential vendors. They collect information and data, seeking to answer questions they have about what will best address their needs, challenges, and pain points.
Around 19% of searchers click on Google Ads, which means that your traffic generation efforts must extend beyond SEM into the organic content that exists on your site. Content pieces that appear on the first page of Google are an average of 1,447 words long. These pieces are rich in not only keywords, but valuable information, built on a deep understanding of what questions their customers ask, how they ask them, and the intent behind the question.
Let’s start first with the questions customers ask. Most often, you can define these common questions by reviewing your customer persona, asking your sales team members, exploring the search terms that visitors are using to arrive at your site, or using a tool that analyzes keywords and the pages that rank highest for those keywords and associated phrases.
Next is to understand how your customer asks those questions. Most voice based searches are phrased in the form of a full sentence or question, while text based searches are often shortened into keywords or short phrases.
A secondary component of how questions are asked involves the words that are chosen when searches are conducted. For example, a customer may search for a specific feature or benefit (“work gloves that work with touchscreens”), might ask what product has the features that best address their specific pain point (“conductive work gloves with extra palm grip”), or they might be more vague, looking for the “best” of a given product category (“best conductive work gloves”).
Lastly, it’s important to understand the intent your customer has behind a question, and ensure the content that you create to address that question meets their intention. If your customer is in the research phase, they are likely to phrase queries differently than when they are ready to make a purchase. An obvious example here is the difference between the three searches above, and “where to buy conductive work gloves”. Often, people will include phrases like “near me”, “quick shipping”, or “best price” when they’re nearing the purchase phase. For brands that don’t sell directly to consumers, they may search for sales rep contact information or retailer locations.
From this understanding of the questions that your customer asks, how they ask them, and their intent in asking them, you can start to form a strong content plan that addresses those questions for your customer, and helps your site climb in organic search rankings.
The key messages addressed within your content will be further shaped by the customer persona you’ve built. For example, if your persona values top-notch after-sales service, and you’ve noticed they’re searching for real service department experiences from other farmers, you can focus content creation on collecting testimonials or customer stories, and spend less time explaining service plan details.
PR and company news content are also important components of a strong SEO plan for any site. These will support brand awareness efforts by ensuring that content specifically about your company and brand is available to those searching using your company name, whether they saw it on a billboard or heard it from a neighbour at the local coffee shop.
It’s vital that your content include the keywords and phrases that you uncovered when researching the types of questions your customers ask. Include them in your content in a natural way – keyword stuffing is still a no-no, and ensure you are actually answering the questions your customers are asking. Nothing is more frustrating than clicking through a search result that doesn’t provide the information promised in the link title or description.
Google is Only Part of the Plan
As with all marketing plans, Google rankings are only part of the bigger picture that will help you ensure you meet your desired marketing outcomes and business goals. It all works in tandem with paid media, social media, public relations, experiences, and more. The good news is that when all of these paths and channels are working together, they can provide even deeper insights into your customers, which in turn enables you to further optimize your efforts.