4 Reasons Why Your SEO Efforts May Be Reaching the Wrong People

By Danica Jones, ConsumerAffairs for Brands

The SEO landscape continues to evolve and grow more complex. While the ebb and flow in popularity of the latest ranking factors continues, every business needs to step back and ask the critical question: am I actually targeting the right people with SEO?

Everyone knows all traffic is not equal. An increase in traffic visits is good, an increase in quality traffic with high time on site and low bounce rate is better. What's best is traffic that eventually converts to leads or sales. This may be the area where most SEO efforts neglect. Here are four reasons why all your SEO efforts may be fishing in the wrong pond.

1. It's Not All About You

Life for well-known brands is easy. They get all the love from search engines and awareness from prospects. For the less fortunate businesses who are working on building that brand awareness, it's a tougher road. One key thing to keep in mind though is that prospects who aren't familiar with brands by name are using completely different queries to find other resources where they can learn more about an industry or product, and view different brands to choose from.

If they've never heard of a brand, they won't be able to search "reviews for Brand X." Instead, they may search "reviews for best headphones," or "what are the best headphones for studying" or other long-tail search phrases.

Many brands focus too much time on boosting rankings for owned properties but avoid leveraging third-party listings (such as review sites) to better populate search in spaces where ready-to-buy prospects are trying to make decisions. Both are important in today's SEO landscape.

2. User Experience Extends Beyond Brand-Owned SERP Listings

Review sites and buyer guides rank extremely high for consumer-focused queries, and brands need to take this into consideration as part of their overall SEO strategy. Also consider in parallel that sites with strong negative reviews and feedback can be hurt in SERPs according to Google's official blog from years back. Simply type in variations of "reviews of" + "competitor brand name," or "review of best" + "product or service" and see which review aggregation website comes up high for the different search terms.

3. Negative Listings Are Harder to Push Down Than to Address Directly

No brand is immune to online complaints. The larger the brand, the larger the potential universe of complainers, no matter how loved the brand. Apple is the number one brand according to Interbrand's annual global ranking (see image), and the iPhone is a huge percentage of their business (almost 2/3). Yet a search for "complaints Apple iPhone" returns quite a few low stars on review sites. Yet because of Apple's beloved status, negative listings do not impact them nearly as much as a small or mid-sized brand.

Complaints - whether they are on review sites, buyer's guides, forums or private blogs - are always best to be dealt with directly and quickly. Brands too often see negative reviews as an enemy. Instead, claim the review and post a response on how the complaintant can seek a resolution to their issue. SEO teams should work with customer experience teams to take advantage of the high SERP of review sites by working with those sites to improve sentiment, engage unhappy customers and display the whole customer experience.

4. Find Alternative Paths for Searchers

Use your buyer persona and their customer journey to outline some alternative paths consumers may take to arrive not just at your own listings but at third-party listings. Yet too often, user experience is overlooked in the rush to focus on factors such as demographics and personality types.

One example is the popular question-and-answer site Quora. With 80 million unique visitors, Quora has turned into an interesting platform to gain exposure and even generate leads. As its popularity has grown, Quora ranks very high for many semantic long tail queries on search engines. Simply follow topics related to your business, and receive email notifications when someone posts a new question.

Additionally, take the time to craft a thoughtful response using the same strategies in creating high-value, long-form content. Over time, third-party listings such as these can contribute to high quality organic inbound traffic precisely because they offer the best user experience for that particular situation.

SEO is all about relevance. Google and other search engines reward websites that provide the best answers to queries. The goal of any SEO strategy is to go where the searchers go. Following these four suggestions can aid in broadening the universe of optimization to places on the Web where you real prospects truly reside.

Danica Jones is a marketing manager for ConsumerAffairs for Brands, a platform that empowers brands to generate new revenue by activating and leveraging brand advocates.