Search engine marketing (SEM) has been a mainstay of digital marketing for a very long time.
In fact, this nascent marketing subdiscipline has its origins in the mid to late '90s, before the name Google became basically synonymous with “web search.”
Both SEO and PPC can be solid, reliable sources of traffic and sales for just about any online business.
Whether you write a monetized blog, you're selling products online, or you're offering B2B services, there's a good chance search engine marketing is one of your most important ways of connecting with your audience.
But to succeed, you need one critical thing: a genuine understanding of your audience.
You need to be able to get into people's heads, figuring out when they search, why they search, and what they're trying to find.
To do this, all you need is some common sense, empathy, and knowledge of just a few very basic psychological principles.
In a recent article from Search Engine Land, columnist Ryan Shelley recommends a combination of detailed customer personae and “empathy mapping” to hone in on what makes your customers tick.
Here's how you can start implementing his strategy for getting more paid and organic traffic from Google and other search engines.
Getting to know your users
You don’t have to have a psychology degree to better understand what motivates your users — you just need to be willing to do the work.
It starts with creating a detailed persona. A persona is a semi-fictional character that represents your ideal customer.
When developing personas, many stop at demographic information. But the real power is uncovering the psychographics. One exercise we use when creating personas is empathy mapping.
Empathy mapping helps you step outside yourself and into the world of your persona. It forces you to experience the world from a new perspective.
Often times when creating marketing material or planning a search strategy, we get wrapped up in the metrics and forget about the actual human on the other side of our strategy.
Empathy mapping will help you detach from the technical for a bit and help you focus on the practical.
Why are they searching?
Before ever doing keyword research, you must understand why people are searching in the first place. User intent will help you define terms and phrases that lead to action.
Here are a few questions you can use to identify user intent and uncover the “why” behind the search:
- What are you promoting, selling, delivering?
- What problem does your company solve?
- What actions do we want a site visitor to take?
- Why should a user visit your site?
- What are users expecting from your site?
These questions will help you take your product or solution and discover why it’s valuable to your end users.
Now, typically your business will have multiple personas, but there are usually a few key pain points that all you users share.
If you can find, uncover and leverage these pain points, you’ll be able to create a search strategy that delivers results.
You can read more about creating user personae for SEM over at Search Engine Land.