Build an SEO foundation before investing in personalization

6 reasons to focus on SEO before investing in personalization

By Colter Hettich

November 30, 2022
graphic magnifying glasses
Why creating an ecosystem of SEO content should precede personalization efforts.

Personalization has emerged, yet again, as a buzzword around content and the future of marketing (exhibit A, exhibit B, exhibit C). The concept of personalization is a sexy one to be sure — highly-targeted content experiences unique to each user, with every decision informed by data. But there are significant headwinds for any organization looking to go all-in on personalization:

  • Personalization is resource intensive. Listening to a webinar recently, I heard marketing bigwigs from several major banks talk about the seven-figure dollar amounts they’ve invested in personalization platforms. They have 12-month plans for implementation and adoption. It’s a significant commitment to a long-term strategy and quite involved for IT and staffing.
  • Clean data is critical. The promise of personalized experiences requires large data sets, and that data must be properly cleaned — which takes time. Data that are mislabeled, duplicative or incorrect can easily lead to embarrassing and possibly harmful mistakes.
  • Data collection is getting more difficult and more intrusive. Pieces like this one from Advertising Week illustrate just how much work it will take to replace the cookie data we’re accustomed to, and Apple’s App Tracking Transparency privacy update raised yet another hurdle for data collectors.
  • Marketers use less than half the technology they already have. A recent Gartner survey found that marketers only used 42% of their marketing technology, or martech, stack in 2021 — and that’s down big time from 58% the year before. It seems the more tech we have, the less we fully utilize any of it.

Personalization does increase relevancy, which should increase engagement in a powerful way. And strategically casting a customized net makes sense, but the challenges outlined above are significant. What if you could create a similar net that required no casting — a net that fish swam into on their own? (You can!)

Let’s quickly define what we mean here by “SEO content.” We’re referring to multiple, 1,500-word web pages that are informed by a content strategy, audience research and Google search analytics. These pages can address a dozen or more questions around a topic we know is important to the audience. These pages then raise the authority of the domain overall, increasing the likelihood of any and all content being found organically.

So what makes SEO so accessible, affordable and effective? And why should you consider establishing an ecosystem of strong SEO content before committing to personalization (see #5 below)?

1. The experience is audience-led.

SEO content empowers your audience to learn and discover however they like, at their speed and on their time. You simply step out of the way and let the content do its job. Data shows that “discovery learning” can increase information digestion and retention, and SEO content perfectly fits the model of contextualization, exploration, analysis and drawing conclusions. (Almost sounds like a journey, doesn’t it?)

2. SEO content is always on.

Unlike more traditional campaigns (including those informed by personalization), SEO content completely removes timing from the equation. The content is always there, and will be the easiest thing for your audience to find the moment they need it.

3. Creating and publishing SEO content is not resource intensive.

Admittedly, the combination of necessary skills and tools is not free, but the time and financial costs pale in comparison to those required by true personalization.

And yes, algorithm updates will affect rankings and require content updates. But those algorithm updates are increasingly focused on rewarding helpful content and good experiences. So, unless you’re trying to outsmart the algorithm (strongly do NOT recommend), content updates will be just that — updates, not top-to-bottom reworks.

4. Analytics identify opportunities for additional content.

You’ve invested a few thousand dollars — not hundreds of thousands — in some content, and that content can show you where to invest the next chunk. Which page is getting the most traffic? Where are they going next? If the time-on-page is low, create a video or an infographic high on the page to increase engagement. If they’re bouncing, change up CTA placement or wording. If they’re going to another page on your site, see what you can do to increase metrics on that page. Then, think about what all this tells you about your audience’s intent — and apply those learnings to your next batch of SEO content.

5. SEO content can collect lead-gen data.

Once the organic traffic starts rolling in, you can add downloadable content to your SEO pages — content that your audience must enter data to access. Any data gathered in this fashion is especially valuable because it came from someone you targeted, who’s actively looking for answers, and is motivated enough to enter their personal information. You can then take this data and add it to your CRM or personalization platform.

6. SEO content makes for a very slippery funnel.

SEO content is exceptionally good at moving audiences toward a decision. Why? Because you haven’t tried to hard-sell them anything. All you’ve done is be a steady resource — a brand who consistently appears with answers when they have questions. You’re already positioned as an expert, as reliable, and the audience will be much more open to learning more about your products and services.

Get your SEO nets in the water before going all-in on personalization.

Interested in starting or growing your SEO content program? We’d love to chat! Please send us a message so we can find a time to jump on a call.


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