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Why Your SEO Should Include a User Needs Analysis – Here’s Why #208

Mark Traphagen and Eric Enge on Why Your SEO Should Include a User Needs Analysis

In 2018 Google seemed to be rewarding sites with depth and breadth of content more than ever. Does your site measure up?

In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge explains why a user needs analysis can reveal content gaps that are hurting your SEO and show you how to perform such an analysis for your site.

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Mark: Eric, what is a user needs analysis?

Eric: Great question, Mark. So, the basic idea when the user needs analysis is to try to assess in detail what users are looking for on a site like yours. So, what are their real needs?
This goes much deeper than researching the top keywords that people search on. The concept instead is to focus on developing a very broad and deep content experience on your site that meets a wide range of user needs.

Mark: Eric, I’ve heard you say in the past that much of this has to do with the Google algorithm updates in 2018. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?

Eric: Sure, happy to.

First of all, Google did many very important updates in 2018, beginning all the way back in March and throughout the year. One of the big areas they focused on was better understanding user intent. So, I have a classic example where looking at a digital camera search result in February versus what it looks like in October, we had a shift that had two digital camera review sites versus two e-tail sites, and by the end of the year was just four e-tail sites, massive change in the overall intent.

So, that’s one of the things that Google did. But they also changed a lot, in my opinion, on how they’re evaluating the breadth and depth of content. I saw many sites that saw huge upticks in traffic. And these were sites that were publishing a really significant volume of quality content. And then we saw some sites take a major beating. And these were sites that in our opinion lost because of the quality of their content.

Mark: Can you expand on the rationale behind this analysis?

Eric: Sure. Imagine that you have 100 users come to your site after entering a keyword at Google. Let’s, for example, say the keyword is “Digital Cameras.” If you asked them all to provide the top five to ten things they’re looking for, some might mention storage, others might discuss zoom capabilities, some might have a specific brand in mind.

Yet others may be more concerned with reviews or learning about photography even. Chances are that no two people will provide the exact same list. And if you summed up all the different choices people make, I bet you’re going to get about 500 different choices.

Mark: Probably.

Eric: The right idea from a planning point of view is to produce content that addresses a large array of those needs.

Mark: How do you perform the analysis that you’re talking about?

Eric: There are many good data sources to tap into.

First, model the personas of your target audience. Get a sense for who they are and how they think. So, a small business owner versus somebody in a large corporation in a marketing department versus consumer: they all have very different mindsets. Understand what your customer base is like.

Then talk to your product designers; figure out what was in their brain when they were making their decisions. Next talk to your customer service people and find out what the most common user questions are.

Also, just to get old fashioned about it from an SEO perspective, go to Google, type the phrase in, and look at Google Suggest and the People Also Ask results and see what you see there. Oh, and by the way, if you could do the survey I suggested at the beginning, do it.

Mark: What do you do with this analysis once you have it?

Eric: You’re going to use it to inform your content plan. You want to build out a map for your content, an editorial calendar that covers as large an array of all the identified needs as possible. Get related content created by true subject matter experts and make it really easy for people to find on your site. And of course, like in all good content marketing, make sure the world knows about it.

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Thoughts on “Why Your SEO Should Include a User Needs Analysis – Here’s Why #208”

  1. Remember the user in everything you do – whether it’s a physical product or an online service. Rule number 1.

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Eric Enge

Eric Enge is part of the Digital Marketing practice at Perficient. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO.

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