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How SEO Strategies Directly Influence Sales Success

Written by:

Howard Tillerman is the Chief Marketing Officer for Making That Sale and an award-winning marketing professional.

Edited by:

Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.

How SEO Strategies Directly Influence Sales Success

How SEO Strategies Directly Influence Sales Success

In an insightful interview with Matthew Anderson, we discuss his transition from web design to digital marketing leadership, emphasizing SEO and content’s crucial role in sales and customer engagement. Matthew highlights the seamless integration of SEO with sales outcomes, innovative lead generation through interactive content, and the importance of aligning marketing strategies across the sales funnel for enhanced conversion rates.

He stresses the significance of audience understanding for effective lead conversion and outlines key metrics for assessing campaign success. Additionally, Matthew shares his experiences with AI in content creation and reflects on the impact of Google’s core updates, offering sage advice for those aspiring to excel in the marketing field. This conversation sheds light on the evolving landscape of digital marketing and the strategies that drive success.

Introduction and Career Journey

MTS – Please tell us a little about yourself, your career in marketing, and what inspired you to choose this path.

Matthew – It’s been a fun journey. Currently, I work at Strikepoint. We’re a full-service digital marketing agency, and I oversee SEO, content, and anything that’s a digital solution — being innovative, finding new ways to do things, and new software.

I started designing websites when I was 15 years old, and that’s how I got my start in marketing. I practiced that for a year or two and then started building the actual websites. In 2020, COVID hit, and that was the first time I worked for an agency instead of working for myself. It was a fun experience. I got to work on so many different types of projects. I built websites and landing pages and kept doing that for a couple of years until I moved into the SEO and content side. I’ve been doing that for the past two and a half years. It’s been quite the journey.

MTS – Do you miss doing design?

Matthew – No, I think it was just my start. It wasn’t what I was great at. It was just a way to get into the world of marketing. From there, I learned I was better at SEO optimization content. Design was just a transition from learning a new skill to finding what I’m good at and what I love.

Impact of SEO on Sales

MTS – In your experience, how much has SEO strategy impacted sales outcomes?

Matthew – They go hand in hand. Whatever you do to optimize your content to get higher rankings on Google, your end goal should always be to get a lead and turn that into a sale. The only reason to do SEO is if it impacts your bottom line. If acquiring a new customer is how you make money, then SEO makes sense. That’s how I always describe it to people who ask if they should do SEO.

It’s about the content. It’s about the funnel you create within what you’re putting out and optimizing for the search engines. You’re building that into your entire marketing funnel, and your content should go down from driving awareness and promoting interest. Then, it should speak into the consideration stage and all of the different funnel stages. Without one, you don’t have the other. Without prospects, you don’t have leads. That’s how you get to the sale.

Effective Lead Generation Techniques

MTS – Can you share some lead-generation techniques that proved effective in marketing?

Matthew – We do a lot of different types of lead generation, whether it’s SEO, SEM, any type of advertising, or any kind of organic marketing. There are many different ways, but I will focus more on the organic side since that’s what I do.

Interactive content is one of the things that comes to mind when you ask this question. That’s content that people can interact with on your website, not only read. For some financial clients, we create calculators about their stocks, or we create their portfolios. It’s something interactive that brings people to the website, and that’s how you get them to learn about your product, offering, and service. There are also interactive ebooks or white papers promoting something beyond just a long-form article. There, you can have graphics, examples, or a specific download that someone can walk away with. I find that a really good lead-generation tool because people want something tangible and something they can share with others.

That’s how you build more of an organic following as well. When your content is shareable, Google sees that as helpful content to other people, and then, over time, you build your rankings. Many people think your website is your only sales mechanism, but there’s a way to branch out.

It’s 2024, and there are a lot of new techniques to start adding, and one of the things is marketing partnerships. We’re not the only ones to promote our content. We do a partnership with other companies, whether it’s a software company or a company that’s in a similar space but not directly competing. We write the content for them, and they promote it. That’s a way to get their leads (people on their website) and get our content out there without ever having to put it on our own website — and it all happens organically. The nice thing about organic content is you can always promote it in a paid way. We leverage both of those strategies.

Optimizing Sales Funnel with Marketing

MTS – What role does marketing play in optimizing each stage of the sales funnel for better conversion rates?

Matthew – Like I said earlier, they go hand in hand. I was doing some research, and I saw a diagram of the marketing and sales funnel, which showed an old way and a new way.

In the middle of the new diagram, you have each step of the funnel (awareness, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation, and purchase). In the old diagram, marketing was only involved with awareness and interest. Then, sales did the rest of the process. If you think about that, it puts a lot of weight on a sales team.

In the way people nowadays interact with Google, social media, and the ads they see, they’re not always thinking in the old way of talking to someone and hearing about the product. People are doing more research these days and weighing their options. They’re seeing what other people are saying (user-generated content). It demonstrated the new way the marketing funnel is involved up until the purchase, and sales is also involved in the evaluation and purchase stages.

So, there’s an overlap now. It’s not just marketing up top and sales at the very bottom. It’s marketing throughout the whole way. That speaks a lot to how they interlay in 2024 and beyond. Your marketing should speak to someone at each step of that funnel. Is it the awareness you’re building? Maybe it’s a consideration. Are you promoting articles that help someone decide between your product and the competitors? There are a lot of steps to be able to do it and do it effectively. We have to look at the funnel a little bit differently with how much marketing is now involved because of how buying has changed.

Lead Conversion Strategies

MTS – Do you do more than engaging and interactive content? How do you turn leads into customers?

Matthew – Sometimes, as marketers, we miss out on the foundation of the content, our website in general, or anything we are running as an ad. The foundation is knowing your audience, knowing what they like and don’t like, and understanding them.

Think of your ideal customer profile. There are all these different areas of your audience that if you don’t know them and don’t have that at the foundation of everything you’re creating, you’re probably going to miss the mark by the time they get to sales because you didn’t speak to them throughout the journey. They’re not going to go further; they’re not going to take action.

If content doesn’t motivate someone to take action and doesn’t have a CTA, whether a simple sentence, a button, a graphic, or retargeting, they have no reason to take action. In marketing, we sometimes think something is a good offer, and people will take it, but if we’re not the ones pushing them to take action, then that’s where we might miss the mark. You have to know your audience, and you have to compel them to take action. That’s what makes content effective.

Success Metrics and KPIs

MTS – What metrics or KPIs do you prioritize when you measure the success of a campaign?

Matthew – No matter what your campaign is or what channel you’re running it on, there’s a set of foundational KPIs that you look at, and you can always go to secondary ones or go a little bit further into the data. But no matter the campaign or channel, the way I see it, there are three stages: top-of-funnel, middle-of-funnel, and bottom-of-funnel metrics.

At the top of your funnel, you should be looking at your brand awareness. Are you getting impressions? How big is your reach? If it’s social media, how engaged are they on social media? You should also look at your website. If your website is a sales mechanism, then you should track page views and see how engaged people are through the session duration they’re staying on your site for. Within that top of the funnel, you look at leads generated. How many leads did you generate? What was your cost per lead? You can even look at metrics like cost per click and cost per acquisition.

At the middle of the funnel, you look at the engagement. That could be through email series, click-through rates on ads, and seeing how well they’re engaging there. It could be content downloads if it’s organic content. At the middle funnel, you have your qualification of leads, too. Are they qualified leads, or are they not qualified? This is where we start seeing if the quality of the lead you’re getting is what you want. Are you hitting KPIs in terms of qualified leads?

At the bottom of the funnel, you can see your conversion rate. How many of them were you able to convert into a sale? You’re tracking their customer lifetime value. What did they spend? Then, obviously, 

You will look back on ROAs and see if your campaign was successful with the amount of money you invested. Did you get a positive return or not? That’s what helps you determine if you hit your KPIs.

Innovation in Marketing

MTS – Can you share some innovative things that you used that impacted your work positively?

Matthew – There’s a hot topic going on in the world of marketing, and that’s AI. That is an innovative thing we’re stepping into, whether on the content side, SEO, ads, or the sales side. We’re looking at ways to utilize AI effectively, not just to make our jobs easier but to become more effective marketers. AI doesn’t do our job for us; AI plus us equals a better result.

One thing that we’ve been using AI is to create evergreen content at scale. It’s not like AI is producing all of our articles or anything like that, but we utilize it to create a large amount of glossaries.

Think of a marketing glossary, even just what I previously discussed (the top-of-funnel, middle-of-funnel, and bottom-of-funnel metrics). Some people don’t know what that means, and some companies are still trying to research and find out what it means. That way, we can organically attract people interested in those key terms. That lets us get that user to start interacting with our other content and services and see more of what we offer. We can then turn them into a lead because someone needing help with marketing is a perfect prospect for a marketing agency. AI is a really effective way to do that at scale and help our writers and editors produce more effective and extensive content.

You’ll hear so many marketers saying the results they’re getting from AI suck. If the results suck, then that means there’s probably something in the process to improve, and AI should be looked at as just a piece of the process. It’s not the end result. That’s an ineffective way to utilize AI if we expect it to do the job for us rather than to be a tool that we utilize.

The Future Outlook

MTS – How much have Google core updates from September affected your company, and what do you believe will be the future of SEO? Is it fixable or not?

Matthew – For those reading this, what happened was Google geared its algorithm more towards helpful content. They did a review update, too, to make reviews more first-hand experience. There were also the core updates.

For us and our SEO efforts, we saw an increase in traffic. We never lost traffic from a core update, and that speaks to doing SEO effectively. There’s a lot of the old way of doing things (what we consider black hat techniques), and then there’s the new way (producing helpful things on your website and showing search engines you’re producing that helpful content). It’s no longer just speaking to the search engine. You must be geared towards what a user is looking for, their intent, and your specific audience needs. If you can solve that equation, I think the core updates won’t affect you as much.

Within that, there’s still a lot of volatility when Google does things like this. No matter what, even if you did something 100% right, there’s still a chance that you’ll see a traffic fluctuation because when Google changes, it’s like a wave. Everyone’s going to feel that wave. It’s just felt at different levels.

Career Advice in Marketing

MTS – What advice would you give someone looking to make a career in marketing?

Matthew – I’m going to give a basic answer, but I’m going to explain it more. The biggest thing to learn as a young marketer is to start learning. Start learning everything and anything that you can get your hands on. Try to get an information overload.

You want to be able to develop the skills that are going to make you an effective marketer, and what every effective marketer has is experience, knowledge, and application. If you can start building the knowledge side and then take that knowledge and utilize it, over time, it’s like a stone that you chisel away at. You’ll be able to create something great out of it, but you start very rough, and learning is the foundation for creating that great end result.

I think it’s easy to take what you learned in college from a friend or a course, believe that you know it all, and apply it. But the great thing is that there will be things you fail at. Even the best marketers will fail at different campaigns and things they try to do, and that’s marketing. You take the data, take what happened, and then utilize that for your next campaign, initiative, and conversation. If you can do that effectively and be okay with learning, failing, and that journey, then I think you’ll turn into a great marketer.