In this episode of In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris ask the question: why don’t we focus on or measure SEO for customer retention? After all, useful, valuable content isn’t solely the provenance of new customer acquisition. Keeping existing customers happy and providing them value is equally or more important – but we don’t typically measure that in marketing. You’ll learn about the importance of site search, UI/UX, Google Analytics for customers, and more.
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What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.
Christopher Penn 0:02
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In this episode of In-Ear Insights, we are back after a brief hiatus with the world kind of getting settled in.
And about we talked this week about different applications of SEO.
So the big obvious one is customer acquisition, you put up great content attracts people to your website, they convert marketing looks great.
And that’s pretty well established.
But I was thinking based on some recent comments in our free slack community analytics for marketers, which if you head on over to Trust insights.ai slash analytics remarketing, you can join over 1500 other folks talking about this.
But some comments recently about SEO and customer retention.
And I thought this is a really interesting line of thought, because it’s not something that marketers traditionally think about, certainly creating content.
It’s not something we measure especially well.
And it’s not something that’s on a strategic roadmap, even though we know that there’s a sizable and there always should be a sizable percentage of returning users to your website, particularly those customers.
So Katie, when you when you think about yourself as a consumer, how much do you search for stuff for companies where you’re already the customer? And you know, they’re not going to get any revenue out of you immediately.
But things like the product manual for your blender, things like that? How much search Do you do as a as a returning customer?
Katie Robbert 2:42
a decent amount? And I think that, you know, you’re right, we don’t think about, you know, SEO for retention.
You know, traditionally, in general, broad strokes, we think about SEO as an awareness tool.
So that when someone is you know, searching for something on a search engine, your brand, or your products, or your things are the thing that pop up so that they can find out about you.
But you’re absolutely right, Chris, there’s that whole other second half of the journey.
So, you know, for me, as a consumer, you know, I might be looking for reviews of other products that this company might offer, or, you know, to your point, like, okay, I bought the thing, but it didn’t come with instructions, or it says, you know, go to our website to get instructions, which to me, first of all, is a terrible user experience.
Like, just send me the goddamn instructions.
Like, don’t make it difficult.
That’s a pet peeve of mine, but that’s for another day.
Or, you know, I’ve had the thing for many years.
And I forgot how to change the settings on it.
Like, you know, how many people have like, you know, regular standard alarm clocks and can’t figure out how to change it for, you know, the time zones or the clock in your car, you know, it’s right half the year, it’s wrong the other half of the year, because you can’t figure out how to change it.
So the this long winded rant is the way of saying yes, SEO is important for every stage of the customer journey, not just awareness.
And that then changes the strategy because you at the front of that journey, when you’re trying to do the awareness, you’re trying to do the, you know, how do I and what do I? And now you’re trying to think more about the Why do I care about this? And why do I need to continue to care about this thing? And you know, it’s not as black and white is like how and what goes at the beginning and why goes the end? you’ll still need a lot of that helpful content, but that helpful content changes in nature.
So instead of, you know, what is the best blender, it’s how do I use the best Blender? Now that you have the thing, Chris, what are your thoughts on it? Because you’ve been thinking about this?
Christopher Penn 4:51
I think it’s there’s two different parts to this.
One is obviously the broad search right? If you particularly have a product because you’re right Some appliances that like, Oh, yeah, I think that manual got, you know, recycled by accident, I have to go and search out the manual or like you said, devices guy change this once a year and I can’t remember how.
But then the other part I think is really important that people just don’t spend enough time on is on site search, right? What are people searching for on your website? How often are they searching for it? And those search opportunities should be obvious content opportunities, right? Because clearly, if someone’s searching for it, for example, you know how to pay Trust Insights, you know, like, if you’re a customer, how do you pay Denali, we want them to ask that question, and you’re not paying us.
But it’s an opportunity, it tells us there’s a gap in our site content, if people are searching for something, and they can’t find it, particularly if they’re returning us a particular if they’re returning customer, we almost have an obligation to provide that information to them.
If you were a blender company, right? Someone’s searching for, you know, you know, wildside, jar 750.
They couldn’t find it.
They couldn’t, your site wasn’t intuitive enough to make it obvious.
So they just went straight to search and and typed it in.
So there’s opportunities there to find content gaps to say like, Ah, yeah, we kind of missed, we missed the boat on this one.
And I would bet because of the attribution problems that we’ve been having, as a as an industry, you will also attract a fair amount of search to that content from customers that you didn’t know were customers, because you didn’t have analytics data.
One of the things I was looking at recently was I was looking at dark search traffic on on my personal website, because about 12% of my overall traffic is dark, meaning I have no attribution data.
But when I when a correlation analysis between the known channels, it had the strongest correlation of a strong correlation to search traffic.
And there has been this thing in the search marketing industry of there is dark search traffic where you don’t have data.
So you need to figure out what it is those people are searching for.
And it’s clearly if somebody is arriving on your site, and you don’t know who they are, but they then go to your search bar and type, you know, blender jar 750 manual.
Okay, this is not somebody who is just random, this is somebody who probably is a customer, and couldn’t find what they’re looking for.
So there’s some measurement challenges, to search for the second half the customer journey.
And then there’s the filling in those content challenges.
And I don’t think companies paying enough attention each even though it would benefit them on both the acquisition and the retention side.
Katie Robbert 7:32
So I have two questions for you.
Related to that.
So one, do you think that it is a disadvantage if a website does not offer some kind of site search? And two, do you use search console? Or do you use Google Analytics to figure out what people are searching for? How they find you? And what they find out? You know, from your website? Like how do you determine that you have those content gaps? Well,
Christopher Penn 8:02
I’ll do that in reverse order.
So you should be using Google Analytics for Site Search.
Because it tracks it very well.
And it puts it into the the interface we all know and love.
And then on the first part, I find that a site that does not have some search facility to be less functional, it’s a less it’s a, it’s a site that has not given serious thought to the user experience, to say like, Hey, we know, we’re not the world’s best UI designers.
So here’s a search bar in case we just did a crappy job with our navigation, there’s almost there’s almost kind of an implied arrogance to not having a search bar, like, oh, our design is so good.
You don’t need a search bar, when the rest of us are like, I can’t find shit.
You know, you made it with all day, you made your menus entirely out of emoji.
Why did you Why would you do that? And so, yeah, I think modern sites should have some kind of search facility.
Because the other risk you run into then is, if your site doesn’t have on site search, people will go back to Google.
And then they start googling things.
And you could potentially actually attract them to a competitor.
It’s like, Oh, I was looking at this thing.
I could find like up, oh, look, this other segment offers, you know, analysts consulting, check them out.
And then suddenly, now you may have introduced competition You didn’t even you didn’t even necessarily want.
Katie Robbert 9:28
So you’re saying I just want to back up a bit.
So you’re saying that there’s an implied arrogance to a lack of some sort of a site search, but I would counter with, it’s a lack of understanding of how important making your site searchable is, and maybe that’s a lack of understanding about SEO in general, that you’re thinking, well, I don’t have a blog.
Therefore, I don’t need Site Search, because there’s nothing to search on my site.
I don’t have content and so do you think that maybe there’s a disconnect of Well, no, there is content on your website, the fact that you have a website, in general means that you have some sort of searchable content, even if your site is only, you know, like my personal site, even if it’s only five pages big, I still want to make it as easy as possible.
So do you think that maybe, you know, I’m sure that there is a arrogance where my site is so great and so intuitive, I don’t need to include a site search.
But I would also argue that there’s the other side of it, where it’s a lack of understanding of how important site search and SEO is, even if you don’t have a blog, for example.
Christopher Penn 10:35
I think the root cause is not being customer centric, right? Whatever the reason, confusion, delusion, arrogance, whatever it comes down to, you’re not thinking like the customer, you’re thinking from your company perspective.
And you’re forgetting your customers.
Our customers don’t live in your world, customers don’t live see that site 20 times a day, because it’s their homepage and know it, you know, like the back of their hands, they, a lot of them, depending on your analytics could be like the first time they’ve ever come in visited your site.
So yeah, I think it’s it’s that lack of customer centricity, as as cliched and as beaten to death is that term? Is it still true? You have to think like, the average customer who doesn’t live in our world all day?
Katie Robbert 11:21
Well, and so I, I know the answer to this question, but I feel like we should explore it is, what’s the solution to that, Chris?
Christopher Penn 11:29
Well, in general, it’s with a search in particular, I roll out the feature and measure it.
If nobody uses Site Search, then yeah, you didn’t have a problem, right.
But if suddenly, you start seeing 20 3050 100,000 queries for stuff that you thought was obvious on your site, then you know, that there’s an issue, there’s an issue that you need to either resolve through content through navigation, one of those two things, but it always comes down to you know, put, put it up, test it, see what happens and see see how people behave.
And also, in the navigation, please make it obvious that magnifying glasses to pixels is not helping anyone,
Katie Robbert 12:11
I would build on that and say, do some actual UX testing with your customers.
And so one of the, you know, more straightforward user experience exercises is, is to, you know, literally put the website in front of someone and say, you know, find, you know, my blender instruction manual, you know, and then you just record the session, you know, obviously, you let them know, that’s what you’re doing.
But then you watch and see, like, Where are those pitfalls? Like, isn’t intuitive, because you have a big button on your homepage that says, click here to get the blender, you know, instruction manual? Or, you know, they start looking for things like, Well, where’s your search bar? Or Where’s your, you know, resources, or Where’s your this, whereas your that and so having that conversation, helps you understand the way that people who aren’t you who, like you’re too close to it people who aren’t you are thinking about, so you can sort of get a lot from that conversation of, you know, asking them to complete a task and having them walk through what they’re thinking as they’re completing that task, and where they’re stumbling, that would really inform a lot of those features, Chris, that you’re mentioning rolling out.
And the reason I say that, that you would start with that is because rolling out a new feature on a website is not as easy for every company as it is, for example, Trust Insights, because it’s literally just you and I and we can kind of do whatever we want with our website.
We don’t have, you know, hundreds of meetings and, you know, forms and budgets and these things like, we don’t do it willy nilly.
But we do it in such a way that we’re agile, and we can roll things out.
And so just sort of that alternative to people who don’t have the luxury of just rolling out a feature and testing it.
Christopher Penn 14:03
You know, you bring up something really important there.
We talked a few episodes back about people using Microsoft clarity, which is a UX tool, similar to like hot jar and stuff like that.
And it occurs to me, if you’ve got a set up, and you know, all the privacy disclosures and stuff are updated on your website.
You could filter down a clarity just to people who used the search function on your website and then watch their user journeys.
Watch that whole visit that whole session, go What did this person try to do that they even needed to use the search bar, and that would give you some of that user testing.
The other thing that comes to mind is when you look at services like Google Site surveys, which is part of Google surveys, you can install a little widget on your site that asks those common four questions.
You know, did you accomplish what you set out to do today on the website and things like that is in a little pop up and you get a couple of 100 responses a quarter? enough to tell you ah yeah.
Our site’s not not getting the job done here.
Or Yeah, people are generally satisfied.
So those websites satisfaction surveys.
I believe I think it’s for an on site survey.
It’s a penny per response, and you get the first 200 every quarter for free.
There’s no reason not to put that on.
I mean, if you can’t find $2, in your marketing budget, something’s gone wrong.
Katie Robbert 15:18
Yeah, I think one of the first questions that always asked is did you find what you’re looking for? And that’s even something that, you know, if you have one of those automated chat bots on your website, I see them pop up all the time, did you find what you’re looking for? That’s a great question to start with, because people are obviously on your website to find out information or do something with you.
So if they say no, okay, that’s a big deal.
I mean, you know, in a world where going shopping at physical stores was a little bit more normal and safe.
One of the first things that cashier asked is, did you find everything that you were looking for? And normally, you just said, like, yep, okay, like, I’m ready to leave.
But a lot of times, we will say, No, I did.
And, you know, I’ve done that with cashews group, like, actually, I was looking for, you know, the following three things, and I didn’t find them.
Can you help me? And it’s just such a great question to start with, because it’s an open ended question.
You know, some people might be like, yep, I’m good.
Stop talking to me, or like, it opens up this, you know, what the layout of your store is not very intuitive.
Trader Joe’s, and I can’t find a gosh darn thing on all of those pack shelves.
And really, I just want to get some jingle jangle, and you can’t tell me where it is, because it changes every year.
Not that I’m better.
Christopher Penn 16:38
It’s because I actually do it to the store layouts that made it just because I know my store really well by now, but I know having trouble finding it.
But ya know, anytime that somebody is running into interface issues, it’s also an upsell opportunity.
It’s it’s one of those things is a quote, my favorite quotes, any opportunity to be helpful is an opportunity to earn money, right? That’s it.
So when you think about sight search, you are having opportunities to be helpful, which means you have an opportunity to upsell or at the very least, to retain the customer.
So to circle back, how do we measure the customer retention aspect of search? Because it’s pretty easy to measure acquisition, right, you know, forms filled out shopping carts filled, etc? How do we measure not losing a customer? Because our site, you know, royally annoyed them?
Katie Robbert 17:32
I think we, you know, you run surveys, you do those, you have to do quantitative and qualitative measurement.
And so you need to ask people, you know, are you willing, so, for example, like, if you ever have to call your cable company, which is a pain in the butt, the first thing they ask you in the call is, are you willing to take a brief survey at the conclusion of this call? And so you can do the same thing on your website, or you can have people, you know, click a box to say, is it okay, if one of our representatives calls you, and asks you about your experience on our website.
So there’s that qualitative aspect.
But then there’s also the quantitative aspect of, you know, Chris, you’d mentioned rolling out new features, doing that a B testing, I think there’s a lot of different ways that you can test and make sure that people are finding what they need.
But you can also pair that with your returning user data from Google Analytics, your retention data, your, you know, return sales data, you know, people who purchase multiple times, you know, so there’s a lot of different ways to measure I don’t, I think it really depends on your customer experience and your website.
But there’s a lot of different metrics that you could use in order to understand if you’re getting SEO right, for that second half of your customer journey.
Christopher Penn 18:52
Yeah, I think if you were to take a lot of the scores from like surveys, if you do the like the website satisfaction survey, you have an ongoing actual analytics and data.
And you look at that with your returning user data.
And then you dig into your CRM, and you look at things like, you know, either form generations, because you do have existing customers, at least in our business, filling out, you know, additional content to watch our webinars and things.
But more importantly, you’ll get your churn numbers and things, particularly if you’re like a large high volume b2c transactional business and run a correlation analysis.
And if you see that your your basket of customer satisfaction numbers, and your basket of churn numbers strongly correlate, then you could make a case that Yeah, we need to do some testing here because these numbers are too close to be comfortable.
It’s like, maybe we really are, like pissing off all of our our customers and that that’s, you know, that’s contributing to the churn rate.
So just as you can do attribution analysis for customer acquisition, you absolutely can apply the same mathematical principles to your existing customers where the outcome you’re measuring staff acquisition Is churn and say like, Okay, what? data? What variables seem to have a relationship with that churn number? And what can we do to bring that number down? Maybe it is website satisfaction.
Maybe it’s too many emails, you know, maybe, you know, it’s it’s our CEO stormed the Capitol.
Who knows what the reasons could be.
But there’s any number of things and without that quantitative analysis, like you said, it’s hard to to tease that up, but it is a knowable thing.
Katie Robbert 20:31
Well, even you know, just starting with looking at Do I have returning users to my website is probably a good place to start, you know.
So that’s an indication even before you go down the road of retention, SEO, why aren’t people coming back to your website? What is the function of your website that people don’t return to it? Is it purely transactional, they buy one washing machine every six years, and they never return, then you probably don’t need to worry too much about it unless you’re trying to house instruction manuals.
But if you’re a site like ours, where you want people to get information, you want people to sign up for services can keep coming back for different services, you know, find it as the training, resource, all those different things, then you probably want to have a high number of returning users.
So I would start there.
Christopher Penn 21:19
Yep, I would also look at your churn of your email list.
That’s an easy proxy for figuring out if people care about us anymore, like a granted me it has to mean also that your emails worth reading.
But if you’re sending out a lot of email volume, and you’re noticing, you’ve got a lot of churn on your list, like yeah, you may not be satisfying customers anymore.
So give these ideas some thought SEO is can be applied to the second half of the customer journey.
You can measure it and you can figure out what are the things that have a relationship to audience churn, to acquisition churn, and of course to customer churn.
If you figure those things out.
The old Maxim that it costs more to acquire a customer than just to keep it will help you boost your numbers and make your job as a marketer less difficult, because every delighted customer is also becomes a marketing channel for you.
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