Need to improve your SEO processes for scalability? Columnist Jim Yu shows how the Six Sigma framework can help.
From algorithmic changes to evolving consumer behavior, the SEO market is synonymous with change. Each year, marketers must revise their strategies as they keep up with the latest developments in best practices. Customer expectations are also changing, as they begin to seek more from brands online, including personalized experiences.
Over the past two years alone, we have seen enormous changes. For example, the Mobile Update in April 2015 took the marketing world by storm. We have also seen the introduction of RankBrain, changes in ad placement on Google’s search engine results pages, as well as the introduction of accelerated mobile pages (AMP). There has been an increased emphasis on personalization and integrated, multi-channel marketing campaigns as well.
In addition to these rapid and dramatic changes, marketers have also noticed how increasingly saturated the field has become. Approximately 88 percent of B2B marketers and 76 percent of B2C marketers say that they use content marketing. Half of the brands in both groups also say that they plan to increase their budget in this area in the coming year.
This means that there will be even more competition for the top spots on the search engine results pages. Being on the first page for your major keywords will have a tremendous impact on your brand’s success and ROI.
Going back to basic and Six Sigma might provide the framework you need to achieve this success.
What is Six Sigma, and what does it mean for marketers?
Originally developed by Motorola in the 1980s, Six Sigma is set of techniques and tools for process improvement, conceived as a means to improve production and ensure that everything remains high quality. It has since been used to help companies in dozens of industries, from the military to IT, improve their efficiency and optimize how improvements and progress are made. The principles that make it successful can even be applied to SEO and can help drive you and your organization forward.
The Six Sigma uses a DMAIC methodology — Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control — to provide a framework that will help you improve your processes and see strong returns. The tight guidelines that determine each step provide brands with stability and clear instructions about what needs to be accomplished to see the results they want.
During the definition stage, there are three main things you need to identify: Your main problem, your main audience, and the demand for your products and services.
First, label precisely what the problem is and what you want to accomplish during the process. For example, you might want to focus on revenue, rankings, or share of voice.
You then progress to define who you will be targeting with your marketing messages: your ideal customers. You need to know what motivates people to buy from you and what makes them select your brand over a competitor. The better you are able to understand what your customers want to see, the more capable you will be to provide them with the online experience that they seek. To come up with your target audience, you want to use two main sources of information:
- Your existing customers. Speak with them and learn about their pain points, budgets, motivating factors, and why they choose you.
- Market research. Uncover the types of people most likely to be interested in your industry and brand.
Bring your information together to begin constructing a few main personas that will tell you what your ideal customers want to see from your brand.
Finally, you need to define what these customers want to see. You will need to outline your target personas with their buyer’s journey. See the types of content that will encourage them to move from one stage of the buyer’s journey to the next. Then use:
- Keyword research. Identify the topics that have the highest search rates and thus are attracting attention from your audience.
- Website analysis. Look at the pages on your site that attract the most attention to better understand what people appreciate on your domain and what is already driving people through your sales funnel.
- Competitive analysis. Look at the topics that your competitors are covering that seem to be helping their sites.
Once you have finished your definitions, you need to look into your analytics to see exactly where you currently stand. Note your current rank for big keywords, your share of voice, your positioning against competitors, and other metrics that will help you measure your goals.
This information will provide you with your baseline from which you can then improve. You will be able to use these numbers to measure your growth and judge the success you are having.
You also want to look closely at your brand’s SEO processes. During this phase, your main objective is understanding how things are currently being handled internally. You will focus on uncovering problems in the next step. Look at how well your content is optimized and the process your team goes through when determining what to write about, developing the content, and distributing it.
Now it is time to move into the analysis stage. Brands must now uncover the problems that have caused their shortcomings. For example, a content audit might reveal that you have significant content gaps and that your material is not effectively moving people from one stage of the buyer’s journey to the next.
You might also find that your material has been poorly optimized or that your domain itself does not carry the authority needed to achieve the highest rankings, for example.
During this phase, work on gaining a good understanding of your competitive environment. You want to see how you measure up to others in your industry in terms of rank, revenue, and share of voice.
Remember that for you to succeed in SEO, you must also outrank the competition. You cannot improve your own positioning without understanding others. Look at what others are doing that is helping them succeed that you are lacking. This might include factors such as:
- Types of content
- Changes to the buyer personas
- Particular targeted keywords
- Brand awareness and reach efforts– such as more social media or guest posts
Take these factors into account as means of understanding how you are falling short and where you can improve. Look at your internal processes for inefficiencies or failing to take advantage of what your technology is capable of doing.
In the fourth stage of this Six Sigma model, it is time to improve upon your initial measurements and take steps towards your goals. Take the information you learned during your definition phase about who your target audience is and what their intent is, what they want to see, and what you want to accomplish. Use this information to begin improving your current SEO strategy.
- Consider the type of content and optimization steps you need to take to reach your goal. For example, social content and thought leadership content helps to grow your brand reach, while funnel content is geared towards increased conversions and revenue.
- Line up your existing content with the target buyer’s journey to see what you already have available. See how it aligns with the content you need to accomplish your goals.
- Begin producing the content needed to fill in any content gaps.
- Cultivate backlinks with a thorough distribution system
Once you begin to see results, you then want to use measurements and analysis to gauge your progress and ensure that you stay on track. You will be able to use numbers to guide your outcomes, rather than hunches or guesses. Implementing these more efficient policies will provide you with more control over the outcomes.
- Keep track of the adjustments you made that led to the positive changes and write them permanently into the work processes and job descriptions
- Maintain careful records of your metrics to see your progress and ensure that you do not fall off track
- Use your momentum to help your organization mature as digital performers. Shift your SEO emphasis towards measurement and analysis, acting based upon your numbers while using technology to improve your optimization efforts.
As the digital marketing industry and SEO become increasingly competitive and saturated, brands are going to be forced to improve their processes and maximize their efficiencies. The Six Sigma method can be an excellent way to handle this problem and help brands find their way forward.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.