For most companies, marketing is all about spreading the word: “How can we get the name of our product into the minds of as many people as possible?”
Cue clever ads, keyword research, and eons of content.
But what if I told you there was an entirely different approach to marketing? One that actually let someone else do the work for you? An ethical approach that users prefer?
Let me introduce you to product-led SEO.
Rather than relying on keywords and content as the bedrock of their SEO efforts, product-led SEO focuses on creating a high-quality experience for the user.
This approach can look wildly different depending on your customer base and industry. In order to give you a better idea of the ethos behind product-led SEO, let’s take a look at a few mammoth internet corporations that have used product-led SEO and engineering rather than content or keywords: Amazon, TripAdvisor, Zillow, and Wikipedia.
Success Story #1: Amazon
Amazon focused on building a great architecture to support a well-indexed site even before the idea of SEO existed.
The Amazon site has grown into the SEO magnet it is today by scaling that initial iteration of a well-developed product that fits with SEO principles.
Had it relied on keyword research to launch the site in the early days of the internet, it may have over-prioritized the adult keywords that were so popular on the internet at that time. This choice of keywords would have been to the detriment of the well of book searchers that were just waiting for the right pages to be relevant to their queries.
Success Story #2: TripAdvisor
TripAdvisor didn’t start by creating a “blog” of reviews of the most popular hotels with the most search volumes.
Instead, this site built an architecture that could scale and host reviews for every property in the entire world. It took years before TripAdvisor outranked individual travel blogs and pre-existing sites. The blogs already ranked highly on search for the most popular properties. TripAdvisor took a different tactic. Its reward is that today it ranks in the top five of results for every hotel in the world.
Success Story #3: Zillow
Zillow didn’t focus all its SEO efforts on trying to rank for the popular keywords in its space, perhaps words like “home value” or “online realtor.” Instead, Zillow poured its efforts into building a colossal site that has a page for every single address in the United States. At the time, such overkill may have seemed like a foolish approach.
First, no one looked for specific addresses. Second, at the time, it would have been competing with Google Maps or even MapQuest, which was still a thing.
Now, Zillow has a mammoth footprint visible in organic search for every address in the country. It could not have made a more profitable bet.
Success Story #4: Wikipedia
Wikipedia didn’t set out to merely be an online dictionary or encyclopedia that only had articles for the terms most people were searching for online at the time. Rather, Wikipedia set out to be an encyclopedia of everything. It set out to be the go-to for searching the who, what, where, when, how, and why of anything.
Early in Wikipedia’s process, having an entry for everything might have seemed like an absolute impossibility. It disregarded the naysayers and built a product that could continuously scale into a repository of everything in every language. Of course, there are gaps in its knowledge base, and there probably always will be, but it has been undeniably successful at achieving its goal.
Building on Success
Like product-led growth, where user experiences drive adoption of products, feedback from search engines drives future iterations of SEO. To put this into context, there are many popular companies, like Shopify, Dropbox, and Slack, that built products so fantastic and useful their users became their evangelists and brought others onto the platform.
Rather than invest resources into sales, these organizations focused on continuously improving the product experience so current users would bring in even more potential customers.
This very same mechanism can and should work for SEO. Build an experience that is useful for users first, and the search engines will follow.
Product-Led SEO Helps Your Company Shine.
When we know what resonates on search with both search engines and users, we can allow that knowledge to influence our future roadmap of improvements and adjacent products. We can build on existing success.
Amazon does not need to make the same SEO leap of faith as it enters new categories these days because it’s built the architecture to be confident it will get organic traffic on anything it launches. TripAdvisor’s success in hotel reviews gave it a playbook on how to launch “Things to Do.” Zillow’s dominance in address search opened the pathway to organic visibility in mortgage searches, which had long been one of the most competitive categories on the web. Wikipedia’s innovation of an online encyclopedia created a natural scaffolding for large-scale success.
All in all, and product-led SEO leads to greater visibility, better user experiences, and a higher rate of success. If you can take a closer look at how this approach applies to your company’s offerings, products, or services, you can begin to move your SEO strategies in a new, more effective direction.
For more expert advice on SEO strategies, you can find Product-Led SEO on Amazon.
Eli Schwartz is an SEO expert and consultant with more than a decade of experience working for leading B2B and B2C companies. Eli’s strategies have generated millions of dollars in revenue for some of the internet’s top websites. He has helped clients like Shutterstock, WordPress, Blue Nile, Quora, and Zendesk execute highly successful global SEO strategies. As head of SurveyMonkey’s SEO team, Eli oversaw the company’s global operations, helped launch the first Asia-Pacific office, and grew the company’s organic search from just 1 percent of revenue to a key driver of global revenue. Eli’s work has been featured by TechCrunch, Entrepreneur.com, and Y Combinator, and he has given talks at business schools and keynoted conferences around the world.