Use Searcher Personas to Connect SEO to Conversion

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This session of SMX New York 2011 Day 1 is on the topic “Use Searcher Personas to Connect SEO to Conversions”. In this session, expert panelists shows you a clear process that takes business goals and search data and turns them into a blueprint for creating a user experience that starts at the search box and ends with conversion.


  • Vanessa Fox, Contributing Editor, Search Engine Land (@vanessafox)

Q&A Moderator:

  • Barbara Coll, CEO, WebMama.com Inc. (@webmama)


  • Lena Flanigan, e-Marketing Manager, Life Technologies
  • Vanessa Fox, Contributing Editor, Search Engine Land (@vanessafox)
  • Michael King, SEO Manager, Publicis Modem (@ipullrank)

The first speaker of this session was Vanessa Fox, Contributing Editor, Search Engine Land (@vanessafox) who started by saying that “SEO is about figuring out what people are searching for, making sure that you’re ranking, etc”. According to her, search starts at the search results display, not on the site. She believes that usability aspect can be used to build out personae and it is also an easy way to figure out how to look at the content on your site from an SEO perspective?

1. Clarify Business Goals with the company you are working for before beginning any SEO project:

  • What is the project goal (what is success to you)?
  • What is the brand objective (how do you want to be perceived)?
  • What is your value proposition (what do you offer)?

2. How do you want to achieve the goals? What do you want people to do?

  • The Yellow Sticky Exercise: Vanessa explains this by saying that you consider per sticky note as one person and on the note also include the person + the goal (or activity or action or problem).By doing this you will be able to create clusters based around similar actions or problem. She then suggests,to use a different color sticky and categorize each cluster. This will help to get people on the same page and will allow you to turn these personae into actual people.
  • IE: Office workers who just wants to find the documents she needs or IT guy assigned to install the new software. These notes are compiled into clusters like Vanity, Professions, Geo and Job Type, Newbies, Dabblers, Experienced Practitioners. With these data, you can understand the audience better and as per your business goals, you can eliminate those who are not going to convert for you at any point or conversely, find the people whose information needs to be easily found on your site.
  • Final structure defines: The final structure helps to accomplish, sample search queries (keyword research), what we can provide to help her accomplish her task, what else can we offer her that she isn’t searching for, what we want them to do (business goal), why she’ll do it (motivation) and success metrics (measuring ROI).
  • Metrics: Clusters of queries mapped back to personas and tasks and map behavior on site with Google Analytics.

Where Do Tasks Come From?

  • Persona Research
  • Competitive Research
  • Social Media
  • Insights & Trends

The floor then went to Michael King, SEO Manager, Publicis Modem who started by saying that we are digital strategists (not just SEOs)!He says that we often get stuck looking only at information, transactional, and navigational keywords in search marketing. He comments that keywords should be categorized by need states of personae and messaging must reflect what they want to encourage conversion. If you don’t already use personae in your search efforts, you are trying to strike an invisible moving target while your competitors are effortlessly hitting the bullseye. Further, he says that tools like SocialMention can be used distilling the conversation in social media down to the need states of the people talking.

Important TakeAways-
Michael King says, define the top 4 personas and align those with social mentions and keyword research.

  • Create targeted messaging to resonate with your personae with the goal of maximizing conversion. Facebook advertising is a good venue for targeting your message to the people that are already talking about relevant topics.
  • Personae can also be used for link building as written by Justin Briggs.
  • Test which target persona converts best with your messaging and then work to focus targeting to that persona.
  • Connecting search to eventually drill down to keyword-level demographics is key.

The penultimate speaker of the session was Lena Flanigan, e-Marketing Manager, Life Technologies. She took over the stage and begin by stating that “If you don’t take care of your customers, someone else will…” Further, she says

Why Do We Need Search Personae?
Lena explains the importance of personae by emphasizing that it is very important to understand the requirements of your customers for digital marketing. By doing this, you can control your marketing budgets and connect with customer. Customers start their online journey outside of your Web site. That’s why personae are important. You have to make sure you’re optimizing your site experience for your organic search users. When creating any strategy – redesign, SEO, social profiles, FB ads – Searcher personas are important to define.

Lena Flanigan, further put forth her points by the following explanations:
Case Study 1: When: Defining Search Personae is Important
In tough times, understanding what your user personae are and matching them with your company trends will allow you to create the best user experience possible on a limited budget.

Case Study 2: How: Using Searcher Personae Could Improve Your Conversion Rates
Targeting your searcher personae = high customer engagement.


  • You must create a limited number so that you’re able to optimize for them.
  • Conversion rates improve as you focus and target your actions to your actual user not just high keyword search volume.
  • Build customer loyalty as the user is satisfied when they get to your site and find what they need quickly.

The session ended here with more Q & A.