Nothing can take a business to the next level like great search engine optimization (SEO). Unfortunately, knowing what is driving traffic, leads, and sales is not always easy. For executives looking to stand out from the competition, their company’s SEO needs a distinctive blend of creativity and logic. This is where Eli Schwartz comes in.

He knows that success in SEO often doesn’t depend on what you do, but on how you do it. Therefore his new book Product-driven SEO, delves into the logic and theory of search engine optimization rather than step-by-step guidelines and techniques. I recently met with Eli to learn more about his journey in writing the book and his favorite idea he shares with readers.

Published with the permission of the author.

What made you want to write the book? What exactly was the moment you realized these ideas were necessary to get out of there?

There are two moments that began my journey in writing this book. The first is that I have been fortunate enough to have been in digital marketing for many years and I am often asked for advice by business leaders on where to learn SEO. There are a great many books on SEO tactics, including the most comprehensive one. The art of search engine optimizationHowever, there was a lack of resources for an overall SEO strategy. Executives don’t look for tactics to recommend to others, they want to know how to develop a strategy. I never had a good resource to point them out to, so the idea came to me to create my own starting sprout.

The second moment was when I dipped my toes into writing my thoughts on SEO strategy. I published what I would be the first to admit, a rambling blog post about how I thought SEO should be approached under the title Product Led SEO. I used a previous client as an example and shared some basic SEO strategy ideas. Unexpectedly, this post developed in so many different ways when I shared it on LinkedIn. It received quite a bit of engagement from likes and comments, but the biggest surprise was the emails I received.

As a result of this blog post, I started working with new clients, got invited to podcasts, and may even have booked a conference or two. It was then that I realized that there could be an even wider audience for my ideas than I had ever imagined. Shortly after this blog post, I started officially writing the book, and the result is what you see today.

What is your favorite specific, actionable idea in the book?

It’s simple: stop looking at the Google algorithm and focus on the user instead – but that’s far from easy. It’s like reassuring someone who is afraid of something, “not to worry”. If there is no way to be less concerned, they will inevitably start to worry.

Hence, my favorite idea from the book (one that is incredibly actionable) is to come up with a strategy to get organic search engine users before investing any effort into SEO. When you know exactly why a user ever discovers you in a search engine, and what that user might be doing, the way forward becomes far more obvious. You know what content should be written for these users, what it should look like and what expectations you can have when users discover your web pages.

The best byproduct of this strategy is that you inevitably stop worrying about updates to the Google algorithm. If you are sure that you are doing the right thing, your only goal is to create great experiences for users, not search algorithms.

Published with the permission of the author.

What is a story about how you applied this lesson in your own life? What did this lesson do for you?

This approach of developing an SEO strategy rather than just using it as check-the-box marketing has generated tens of millions in revenue for the companies I have worked with developing and implementing strategies. None of these revenues would have been realized if the SEO efforts had only been to write blog posts targeting popular keywords. They may have generated a lot of search engine clicks, but the revenue came from creating and implementing a comprehensive range of products for their target user.

In one case, the company I worked with had spent millions of dollars on a popular blog in its niche, but had never made a dollar in trackable income. The strategy we implemented has drawn actual users to their product pages as the content we create matches what users expect when they search. In another case, a company was ranking on popular search terms in its field, but it was on the wrong side of its two-sided market. They monetized the buy side of their market, but the content they wrote was all for the sell side. Yes, they had a lot of traffic, but it was all the wrong traffic.

Knowing who the users are and what they are looking for should be the driving principle behind anything anyone does in search engine optimization. Using SEO tactics, algorithm loopholes, and keyword research as a guide can lead to success, but not the business success a company wants.