SEO is not the only way to capture and build an audience.
SEO can attract visitors. SEO can help you get transactions and purchases. SEO can introduce your brand to people. But SEO alone won't build an audience for you. And it won't guarantee a repeat purchase (to me, that's a guarantee for a true conversion, but I digress).
Neither will social media on its own, or a great content strategy without a great product, or an email marketing campaign.
What does build an audience? The experience you offer a prospect or customer from when he first interacts with your brand to purchase to post-purchase and support.
You need a combination of all of these vehicles to create an experience - as well as a great UX for a product, a product that truly solves a problem, a product that's attractive and possesses other "intuitive" qualities, and awesome support, service and logistics and processes.
You need to be sure you have all of the elements necessary to fit into the customer relationship lifecycle.
We like to believe that SEO is the main way people find your business and site. It's definitely a key method - I won't argue that. People search on Google and Bing when they are looking for something specific.
But it's not the only method for people to find you. People use SEO to search for something they have in mind. They have identified their problem and most likely, have an idea of the solution they need. But there are other methods for how people find you.
- Social media. We underestimate social media. Social media is a place for people to mentally wander. They find out what people are doing, communicate with them, learn new concepts and ideas, find out what's happening in general. Social media is a way to explore what your friends explore and like. It's a way to share and learn.
- Tradeshows and events. I know, we all thought this died. And it was dying. Tradeshows and events were becoming online events. But they have been revived. Why? Well first, I think we've had some great hardware innovations with the rise of IoT. So you have to see and touch things again - it's not just software that you can watch and interact with through a keyboard. I think next is that we are shifting from a transaction culture to a relationship culture. I wrote a blog that goes into this a bit, but there is so much to explore here. Have you noticed how popular Meetups are? Or in-person networking events? That's a sign that we want and crave more human connection, live and in real-time.
- Word of mouth. This method is ALWAYS underestimated. But do you know how much business happens this way? A LOT! (Side note - most of my consulting business comes from word of mouth) People will usually ask a friend for a trusted recommendation if they are in a pinch. People trust each other over a vendor to get information about what to do. Also, if someone is looking for advice, he or she will ask a friend who has been through a situation what makes most sense to do - and the friend will most likely provide solutions which includes products and vendors.
- Review sites and forums. This is a subset of word of mouth, but it's through strangers, like Yelp. Such a powerful way to learn about a product or service!
- Support sites. Hear me out on this one. Sometimes, people learn about products through support forums. They are looking to solve a problem and may run into a ticket or issue along the way through SEO. It's a great way to get introduced to how products really work and function.
Remember, content requires SEO and social media and individuals sharing through word of mouth (or email with links) to be shared. So you can have a killer content strategy, but if you don't get the word out and share it, you have a situation similar to a tree falling in a woods with no one around it. No one will hear it or know it fell.
SEO doesn't guarantee a purchase or a connection. It guarantees views. It is up to you and the experience you have on your site to turn that visit into a lead, get an email address, or a purchase. Those are all great for your quarterly results, but someone giving you an email address doesn't mean you have a relationship with that person. It takes more than that. Look at your entire experience, the customer journeys, from start to finish. What are the interactions? How does your customer see themselves converting to buy from you? How do you know your customer loves you and respects you?
One element alone will not make you successful. You need the whole picture working, reflecting the experience you want people to have - from the copy they read to the emails they receive to the email responses they get from questions. Your customer wants to experience all of you - that's where you start building a relationship.