Nothing can take a business to the next level like great search engine optimization (SEO). Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to know what will successfully drive traffic, leads, and sales. For business leaders who want to stand out from the competition, their company’s SEO needs a distinctive blend of creativity and logic. That’s where Eli Schwartz comes in.

He knows that when it comes to SEO, success often depends not on what you do, but on how you do it. That is why his new book, Product-Led SEO, digs deep into the logic and theory of SEO instead of offering step-by-step guidelines and techniques. I recently caught up with Eli to learn about his journey writing the book and his favorite idea he shares with readers.

Published with permission from the author.

What happened that made you decide to write the book? What was the exact moment when you realized these ideas needed to get out there?

There are two moments that started my journey on writing this book. The first is that I have been fortunate to have been in digital marketing for many years, and I am frequently asked for advice from business leaders for recommendations on where they can learn SEO. There are a great many books on SEO tactics, including the most comprehensive one, The Art of SEO, but there has been a dearth of resources on higher level SEO strategy. Leaders don’t look for tactics they can tell others to do, they want to know how to develop a strategy. I never had a good resource to point them to, so the idea of creating my own starting sprout in my mind.

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 was a rambling blog post on how I thought one should approach SEO under the title of “Product Led SEO.” I used a past client as an example and shared some basic ideas on SEO strategy. Unexpectedly this post took off in so many different ways when I shared it on LinkedIn. It received a fair bit of engagement via likes and comments, but the biggest surprise was the emails I received.

As a result of that blog post, I started working with new clients, I was invited on podcasts, and I may have even booked a conference or two. At that moment, I realized that there might be an even broader audience for my ideas than I had ever imagined. Shortly after this blog post, I began formally writing the book and the result is what you see today.

What’s your favorite specific, actionable idea in the book?

It’s simply: stop obsessing over the Google algorithm and instead focus on the user—but this is far from easy. It’s like reassuring someone who’s scared of something “not to worry.” Unless there is a pathway to be less concerned, they will inevitably worry.

Therefore, my favorite idea from the book (one that is incredibly actionable) is to develop a strategy around acquiring organic users from search engines before investing any effort whatsoever into SEO. When you become extremely cognizant of why a user would ever discover you on a search engine and what that user might do, the pathway forward becomes far more obvious. You will know what content should be written for those users, how it should look, and even the expectations you can have when users discover your webpages.

The best byproduct of having the strategy is that you inevitably stop worrying about Google algorithm updates. Secure in knowing that you are doing the right thing, your only goal is creating great experiences for users and not search algorithms.

Published with permission from the author.

What’s a story of how you’ve applied this lesson in your own life? What has this lesson done for you?

This approach towards building an SEO strategy and not just using it as a check-the-box marketing effort has generated tens of millions of dollars in revenue for the companies I have partnered with on developing and implementing strategies. None of this revenue would’ve been realized had the SEO efforts consisted of just writing blog posts targeted at popular keywords. They may have generated lots of clicks from search engines, but the revenue came because they built and implemented a comprehensive product offering for their target user.

In one case, the company I was working with had spent multiple millions of dollars on a popular blog in their niche but had never driven even a dollar in trackable revenue. The strategy we implemented drove actual users into their product pages because the content we created aligned with what users expected to see on search. In another case, a company had ranking positions on popular search terms in their space but it was for the wrong side of their two sided marketplace. They monetized the buying side of their marketplace, but the content they had written was all for the selling side. Yes, they had lots of traffic, but it was all the wrong traffic.

Knowing who the users are and what they seek should be the driving principle in everything anyone does in SEO. Using SEO tactics, algorithm loopholes and keyword research as your guiding light may lead to success but not the business success a company desires.