In the past few months I’ve had trouble with kitchen appliances. First came the dishwasher (which I’ll admit was my fault) and last week—the leaking refrigerator. I tried everything: I cleaned the drip pan and adjusted the tilt of the unit. I watched every YouTube video on the subject. Despite my efforts, the mysterious pool of water on my kitchen floor would not go away. With a few days of failed attempts under my belt, I searched “new refrigerators” on Google. After a few hours of scanning shopping guides from GE and Lowes, I’d made my decision.

This shopping experience is common among the ever-evolving social consumer. With 18 billon searches per month on Google in the US alone, and 20% of them net new, it is quite clear that consumers are starting the information discovery with search engines. But is search also as effective in turning clicks into sales? According to Ecommerce Quarterly published by analytics provider Monetate, once consumers hit Google Search they have a good idea what they need and are ready punch in a credit card number. The report compares the conversion rates and Average Order Value (AOV) of three referral sources: search, email and social. Google comes out as the top AOV contender with an average purchase size of $90.40 pulling in a respectable conversion rate of 2.49%.

There is no doubt that to be successful, brands need a targeted content strategy for search. Content in all forms, such as articles, blog posts, videos and infographics, is the glue between the brand and customer. By publishing content that is entertaining and helpful, and optimizing it for search, brands will increase the reach and improve retention.

Here are three tips for creating compelling, SEO-optimized content that will help your company attract more customers and close more sales:

Tip 1: Be Helpful

Prospective buyers need a reason to find, consume and revisit your content. “It’s important to realize it’s not about you, it’s about your customer,” said Lee Odden, author of Optimize, and co-founder of Top Rank Marketing. Google rewards the most valuable and audience-focused content. Before spending time on an extensive keyword list, research what your audience needs and pinpoint the gaps that your content can fill.

For example, to promote a wide inventory of fitness equipment, Sears launched FitStudio, a blog focused an online resource for exercise and wellness. For Julia Fitzgerald, Chief Digital Officer at Sears Holdings Company, it is important that the content focuses on the common customer motivators, such as losing weight and becoming healthy. She recruited experts to contribute content based on these topics, and placed relevant product photos and links on the side of each article (making it easy for readers to find the right gear for Pilates or long distance running). Moral of the story? Customers will find you if you produce content that improves their lives. Make sure you know their problems, goals and questions and publish accordingly.

Sears Fitstudio

Tip 2: Use Content and Keywords That Last

To make the most out of what you publish, incorporate a healthy dose of “evergreen” content, which is focused on information that will not go stale quickly. Daily Glow, part of Everyday Health, the leading provider of health information solutions, provides readers with hair and skin care and beauty tips. By publishing articles that focus on questions the target audience is regularly searching for (in this case, How To Remove a Hickey Fast), content continues to bring new page views months and years after the initial posting date. Include a few topics into your content strategy that cover what your customers are always wondering about. This is a key way to capture top search rankings for long periods of time and continually garner new views and engagement from your target audience.

Daily Glow by Everyday Health

Tip 3: Tap Into Current Conversations

In the age of the social customer, it’s not enough to create a targeted list of industry keywords, optimize a few pages on your website and call it quits. With 20% of daily searches focused on topics that have never been searched for before, companies will get the most out of search—both in number and size of sales —by monitoring the trends and stories that impact their audience in real time and offering their perspective.

IBM launched the Midsize Insider as a means of participating in current industry discussions. This resource, geared toward small and midsize business owners and IT professionals in small to midsize businesses, publishes at least ten articles daily on breaking news topics of importance to the target audience. The site is also a part of the Google News program, which increases the Midsize Insider’s prominence on Google’s search results page. According to Leslie Reiser, Director for WW Marketing of IBM’s General Business division, non-promotional articles are incredibly important to IBM’s content mix. Recruiting subject experts to cover news stories strengthens brand credibility, making it more likely for the prospective customers to buy not only now, but in the future.

IBM Midsize Insider

It is time that marketers push search marketing to the front and center of their approach. Search is the key source for information discovery and sales. To succeed in search, companies need content that excites, informs and serves their audience. To learn the art and science of creating content for search, check out our free eBook Kick-start Your Content Marketing: A Seven-Step Approach to Delivering Success and listen to the corresponding webinar featuring experts from IBM’s content marketing program.

What challenges have you faced in developing a search and content strategy? Share with us below or by sounding off on Facebook and Twitter.