SEO Roles of Engagement: Stimulate, Don’t Alienate!


Users search in different ways based on their intent of search. In a Google age, where every query is treated like a question, we need to understand both how and where users search to allow us to connect “intent to content.”

SEO & the Consumer Decision Journey

Have you mapped your target customers’ purchase funnel?

McKinsey published a study that categorized different cycles of a typical purchase funnel to give both structure and insight into the user intent and sales and marketing opportunity. That study, mixed with Google’s own Zero Moment of Truth, offers a solid approach to online marketing when applied to the different components of SEO practices.

This article will address the first role of SEO engagement, and define how stimulus can be affected by SEO efforts.


Align SEO efforts, tactics and strategy around how & why people buy!

The 1st Role of SEO: Stimulus – Engagement for Awareness

Marketing is about addressing intent and influencing the choice of brand to satisfy that intent. In the stimulus phase of a purchase funnel, brands have the opportunity to engage with users, creating awareness through visibility created from SEO outreach, content promotion, and associations with third-party sites.

This visibility can:

  • Improve click through rates in search.
  • Influence user search behavior.
  • Help build trust.
  • Drive traffic.
  • Create awareness.
  • Build authority.
  • Leverage location signals to influence the immediacy of need.

Awareness is the first stage of building an expert brand!

Search Everywhere Optimization – Engage Anywhere


SEO outreach generally focuses on placing content on relevant sites with the goal of links, but engagement for awareness is not limited to either text content, or embedded linking.

Images on Pinterest, videos on YouTube, Google+ pages, are all opportunities to be discovered and engage with target audiences.

Seeding content assets that are optimized for mobile, tablet, and desktop also allows a greater reach and is often better-aligned to create and/or target intent on restaurant, travel, and location-based queries.

Are you everywhere your target audience is searching, surfing, and socializing?

Engagement Marketing is Content Marketing+

Engagement marketing adds the additional layer of intent to traditional content marketing. Because every point of engagement requires a slightly different message to move people further down the purchase funnel, SEO professionals should align outreach efforts with content type, message and engagement action.

At the stimulus stage of the consumer decision journey, where the goal of specific content distribution is purely for awareness (i.e., the introduction of a new product or brand), a call to action may not even be required, and an embedded link may not even be necessary.

Although this may fly in the face of traditional SEO reporting, the goals of this specific type of campaign are different than traffic generation or onsite conversion goals, allowing more fundamental offline advertising metrics like reach, frequency, and demographics to be used as measures of effectiveness and success.

Stimulus is the path to conversion, not the conversion itself!

Engagement Matters

Google is a massive “connections engine,” crawling the web discovering associations, affiliations, citations, mentions, links, and other connections that give topical context, trust, and authority to brands.

The search engine’s awareness of these new connections stimulates their desire to engage (crawl), surface (include in index), and rank (display in SERP) brands that display a high level of trust and relevance to search queries.

My next few articles will dive deeper into the different roles that engagement, intent, actions, and interaction play throughout the search process and underscore how engagement should be a key factor in query research, SEO tactics, reporting insights, and overall online strategy.

Think of engagement as a common thread through your SEO process!

What are you doing to engage?

Related reading

Anchor text variations: Your key to link profile diversity
How to improve your website ranking in 2020
The role of SEO in online reputation management (ORM)
What impact will voice search have on SEO in 2020?