SEO for user activation, retention and community


SEO has traditionally been viewed as an acquisition channel, focusing on ranking websites to generate more traffic and leads. However, the role of SEO can extend far beyond just acquisition. 

This article explores how SEO can strategically influence user activation, retention, and community building to drive long-term growth and customer loyalty.

The role of SEO in user activation

By definition, user activation is the moment when a user achieves value. This is typically after a user has converted, whether it be paid or trial, but their objectives have been met.

To successfully activate, users need their expectations to be met by the product or service delivery.

This means that our website content needs to allow users to adequately and accurately forecast their potential experience with your company. This is where the concept of “experience forecasting” comes into play.

The idea is built on the premise that search engines evolve to focus more on satisfying the user’s objective, rather than just keywords. 

Experience forecasting aims to match SEO efforts with user intent, entities, and the concept of E-E-A-T, creating more targeted and effective content to address a user’s problems and possible objections to buying.

A good example of this in practice can be seen in the travel sector. 

Detailed descriptions, images, and user-generated content (UGC) help potential visitors to imagine their stay, activities, and overall experience in a destination. 

By considering imagery, feature presentation, descriptions, user reviews, and external factors (e.g., weather expectations, seat limits, file types), companies can align user expectations with the delivered experience.

Content that does this doesn’t try to sell your product/services to users but instead helps them buy.

Historically, community was a byproduct of customer service and product-led growth strategies, and not its focal point of growth and user retention.

Retention can mean two things when we talk about it in the context of SEO and marketing.

We can refer to it either as retaining a customer and preventing churn or keeping a user active in returning to the website and consuming more content during their passive buying and research phases. 

The more positive brand touchpoints we can create with users, the more likely they are not to churn and become brand advocates.

The connection between SEO and retaining customers is crucial but often overlooked, and from experience, it is super important for long-term growth.


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Community SEO and content

Community as a concept offers brands a value differentiation point against competitors, especially in industries where, for the most part, products and services are homogenized or feature tick-boxes. 

They can act as both a deterrent to customer churn by providing additional value on top of the actual service they engage with and a great defensive SEO strategy against new market competitors.

A defensive SEO strategy is focused on protecting a website’s current rankings and safeguarding it against potential threats that could negatively impact its search engine visibility and organic traffic, such as Search Generative Experience and other major SERP changes.

This dynamic has changed recently after several Google updates saw Reddit and other forums skyrocket in organic visibility. This has seen the investment in communities increase, but for some it has just been the creation of a forum.

While this is a positive first step, simply creating a forum and community functionality doesn’t equal or generate a community.

For a community to flourish, members need to be able to interact and engage as freely as possible. This means putting in place streamlined content submission processes (with appropriate levels of moderation) so there is no friction and contributing doesn’t feel like a chore. 

As a community becomes more established and users feel more prestige in contributing, this is when you can begin to be more structured around new contributors.

Cloudflare has a great example of community content and has constructed a considerable community content moat around its brand. 

There are many competitors in Cloudflare’s space, and the technologies can be quite hard to distinguish for a high percentage of their target total addressable market (TAM) – but the community provides a value differentiator and added value for users.

From an SEO perspective, it also doesn’t hurt the community. subdomain ranks for approximately 166,000 search terms and has more than 70,000 backlinks, contributing to the overall success of the SEO program.

Redefining the role of SEO for sustainable engagement

As search engines continue to evolve and develop more and more AI-powered features, how we can use content and SEO to create a value differentiator creates the difference between low-quality content (that is now being scaled thanks to AI), and genuine added-value content.

The view that SEO, and content as a product of SEO, is just an acquisition channel is evolving to show how SEO can play a more holistic role in the marketing function, fostering customer loyalty, advocacy, and engagement.

Companies that recognize and adapt to this shift will be better positioned to thrive in the competitive digital landscape, turning casual visitors into loyal customers and brand advocates. 

This also contributes to the notion of E-E-A-T

Companies with a more relatable and immersive brand experience – regardless of whether a user is actively buying, researching, or an existing customer – create resonance and trust.

This is a compelling growth opportunity and defensive SEO strategy to combat AI and changing SERPs. This is an opportunity to redefine organic growth strategies, emphasizing sustainable engagement and long-term value creation over short-term acquisition metrics.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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