Product-led SEO: A strategic, holistic path to business growth

product-led SEO

Join host Sheelagh Caygill as she explores the obvious - and less obvious - trends and influences in communications, PR, and marketing. Also explored are writing and upping your game as a creator of prose. In this essential listen, she interviews senior comms pros and thought leaders to reveal insights you can incorporate into your work.

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Eli Schwartz is an SEO expert and the author of the new book, Product-Led SEO. Eli has more than a decade of experience driving successful SEO and growth programs for leading B2B and B2C companies.

He helps clients like WordPress, Shutterstock, BlueNile, Quora, Getaround, Mixpanel, and Zendesk build and execute Global SEO strategies that dramatically increase their organic visibility at scale.

In this interview with Communicate Influence, we discuss SEO from a content writer’s perspective, as well as some of the important questions around SEO.

Eli wrote his book to create a conversation around SEO for for executives and leaders on how to understand SEO, how to fund SEO, how to plan for SEO and how to strategize SEO. It’s also for the SEO managers and the content managers in terms of how to think about SEO from a strategic and holistic standpoint, rather than just from a tactical standpoint.

Eli addresses of issue of high expectations with SEO and also it’s lack of business visibility.

“The problem—and something I’ve been hoping to address with my — book, is that SEO doesn’t have enough business visibility.

“They’re focused sometimes on these myopic metrics around here’s my ranking or here’s the traffic I’ve gotten, instead of this perspective of I’m here operating a channel to grow more business or to grow more revenue in total for this business.”

The question businesses need to answer when it comes to SEO is: What can I do to help grow business, rather than what can I do immediately to create just traffic on this page.

“It’s important to have that perspective and do your best within that environment,” explains Eli, encouraging SEO professionals to be a part of the holistic view in the holistic strategy of the entire business, rather than just this is what I’m going to do that’s good for SEO, and that’s it.

What is product-led SEO?

To understand product led SEO, you really need to understand what product-led SEO is not, says Eli.

“Product-led SEO is not content-led SEO,” says Eli. “The way most people are going to do SEO is they’re going to look at their core business product, and core business, and go to a keyword search tool to discover what the keyword is that they should put around for their core product offering. The next step most businesses take is to write some content that will be their SEO.”

However, for Eli, product-led SEO is much more holistic than content-based SEO. With product-led SEO, a business creates a product—or an asset—for the search users. And when you’re creating that asset for the search user, it’s not just a blog post that you intend to rank on one keyword.

Eli explains that product-led SEO involves the creation of an online product or asset that a business uses to rank according to the needs of prospective clients or audience.

“I’m now thinking of who is the user, because when you create products, you want to think about who the user is, and the roadmap to launch that product.”

Examples of products include directories with content, or proprietary content. For some organizations such as consultancies, key issues that require questions and answers can serve as the product around which to build SEO.

The next questions to ask are what resources are required to launch the product. “It’s no longer just needing content because that is SEO. It’s: ‘Will I need a designer? An engineer to help launch that product? A content writer to write the right amount of content for that. Maybe I need some digital and visual assets’.”

Next, a business may need to put some structured data in to add more meat to the page. With product-led SEO the focus is on audience needs, not just pages of content. And with product-led SEO, the product is differentiated to the degree that it sits at the top of the funnel.

“Hopefully,” says Eli, “There are thousands of potential pages that you can create that satisfy this product. Not product led. ICO is not a fit for every business for a local business. You probably don’t want to do product that SEO. If someone’s looking for pizza, there’s no reason to create a bunch of SEO.”

Finding a product for product-led SEO isn’t easy

Actually finding a suitable product for product-led SEO is difficult. However, “the more difficult it is, the more defensible,” notes Eli.

Businesses unable to come up with product-led SEO shouldn’t necessarily pour massive amounts of money into content SEO. Instead, just write the content you need, and if a user is looking for it, they will find it.

Some companies don’t need SEO

Eli discusses cases when businesses don’t need SEO. For example, Amazon Web Services with its offering of cloud services doesn’t need to spend time and money investing in SEO. Most people in the market for that service know that the competition is Microsoft and and Google. The purchase will be based on the best fit for an organization.

“That’s not an SEO conversation you could ever track,” notes Eli. He also adds that many small local businesses such as pizza restaurants don’t need SEO.

SEO is an investment, so track it

SEO should always be tracked, even if the investment of time and money is inexpensive.

“The time you put into SEO, you’re taking away from something else that could be more effective. Maybe it’s a blog post. Could that writing time have been more effective on an email newsletter? Could the design assets you used have been more effective and on the homepage or, or more effective at even sending a physical brochure or direct mail?” he asks. “That’s the decision people have.”

SEO is a channel that usually sites at the top of the sales funnel, and it has to make sense and provide a return on an investment (ROI). If SEO doesn’t make sense for you, and some other form of marketing does, then pursue that instead.

The key question is: Should I invest in SEO because I can widen my funnel? Because I can find more people that may not have already known about my product offering?

Find Eli on LinkedIn, at, and Eli’s favourite podcast guest appearance on the Y Combinator podcast.

Listen to Eli on the Podmotion podcast show: Podcasting: Low Barrier To Entry Makes Quality Content Hard to Come By.

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