Integrating SEO and SEA: How Zaion went from page 22 to ranking first in just one year
Integrating SEO and SEA: How Zaion went from page 22 to ranking first in just one year
High-growth startups face a multitude of challenges, of which the correct allocation of the marketing budget may just be the biggest. The way in which the venture capital is applied could make or break the business. Most marketing strategists agree that to get the best from your digital marketing budget, a mixture of search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine advertising (SEA) needs to be implemented. However, many businesses struggle to integrate these two approaches, to say nothing of mastering the multitude of complexities inherent in each of them.
In contrast, Zaion have created a successful strategy to substantially increase their online presence.
“As a result of our marketing strategy,” says Marion Camurat, “we managed to move our business from page 22 on Google to ranking first in organic search in just one year.”
In addition to their organic search rankings, Zaion now comes in at number 1 for all of their non-brand, paid keyword-related searches (PPC) 50% of the time, well ahead of all their competitors.
Marion is Zaion’s Head of Marketing, with almost 15 years of experience in digital marketing. In this article, Marion shares the integrated SEO and SEA strategy she helped design and implement to establish Zaion as a leader in its native France and significantly contributing towards the company’s Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR).
Zaion’s 3 essential SEO-SEA elements
Zaion specialise in managing customer relationships across different channels through the use of its callbots, chatbots, and messagingbots. These bots cover all communication channels: phone (callbots), instant messaging (messagingbots), and the website (chatbots). “Our bots are enriched with conversational AI to understand customer requests and to provide a precise answer based on emotional context,” says Marion.
Zaion currently offers its services in French, English, Spanish, and German. Across Europe, their bots handle around a million calls per month through 120 callbots.
While many software startups are familiar with chatbots, concepts such as callbots and messagingbots are less well known. Zaion knew that their technology had a role to play in the success of these businesses, so it was vital for them to rank high on internet searches in order to be more discoverable. To achieve this, they implemented an integrated SEO-SEA approach.
This approach relies heavily on creating the right content. Zaion breaks down this process into three phases: Best practices, content creation, and conversion.
Zaion’s approach to SEO is to create data-driven content that will be seen by as many people as possible. They use the data to generate an exhaustive list of best practices to implement in-house every time content is created. This approach bore fruit almost immediately.
“For instance, our data showed that one of the top searches in our field in France was, ‘how does artificial intelligence work’”, says Marion. “We then wrote an SEO-optimised blog post to explain AI. Google recognises frequent requests and creates definitions for these terms on its pages. In this instance, Google has decided to take Zaion’s explanation its reference at the very top of the page.”
Although Zaion’s content retains a light, conversational tone, it is in fact jam-packed with SEO-optimised keywords. Every time Zaion wants to create content, its agency provides a long list of keywords to include. These keywords are generated separately for each of the four languages in which Zaion creates content, to ensure that the content is optimised for its particular target market.
Since Zaion’s main product is its callbot, it was important for their online existence that they rank highly in organic searches. “A year ago, a ‘callbot’ search placed Zaion on the 22ndpage on Google, so we didn’t exist,” says Marion. “Now, through keyword research and SEO, we are in the number 1 position.”
Even the way an article is structured can have an effect on where it ranks in searches.
“Not many people know this, but it is really important on Google to respect the title hierarchy when you write content,” says Marion. “If you don’t pay attention to your H1, H2, and H3 headline hierarchies in your content, you will not exist on Google. In addition, you need to add a description and keywords to all articles for better SEO.”
Before an article is created, Marion first looks at Google trends to decide which topic relates the closest to what people are currently searching for. That then becomes the topic for that month, and the content creation phase can commence.
“Although we have multiple content types for different platforms, different goals, and different steps in the process, all the content goes through the same three phases,” says Marion. “The brand content we create includes the website, success stories, eBooks, guides, press releases, webinars, and blog articles.
“Your writing style defines the brand. It is therefore important to your editorial approach to understand exactly what your tone of voice should be, says Marion. “This should not just be a general feeling, but a clear written list of guidelines that is known to all staff members. All content should be created with both your prospects and your existing clients in mind. Lead generation is of course important, but there is also an opportunity to create advocacy with your current clients.”
Many startups simply don’t feel that they have the time to invest in an elaborate content strategy or feel that content can be created when everything else is done, but this is approach is sure to cost them.
“If you are not constantly creating content, it is almost not worth doing,” says Marion. “And that content must be spread far and wide. You spread it internally to make your employees brand ambassadors and you spread it outside of your company to generate interest, conversions, and upselling. So, we constantly talk about our company online and offline because the moment you stop talking, you stop existing for Google.
“When we create content, we also ensure that every article has valuable information for our readers. It cannot just be a keyword puzzle that we put together. If there is no interest, your prospect will click on your content once, and never again.”
Once the content is created, it is shared through both the SEO and SEA campaigns, where it starts the conversion process.
Zaion uses its targeted advertising budget to achieve two goals, awareness and conversion. In a campaign, the focus starts with awareness, and then shifts towards conversion as the brand becomes better known and traffic increases. Targeted awareness advertising focuses on more traditional channels such as radio, television, and affiliation press articles, while conversion advertising focuses on search ads, form lead generation, and specialised press articles. As with all such campaigns, KPIs, cost per lead, and ROI need to be monitored closely.
One of the driving factors of Zaion’s impressive search engine rise is constant improvement through data and analytics. “This process has three steps,” says Marion “get, use, and analyse.
“Understanding your data is vital to the success of your campaign. For instance, in May this year, we increased our SEA budget, but our visitors through this channel actually decreased. We understood that this meant that our competitors were attacking our keywords and outbidding us. We therefore increased our SEA budget for the following month and our visitor numbers increased again.”
What is clear from the data is that Zaion’s SEO approach has been very successful. Around half of all client acquisitions in the past year have come from through the SEO channel and half through the SEA channel. “I think it is good that we are not only dependant on SEA for acquisitions,” says Marion.
Marketing automation tools provide brands with immense power to generate and process leads at a speed and scale that was never possible before. For instance, leads generated by Zaion on LinkedIn and elsewhere are automatically transferred from the campaign into the sales cycle management software. Not only does this remove additional manual capturing from the process, but it also ensures that interested leads are quickly contacted.
Reaping the rewards
While it is of course essential for tech startups to ensure that their products and services remain at the cutting edge, the Zaion example shows that growth and even survival is impossible without a content strategy that integrates both SEO and SEA, and is constantly monitored. In doing so, Zaion reached the incredible achievement of tripling its MRR in 2020.
On the back of this performance, it secured a new round of funding through its partnership with Fortino in May this year. The SEO-SEA integration strategy is sure to stand Zaion in good stead as it spreads from its European roots to become a truly global provider.