How Product Marketing & SEO Can Work Together

10.30.17 // Noah Brimhall


I want to tell you a love story. This story is about how your Product Marketing team loves your SEO team and the SEO team loves them right back.

Your product marketing team gets along great with your SEO team and they never have contradictory recommendations. Product launches come off swimmingly and on time. Every piece of content created immediately ranks on page 1.

Unfortunately, this love story is fiction.  In reality, your product marketing teams and your SEO team are often at odds. They frustrate each other, they come to contradictory conclusions, and this conflict isn’t doing your marketing efforts any favors.

I really don’t want to dwell on these troubles, but if you’ll indulge me for a bit, I promise, I’ll provide you with a way that you can heal this relationship.

One morning in October of 2015 I came into the office and had an email waiting from a client I’d worked with for 2 years at that point. The client had launched a redesigned website overnight and this was the first that I was hearing about it.

As part of this redesign, the Product Marketing team had decided to move away from a product positioning they had established years earlier. Unfortunately, they ranked #1 for the primary term associated with this product positioning and this was bringing in significant organic traffic. By the next month, that organic traffic was virtually gone, and they had moved to the second page of search results for this important keyword.

How your SEO team annoys your Product Marketers

As an SEO, I must confess that I’ve know I’ve annoyed Product Marketers.  And I’m not the only SEO whose done this. In fact, I think that you’ll find that Product Marketers have good reason to be annoyed at some SEO tactics. These old-school SEO habits are easy to fall back on and don’t relate to helping users learn about your products.

What does your product do again?

Too many SEOs don’t understand the product and don’t try. Keyword research is difficult, but it’s very frustrating to a product marketer to review keywords that are high level or miss the mark.

As an SEO it’s easy to do your work in a vacuum and not talk to the product marketing team. This leads to recommendations that have little to no meaning for the product marketing team.  When recommendations aren’t seeing as relevant, then they won’t get implemented.

The product that you are selling has a unique value and if you don’t understand what that is, then you don’t stand a chance in getting your prospects to show interest.

Can you create 5 SEO pages?

Creating content is difficult and time-consuming and product marketers are often responsible for creating the content. The days of creating content for SEO and SEO alone should be behind us.

Marketing teams are stretched thin and creating ineffective “SEO content” wastes effort. Creating content that is only aimed at ranking won’t work and it doesn’t help your prospects. SEO content also doesn’t do a good job of telling your prospects why they should buy your product.

Can you change this before you launch tomorrow?

Too often SEOs ask for changes right before product and campaign launches. Product marketing managers work hard on product launches and last-minute requests make their jobs harder.  Since there are often multiple levels of approval, last minute changes are probably going to get rejected or delayed.

The keyword density is too low!

Counting keyword density is the oldest trick in the books, but it’s a trick that doesn’t work anymore. Good content doesn’t mention a keyword a certain number of times, that makes content stilted and awkward

Why SEOs get annoyed with Product Marketing

I’ve worked with many product marketing teams and as anyone at Obility will tell, I’ve come out of several meetings upset with the product marketing team.

We just launched this product!

Getting notified of product or campaign launch at the last moment or after the fact is a missed opportunity. When content is already written it becomes more difficult to integrate suggestions naturally into the content.  Launching a new product without SEO optimization misses an opportunity to have improved content indexed on day one.

This isn’t the product positioning anymore

Especially with long-term projects, it’s all too common to see product marketing move away from existing content based on already ranking keywords. While it is understandable that product positioning needs to change – it really isn’t a good reason to remove existing content that ranks well.

Your customers know you for your current product positioning, you may even have defined an industry term. Why would you walk away from that? This content brings in good organic traffic, it’s creating leads – the new product positioning might replace those traffic and leads, but the truth is, this could take months.

Our writers are too busy right now!

When the product marketing team is unable or unwilling to create or change content to incorporate the keywords your prospects are searching for it leaves an opportunity on the table that your competitors will exploit. SEO content might be bad, but not creating content that addresses prospect queries is a missed opportunity. Site architecture is also important, and it can contribute to better SEO, but it shouldn’t be used an excuse to not create content that your prospects need.

Rekindling the romance…

Well . . . that felt bad. But, I wouldn’t be writing this article if I didn’t think there was a chance that we could make things right. So, let me tell you how it’s possible.

Starting the conversation

Like any reconciliation, you must start by talking. You need to have a meeting, hopefully in person, to get to the bottom of things. You’ve got to be honest and talk about the issues that have caused problems in the past. That also means fessing up to the times that you made some of the mistakes I mentioned earlier. Finally, figure out what your common goals are and what KPIs you’ll use to measure your success

We are on the same team

Most of all though, you’ve got to remember that we are all on the same team and that we can help each other

Working together matters

Search matters, it is how prospects start their research. 68% of B2B buyers start their research with a web search.

Product marketing matters, it is how you show your prospects you understand them. 69% of B2B buyers want content “that speaks directly to my company”.

Product marketing and SEO working together can drive leads and revenue. 26.5 % of B2B website leads come from SEO & 63% of B2B marketers say organic search drives revenue.

Working together can make it better

I want to go back to the client I mentioned at the beginning of this post. The great thing about that client is that their Product Marketing team is willing to both explain and listen.

They helped me to understand why they wanted to move away from their previous product positioning. I showed them data that proved this term was still important to their prospects

Together we crafted content that addressed the prospect’s needs and still used their new product messaging. Rankings went back up over a couple months and traffic followed. As a result, we got better buy-in from the Product Marketing team and have jointly created successful content in the time since.

How SEOs can help…

So, specifically, how can SEOs help the Product Marketing team?

Increasing Reach

SEO can help you improve your reach by going beyond the obvious keywords that you’ve already thought of.  This means doing deeper keyword research to find the edge keywords.

It also means looking at long-tail keywords that are getting overall low volume but are easy to rank for and are valuable.

We also can use help you understand the problems your prospects are having that your product can help with. By understanding your prospects’ issues, you can gear your product marketing content to talk to the solutions.

Makes you more competitive

SEO can help you to understand the keywords your competitors are targeting and having success with.  Understanding the content that works well for your competitors can help you adjust your product marketing content as well.

Finally, SEO can identify “Blue Ocean” keywords – those keywords where your competitors aren’t – these can often provide an opportunity for traffic that none of your competitors are even trying to get.

Attract higher quality leads

More specific queries lead to more targeted traffic. Understanding what your prospects are searching for allows you to create better offers and better convert traffic.

Provide SEO education

Product marketing managers can do SEO, it’s not something that you have to leave to your SEO team only.  With some training, any product marketing manager can improve the SEO of their content.

There a few things that your SEO team can teach your Product Marketing team:

  • How to incorporate prospect queries and intent in the first draft of your content.
  • By understanding your prospects intent, you can develop new content strategies.
  • With a bit of knowledge about how to identify long-tail queries, your product marketing team can create blog posts on a regular basis.

How Product Marketing can help…

Product marketing plays an important role helping SEO as well.

Understands what’s right for the prospect

SEO can find out what kind of solutions the prospect is looking for, but no group is better equipped than Product Marketing to understand how to solve that problem.

This starts by communicating the unique value proposition of your product to your SEO team. This gives them a better basis for keyword research and recommendations.

You can then move on to identifying your specific solution that answers the problems your customers are having. This isn’t always obvious to the SEO team, so being specific will save a lot of time and effort.

Finally, Product Marketers can create content that connects this together.

Writes persuasive and effective sales copy

SEOs need to learn to lean on their Product marketing team for persuasive and effective sales copy SEOs may be bringing in the traffic, and that is important, but it’s important to have copy that persuades the prospect to convert.

Writing deep explanatory content is good. There is a significant advantage in making the prospect know that you understand their problem and how to solve it. The product marketing team also knows which of their offers are relevant to a given prospect group. These need to be incorporated in visible and engaging ways

Early engagement

Involve your SEO team early and often! This means starting by including SEO in your go-to-market strategy. Make sure the SEO team knows about new product or campaign launches early. This allows them to start keyword research well ahead of content creation.

Having this keyword research completed before your writers start will allow them to engage prospect’s queries in the first draft of the content

In your go-to-market strategy make sure that SEO recommendations for web content are received before final approval of the content. This allows them to be incorporated at launch with stakeholder approval.

A relationship worth fighting for…

I hope that I’ve shown you some of the pitfalls that can occur when Product Marketing and SEO work together and that you can take my suggestions back to your organization to help them work together.

But mostly, I want you to come away knowing that this is a relationship worth fighting for – it has a huge impact. SEO brings in great traffic, but we can’t turn that traffic into leads without product marketing. Conversely, Product marketing on its own won’t bring in organic traffic.

About Noah Brimhall

Noah Brimhall is Director of Services at Obility where he leads the Paid Search, Paid Social & SEO teams. Prior to joining Oblity, Noah was SEO Manager at Hewlett-Packard, where he oversaw improvements in traffic from organic search. Like all Portlanders, in his spare time, Noah makes cider, gardens, cheers for the Timbers and rides his bike. View all Noah Brimhall’s posts >