SEO for Subscription Businesses - Get Your Subscription Business Discovered on Google.

Looking to get your subscription business discovered on Google Search? You’re right about focusing on SEO but you also need to pay special attention to search intent

In this article you will learn why search intent is important when it comes to SEO and how you can build your SEO strategy with search intent as the focal point to outrank competitors. 

Here’s an example:

Based on the search query; “things to consider when building a kitchen”, which search result is more likely to get clicked on by the user? 

  1. Search result with the title “Plan your dream kitchen online - Plan your kitchen in English”.
  2. Search result with the title “10 things to consider when building your custom kitchen”.

The right answer is B i.e. search result 2. 

Here why:

The second search result is doing multiple things right when it comes to SEO and has a high chance of being clicked. 

  • The title text is very close to the search query itself, that is, the intent of the user is being matched by the search result. 
  • The writer of this particular content piece has used a list-style content format to capture the users attention and make the content more digestible
  • Due to the listicle nature of the content piece Google has featured the post in its featured snippets. That has enabled the search result to occupy even more space on Google search results and draw attention towards it.

Here’s when you encounter problems with discoverability on search engines

Your subscription business can be set up digitally in a number of ways such as:

  • A new stand-alone website created from scratch - If you start from the ground-up then typically your website doesn't have any link authority on the search engine, meaning that the search engine will have a hard time finding it and ranking it on the first page.

  • A sub-domain for the subscription option - With sub-domains, SEO professionals highlight that subdomains can be considered as separate entities from your root domain and they may not inert or benefit from any link authority of your core website.

  • A sub-directory in the form of a landing page for the subscription option on your existing website - With the sub-directory route you can benefit from your core website’s link authority. However you still need to do some optimisations to make sure that you can generate traffic to the sub-directory page or the subscription part of the business via Google. 
You encounter problems with discoverability, when the digital footprint of your subscription business is relatively new and it does not have authority on Google yet. 

Websites that rank higher than you or are on first page of Google’s search result usually have a higher authority on Google in comparison and they also match the search intent of the user (in most cases). 

In conclusion no matter which route you take (that is new website, sub-domain, or sub-directory) you need to actively invest in SEO strategies and match search intent to make your website or subscription option discoverable on Google. 

How searches work

1. Your prospective customer types keywords/keyphrases in search engines to solve their problems or look for information.

2. These keywords and keyphrases have a search intent (informational, navigational, commercial investigation and transactional. Discussed in detail later in this guide).

The aim of search engines like Google is to match the intent of the user in the best way possible by providing the most relevant information.

3. Search engines search their database of indexed or publicly available websites that can match the intent of the search. Additionally it also looks at other ranking factors to judge if the website is worthy. 

4. When the search engine finds a website that matches the intent of the search, it displays it in the search results. 

5. The user browses through the search results and picks a website that matches their intent in the best way possible. 

Therefore in order for you to match the intent of the user you need to:

Step 1: find out what keywords and keyphrases your prospective customers are searching for. 

Step 2: identify the search intent behind these keywords. 

Step 3: create content that matches the intent

Step 4: Optimise it with SEO best practices in order to rank on the first page of search engines. 

In this article we’ll only focus on Google as a search engine. 

Google’s role in generating traffic for your subscription business website 

Google processes over 8.5 billion searches per day. While there are other search engines out there, Google is by far the most popular search engine out there.

Why is Google popular as a search engine? 

Google’s success as a search engine can be credited to Google’s ability to provide quality and relevant results to its users. Google’s mission is to “Organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

How does Google provide relevant search results to its users?

By understanding the users search intent (we’ll discuss this at a later stage in this guide) and matching it to websites with the most accurate answers.

How does Google find the most accurate search results? 

Google uses crawlers to visit publicly accessible webpages. When the crawlers find a webpage, Google takes notes (key signals such as keywords, website freshness etc) and keeps track of it in Search index.  

And this is where you need to be active as a company. You need to make sure that when a user searches for information that you could have an answer for, Google is able to find your website in its database and present it to the customer in the form of search results (ideally on the first page).

And signalling Google that your company is relevant for a particular query is done (organically) through SEO and also via paid media, that is Adwords.

How to make your website discoverable on Google

Step 1: Keyword research. Find out what keywords and keyphrases your prospective customers are searching for. 

Step 2: Identify the search intent behind these keywords. 

Step 3: Create content that matches the intent

Step 4: Optimise it with SEO best practices in order to rank on the first page of search engines. 

Step 1: Keyword research

Find out what keywords and keyphrases are being used by your prospective customers. 

Identify keyword ideas specific to your industry.

How to identify keywords

  • Start by identifying seed keywords - seed keywords are the ones that define your niche. For example if you are a subscription company that offers furniture on a subscription basis then your seed keywords will be something like furniture, subscription, rental, lease, hire etc. Your seed keywords alone are not worth ranking for. You need to combine them with other keywords to get targeted results such as furniture rental, furniture subscription, furniture rental near me etc.

  • Checkout your competitors keywords - if you already know who your competitors are you can make use of keyword tools such as ahref, semrush etc to see which keywords your competitors are ranking for. 

Pro tips while undertaking keyword search:

1. Look for language translations of your keyword if your subscription business is active in a non-english speaking country. 

Here’s an example: If you offer cars on a subscription basis in German speaking countries, you’ll definitely want to check out keywords in the native language of the country and target them.

As you can see if you look for the keywords “car subscription” and “auto abo” (the german translation of the keyword car subscription) you’ll see that the search volume for “auto abo” is significantly more than the english version of the keyword.

Additionally the keyword difficulty (that is estimation of how hard it is to rank in the top 10 organic search results for a keyword on a 100-point scale) is lower for the german translation in comparison to the english version meaning it will be comparatively easier to rank for the german translation of the keyword.

2. Look at search volume for the keyword rental and lease in combination with your product. Your customers may not necessarily search for a keywords that best describe you or the way you identify yourself and might instead look for terms/concepts they know or are familiar with from other brands.

Here’s an example: Lets check out the difference in search volume for the keywords furniture subscription, furniture rental, furniture lease.

As you can see the search volume for the keyword “furniture subscription” is less than the keyword “furniture rental” and “furniture lease”.

To see if the keyword has any potential, you can look at the search results for the keyword. If the search result are similar to what you also offer then the keyword is definitely worth targeting.

Note: The location chosen to see the search volume for the keywords is DACH. The results may vary according to the location settings.

There are multiple resources on the internet on how to undertake keyword research

3.  Look for intent-based keywords - when you undertake keyword research you can already try to find out intent-based keywords. 

For example the keyword “car subscription” has tons of informational intent keyphrases that can be used to make information style content. 

4. Target competitor brand names - if your competitors are better known in the market you can use their brand names to show your website in the search result. This is typically done through AdWords.

Step 2: Identify the search intent

Find out the why behind a search. By understanding the search intent behind a particular query, you can create content that more closely matches the user's needs, which can help improve the user's experience on your website and increase the likelihood of them taking a desired action.

What is search intent?

Search intent refers to the purpose behind a user's search query, or the goal that the user is trying to achieve by entering the query. Understanding search intent can help you create content that is more relevant and useful to your audience, and can also help you improve the overall user experience on your website.

Types of search intent

  1. Informational: The user is looking for information on a specific topic. Example, things to consider when building a new kitchen, how many states are there in the US, weather today etc. 
  2. Navigational: The user is trying to find a specific website or webpage that they already know of but instead of typing the URL they use the search bar. Example: IKEA kitchen planner, LinkedIn, HubSpot login etc. 
  3. Commercial investigation: The user is considering making a purchase and is looking for more information to help them make a decision. Example: Momax vs Ikea kitchen, best Korean restaurant near me, etc.
  4. Transactional: The user is ready to make a purchase and is looking for a place to do so. IKEA kitchen discounts.

To learn more about search intent, checkout ahrefs’ blog on Search intent

Inferring search intent

Now that we know what search intent is, how can you infer the search intent based on the search query itself. 

Most of the time you can look at the query itself to identify the intent. Given below are some common keyword modifiers and the intent associated with them. 

Image source: ahref

Checkout the SERP results

If you use a keyword research tool like ahref, you can check out the SERP results to find out the intent behind a search by paying attention to the top search results. 

Here’s an example: SERP results for the keyword “Furniture rental”. 

From the search results you can conclude that the intent of this search is commercial investigation as the search results are from companies providing furniture rentals. 

Let’s take another example. The keyword car subscription also has informational search intent (see the image below)

And the SERP result  are also informational.

Step 3: Create content that matches the intent

Start creating content and make sure it aligns with the 3 c’s of search intent. 

The 3 c’s of search intent are:

  • Content type - the overall type of content in search results that is blog posts, product page, category page, landing page. 

For example take a look at the top search results for “bike subscriptions”:

You can identify from the title that these are product pages. 

Next checkout the search results for “bike rental Berlin”:

You can see that the results are still product pages but they’ve included “berlin” in the title, URL, and/or description of the search result.

  • Content format - the format of the top-ranking pages such as how to guides, step by step guides, list posts, reviews, comparison etc. 

For example check out the search results for the phrase “how much to rent a laptop for a month”:

The intent of the search is informational and the search results answer the question straight away by highlighting the answer in the title itself.

  • Content angle - this refers to the unique selling point of the top-ranking results. Such as the query for  “things to consider when building a new kitchen” has the following results;-

Pro-tip while creating content

Creating location-based landing pages - if you serve different locations with your product, create a landing page for each location and add the location in the title, meta description, URL and on the landing page itself.

Here’s an example:

Your prospective customers may add “near me” to the search query and if they’ve enabled location tracking, Google will fetch websites that match the location of the person. 

Step 4: Optimise it with SEO

Use SEO basic and advance tips to rank on the first page of search engines. 

What is SEO?

SEO or search engine optimisation is the process of optimising websites so that search engines can find your website and rank them on search results when a user searches for information. 

SEO Strategy

Formulating a SEO strategy involves optimising for on-page and off-page signals. 

On-page SEO includes strategies you implement on your webpages themselves, such as design, written content, metadata, alt text, internal links, sitemap etc. 

Off-page SEO includes strategies you undertake outside of your website such as external links, social posts etc. 

Both on-page and off-page SEO signal Google that your site is there (that is it exists), is relevant (it can solve the problem of the user) and can be ranked. 

How to outrank competitors?

To outrank your competitors, you need to improve your website’s relevancy and domain authority for search engines like Google. That’s because Google rewards authoritative websites that users find relevant. With that, let’s look at some specific factors that directly affect the relevancy and authority of your and your competitors’ websites. If your competitors outrank you, you need to create a strategic plan for improving many of them.

Domain authority is influenced by the following factors:

  • Backlinks - the number of external websites linking to your website or webpage. The more, the better. 
  • Internal links - the number of links from one page on your website to another page on your website. 
  • External links - the number rof links going from your website to other high authority websites. 
  • Site structure - the easier the site structure the easier it is for Google to crawl your website. 

How to increase domain authority of an eCommerce website selling subscription products

  • Acquire high-quality backlinks - backlinking is time consuming and can be expensive but you’ll definitely reap the benefit of having backlinks in the future. To start with look for bloggers in your niche that will send a do-follow link to your website. 
  • Optimise website structure an improve user experience - make your eCommerce website easy to navigate and submit a site map on Google Search Console. 
  • Improve internal links - if there is interlinking opportunity within your website, then make use of it to improve your internal links. 
  • Optimise your on-page SEO - make use you use relevant keywords and place them on your product page. Add headings, meta title, meta description to your content for better positions in SERPs
  • Improve the technical SEO - when it comes to SEO there's on page SEO and off page SEO and technical SEO falls more in the category of on page SEO. Technical SEO makes it easier for search engine to crawl your website. To learn more about various technical SEO factors read this article on technical SEO by ahref.
  • Improve your page speed - the speed of your page is another ranking factor used by Google to rank you on Google search results.
  • Make a mobile-friendly website - Google uses the mobile friendliness of your website as a major ranking factor. Make sure your website is mobile friendly.

Our top 5 suggestions for improving the visibility of your subscription business on Google search

  • Invest some money in your commercial keywords - People who type commercial intent keywords in Google search are closer to purchase. You can target your commercial keyword with Google Ads. 
  • Create location based landing pages - People tend to add “near me” to their search query on Google and if they’ve given location targeting permission to Google, Google search results will display location based results. 
  • Look for translated version of your keywords - Some keywords may be international while some may be still known primarily in the native language of the country. When you undertake keyword research look for translated versions of the keyword in the particular country. 
  • Check the search intent of the keyword {your product} rental - you customers may not search for keyword concepts that describe what you offer but may look for keywords they are already familiar with. For example they may search for bike rental and furniture rental instead of bike subscription or furniture subscription. To be sure whether or not you should target a keyword you can look at the SERP results to judge the search intent of the particular keyword. 
  • Create a simple site structure - as you add and remove products the site structure gets complicated. Make sure that you invest time in creating a simple site structure and having a strategy for adding and removing products. 

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