Growth Loops for SEO
You could be forgiven for not having heard of growth loops before. But they’re an essential part of a marketing and growth strategy having worked well for leading brands such as Uber, Netflix and Pinterest.
So what are growth loops and why should we take an interest? Let’s first look at what growth loops are and how they can work for SEO.
What is a growth loop?
According to Kevin Kowk and Casey Winters, the definition of a growth loop is “a system that generates an output that can be reinvested as an input”.
A growth loop is a system that involves an input (such as someone visiting a website), an action or series of actions and an output. When the output encourages further input, a loop or cycle is created.
Examples of growth loops
There are many high-profile examples of successful growth loops. Take Pinterest, for example. Reforge has outlined Pinterest and Netflix’s growth loops as the following:
- A user signs up to Pinterest or returns as an existing user
- Pinterest activates users with relevant content, based on their interests as outlined by the user
- Users save content from other sources to their Pinterest boards, or repin content that already exists on Pinterest — this gives the platform quality signals as it continues to be repinned and shared
- Pinterest adds quality content to search engines
- A new user finds Pinterest content on such search engines and visits the website
Netflix’s growth loop forms a similar pattern:
- Customer signs up and consumes content
- Netflix learns about the user’s tastes and content preferences
- Netflix tailors hyper-personalised and individual recommendations as well as curating content that is aligned with wider market watching patterns
- Netflix recommends its curated content, which the customer consumes
Using examples from Pinterest and Netflix, it’s clear to see how they’ve grown to the scale that they have with a simple growth loop.
Remember that a successful output is obtained when a user (the input) does an action or a series of actions (consumes content) that leads to an output. So, how can we create our own growth loops for SEO?
Here are my top tips:
1. Use your internal search queries
Start by using your internal search queries. If your website has an internal search function — most sites should — look at all the queries and create a list of the most popular ones. This could be about products, blogs, particular pages or even FAQs.
Knowing the terms that your current users are searching for can help you to prioritise where to send new customers. Display the most popular queries on the homepage (or relevant landing pages) and link through to canonical pages on the site that the users are looking for.
This develops a better user experience for site visitors and will reduce bounce rates while increasing the average amount of pages viewed.
2. Promote your popular products
For eCommerce websites, displaying popularly searched-for products on internal search pages can improve their visibility and the PageRank flowing to these pages. To clarify which products to prioritise, you can use current and previous customer data such as website visits, search volume, conversion rates and/or user metrics.
Similarly, this can be done on all product pages as well as at the checkout stage to promote top products. Update this quite regularly to keep it on track as, depending on your industry, trends may come and go almost overnight!
By promoting your best products more regularly, search engines will prioritise those product pages. In doing so, they will drive more traffic, meaning that the popular products will continue to sell well. (There is a danger that this can separate the popular products from the rest, meaning firms are forced to rely on a handful of products selling well. We have a tip on how to deal with this at the end of this article.)
3. Showcase your customer feedback and reviews
In its simplest form, displaying product reviews and customer feedback is a great way to establish a growth loop for SEO.
As many as 93% of shoppers read an online review before buying a product. With online competition reaching never-before-seen heights, customers are more concerned than ever before about fraud and disingenuous sellers. Reading feedback from other customers often gives them the reassurance they need to make a purchase decision.
Many review websites now offer dynamic review widgets for websites and social media to auto-update. Don’t forget that potential customers are looking for business reviews as well as individual product feedback. To be smart about displaying your reviews, balance them with a mix of recent customer reviews and substantive feedback to support longer tail keywords that the page might rank for.
A word of caution
As touched on earlier, there is a brief word of caution to be had. Growth loops can quickly become siloed. Once a page has been repeatedly highlighted to search engines, it may simply function as expected for a page with so much visibility. Its popularity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that could cause issues for the rest of your pages — because traffic, engagement and customer experience of the page is good, it’s likely to remain popular forever at the expense of other pages. To mitigate this, SEO growth loops should be broken, reset and reprioritised regularly.
In their most basic form, growth loops for SEO are all about driving traffic to quality pages that are relevant and engaging for users.
To summarise, the growth loop theory can be applied well to SEO, particularly for eCommerce businesses. Utilise the user and conversion data you already have to find the best-performing pages and products, and leverage these to create your growth loop.