Product-Led SEO

Build an experience that is useful for users first

Happy Saturday to all 9,196 of you.

I’m back from an amazing trip to Florida.

We arrived in Key West to discover our hotel was a sanctuary for middle-aged, mid-day drinkers. And the pool had no shallow end. Not ideal for a family with two young children.

Why am I telling you this?

Because the chasm between “hotel key west” and “good hotel for small kids key west” is enormous.

Keywords are one of the first things most people think about when devising an SEO strategy.

But starting with keywords can guide you down a narrow and limiting path.

Today we’re going to look at Product-Led SEO as a growth strategy.

Product-Led SEO is a user-centric approach popularized by Eli Schwartz’s book that prioritizes meeting a customer’s needs rather than optimizing for a search engine.

We’ll cover:

  • What is product-led SEO?

  • Main ideas

  • Takeaways for your own business

Let’s get to it:

Growth stage: Mid

Difficulty level: Hard

Build an experience that is useful for users first, and the search engines will follow.

- Eli Schwartz, author, Product-Led SEO

Need to Know

🦄 SEO consultant Aleyda Solis dropped a 70-page slide deck of smart ways to use AI in your SEO workflows. She has some very creative and novel ideas.

🦄 This company is enabling you to create AI plugins from natural language. Looks simple but promising. I’m going to try it out.

🦄 DoNotPay is using AI tech to automate fighting back on behalf of consumers. Aligns well with their brand and positions them as a leader in consumer AI.

🦄 Here’s a simple but helpful infographic of an SEO checklist for launching a new site.

🦄 Ahrefs looked at the value of viral press as a force for SEO. Apparently not all press is good press when it comes to building domain authority.

🦄 Friendly reminder: Google provides a range of resources to answer the question “How to get your website on Google Search?”

What Is Product-Led SEO?

Product-led SEO is an approach that favors understanding users first, then building a product to best suit their needs. The idea is that a great product will attract more natural organic traffic and links than simply creating content optimized for search engines.

Tighter alignment between user problem and product solution should also lead to more revenue.

The book positions Product-led SEO as an alternative to a keyword-based SEO strategy, where you base your content efforts around the search terms you think potential customers would use.

The underlying thesis is that a view that begins with keywords rather than solving a user’s problems will overlook the most valuable opportunities: those that provide novel, superior solutions in a holistic way.

For example: a keyword-based approach is unlikely to uncover long-tail opportunities that search volume tools won’t have data on.

Yet companies like Zillow have become unicorns through product-led SEO (in Zillow’s case, by having a webpage for every address in the United States). Search volume for individual addresses is negligible, but in aggregate, they’ve created the preferred resource for home value research and homebuying.

We’ve pursued a similar strategy at SmartAsset, where we built a secondary domain with profiles of every financial advisor in the U.S.

These are the steps to take this approach:

  1. Gain a deep understanding of your target audience

  2. Create a product that satisfies their needs in a superior way

  3. Connect your audience’s needs to your product’s benefits via content

  4. Compel relevant readers to take action

  5. Integrate SEO best practices

The key part of building a Product-Led SEO strategy is that it is a product (an offering of any sort) that is being built. Unlike a keyword-research-driven SEO effort, a Product-Led SEO strategy needs to have a product-market fit.

Product-Led SEO Key Tenets

Understanding your customers is always a great approach.

There are a few other takeaways from the book that are more relevant than ever:

1) If there is no added value for a user, the content should be deemed useless.

With the ongoing influx of A.I. content, it’s more important than ever that your content be helpful.

2) Content should never be deployed and then not measured.

Measure the impact of content as you would a marketing campaign, because it is a marketing campaign.

3) Creating words for the sake of a word count or keyword goal is an utter waste of time.

If content is measured by value to user and revenue to company, word counts are useful only to understand what the existing competitive solutions provide.

How to Use Product-Led SEO In Your Own Business

A VC-backed startup’s mission might be to disrupt a category. It’s a winner-take-lion’s-share approach, and depends on your ability to find a scalable product that satisfies users in a new, better way. If that’s you, a Product-Led SEO approach makes sense. You need to be all-in on a single big strategy.

Some classic examples of product-led SEO are Amazon, Wikipedia, Zillow and TripAdvisor.

But in reality, most businesses don’t need to disrupt a category to be successful.

Regardless of your business’s goals, my recommendation would be to hold sacred the importance of understanding your user’s needs.

At the same time, the need for innovation and uniqueness is really a function of the market you operate in. For many bootstrapped companies, a hybrid, incremental approach makes more sense:

  • Identify potential high revenue topics based on your value prop

  • Create long-form pillar content around your hypothesis

  • Study what you start ranking for

  • Measure which content pieces drive revenue

  • Edge outward based on what makes you money and is scalable

Along the way, a picture should emerge of the intersection of value between the content or online product you can create and audience who’s paying you to solve their problem. You may then decide to invest in a more holistic product strategy.

The danger with an incremental approach is that you may never truly step back to consider alternatives to straightforward content in favor of a more robust digital experience. You’ll fail to build a moat and be susceptible to copycat competitors.

For well-funded startups, you can actually have your cake and eat it too. A Product team can work on building a superior digital product, while an Editorial team can create more traditional blog-style content that funnels users to the product or monetization event. Both can work in tandem.

Zapier is a great example of this. They have a blog that publishes more traditional editorial content, while their integrations library ties third-party apps directly to their Zapier functionality.

Product-Led SEO & A.I.

The irony of ChatGPT in the context of Product-Led SEO is that it threatens to replace, rather than outrank, its SEO competition. In a meta way, it represents just the type of product innovation that Product-Led SEO urges you to pursue.

In the long run, an oracle-style resource may replace a SERP of links for certain types of searches. We’ll see how long it takes to solve the accuracy and credibility problems that large language models currently have.

In the meantime, if you need a kid friendly hotel in Key West, Trip Advisor has a page for that.


Welcome to some new members of the unicorn community!

Jessie, Growth Marketing Manager at

Joshua, Helping B2B SaaS founders optimize their User Onboarding

Broc, Founder & President, Marquis Crane Services Inc.

If you want a shout-out in an upcoming newsletter just reply to this email.

✨ That’s it for today!

I hope this helps you in your growth journey.

-Brian 🦄

PS - if you’re trying to rank higher for a keyword I’ll generate 3 content outlines for you for free. Just write me at [email protected].

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