Integrating SEO within the Product Triangle To Align Efforts & Maximize Impact
I know that many times as SEO specialists or consultants, when we’re so involved in the details of a process we have issues “to see the forest for the trees”, which is sometimes the reason why we fail to make the impact we had initially expected, or why our SEO recommendations are overlooked and not taken into consideration as we had wished within the existing workflow.
This is likely happening because SEO is not integrated/aligned within the organization product triangle.
Are you not sure and/or don’t know what I’m talking about? In this post, I’m going to explain what’s the product triangle, why you should care about it as an SEO, even if you’re not a product manager and show how you can integrate SEO within an organization product triangle to align the efforts and achieve the sometimes elusive support and impact.
What’s a Product Triangle?
The product triangle is a concept developed and described by Daniel Schmidt in “A Visual Vocabulary for Product Building” as the “the environment in which a product builder lives”.
The Permutations of Product Fit & Misfit – By Daniel Schmidt
A product is not a thing; it’s an evolving relationship between a technology, the people who use it (or might use it), and a business that funds its construction. An abstract representation of a product might look something like … a triangle-shaped graph I call “The Product Triangle.” The Product Triangle is the playing field on which product builders ultimately win or lose.
Daniel explains how a balance and alignment of the technology, users and business when building a product will allow it to correctly “fit” its context and succeed or to become a “misfit” and fail. For example, a misfitted technology being too difficult to maintain or user base when there are challenges to attract new users or engage current ones, or a business misfit when sales goals are not met.
I believe that business owners/decision makers/product managers/etc. anybody responsible to make the decisions for the development of a product end up operating in this type of triangle (or a variation of it), whether they’re aware or not, to find a balance that allows the product to “evolve” to achieve its functionality, growth and business goals.
The concept of a “product triangle” really resonated when I read about it since besides being an SEO consultant I’m also a co-founder/maker for my own project, Remoters.net for which one of my many roles is the one of what you would call being a “product manager” -that I share with my co-founder in this case- when we prioritize what we should build next, for which I always ask 3 questions:
Is this something that will help us to…
- Solve users/customers problems? (the technology/features)
- Attract more/better users/customers? (the users)
- Earn more/better money that we need to keep the operations going and being profitable? (the business)
The more “yes” a potential development has when asking these questions, the more important will be for us to prioritize.
A more tangible and goal driven Product Triangle for decision makers
When I saw how my own product building decision making criteria/process connected to what Daniel described, I took his Product Triangle as a base to personalize it and better integrate it with the more “tangible” criteria and goals I use in my “product building” journey:
The technology is a matter of building the product features/functionality that should solve users/customers problems, for which the usual challenge is: How can I make it more useful while being usable?
The users is a matter of the product growth/marketing that should attract more/better users/customers, for which the usual challenge is: How can I scale it while keeping it relevant?
The product business/sales that should earn money/resources to solve keep the operations going, solve users/customers problems, for which the usual challenge is: How can I make it profitable at the required speed?
Besides these 3 main criteria/aspects that we take into consideration to reach the main product goals, there’s also a “thread” that influence them all (represented above as a dotted circle) the organization vision, mission and values: A product effort that is highly useful and usable, allows to attract more users and grow, that is also able to earn good/more money is fantastic as long as it’s aligned to the organization vision, mission and values.
Should we first enable:
- A new filtering system in the jobs section that will help users to reach their desired jobs faster, improve their experience and engagement, enable new pages that will connect with the way user search and will attract more traffic to the site and where we will be able to show more ads to monetize the site further?
… or should we first prioritize:
- A similar jobs suggestion system that will help users to reach their desired jobs faster, improve their experience and engagement, as well as improve internal linking of existing pages?
Finding a balance & alignment between these is critical to move forward with a product that users find to be useful and usable, scales attracting relevant customers and achieves the needed level of profitability fast.
It’s critical to take this into consideration when we’re doing SEO…
Integrating SEO within the Product Triangle to align efforts, maximizing adoption & impact
As mentioned at the start: Many times as SEO specialists or consultants, when we’re so involved in the details of a process we have issues “to see the forest for the trees”. Especially when we’re not working in-house and have a lower view of what is going across the organization and how decisions are made inside. Which is sometimes the reason why:
- We don’t leverage and align our SEO recommendations within the existing organization efforts and assets, that causes them to be overlooked and not taken into consideration as we had wished within the existing workflow.
- We don’t show the impact that SEO efforts can provide to those areas that are already a priority within the organization.
- We don’t prioritize our SEO recommendations well and fail to achieve the impact we had initially expected.
This can be avoided by integrating SEO within the product triangle.
Since some time ago, every time I start with a new SEO project, I do an audit, format and present the recommendations, or even communicate with the client… I think of their own product triangle and how SEO integrates in it, how it affects and is affected by what’s going on in the different vertexes:
1. Growth/Marketing efforts: How SEO affects and is affected by the company’s other growth/marketing efforts?
Is SEO leveraging, making the most & supporting the efforts of other digital marketing activities?
For example, social media or online PR activities to help amplify the content visibility that can help attract links towards them, taking into consideration the keywords that have been identified as better converting and more profitable in the PPC campaigns or the recurrent seasonal campaigns for which you should make sure that there’s an aligned strategy to leverage and optimize existing landing pages?
It’s then fundamental to have access to this information since the start, as well as on-going updates with other digital marketing areas.
2. The Features/Functionality of the site: How SEO affects and is affected by the site features/functionality?
Has the SEO process taken into consideration the site/product key features/functionality when doing the keyword and competition research and prioritizing the SEO recommendations to optimize their crawlability, indexability, content and identify link opportunities, to better connect and fulfill users search intent?
From the company USP, the product characteristics, the site functionalities highlighting them, the existing categorization system, to the navigation, the filtering options, their pre-sales and post-sales advice and support efforts, etc. How are potential customers/users looking for them? How these features/areas help to fulfill that demand? How can you optimize them to better connect with customers/users? How can you optimize these areas crawlability, indexability, content, etc. accordingly?
It’s critical to understand each site product/services/website features and functionalities, how the site is built to fulfill the customer demand, and what are the plans/roadmap to evolve it.
3. The Business/Sales model of the site: How SEO affects and is affected by business/sales?
Has the SEO process taken into consideration the site business model when establishing goals, prioritizing the recommendations and showing potential impact to earn support? Which are those high priority product/service lines? Which are expected new releases for which you should already start optimizing in advance? Which are those areas/pages rankings very well already and attracting top organic search traffic but with poorer conversions?
For example, if the site monetizes via ads and affiliates, what are the repercussions from a web speed, friendliness and outlinking perspective? How can you minimize any negative impact on one hand, and on the other, how can you help increase the traffic in those areas/pages types that are directly monetized and have more potential to grow?
It’s a must to understand what are the site business and sales goals, their business models and different ways of monetization.
Using the product triangle as a framework to identify the best ways to integrate with the organization other growth/marketing efforts, features/functionality and business/sales model and efforts will facilitate to:
- Leverage existing efforts/activities/data to advance faster in the SEO analysis/implementation
- Prioritize SEO recommendations that have a higher impact at all levels to show results faster
- Format/word/present/communicate your SEO recommendations showing their impact/value in those areas that are already important/critical for the company and how they align and help other existing efforts, facilitating to earn support from decision makers and other areas
A win-win-win for SEOs!
Integrate SEO within the product triangle at different granularity levels
It’s important to note how this approach can be used also at any granularity level, for example, not at a site wide level, but when you’re analyzing or developing the SEO recommendations or follow-ups of a particular section or area of the site, taking into consideration:
- The particular growth/marketing efforts going on in that particular area/section.
- The specific features/functionalities that are offered in those areas.
- The role of those set of pages or areas within the customer journey, their role and impact in the site monetization and business.
Although these are likely already aspects that you take in one way or another into consideration within your SEO processes, having a simple framework to follow, in this case, a product triangle, can further help you to not only avoid missing anything important out, but have a better understanding of the overall product context, how SEO fits in it, how it can be better leveraged, how you can better align your efforts to achieve the product and organization goals, and how to be more empathic and better communicate with your clients/bosses to achieve success together.