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How Sentiment Analysis is Changing SEO and Improving User Experience

By Jonathan Crowl on August 22, 2018

We've all been recipients of text messages that force us to try and interpret the sender's intentions. Are they happy? Mad? Does the decision to use a period and not an exclamation mark mean they aren't excited? Are they trying to be sarcastic? Was that supposed to be a joke?

If we could run those texts through an algorithm that gave us the answer, life would be a lot easier. Unfortunately, we're not quite there yet. But we do have the next-best thing. Scientists and researchers have developed algorithmic tools that can conduct a process known as sentiment analysis, which contextualizes writing and other communications to determine the general sentiments of the content.

In a short span of time, these tools have become very sophisticated, displaying the ability to go far beyond the positive-negative binary. Thanks to a sentiment algorithm developed at MIT, it's even possible to interpret sarcasm implied through the use of emojis, according to MIT Technology Review. That's invaluable when crawling the web in search of brand sentiments from sources where consumers are spouting their opinions on your company.

Considering all the digital channels where consumers put their feelings into words, this is a huge asset for businesses. Emails, social media, blog post comments, reviews websites, customer service exchanges, and a number of other text-based channels can all serve as outlets for analyzing sentiments and better understanding the customer experience-including what shifts in marketing strategy might better respond to this audience's needs.

There's simply too much content out there for most brands to dedicate man-power to reading through all of the available feedback. Reading reviews, scrolling through Twitter mentions, and reading through transcripts of customer service conversations wouldn't just be tedious-it would also be expensive. Employing a tool for analyzing sentiment, by contrast, is much more cost-effective, and it can drive tangible changes to a company's marketing strategy. Forward-thinking brands are already taking advantage. Here's a look at some of the ways sentiment analysis has changed everyday marketing activities.

human emotions in marketing

Image attribution: Mac

Great Content Will Reap Bigger Rewards

The process of analyzing sentiment has already made its way into search engine algorithms, and its role figures to increase in the future. Bing added this function to its search platform earlier this year, according to Search Engine Journal, and Google has dropped numerous hints about deploying similar services to its search engine in the near future.

One of the biggest changes to search marketing will be the way SEO backlinks are understood by search engines. Currently, any backlink is considered a good one: Links to your content and brand website are used to validate your reputation and authority, which elevates your SEO profile. But if you've spent any time on the internet, you know that not every mention of a brand or website is made in a positive way. Where review websites are concerned, for example, numerous studies have indicated that unhappy customers are far more likely to make a post than satisfied ones.

Negative SEO backlinks shouldn't support your SEO efforts. Eventually, they won't: These analyses will be able to read the context around these backlinks to identify negative sentiments, and lower your SEO score accordingly. Again, Bing is already giving this a try, but the biggest change will occur when Google makes this analysis a part of its own algorithm.

In the meantime, marketers have a simple blueprint to make sentiment analysis work in their favor. If you create quality content that is relevant to its keyword strategy, offers a strong user experience on the site, and consistently gives users what they're looking for, then you're inevitably going to create positive sentiments and backlinks that improve your SEO.

To put it in simpler terms: If traffic that finds your content through search is happy with what they find, it will open the door to even more traffic in the future.

Assessing Product Feedback

listening to user feedback

Image attribution: frankie cordoba

Brands need to understand how products are being received by their consumer base. Solicited surveys don't get the job done: You need to hear the conversations happening among consumers to really get a sense of what's working, and what needs to be improved.

The study of consumer sentiments can provide this service, creating a comprehensive picture of the user experience offered by your brand's products, services, and solutions. This analysis goes beyond star ratings to reading into the full context of ancedotal reviews. This is good news for marketers wanting the most comprehensive overview possible because as ConsumerAffairs reports, the influence of written reviews far exceeds the influence of star-rating systems. Not only are they more accurate and nuanced in presenting consumer sentiments, but they also have greater influence on other consumers. Machine-learning tools can comb through online reviews as well as support tickets, chatbot exchanges, support tickets, and other content to gauge overall attitudes toward these products.

The resulting insights could help shape not only the products themselves, but how they're presented and marketed to consumers. Since the expectations set by marketing content can affect the reception of products by consumers, paying close attention to these sentiments is a valuable exercise.

Upgrading Customer Service

Customer service is the backbone of any successful business, and therefore should always be a driving concern of your brand marketing strategy. Analysis of transcripts, support tickets, and other customer service content-including even private messages sent to branded social media accounts-can power a number of beneficial changes to how brands handle customer service. According to Level, these changes can include better methods of prioritizing support tickets, as well as identifying trends in customer sentiment at various points in a customer service exchange. Brands can then use these insights to adjust their handling of certain scenarios or problems faced by the customer.

Ultimately, these insights can enable proactive customer service and outreach, as well as faster resolution of problems and increased customer satisfaction. This upgrade of the customer experience will, in turn, increase the positive sentiments floating around the internet, which might ultimately improve your SEO and raise the profile of the entire company.

When used to identify and address customer pain points, sentiment analysis can function as a holistic approach to upgrading the customer experience. Its most transformative applications are yet-to-be-seen, but the tools already available to businesses offer plenty of value in gathering feedback, understanding customers, and refining your marketing strategy to better serve the needs of your audience.

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Featured image attribution: Kyle Sterk


Jonathan Crowl

Jonathan Crowl specializes in digital marketing and content creation for both B2B and B2C brands, with an emphasis on startups and technology. His past and current clients include B2B brands IBM, LinkedIn, Mad Mobile, Oktopost, BrightSpot, and Waze, as well as B2C brands Porsche, Epson, and PayPal. He lives in Minneapolis.