Everything you need to know about SEO, delivered every Thursday.
Content Mapping, Search Optimization And The Buyer’s Journey
Have you optimized your content for all stages of the buyer's journey? Columnist Jim Yu looks at how to create the right content at the right time to drive conversions.
Since the idea of the buyer’s journey was first described back in 1968, marketers have spent considerable time and energy trying to better understand the process. What motivates people to finally convert and make a purchase?
Over the past 15 years, however, marketing has undergone a revolution. The buyer’s journey has morphed and evolved to accommodate modern digital shopping and buying.
Recent surveys have indicated that 67 percent of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally. This means that brands must have the content in place to meet customers where they are: online. They must be equipped to understand what prospects are doing online and what will motivate them to move towards the coveted conversion point.
The problem, however, lies in the ability of brands to meet this need. Organizations need to learn how to create content for a specific job along the buyer’s journey, not just filler.
Learning how to accommodate for the modern customer and develop content that is mapped to their buyer’s journey will be instrumental in helping brands meet the needs of customers online and successfully convert prospects into loyal buyers.
The Customer Journey Funnel
The customer journey funnel is a process that every buyer goes through as they first identify their main problem and then investigate options that are available to solve it. As the customer becomes more confident in their options, they will end up making a final decision.
For marketers, moving prospective customers through this buyer’s journey is all about identifying touch points throughout the experience where you have the best opportunity to influence the behavior of the prospect. Here are the main stages along the path:
- Awareness Stage: This is the stage when new prospects discover that they have a problem and are just beginning to research possible solutions. They are not really sure what they are looking for and are open to suggestions.
- Consideration And Evaluation Stage: These customers have begun to become familiar with a few brands that promise to be able to solve their problems. They become more direct in their searches. They are comparing products and brands.
- Purchase Stage: Now customers will make a decision about the brand and product that will best fit their needs, and then make a purchase.
- Post-Purchase Stage: Once customers have made a purchase, you need to continue to offer outstanding content to help them get the most out of their decision. This means providing help troubleshooting problems, addressing common questions and demonstrating to customers that they still matter.
The Importance Of Understanding Audience Demand And Customer Intent
Understanding the needs of customers at each stage of the journey is critical to bringing people to the brand website and encouraging them to continue to engage with you and eventually become a loyal customer. Misalignment between what the customer is looking for and what you are providing will result in prospects just moving on to other brands in your niche.
When you do not address the needs of the audience and customer intent, you provide poor customer service — and that means losing potential customers to your competitors.
Content that is poorly aligned with user intent and demand will not perform well in searches. It will not appear for the most relevant queries, and since it does not meet customer needs, it will likely have a high bounce rate. This impacts your ability to attract new customers.
Content Mapping For The Customer Journey
Mapping content to the customer journey means not just putting out information that you find interesting or that you want to write — you need to develop the material that your audience wants to see.
A positive online user experience is about making it easy for customers to find what they want. You need to think about how each part of your site contributes towards the conversion process and aim to create a memorable journey. Do not see your visitors as just numbers, but as people with unique needs who might become customers.
Successful content mapping requires first breaking down your customers into ideal personas. You want to make sure that you understand who you will be targeting with your content and what they want to see. Create three to five main personas based upon your existing customers and market research. You should look at information such as:
- Their responsibilities within their organization.
- The type and size of their company.
- Their pain points and needs.
- Their defining characteristics (spender, risk taker, conservative).
- Their budget.
Map the buyer journeys associated with each of your personas, outlining what they will be looking for during each stage. Identify keywords that they will likely use along the way and the types of content that they will likely be seeking.
Awareness Stage: During the awareness stage, people will be asking broad questions about the industry and their problem. Keywords might reference issues they are having or how to improve or optimize. They will respond best to content such as:
- Blog posts and articles.
- Visuals such as infographics and viral videos.
Consideration And Evaluation Stage: As people move into these stages, you are going to see more specific queries. They are going to want to learn about the company and products specifically. Keywords might reference your brand name, the type of technology or the service being performed. The best types of content will often include:
- Case studies.
- Product demonstrations.
- White papers.
Purchase Stage: In this stage, people are going to be very focused with their queries. They are going to make searches about the pros and cons of your business or product. They might also use “versus” to compare your brand to a competitor. They will respond best to content such as:
- Free trials.
- How-to videos.
Post-Purchase Stage: Once customers have made their purchase, it is important to keep them engaged. Keywords will likely focus around getting the most out of your product or service or questions about how to optimize the experience. Your content might look like:
- Newsletters to keep customers engaged.
- Triggered emails at certain points after the purchase, such as before a renewal.
- Blog posts.
Take your topics and keywords, your outline of your buyer’s journey and your types of content and piece them together. Look for gaps along the path, and create the content needed to fill them. Create all future content with a purpose to fill a role along the buyer’s journey.
Optimizing Search And Social
There is more to optimizing for the user experience than just mapping your content on your website to the buyer’s journey, however. It also requires taking a holistic look at your consumers.
The average B2B researcher will conduct 12 searches before engaging on your brand website. During these searches, they look for information from third parties, prior customers and other sources of insight outside of your brand properties.
It is also important to note that 74 percent of US customers shop on more than one channel. People are largely channel-agnostic, and they want to see a strong customer-oriented experience across every platform where they interact with you and learn about you.
This means you need to focus on optimizing the entire user experience. You need a consistent understanding of the funnel and the same touch points, regardless of where people interact with you. Do not think of optimization as something that is channel-specific (i.e., something that only needs to be done on your main website). Instead, think of it as creating an outstanding customer experience that touches upon all the channels the prospect might visit.
Achieving this means bringing your whole marketing team together, regardless of specialty. Your social media, PR and search teams all need to work together to understand how their roles play into the customer journey. Enticing pictures on Instagram or Pinterest, viral videos on YouTube, engaging content on Google+ and a strong reputation through a great PR team can all help bring customers to your site.
Distributing your content through social media, particularly the content geared towards the first two stages of the funnel, can also help your material gain traffic and attention.
Following the above process will help to further boost it in the SERPs, attracting more prospects to your brand and encouraging them to move through the purchase funnel.
Understanding how your content impacts this buyer’s journey can help you influence your future sales and strengthen your reputation. Put the customer experience first, and see how it can help you improve your reputation and grow your business in the form of customer engagement, conversion and revenue.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.