Tailor Your Ad Copy To Buy Cycle Stages

A couple of our paid search columnists have offered some great tips on generating ad copy. I’m going to build on this and talk about gearing ad copy to the consumer buy cycle. By targeting specific stages, advertisers can increase relevancy by delivering appropriate messages at the right time in the buy cycle. In this article, I’ll outline the various buy cycle stages and provide some ad examples (fictional) related to “on demand publishing.”

Stage 1 – Awareness

While the right ad copy helps address buyers at the appropriate stage, it’s definitely the case especially at the awareness stage that “just showing up” can actually influence the consumer’s progress through all of the cycles. If a prospect is researching at an early stage and a certain brand fails to show up in the first few search results (paid or unpaid), that’s a lost opportunity to gain a foothold in an early-stage customer’s mind. In other words, don’t discount the benefit of simply showing up for your “core” terms.

In general, at the awareness stage, a prospect begins to think about a need and to identify the existence of solutions. They may also begin to formulate search queries in their mind. For example, an author wants to immediately connect with the marketplace, and is aware that there are various print-on-demand services that facilitate transactions. The author suspects there are some vendors that offer both printed and ebook versions of books.

A number of search queries begin forming in her mind. Some are driven by brands like Lulu.com and Cafepress that she’s already come across before. Others are more general as she intends to research the field overall before settling on any one vendor.

The author’s “early” awareness stage likely started years ago: in a previous job, as a customer purchasing a t-shirt through Cafepress, reading press mentions of Lulu.com, or other “lateral” forms of awareness. Also, traditional advertising like television ads or direct mail pieces could have planted the awareness seed. This also points to the need for integrated strategies related to PR, SEO, PPC, traditional advertising, etc.

Stage 2 – Information search

This stage is a fascinating and largely untapped area for paid search marketers. Many focus too heavily only on late-stage keywords. Yet there are likely to be ads showing up on early-stage words, too. You can take a couple of approaches here: you could send consumers to comparison or informational pages on your site, or you could make yourself more aware of the publications and resources that are supplying information to consumers, and try to gain editorial traction in these, become a sponsor, or show up on them using placement targeting. Here are some examples of ad copy related to “on demand publishing” appropriate for this stage:

On Demand Publishing
Comparison info & more.
Get buying tips & average costs.
Print on Demand Reviews
Compare top companies.
Get user reviews and more!

Stage 3 – Alternative evaluation

In this stage, consumers have completed informational searches and are now considering several specific options. Here, consumers consider specific information related to specifications, cost, brands, and how the products or services make them feel in general. Here is some sample copy for this stage:

CafePress Print on Demand
Cheap printing costs. 2 day turn
around time. Worldwide shipping.
Lulu.com Print on Demand
Quick & easy account set up.
Get paid every 2 weeks.

In general, it can be tricky to figure out what information to include in ads (for example if your company has many features and/or benefits to choose from). If you don’t know what resonates with your buyers, try testing one against the other (in an A/B or multivariate test) to determine which ones work best for your product or service.

Stage 4 – Purchase decision

This is where people decide they want to do business with you (good job!). In this stage, people have decided to move forward with making a specific purchase. In this stage, try special offers or discounts to seal the deal. Here’s a sample of ad copy for this stage:

Lulu.com Print on Demand
15% off print on demand services.
Limited time offer. Order today!

Stage 5 – Post purchase behavior

The final stage where the consumer decides how they’ll react to the product or service in the future. This is key because depending on a customer’s experience, they may decide to transact with you again in the future. To encourage this, ensure your back end is in order by having a streamlined and efficient check out process. Also, don’t engage in tactics that could agitate customers like automatically opting buyers into email lists. We all know it’s far cheaper to keep a customer than to acquire a new one.

Many of us in the industry agree, it’s important to think about creative strategies to broaden out spend and reach and start showing up on earlier-stage searches. Sometimes, clients want to shut off early-stage words because they don’t appear to be performing. This points to a larger problem: convincing clients to invest more in early stage words.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | How To: PPC | Paid Search Column | Search Ads: General


About The Author: was recently voted the 2013 Most influential SEM. She is the Vice President of Online Marketing Strategy at Page Zero Media where she focuses on search engine marketing strategy, landing page optimization (LPO) and conversion rate optimization (CRO).

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  • jhl111

    Great article, Mona. Could you comment on how the buyers’ search phrases change during the buying cycle? For example, at stage 1 they may search for \on demand printing\ but at stage 3 they may search \cheaper than CafePress\. Relevant examples would be great. Thanks!

  • George Michie

    Mona, when you study the data, how prevelant is the phenomena you describe? Our research suggests that the notion of “early stage” and “late stage” is more myth than reality. See eg: http://www.rimmkaufman.com/rkgblog/2009/04/15/ppc-buying-cycle-2/

    Would love to know if you see something different in your data.


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