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Micro-moments and beyond: Understanding and optimizing for consumer intent
Want to reach search engine users in their moments of need? Columnist Thomas Stern explains his process for mapping keywords and content to the customer's path to purchase.
Google introduced the concept of micro-moments over a year ago, and since then, the company has consistently published supporting information as it relates to specific industries and user behavior across content platforms.
If you’re unfamiliar with micro-moments, they’re essentially a way of framing a user’s path to purchase or to conversion, with specific focus on mobile and the needs or questions users search on Google along with way. The concept of micro-moments is easily digestible and provides a great way of conducting and organizing keyword research, something search marketing practitioners and decision-makers alike can certainly appreciate.
At our agency, ZOG Digital, we’ve been developing ways to comprehensively identify micro-moment opportunities for clients while mapping and optimizing to the consumer’s conversion path. The following is a high-level look at our approach and a few of the resources we use.
1. Identifying micro-moments: The consumer journey
Before you can identify micro-moment opportunities, you must understand the structure or user path and adapt it to your particular business or vertical. For instance, we categorize micro-moments for hospitality clients into Dreaming, Exploring, Planning and Booking; these buckets support each step in the consumer journey to bookings, and keyword opportunities can logically be categorized within them.
Google uses a fairly ubiquitous micro-moment structure of “I want to know,” “I want to go,” “I want to do” and “I want to buy.” Unlike the categorization structure I noted above, Google’s classification maps micro-moments to different types of consumer journeys with additional research to support best practices for search content.
Either of these examples can work, as long as consumer intent can be appropriately segmented. Keywords are the backbone of this phase and enable future content to be planned, developed and published by each opportunity category.
2. Organizing micro-moments: Defining parameters and collecting data
With keyword categorization structure understood, the next step is to map out the keyword modifiers that users will use in their path to conversion. Our philosophy is to use all available modifiers, with an understanding that not all will apply to each client. This approach allows us to cast the widest net and effectively understand the micro-moment opportunity size.
Here are some example modifiers grouped under questions and prepositions:
Questions: (Keyword) + Where, Which, Who, Why, What, How and Are
Example hospitality-related searches using questions could be “Things to Do in San Francisco” or “Where to Stay in Miami.”
Prepositions: (Keyword) + With, Without, Versus, Near, Like and For.
Example retail-based searches using prepositions could be “Tablet vs. Laptop” or “Ceiling Fan with Lights.”
At ZOG Digital, we predefine all keyword modifiers so we can map across keyword lists at scale. However, if you’re looking to define micro-moments across a small set of keywords, we recommend Answer the Public and Keyword.io as great starting points. Answer the Public predefines questions and prepositions automatically, while Keyword.io allows you to segment keyword results by questions once they’ve been retrieved.
It’s important to note that collecting micro-moment data doesn’t stop at the keyword level. To effectively understand opportunity size and prioritize tactics, consumer intent and demand needs to be identified and grouped within the aforementioned consumer journey stages. This research process provides a segue into our next step, which is building a plan for ROI.
3. Forecasting and prioritizing for ROI
The next step to moving forward with micro-moment opportunity analysis and planning is to forecast potential and prioritize for ROI. My agency developed our own tool, the Keyword Revenue Forecasting Tool, to automate this process with historical client performance data, but a basic one can be created through Excel and a few simple formulas.
First, you’ll need to determine a click-through rate by keyword position. There are numerous data sources for this — we like Advanced Web Ranking, as they regularly update their CTR data. The best option, if you have enough data, is to use Search Console and filter out branded keywords. This will then most closely resemble the CTR you can expect from each keyword position.
Second, you need to forecast how your rankings can improve over time. This is a bit tricky without substantial historical data, so the next best option is to look at where similar websites rank for the keywords you’re targeting. Check the domain and PageRank of the websites that rank in the top positions for each keyword. If you are within range comparatively, chances are that you have a likelihood of competing, assuming you’re conducting comprehensive on- and off-page optimization.
The improvement over time is tricky here — if you have performed SEO in the past for the site, you should be conservative and make assumptions based on performance you have observed historically.
Finally, you can now calculate potential return based on the metrics you have available:
(keyword position CTR) x (keyword search volume) x (organic conversion rate) x (organic average order value)
When possible, we like to make these calculations at a categorical level, applying unique conversion rate and average order volume (AOV) data to get the most accurate results.
4. Content analysis and selection
After assessing the value of keywords and micro-moments, one final step needs to occur before defining content topics and types. It’s important to examine and dissect the search results and content that currently exists for each keyword. Because Google takes into account the context of each search term and displays the most relevant results, the types of results revealed will give you an idea of the intent behind the query.
For example, a search term with modifiers like “best” or “top” may imply the user is seeking an article, blog post or list, while a search term that includes modifiers like “discount” or “buy” may suggest the user is looking for a product page.
Inspecting content types indexed in search results can inform future content that will succeed at each stage of the consumer journey. Particularly, deciphering content trends for each phase will inform the long-term content strategy for brands and agencies to begin building together.
With micro-moments inspired by Google, savvy marketers can see the consumer journey through a new lens and gain further insights from keyword categorization. Google has recently published an article, “Micro-Moments: 5 Questions to Ask Your Agency,” that concisely summarizes many of the aforementioned steps and recommendations. We highly encourage reviewing for assessing agency partners and internal teams alike.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.