Since Google launched in 1998, the company has been working endlessly to improve the relevancy and accuracy of their results. We have seen many game changing algorithms over the years that have a specific emphasis on quality, reputation and expertise.
This is why basic on-page optimisation and website maintenance is not enough for an advanced SEO strategy these days. Marketers need to understand the customer and how SEO can play a bigger role from the research to conversion journey.
The customer journey can often be much more complex than searching a product, clicking on a website and converting in that same session. Often, users will access the website multiple times through different channels and each channel plays a role in pushing that person closer to conversion.
Think about the last time you searched for a product to buy for example. The last product I searched for was a dress for a themed party, below is the journey I took.
Highlighted in bright green are events where I had accessed a website from an organic listing. The blue is where I interacted with other channels.
In this journey I interacted with organic marketing, PPC, Shopping, Apps and forums. This was a relatively short journey of which I completed in less than a day.
Since my purchase I now see ads in my social feed and on other websites I visit for brands I only learnt about in that search increasing my awareness and likelihood to revisit these websites.
Some journeys are much simpler and other journeys are much more complex spanning over days, weeks and even months.
There are several stages to purchase which are all present in the journey outlined above.
Customer Journey Layers
Highlighting the areas of my journey buying a dress, we can see how much activity occurred during the research phase and how many different areas of search marketing I encountered.
We can also see what role SEO had in my decision to purchase.
The first thing I did was navigate to Google and typed in a broad term looking for visual inspiration. From research, my search flips between more specific terminology and branded terms.
Until finally, I was further down the funnel and needed to compare different brands based on reviews and price.
What is important in the final decision to conversion is dependent on many different variables such as industry, price, time sensitivity, location and value.
Marketers can enhance their SEO strategies by understanding what is important to their customers, what their customers need to know to convert and exactly where their content will lie in the customer journey and how to build that content to fulfil that role.
How to map a customer journey
Mapping the customer journey is a crucial first step in any digital marketing strategy that encompasses all channels.
Every map is laid out differently to fulfil the company needs and priorities. Below are some great examples of customer journey mapping encompassing many marketing channels and the whole organisation.
Image source: https://heartofthecustomer.com/
The two main questions to ask when mapping your own customer journey are:
- What journey do you want the user to take?
- What journey would the user like to take?
Does your journey match what your customers want? If not, how can you ensure that your users are having the best and most efficient experience whilst getting the information you want them to know in front of them?
For example, if there is a white paper you want people to download, but your users are initially looking for a quick answer – Write your content to make them ask more questions that your white paper answers with a one click download available on the same page or, the form available on the same page.
Don’t just guess your customers journey, you need to conduct in-depth customer profiling and find out the following information:
- Who are your audience?
- What are they looking for?
- What is the customer feeling?
- What is the customer thinking?
- What is important to them?
- What are the customer touch points?
- Are there any pain points?
- When are the moments of truth?
You’re going to need qualitative data to have a better understanding of the true customer journey.
Get talking to your customers and ask the questions that will support you when building your map. Many companies use surveys and offer an incentive but be aware that many of the answers could be false just to get the incentive. If you have the means, a conversation through telephone, face to face and even social media is the best way to gather truthful information.
Gathering quantative and qualitative data about who your customers are and what they need will give you a more accurate understanding of where your ideal customer journey aligns with what the user actually wants and any gaps you need to fill.
Once you’ve laid out the customer journey you need to pin point where SEO could have a significant part to play. What content should be there? Informational, inspirational, navigational or transactional?
Planning the right content
You have your map laid out of what role every marketing channel plays in the journey to conversion but now you need to decide what type of content you need to do.
If we take the example of buying floorboards for a DIY project we may want to think about the following.
Users are likely to do some research on what flooring they want. This is where they want to find inspiration of what colours, patterns and sizes they want to use.
Keyword research informs us that many users are searching for:
|Key Term||Search Volume|
|Kitchen flooring ideas||5400|
|Patterned floor tiles||8100|
|Wood flooring ideas||320|
|Carpet trends 2018||170|
|Modern flooring ideas||140|
Using this keyword research, we’ll create a content silo around what type of flooring to choose per room, what colours and patterns are trendy.
These will be inspirational pieces that are targeted towards what people actually search for with added awareness through platforms where the audience lies such as Pinterest, Instagram, Houzz and Facebook.
Moving through the funnel, our user has now decided what colour they want to go for but they’re not sure on how to lay the floor themselves or even if they should do it themselves. This is where we will create a content strategy around How to illustrations and videos. This content will bring up tools and other materials such as underlay or cement adhesive that the user may not have thought about. If your site sells these products this is a great place to provide a link to all of the items the user needs.
The user knows what style and material they want, they know what accessories they need, and they know the basics of laying a floor. They’ve followed your links to the products but decided to shop around.
This is where you want to make sure the content on your category and product pages are clear and concise providing the user with all the information they need and ultimately, why they should purchase from you over a competitor. Sometimes it comes down to delivery and price which is where competitor analysis and the customer data gathered will help nail down those decisive factors.
Post Purchase Stage
Once the user has converted, this does not mean the journey has stopped. In this case, the user is now in the middle of laying a floor for the first time, but they’ve come to an issue they never thought about for example: ‘laminate flooring around doors’.
The user doesn’t have to worry because you’ll have just the piece of content that’s going to tell them exactly how to deal with this situation. The trust in the brand increases and the chances of the user conducting a brand search on their next DIY project has increased.
SEO should be used as part of the wider digital marketing strategy and not in isolation. Map your customer journey and take your SEO strategy to the next level.