As digital marketers, we ask ourselves this question a lot to help us think about how to complete the customer journey.
“How do you get customers to complete the desired action on a website, like purchasing a product or signing up for a newsletter?”
Surely, the first answer that comes to mind is - optimize all the various elements responsible for conversions.
But useful as quick tweaks to improve search visibility or paying mind to SEO basics might be, those tactics only focus on visitors who already are in the right place on the site. What about customers you need to guide there in the first place?
For that, you need to optimize the entire customer journey. In this post, I’ll discuss how to build a better customer journey to ensure that web visitors complete any action you want them to do on your site.
First, let's start with some basics.
What is a Customer Journey?
A customer journey is exactly what it sounds like. This is the path that users take in following the buying cycle, a process varies from industry to industry, but contains three main stages in its framework:
- Awareness. The stage at which a person realizes they have a particular need or pain point and begin learning more about it. Most buyers exhibit an informational intent at this stage, and their main objective is to explore the problem and general options at their disposal.
- Evaluation. At this stage, buyers begin evaluating available solutions, products or vendors. Their research will focus on more transactional or commercial terms, as they look for data to justify their purchase decision.
- Decision. Finally, a person has collected all the information they need and is ready to make a purchase. They use transactional phrases to find a vendor or a website to buy the item they’ve chosen.
We've detailed this process and provided the necessary tools to build a customer journey map with content on an earlier blog about content mapping. A content or customer journey map illustrate the different steps that your customers take in their relationship with you - from prospect to purchase and beyond.
An Approach to Building a Better Customer Journey
As we've said before, "when you’ve mapped your content along the buyer’s journey, defining an SEO content strategy becomes ridiculously easy."
So, how do we do that? Follow the five steps below:
#1. Understand Your Customers
If there’s one thing we are confident about, the modern buying behavior is complicated. Just take a look at how the guys at AdEspresso have illustrated the process from identifying a problem to selecting a solution to buy:
And that’s exactly how we buy. For example, in their report, “The Changing Face of B2B Marketing,” Google states (note, the emphasis in bold is mine):
“On average, B2B researchers do 12 searches prior to engaging on a specific brand's site.”
And the search engine’s Customer Journey tool outlines the complexity of the online buyer’s journey (note, the below example pertains to SMEs in the Internet and Telecom space):
But here is the most important part: The only way to meet the modern customer’s expectations is by first thoroughly understanding them and their needs.
At a minimum, you should know:
- Who your customers are
- What specific problems your service or products could solve for them
- What other insights they’re looking for
- Devices they use on their journey
- Channels they use to find and locate information
- Their experiences so far
- Competitor websites they might be visiting as well
As the next step, you must convert those into actionable insights, finding gaps and opportunities that would help you position your brand along every step of their journey towards purchase.
#2. Understand Their Intent
It’s safe to assume that everyone landing on your site is looking for something. It could be to find out more about you, get a product they desperately need or even learn more about their problem. Depending on what that need is, they’ll engage with different content on your site.
Recommended Reading: User Intent Uncovered: What You Need to Know to Scale
For instance, customers looking for information will most likely want to see some proof that any claims you make are true. However, to engage with people looking to buy, you’ll need to send them directly to a product page (or at least, make sure they get there in the fewest steps).
In other words, to improve the customer journey, you need to understand their intent for visiting the site. And then, ensure that they get to the right information as quickly as possible.
One way to establish that is by analyzing the keywords that have brought customers to various sections of the site. Simply split your keywords into commercial, informative, and local. Then, assess what pages people looking for those phrases have landed on to truly understand what they were looking for.
seoClarity helps you understand your audience's intent to make sure you're focused on the RIGHT target audience. Our Search Volume research tool uses Google Keyword Planner for search volume. However, this tool allows more advanced filter options, does not have any limitations, and uses a more graphical way to help you understand quickly users' intent based on your primary keywords that relate to your product or service. Here's a quick example using the primary keyword for this post, customer journey.
#3. Conduct a Consumer Research Study
The two strategies I discussed so far focused on making educated and data-based guesses about your audience. I recommend learning more about your customers directly from them by conducting a customer research study. Or, in simpler terms, ask them questions that would help uncover your customers’ motivations for engaging with your brand.
There is a number of ways you can do this:
- Create and run online surveys with open-ended questions. Let your customers tell you more about their motivations, needs, and objectives in their own words. Careful to no overuse close-ended questions that might in restrict them. A good example of an open-ended question is seeking out reasons they want solutions like yours, or challenges with selecting the ideal solution.
- Conduct in-person interviews with the most engaged customers. Talking one-to-one with your best customers can help you go deeper into their buying habits, and learn the process they go through when selecting solutions similar to yours.
- Install on-site surveys on your website. Finally, install online survey widgets on your site to capture direct insight from web visitors.
#4. Create an Experience Map Based on the Information You Collect
An experience map, a term I picked up from Adaptive Path (you can check out their guide to experience maps here), is a visual representation of the customer journey with the emphasis on the experience a person has at each touchpoint.
Here’s an example of a detailed experience map from Adaptive Path:
Of course, Adaptive Path’s process relates to more than just SEO (however, I strongly recommend you familiarize yourself with it). You could use the framework to create an SEO-experience map of the entire interaction a customer’s has at each entry point to your site. And then, define their experience at each stage. As a result, you’ll have a complete framework of the customer journey, along with their expectations and the path they need to take to complete the desired action.
#5. Create Content that Delivers on Customer Expectations
As the final step, you need to use all this insight to create content that will deliver on your customer’s expectations at every stage of the journey.
That means more than just being relevant. You should:
- Map keywords to the person’s intent behind visiting your site. This way, you’ll ensure that Google indexes the right pages for relevant keywords.
- Identify their information deficiencies to deliver content that truly satisfies your customers’ needs.
seoClarity offers a content discovery tool that gives you an insight into what your audience is asking. This helps you to deliver highly-relevant information based on opportunities you discover in every search phrase. Here is another example using keyword, customer journey, to discover other content ideas to deliver on our users' expectations.
In conclusion, to get customers to complete the desired action on a website, you need to optimize more than the various elements on a page. You need to improve the customer journey and ensure visitors have a positive experience at every touch point with your site.