Search engine optimization (SEO) is becoming highly competitive every year with big search engines like Google receiving over 60,000 searches per second on any given day.
That’s over 1 billion search terms every month from people all over the world, including ones that have commercial intent.
It only makes sense then to be strategic with your business’ SEO campaign particularly with keyword use.
Keywords, after all, are the bread and butter of search engine optimization.
While it’s easy to search for relevant keywords, many marketers still fail to factor in the buyer’s journey which can create a huge impact on the user’s experience.
What is the Buyer’s Journey?
The buyer’s journey is a process that a person goes through before they make a purchase.
Each user will be at a different point of the buyer’s journey and your job as a marketer is to nudge that user into becoming a customer.
It takes more than just a technical savvy person to come up with a relevant keyword list that converts.
You need to put yourself in your target user’s shoes and try to guess what keywords they will use in each stage of the buyer’s journey.
The same strategy should be applied to PPC campaigns.
Ads appear on top of organic search results so the chances of your page getting found by searchers are higher.
Also, did you know that half of users can’t distinguish between organic and paid results?
So regardless of whether your landing page comes up as an ad or an organic search result, users will still click on it if it they think it contains information they’re looking for.
Stages of the Buyer’s Journey
Let’s delve a bit deeper into each of the stages of the buyer’s journey and get to know each one of them.
The number of stages vary by niche and type of buyer. Some niches have a shorter process while others take longer before a user converts into a buyer.
Whatever niche your business may be in, it all boils down to these three main stages: awareness, consideration, and decision.
The buyer starts off not knowing your brand, your product, or your service. They don’t even know they have a problem which can be solved by your offer.
At this stage, you want to develop your audience by providing them with informational content.
Get them interested. They won’t buy from you yet but they might later once they know more about your product.
Once the buyer has learned enough about a topic and have identified that they too have a similar problem, they will begin to do research on the potential providers who can help them solve that problem.
It’s easy to find information on the internet these days and as a result, people are more savvy with their purchases.
They just won’t buy a product or service unless they get more information about it.
They want to make an informed decision so they look for reviews and demos on the internet to see which brand can offer them the best solution.
After doing research and comparing different brands, the buyer arrives at a decision.
They may even have a specific brand in mind but they still need more information before they make that final decision.
During this stage of the buyer’s journey, they will search for the brand and qualify it further.
Once they find the information they’re looking for, they proceed to make the purchase.
How Stages of the Buyer’s Journey Affect Search Intent
So you’re probably wondering, “What does this have to do with my keywords?
Can’t I just use all the important keywords and sprinkle them throughout my content?”
Nope! Ranking for highly relevant keywords is a pointless endeavor if they are not used strategically in your content.
People are very complex and not everyone will be at the same stage of the buyer’s journey.
You’re better off using a few highly targeted keywords on each page of your site rather than having them compete with each other for all keywords.
You want to capture leads in all the different stages but you also don’t want to dilute your pages with too many keywords otherwise, you risk not being found or worse, you turn off the user because your content has no focus.
So let’s say you want to attract users who are already at the Decision Stage.
For this, you want to create content that caters to a buy-ready customer and in it should be keywords that have commercial intent in them.
The same goes for the other stages. Once you identify the intent for a search query, you can craft relevant content that answers the searcher’s question.
B2C and the B2B Buyer: How are They are Different?
I mentioned earlier that the complexity of the buyer’s journey can vary depending on the type of buyer. For now, let’s distinguish them into two types:
- B2C (business to customer)
- B2B (business to business)
Here’s how a typical buyer’s journey of a B2C customer looks like:
A consumer discovers a product through advertising and marketing techniques.
They go to the internet to look for specifications and reviews of that product. (There’s a chance they might change their mind if they find a product with better features than the initial one they found.)
If it’s a major purchase, the consumer might consult with friends and family to further validate their purchase, though the decision is ultimately up to the consumer.
After looking through dozens of reviews, demos, and guides online, the consumer arrives at a decision and makes the purchase.
Now let’s compare that to the typical B2B buyer’s journey:
A business identifies a need as part of their overall business strategy.
They evaluate product specifications first, set a budget, and outline the benefits.
They don’t proceed to the next stage unless the specifications get a sign off from a senior executive in the company.
They then begin to look for suppliers. Often, they check for the supplier’s reputation and reliability.
Once they have gotten quotes from different suppliers, they have a discussion with the committee before deciding.
Business customers tend to be long-term buyers so customer service is a big factor in the company’s decision to make a purchase.
If their needs are met, they become a regular customer for that supplier. The stakes are higher for B2B buyers so they tend to spend more time in the Consideration Stage compared to the B2C customer.
The B2B buyer’s journey tends to be more exhaustive than the B2C customer but they still go through the main stages that we discussed earlier.
Find out which of the two your target buyer belongs to so you have a better idea of the process they go through. This allows you to create content that best fits their needs.
How to Do Keyword Research for Each Stage of the Buyer’s Journey
During keyword research, you should segment your keyword list by each stage of the buyer’s journey and make sure that they are applied on relevant pages/posts on your site.
Let’s say you have a brand called Best Damn Camera Company and you’re selling point and shoot cameras.
A target buyer who is at the Awareness Stage is likely looking for more information about point and shoot cameras.
If you want to attract that buyer into your site, you better make sure that you have content that answers their query.
Of course, you won’t know what to write unless you research first what users are actually searching for.
For this, you need to do keyword research and distinguish them by stage.
In this part of the article, let’s review again the stages of the buyer’s journey, analyze the search term differences, and explore the types of content that work for each.
Keyword Phrases and Content Ideas for the Awareness Stage
Your target buyer has no idea about your point and shoot camera brand yet. Heck, they don’t even know they need a point and shoot camera
During this stage, their search terms would look something like this:
- “how does a point and shoot camera work”
- “point and shoot camera advantages”
- “settings on a point and shoot camera”
Apply these keywords on informational content like tips sheets, checklists, how-to videos, and whitepapers.
The goal is to get the buyer to be interested in your product so provide them with as much information that they need.
The more helpful you are, the more likely they are to trust your brand.
Keyword Phrases and Content Ideas for the Consideration Stage
The buyer now has a better understanding of your product. The next step is to convince them that they should choose your brand over others.
Many people take photos from their smartphones. If not, they opt for a high caliber tool like the DSLR.
With this in mind, the search terms your target audiences could be using are the following:
- “point and shoot camera vs. dslr”
- “point and shoot camera as good as iphone”
- “point and shoot camera reviews”
- “point and shoot camera 2017”
- “best point and shoot cameras under $300”
Since your searchers are likely searching for reviews and doing brand comparisons, you may as well target comparison keywords too.
These phrases have low competition and it helps your target readers to analyze your product in an interesting format.
Other types of content you can do for this stage include case studies, frequently asked questions, data sheets, and demo videos.
Keywords Phrases and Content Ideas for the Decision Stage
At this point, the buyer has already evaluated the product based on the criteria they have set themselves.
They just need that one final piece of information before they can make a decision. Searching for that information can manifest in keywords like these:
- “point and shoot at walmart”
- “point and shoot camera canon”
- “point and shoot camera deals”
- “point and shoot camera best buy ”
- “buy best damn camera company and point and shoot”
For this stage of the buyer’s journey, you want to supply your searcher with content that matches those queries.
Types of content that works well for this type of customer are free demos, free trials, sales, deals, and consultation.
Here’s an example of a keyword list provided to use by Google Suggest.
From this list alone, we can already formulate questions that users think about when searching for your product:
- What settings are available on a point and shoot camera?
- What is a good point and shoot camera that’s under $200?
- What point and shoot camera is just as good as an iPhone?
- What point and shoot camera is just as good as a DSLR?
- What point and shoot camera has a WiFi?
- What point and shoot camera has a GPS?
It also helps to do market research and learn more about your target buyer.
Find out what their pain points are and produce content that answers those pain points.
Make sure to use relevant keywords that best matches the stage a buyer is in.
To get to know your audience even more, you can you can look through platforms like social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and forums (Quora, Reddit, etc.) to get a good idea of what your target customers are talking about.
Search for your niche and see what discussions revolve around the type of products or services you offer.
Prioritizing Your Keywords
Prioritization is another important aspect of the keyword research process.
You’ll be competing with millions of other businesses so finding the sweet spot with keyword competition and search volume is the way to go.
Don’t focus on keywords that are too general as they are highly competitive.
A searcher who lands on your page for this type of keyword is also less likely to convert since their intent was not that specific in the first place.
You also want to avoid terms that are too long. The longer a keyword is, the lower the search volume is likely to be.
Instead, you can begin with keywords that have the least competition but still have a reasonable amount of search volume. The goal is to be found by enough users that you can move through the sales funnel.
Tailoring Your Ads and Content Based on the Buyer’s Journey Stage
By now, you should already have a list of keywords for every stage of the buyer’s journey.
Before you create content and ads for your most important keywords, take some time to optimize your existing assets first.
Identify the stage of the buyer’s journey each content and ad caters to and optimize for keywords that best fits the user’s intent.
Add your most relevant keywords to the most important parts of your page such as your title tag, header tags (H1, H2, etc.), and meta description.
Just be careful not to stuff your content or ad with keywords otherwise, you risk appearing as spam.
You want to rank for search engines but then again, you also want to make sense to the user who is reading your content.
We recommend that you use just one specific keyword or phrases for each page/post.
This is to keep your content focused and undiluted. Variations are fine; just be sure they are relevant. You need to make sure that the topic of your page/post is focused on one topic only.
Along the way, you’ll learn that you lack content that answers the need of a specific buyer’s journey stage.
Create new, relevant content and fill those gaps.
If you have content and keywords that are already performing well in search engines, analyze those and find out what’s working.
Is it the headlines, the description, or the content itself?
Maintain those assets and compare their performance against your newly optimized content. See which one works better.
Google used to be able to provide webmasters with accurate data for each keyword’s organic performance but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.
Searches are encrypted which means you can no longer track keyword data in Google Analytics.
While Google can no longer provide you with accurate data on the effectiveness of your keywords, you can still measure it yourself by tracking your traffic.
Observe the pages performance overtime and see if there is an improvement.
If traffic is increasing, you are on the right track. If there is no change, consider optimizing your content for a different but still relevant keyword.
Keyword research may seem like a daunting task to some but all it really is are terms and phrases that your target buyers are likely to use when searching for your products and services.
Put yourself in the mindset of your customer with the help of buyer personas and find out what keywords these people would use to find your product.
You are one step ahead of your competitors when you consider the buyer’s journey when doing keyword research.
You become aware of your target user’s needs and are more capable of providing them with the information they most need at the stage they are in.
Start aligning your SEO efforts with the buyer’s journey and your leads will be more likely to trust and buy from you as you consistently give them information that’s relevant to them.