Do Your Keywords Account for Every Stage of the Customer Buying Cycle?

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At the end of the day, the main goal of most SEO campaigns is to drive more targeted, organic, non-branded traffic from the SERPs to your website. The keywords you target on your site and with your content marketing efforts have a significant impact on the kinds of searches your website will rank for. Not everyone is going to search for the same thing in the same way, and depending on where searchers are in their buying cycle, they might be looking for different kinds of information. That’s why your keywords have to cover every stage of the customer buying cycle and include both informational and commercial keywords.

Informational Keywords

Informational keywords tend to have the highest amount of search volume because they are being used by searchers at the very beginning of their buying cycle and can lead searchers down many paths. Since these keywords have more search volume, they are “worth” a lot more to the companies targeting them with their SEO, since even 10% of 20,000 searches from one keyword would be a nice bump in organic traffic. This increase in competition makes it that much harder to rank well in the SERPs for these informational keywords, simply because so many other sites are fighting for top billing.

Let’s say I am an inventor and I need to hire a patent attorney. I have no idea how much I should pay for their services, how to tell if a patent attorney is trustworthy, and so forth. So my searches for “patent attorney” are going to involve more informational and broad keywords at the beginning as I’m looking to gather as much information as I can before making a final decision.  As I learn more, I might search for things like “patenting my idea,” “how to patent my invention,” “invention patent,” and more.

Broader keywords don’t usually convert as well as long-tail keywords because, as I mentioned before, they can take so many directions based on user intent. For instance, when I did a quick search for “patent attorney” the 4th site I saw in the SERPs (after all the local listings) was about how someone can become a patent attorney. As an inventor, that doesn’t help me very much. However, an actual patent attorney isn’t going to avoid targeting “patent attorney” as a keyword simply because some of the searchers might be looking for a new career path. This informational keyword could drive a lot of potential business to their site early on in the buying cycle, giving them more time to educate, inform, and build a rapport with those visitors. As the inventor, I might not pick up the phone and call the first result I click on, but maybe I scope out their services, read some of the blog, download a white paper about filing patents, and file that particular attorney away in the back of my mind. As I continue my searching and move further along my buying cycle, if I see that site again I might be more inclined to click back over.

Informational keywords are an important part of your SEO program because they can help introduce your website to a wider audience and help turn your company into a resource for those customers as they move through their buying cycle.

Commercial Keywords

Commercial keywords tend to be used by searchers who are further along in their buying cycle and are getting ready to pull the trigger. Obviously words like “buy,” “download,” “order,” and so forth are strong indicators that someone is looking to convert soon, but not every commercial keyword has to include a purchasing word like those. For example, let’s say I was interested in starting a vegetable garden in my backyard. My informational searches might be things like “planting a vegetable garden, “easy vegetables to grow,” “first time gardening tips,” and so forth. I’m not necessarily looking to buy anything just yet; I’m just trying to get a better understanding of what I’m getting myself into. However, as I move through my buying cycle and am getting ready to actually start planting, my searches might evolve to included things like “vegetable garden starter kit,” “vegetable garden soil mix,” or “raised vegetable garden bed.”  I don’t specifically say I want to buy something in my search phrase, but what I am searching for indicates I’m looking for a specific thing as opposed to general information.

Commercial keywords are an important part of your SEO campaign because these are the keywords that tend to make the money. While the conversion rate might be higher, more long-tail and specific keywords also tend to have a smaller search volume, meaning a smaller pie for you to drive traffic from. For instance, “vegetable gardening” might drive 3,000 visitors to a particular site while “organic vegetable garden pesticides” may only send 50 in the same time frame. However, someone using the more commercial keyword knows what they are looking for specifically and might be more inclined to buy sooner rather than later.

When it comes to SEO, you have to make certain that your keywords cover all stages of the buying cycle—all the way from the initial information gathering phase right up until the point where they pull out their credit card. Depending on what you are selling and how much it costs, the buying cycle might take several months to complete. Imagine if you had to lay down $10,000 for a product—you would probably take your time, right? Or your customer’s buying cycle could be relatively short if it’s a relatively straightforward purchase. But a good SEO campaign seeks to target both informational and commercial keywords because it helps your website appear in the SERPs for the broadest possible audience.

About the Author

Nick Stamoulis is the President of Boston SEO solutions company Brick Marketing (http://www.brickmarketing.com/). With over 13 years of industry experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his SEO knowledge by writing in the Brick Marketing Blog and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO newsletter, read by over 120,000 opt-in subscribers.

Contact Nick Stamoulis at 781-999-1222 or nick@brickmarketing.com

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