Although it is important to consider ROI when developing a search marketing strategy, there are many other factors you should consider for long term success of a business. Typically in an SEO campaign, your first and most critical step is keyword research. This sets the stage for your SEO efforts. Before you begin keyword research, it's essential to understand your consumers and their decision making process. Being visible in critical stages of the consumer decision process will build brand awareness and ensure that you are at the top of searchers' minds.
There is more to keyword research than just search volume and researching competitors. It is key to understand your customer base and their search behavior. For example, there are many tools such as Google Insights and Google Trends that can help you better understand what's trending and how searchers find your product or service. It may also be beneficial to conduct a survey to gain insight into how your customer makes a purchase decision.
As you are conducting keyword research and trying to find the best opportunities, there are some factors to consider when planning for long term success. A search marketing strategy, like any business strategy should have both long and short term goals. While every search marketing strategy should focus on profitability, there are other factors that help build the credibility of your brand. These factors are difficult to measure; however, if you consider the principles I've outlined below and take some time to better understand your consumer; it will greatly affect the results of your search marketing efforts.
Outlined here are the stages of the consumer research process when making a purchase decision. The time from beginning to end of the cycle can vary greatly depending on the price and technicality of the product or service.
Awareness of a Need
This is the beginning of every purchase decision and can be stimulated by a need or want. It could be as basic as being hungry and recognizing the need for food or could be created by an advertisement for the iPhone 4s.
In this stage of the buyer decision process, it's vital that your brand is at the forefront of your consumer’s minds, or at the forefront of where they will seek information (search engines). This is the stage where consumers are doing the majority of their research. For example, if you are in the market to buy a point and shoot camera, you may conduct a general search for point and shoot cameras. Conducting this search will help you in the information search phase and allow you to determine which brand of camera and what features are available.
Depending on your business and the resources available to you, you will want to develop a strategy to be visible for relevant search terms. This may include targeting keywords that will not generate a sale on the first visit. Not only is it important to be visible for the keyword but it’s also important to understand where your customers go for information through searching Google or visiting review sites.
At this stage your consumers are finished feeling out the market and have developed a consideration set. Depending on the product and the industry, most consumers have a consideration set of about 3-5 different brands or products.
Most SEO strategies try to catch consumers at this stage of the purchase process, as this represents the lowest hanging fruit. However, if your business has not done due diligence up to this point, your brand or product will not be in the consideration set, therefore potentially ruining your chances of making a sale. To this point, if your brand has reached your consumer at each stage of the decision process your chances of making a sale are much higher.
At this stage of the decision process, you have the opportunity to continue your relationship with your customer. This is where your customers determine their satisfaction level of your product or service. Here you have the opportunity to encourage your customers to write reviews on your business and turn them into repeat customers. It is much easier to keep a customer than acquire a new one.
Once you've thought through the consumer research process for your business, it will help you better conduct keyword research, and help you determine the strategic moves you need to make to be visible to your consumer. All stages of the purchase decision process are important, and it's vital to have a strategy surrounding each stage of the process. The majority of SEO strategies focus on the purchase decision phase, by the time the consumer is in that stage it may be too late. Your search marketing strategy can incorporate anything from retargeting, utilizing pay per click services, SEO or a combination.
As you can see, search marketing presents opportunities in all stages of the buying process. To have the most effective search marketing strategy that will lead to increased brand awareness and long term success of your business, it is advantageous to incorporate a wide range of keywords as well as other elements of search marketing that work best for your business.