The Searcher's Follow-Through
Just getting people to click your link on the search results page is not enough. Your Web site has a purpose, whether it is persuading a customer to purchase more of your product, coaxing a prospect to provide his e-mail address, or convincing someone to exercise. No matter what you do in search marketing, the job is not done unless the searcher not only finds your site, but also follows through.
Visitors landing on your site from search engines exhibit specific behavior when they arrivesearchers typically decide within ten seconds whether to click further. Searchers tend to click further when your page contains the following:
But what stops them from completing their task? Like it or not, people are far less patient with Web sites that do not work their way than they are with offline businesses.
Consider what you would do if you drove to the store, spent a few minutes putting items in your cart, and went to the register and saw a rather long linemaybe you will be waiting for five or ten minutes to check out. Most of us would grin and bear it. We might be annoyed, but we would wait semi-patiently and check out. If it happened frequently enough, however, we might start avoiding that store.
Now think about an equivalent experience on the Web. You spend a few minutes placing several items in your cart, and then you get to the checkout and it is slow. Each time you click it takes 10 to 15 seconds to respond. Then it takes 30 seconds on the next screen. What would you do?
Many of you would abandon that site and go somewhere else, even though it means starting all over (and though you would wait 10 minutes in a brick-and-mortar store to do the same thing). Why? Because it is so quick to go to another Web store, that is why. You know that you will only spend a few minutes doing it, and you will recover all your lost time, whereas it might take considerably longer to retrace your steps in a physical store.
Successful Web sites construct the optimal path for their visitor to follow to complete any task, and the only way to do that is to understand your visitor's behavior. Throughout this chapter, we have discussed how searchers get to your site, but now we need to consider how they follow through after they have arrived. To understand your Web visitor's behavior, you need to develop a behavior model. We show you one technique for developing behavior models called the Web Conversion Cycle.
The Web Conversion Cycle
You work with behavior models every day, but perhaps you do not think of them in those terms. If you own a retail store, it is understood that customers enter the store, look around at the merchandise, pick a few things out, and take them to the register to pay. That is a behavior model. Your Web visitors use a model, too, and you need to take that into account when you try to measure the success of your search campaign.
Just like the retail store, your Web site is designed to drive to a conversion, such as purchasing a product. But both the retail site and your Web site have secondary goals, such as allowing returns or repairs of products, which you can also count as successful Web conversions.
We should account for the main user goals in our behavior model, which we call the Web Conversion Cycle. In Chapter 5, "Identify Your Web Site's Goals," we help you define your own Web Conversion Cycle to model visitor behavior on your Web site. But for now, let's look at just one example, as shown in Figure 4-6.
Figure 4-6. A behavior model for personal computer sales. Visitors satisfy their information needs before buying, and return for technical support.
As we look at our example of the Web Conversion Cycle, we can see that visitors might start out with a problem (primary demand) and must Learn about what kinds of solutions exist. When informed, they can choose a type of solution and Shop for a particular product (selective demand). If they are persuaded that they have found the right product and the right deal, they can Buy the product, and then wait to Get it before they Use it. Let's look at each step in more detail.
Your visitor starts by learning how to solve her problem, and is said to be in the Learn step. The information on your site was carefully written to discuss her problem and gradually lead her to explore your products, which can solve her problem.
At the moment she begins examining pricing or comparing features of your product, she is shopping. Visitors in the Shop step need different information than those in the Learn activitylearners are trying to figure out what kind of product can help them, whereas shoppers are gathering information leading to the purchase of a specific product.
After your shopper chooses a specific product, she is buying. In the Buy step, she lands on a particular product page, examining the information carefully to decide whether to place the item in her cart. The Buy activity includes all the steps of placing an item in her cart, checking out, and actually completing the purchase.
After buying the product, the visitor waits to get the purchase, which typically takes several days. During the Get step, she might check online order status to see when the item is shipped and might use tracking numbers from overnight shipping vendors to ascertain the delivery date of her order.
After she has received her purchase, she begins to use it. Depending on the product, there might be many specific steps in the Use activity, ranging from assembly, to installation, to asking "how to" questions, to solving a problem. If the customer is happy with the product, she might decide to return to your site to purchase something else from you.
How Visitor Behavior Affects Search Marketing
There are lots of ways to use the Web Conversion Cycle in your business, but we can start by examining how these visitor behaviors affect the search queries they enter and how you can design your pages to capture those searchers for your site. Let's look at four of the most important steps in the Web Conversion Cycle and see where search fits in.
The Learn Stage
Many visitors start out needing to Learn more about what you sell before they consider a purchase, and they frequently use informational search queries to do so. To ensure visitors find your site when they enter the informational queries, write articles with objective information comparing multiple solutions to the problem. The articles should lead visitors to conclude that your product is the best solution in most cases. Make sure that you help them understand the product category and show them a few choices (retailer) or show them why yours is best (manufacturer).
The Shop Stage
Not all visitors start at the Learn step. Some know what kind of product they want to buy, but need to Shop for the particular brand or model. They are still entering informational queries, but they are more specific now than in the Learn step. Learners search for "computer," whereas shoppers look for "laptop computer."
As you design your site, you must ensure that you have product category pages, not just model pages. For example, create a page that lists of all of your DVD players with an explanation of how they work. That way, you capture search traffic for shoppers entering the "dvd players" query, not just buyers using queries that name particular brands or models. Use the three-second rule from direct marketing: Can the customer tell what you are selling in three seconds? If not, simplify your copy.
The Buy Stage
The most valuable searchers to capture for your site are the ones who are ready to Buy. Even if they did not visit your site to Learn or Shop, if you can capture them here, you can make the sale.
When searchers want to buy your product, they enter specific transactional queries, such as "sony dvd player" or "dell inspiron 1150." Your pages are probably already using the right words for these pages to ensure being found, but you must also add content that answers any lingering questions to encourage the visitor to put the product in a cart and check out.
The Use Stage
For some products, especially technology products, the majority of Web site visitors need help while trying to Use the product. A few years ago, customers needing help were more likely to come directly to your site to solve their problem, but more and more they now head to Yahoo! or Google to search for their answer.
You want these searchers to find your site for several reasons, including the following: