You own an online business and you've heard it thousands of time before: If you're not on page 1 on the Google search engine results pages then your business is not going to do well.
Far from us to say this isn't true as being ranked well is of course extremely important to drive traffic to a website. However this is only one part of the equation for your business since good rankings do not guarantee revenue or conversions.
One thing that is very often forgotten by online businesses is how customers search for information and what their purchasing decision process is.
The purchasing decision process
Depending on the person, the value of the item and the emotional involvement in the purchase, it can take from a few seconds to a few weeks or even months for someone to decide to buy a product.
In terms of online marketing, there are however 3 main phases taken into consideration which can be observed in this time frame:
Awareness > Consideration > Purchase
With increasing amounts of information available online, competition and other factors such as friends and the economy affecting a potential customer, it is critical for online businesses to ensure that they use the right messages and marketing channels to cover each step of the decision process.
In this initial phase, your potential target audience may not even be aware of your company or products, especially if you're a new business. So it is very important that you start communicating with them around your brand and what you represent in order to increase brand recognition and awareness.
Here are some suggestions of what you could do to increase awareness:
- Paid search - if your website is new it may not rank very well organically, so using paid search will give you the ability to get visibility in search engines almost instantly. Bidding on generic keywords for your specific industry will bring more awareness
- Social media - start building some authority around your brand by building a community of potential customers. Use Twitter and Facebook for example to engage with your potential audience and share
- PR and content - writing and syndicating some good quality content is a very effective way to get people to talk about you
- SEO - ensure your website provides useful information and is optimised for conversions. Display useful content for new visitors or people who may not know your brand yet
Now that your audience is getting to know you it is important that you stand out from the crowd and your competition by communicating on your USPs (unique selling points). What makes your product unique, is it cheaper, better quality, easier to use? By answering those questions you should be able to focus your marketing activities for users in consideration phase, and think how you could turn them into customers.
Once again there are a range of tools you can use to help user sin the consideration phase, but your main aim here is to display messaging explaining why they should choose you rather than a competitor.
- Paid search - dedicated ads for more specific searches with landing pages aimed at users already aware of your brand or of the products available
- SEO - optimise your website for keywords around your USPs. Ensure these USPs are displayed prominently across key pages
- Social media - engage with your followers, people who like you and your community. Keep them aware of discounts, product news, benefits to them
- Content - start syndicating link worthy content across your community and build your authority
- Reviews - encourage product reviews and discussions around your products and brand
By this point potential customers have done their research, they know your brand and what products are available on the market. They may even have asked their friends or checked review sites for advice. What is needed now is an incentive for them to buy your products.
- Paid search - create campaigns around brand terms and/or product names since at this stage your potential customers will know about you. Link these campaigns to highly targeted landing pages with clear calls to action - buy now, order now
- Conversion optimisation / website content - ensure your website is fully optimised for conversions: usable forms, clear calls to action, simple purchasing funnels, reassurance signs
- Social media - engage with your existing customers, use social platforms to offer some new customer service channels
There are obviously a lot of other channels you can use to reach customers at the different stages of a purchase decision like email marketing, telemarketing, affiliates…but the activities listed above should prove to be a very good starting point to ensure you improve engagement and conversions on your website.
And remember that specialist digital agencies like Mahon Digital can always help you with your search or online marketing requirements.About the author: Saija Mahon is the founder of Mahon Digital, a digital marketing agency focusing on search marketing including search engine optimisation, PPC and social media.