Before users become customers they get over a more or less long Customer Journey. The term comes from the online marketing and originally referred only to the click paths*, the user made up to a conversion. From a SEO point of view the click path to a conversion should be as short as possible. Google wants this. After all, no user wants to click endlessly to find what he is looking for.
With this not yet everything has been said about Customer Journey from a SEO perspective. The term now includes much more than just tracking the clicks (or their planning). The customer journey is concerned rather with the question, what motivates users or how they can be motivated to convert. Exactly this makes the analysis and the planning of the Customer Journey so interesting for SEO.
* The terms are always used differently depending on the school of thought. The navigation behavior on a website is sometimes described as an “online customer experience“ or sometimes as the “purchase funnel”.
Customer Journey – Explained by an exception
Anyone who has ever listened to radio with advertising in Germany knows the “Seiiitenbacher Müsli!”, which is presented in the broad Swabian sing-song. The – to remain charming .- maverick commercials are performed by the company founder Willi Pfannenschwarz himself. The Seitenbacher boss had just not enough money for the marketing of the company. Radio spots, that just fit into the budget – but only if no extra costs for the production were incurred. So Pfannenschwarz made a virtue out of necessity. For several decades, he has now penetrated the ears of radio listeners and has managed with this “Onechannel marketing” and a lot of patience to create a brand well-known nationwide.
The commercials, however, became iconic only because Pfannenschwarz held onto them despite countless hostilities. The spots are so bad that you do not want to try the muesli at first. Sooner or later, however, every listener wonders why Seitenbacher still exists. It’s not due the commercials, ergo: the muesli must be pretty good. Bingo – the interest is aroused! There are now only few steps from the desire to try the muesli to the purchase.
Customer Journey according to the AIDA model
Pfannenschwarz is a trained miller and undoubtedly a real marketing talent. Presumably without knowing it, he has implemented the model of the buying process known as AIDA in marketing theory.
This consists of 4 steps:
- A-ttention (Step 1: attract the customer’s attention – Seitenbacher: strike with annoying spots)
- I-nterest (Step 2: Arouse interest in the product – why are the spots still there? Is the product good?)
- D-esire (Step 3: Strengthen the desire for the product – is the muesli available in my supermarket?)
- A-ction (Step 4: motivate to action – one of the spots is also to be heard in the supermarket)
The fact that Seitenbacher succeeds in initiating the buying process with only one channel (radio) is certainly the big exception and depends on the long period of the campaign (several decades) as well as on the fact that the product the somewhat spleen image is obviously more useful than harming.
Most companies are likely to be less persevering than the Swabian family business. Also, only a few products are suitable for such a customer approach which is based entirely on penetrance and one-sidedness. Online shops and service providers advertising on the web are well advised to rely on different channels (multichannel marketing) in order to win customers on their Customer Journey for themselves. The reason for this is simple: Users are now out on many channels.
Accordingly, the number of possible touchpoints that can lead to a purchase is correspondingly large. According to a Swiss buyer study, an average of 17 points of contact is encountered when purchasing a product or service. Possible touchpoints are: friends / family / acquaintances, forums, Google search, social media, blogs, classic media (TV, radio, newspaper), advertising, e-mail, etc. Who likes can now be very well informed about any product and service before the purchaser. Therefore, customers and users are critical today when they consider to buy a specific product. This has to be taken in account for the Customer Journey.
Customer Journey does not only target needs but also desires
How critical users are, always depends on the product itself. In the case of so-called low-involvement products, for example, cheap drugstore articles, the purchase impulse is much more spontaneously than in the case of high-involvement products such as televisions, expensive perfume or the decision for the right lawyer. If you enjoy reading books, you will make more deliberated decisions when choosing a bookshop or online shop than someone who simply looks for a beach novel.
In order to capture these different buying impulses, in marketing a distinction is drawn between the need and the desire. A bit short can be said that the need is a factual lack (cell phone broken), the desire again is an emotional wanting (the new iPhone or Samsung model, which one absolutely wants to have).
The five-phase model of buying decision process by Kotler is better suited to this distinction than the AIDA model (even if it is supplemented by “Satisfaction” for customer satisfaction to the AIDAS model). The Customer Journey is therefore implemented in the following steps:
- Problem recognition
- Information search
- Evaluation of alternatives
- Purchase decision
- Post-purchase behavior
Steps of the Customer Journey and tools that help you with data analysis
Step 1 – Problem recognition
The customer has to recognize first that he can solve a problem with a product or offer. Ideally you create the problem by yourself. Legendary is for example „Listerine“. Before this product came into the market, mouth odor was not really considered as a problem. In the tv spot Listerine than showed how even gorgeous you women were rejected by men, because they apparently had no pleasant smell as soon as they opened their mouths.
Tools: Whoever does not can (or want) to bring such a problem into the world should at least be aware of his customer’s problems in order to present a product or service as a solution. Helpful is for instance a tool like Google Trends, with which you can get a scent of which keywords are requested frequently. With the Keyword Planer (see SEO Tools) and Google Suggest you can identify the terms that users are looking for (and also help you to achieve god rankings on Google). Last but not least, online or offline advertising also supports the customer’s problems recognition in order to trigger the customer journey at all.
Step 2 – Information search
If your users find via the organic search or AdWords ads to your site, a well-structured and SEO-driven landing page is just the right way to satisfy this step of the Customer Journey. The more appropriate you describe your offer in text, pictures or video, the better your chances are to actually make users to customers. Without content marketing you will not succeed. You will not show up on the Google rank list, nor meet the information needs of people on their Customer Journey. Faithful users of your website will also be pleased with a well-functioning internal search.
Tools: The basis for this is once again a thorough keyword analysis, with which you find the terms that your customers are looking for. Whether your landing page works, you should check with a web analytics tool such as Google Analytics or the privacy-protected and recommended Piwik. There you get numerous data on the user signal. If the site provokes frequent dropouts or if the time on page is too short, there is something wrong with the site. The information search within the Customer Journey is then interrupted, which you should avoid in any case.
Step 3 – Evaluation of alternatives
This step might lead you users to other pages for now. Some users want to compare prices, others are looking for tests about the searched products and again others are just enjoy watching different offers.
Tools: On your page you have the possibility to show with product reviews of users or recommendations of other customers (eg by a service like ProvenExpert) how satisfied others were with your offer already. This is how Amazon works; However, this entails many risks for smaller traders, since they must always control this content, which involves considerable effort. Another option for influencing the Customer Journey is the remarketing, for example through AdWords ads, which remind the user of your offer on other sites.
Step 4 – Purchase decision
Are price and offer corresponding the purchase decision is ultimately made. It should, of course, be made as easy as possible for the customer to implement the decision made smoothly.
Tools: To ensure this, the ordering process should be checked for possible weaknesses. A / B tests, as well as customer surveys, can be used for this. In addition, every step in the ordering process should be tagged. If there are recurring abortions at certain points, it must be improved. Google Analytics or Piwik can also be used as analysis tools.
Step 5 – Post-purchase behavior
As you know, it is much harder to win new customers than to encourage existing customers to make new conversions. Therefore, the Customer Journey does not stop with the purchase, but starts with it in the best case again.
Tools: As soon as the customer clicks back on your website, he receives individualized offers which correspond to his previous purchase behavior. These can be, for example, cross-selling and up-selling products, ie products which are either similar to the ones bought so far or are higher. Do not forget to offer the customer a newsletter or to draw attention to new offers through e-mail marketing.
Conclusion: Customer Journey also helps SEO
From the SEO perspective, the planning and reviewing of the Customer Journey according to the presented five-phase model is that important, because this concept compels SEOs like website operators to put the user at the center of all activities. Anyone who consistently aligns their web offer with possible Customer Journeys fulfills, as a matter of course, the conditions Google places at the top of the ranking: They should meet the intention of the searcher as accurately as possible. A page optimized for the Customer Journey is therefore also search engine optimized (at least as far as it concerns the content).