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How to Win Potential Consumers with Customer Journey Mapping on Google

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How to Win Potential Consumers with Customer Journey Mapping on Google


The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

If your website is like most others, there is likely a mismatch between the content you provide, and what your prospective customers search for on Google.

This article is about understanding your potential customers and their conversation with Google by using the customer journey mapping method to provide them with the best content. The idea came to me when watching internal user experience teams at our agency, and I hope it will inspire you as an SEO to leave your spreadsheets for a moment and start working with sticky notes (yeah, sticky notes).

Later in the article, as an example of the method, I will show you how a Danish insurance firm managed to come out of nowhere and dominate the conversation for a strategically important insurance product.

I have built +100 customer journey maps over the last year, so I am excited to share my knowledge with you.

I will come back to this later, but let’s get a few definitions in place first:

What is a customer journey?

The customer journey is a model, which describes the stages a prospective customer goes through in order to convert to your solution. It is a way for us as marketers to understand what challenges a user confronts during their journey. When we understand it, we know how our marketing efforts should show up at every stage.

There are many different customer journey models, but I prefer the classic AIDA model, adding the Loyalty stage at the end.

Here is a description of the five stages with examples of typical Google queries:

Awareness: The prospects realize that they have a problem or desire and actively start searching on Google. For example, they may think, “Hey, I’m coughing. How do I get rid of it?” and search for “How to stop coughing?” (40K monthly queries in the US).

Interest: The prospects start searching for simple solution queries. An example is “cough medicine” (59K monthly queries). In this stage, they will also look for substitutes (e.g. “honey ginger tea”).

Desire: The prospects become more educated and refine their search to find the right solution for them. They search for different attributes of the product such as segments (“infant cough medicine”) and types (“non drowsy cough medicine”). This is also the customer journey stage where users subsequently get into the buying mode with best/cheapest/discount queries (e.g. “best coughing medicine for dry cough”). They also begin to search for brands. Typical queries on Google could be “Delsym cough medicine” (5.2K monthly queries) and comparison queries, like “Delsym vs Robitussin” (1.6K monthly queries).

Action: The prospects have made their choice and are ready to take action. A typical search would be “Delsym near me” (90 monthly queries).

Loyalty: The prospects have turned into clients and could have questions about the newly purchased product. A typical example could be “Delsym side effects”.

What is customer journey mapping on Google?

Customer journey mapping is a traditional exercise when working with user experience (UX), trying to visualize the typical touchpoints for a user and thereby understand how to create a frictionless experience.

As I mentioned in the intro, I had a light bulb moment watching our UX teams. Why couldn’t SEOs adopt this practice and map up the customer journey with Google data? Where UX teams use qualitative interviews, eye tracking, client feedback and gut feeling, Google data is the hard data that’s missing.

The idea of doing customer journey mapping on Google was born.

We have the data right at our feet. With Google’s own data sources (e.g. Google Search Console) and third party tools (e.g. Moz Keyword Explorer), SEOs can map out a large part of the customer journey.

Just look at your user data in Google Analytics, and you will see how dominant Google is. According to a study by GrowthBadger, across industries 50-90% of all traffic came from Google. While social media is a great activation channel in 2022, prospects still go to Google when they need to educate themselves before they contact you.

By mapping the entire customer journey on Google we understand:

  1. What are the major topics that potential clients are querying on Google?

  2. What is the search intent behind the conversation potential clients are having with Google, that might match our USPs?

  3. Where are the “peak ends”, meaning the most important conversation touchpoints on Google, that can win or lose a future customer?

  4. What is the timeline of search intent, so we understand how to prioritize content development?

Why you should use customer journey mapping on Google

There are three main arguments for why you should use customer journey mapping.

1) Targeting specific keywords is outdated. We need to focus on owning user intent instead.

Especially with Google’s introduction of BERT in September 2019, they understand searches better than ever. And with their MUM update, the search experience will become even more impressive. This also means that we, the SEOs, have to adapt to these advances, focus less on targeting specific keywords, and instead focus on the user intent.

To give an example, all the keywords below have the same intent and should be seen as one:

The total monthly search volume for this search intent is 4,000 monthly queries in the US, so this is a big touchpoint to overlook in your content, if you sell sleeping bags.

2) We need to share SEO data insights with marketing teams – and do it fast.

It should be our aim to break out of the SEO silo and ensure that SEO supports marketing strategies and activities.

People in your marketing department may not even know that Google Search Console exists, and even fewer may have access, so SEOs need to share the insights from this goldmine of data.

SEO silo analysis can take weeks, but when aligning with the rest of the company, speed is crucial. Decisions in marketing are made on a daily basis, so SEOs need to be able to provide data quickly. A customer journey map can be created inside a few hours, and is a great way to visualize data in ways that any non-SEO can understand.

3) Topic clustering doesn’t give you the full picture.

Are you already working with topic clustering and think that customer journey mapping sounds like the same? It’s not.

A normal topic cluster only covers the Interest/Desire stages in the customer journey. A topic cluster consists of the main page (the money page), which ranks for the most important keyword (e.g. “car insurance”) and various supporting pages (pillar pages), which will rank for secondary keywords (e.g. “car insurance for teens” and “car insurance calculator”).

Customer journey mapping covers the full customer journey including the early part of the funnel and the post-sales stage. These two stages are important to pay attention to, in order to be seen as a topical authority by Google, and of course to help your prospective consumer along their entire journey.

Early-funnel

Studies have shown that helping a user early in the process will make them remember you later on. At an early stage of the journey, the prospect is not yet aware of the solution, so they will do symptom queries. This type of query isn’t so easy to identify, but this also means that your competitors are probably missing out on them. This can be a great opportunity for extra traffic.

To research symptom queries you need to think like your prospect. What would they search for when they aren’t sure what they’re looking for? A way to validate if the symptom queries are relevant for you, check in “Related searches” at the bottom of page one on Google, if any solution queries are listed. It is an indicator, if it is a relevant query or not.

Another important aspect is to educate the prospect so they won’t choose the wrong solution. In my last Moz Blog post on SEO sprints, I showed an example of prospects searching for yellow-tinted glasses for driving at night. This is the wrong solution, because opposing cars have blue lights. This is important content to provide your audience, in order to lead prospects in the right direction. What is a misconception in your industry?

Post-sale

The post-sale queries are very valuable, because these are queries done by actual clients. This is not only about helping them out with their actual problem, but it is also an important touchpoint to warm them up for their next conversion.

If you want to identify post-sale queries quickly, then use this regex formula in your Google Search Console:

b(clean|broken|wash off|shattered|polish|problem|treat|doesn’t work|replace|doesn’t start|scratch|repair|manual|fix|protect|renew|coverage|warranty)[” “]

If you do not rank well for the queries that show up, then you most likely have a content gap.

Not all of your content will convert directly. Some content is more apt for micro conversions (see a video, read another piece of content, download pdf). With customer journey mapping, you’re forced to place the search intent in order of appearance. This will help you understand how to structure your content and what a piece of content should do.

How to build a customer journey map using Google data

Let me walk you through the process.

Step 1 : Define your persona and your objective

What do we want to obtain, and who is our persona/s? This important first step ensures that we create the scope for the mapping.

Step 2 : Get the data and map out the intents

Next up is to map out the user intent. I will initially use the client’s Google Search Console.

I will filter 12 months of data for a specific keyword. I will then go through my keyword list. In this example I am doing a map for “Natural playgrounds”. One intent is “natural playground equipment”. I have marked three queries below, which have the same intent: Natural playground equipment, Nature playground equipment and Nature play equipment.

This is one intent identified. Usually, I write the intent on a sticky note with the search volume and the average ranking. Here is an example below from a session.

When I am not able to find more intents in Google Search Console I will add data from third party tools such as Moz Explorer. Here I have inserted the keyword “Natural playground” in the suggestion box, and a list of relevant keywords appear.

Step 3 : Map the post-its in a funnel

I then draw up a sales funnel on a whiteboard, where I place the sticky notes. I will move them around and cluster them, where it makes sense. I will eventually revisit my tools to get more data, if I see gaps in the funnel. This should be a quick process. This is how my whiteboard ends up looking:

When I have completed this exercise I have a great understanding of the prospects’ conversation with Google. The next step is to insert the intents in PowerPoint, so it can be presented to the client. Here is an example. The traffic lights show how the site performs (Green = Rank 1-3 in Google. Yellow = Rest of page 1. Red = Page 2 or worse.). The size of the bubbles represent the search volume.

When a map like this is presented, it will naturally kick-start a focus on how we can convert all the intents to green.

How a Danish insurance firm won prospects with customer journey mapping

Købstædernes Forsikring is one of the oldest insurance firms in Denmark, established in 1731. Historically, they have not focused on SEO, so when I started helping them, they had very little non-branded presence on Google.

Step 1 – We want to own the conversation on Google for “salary insurance”

“Salary insurance” is a product offered by all the insurance industry players. If you lose your job, then with this insurance, you can cover 90% of your salary. This is a strategically important product for Købstædernes, and Google is a big touchpoint in their prospects’ customer journey.

Step 2 – Let’s get the data for “salary insurance” and create a customer journey map

To get an understanding of potential customer search intent, we created the following customer journey map. Each bubble represents a search intent. The size of the bubble shows the relative search volume and the color represents their average ranking. I use traffic light colors to visualize this (Green: ranks in top 3, Yellow: Rank 4-10, Red: Outside page 1 on Google).

To map out the conversation with Google, I used their Google Search Console data, supported with third party tools such as Moz Keyword Explorer. Furthermore, I held an interview with the product team to understand the potential client profiles better, so I could identify the initial symptom searches.

Since the marketing team at Købstædernes are not SEO savvy, then a customer journey map was a great way to explain that we were not part of the conversation at all. They immediately grasped our starting point, and could help by identifying the interesting conversations we should be part of. Furthermore, they could take the conversation insights and use them in the rest of their marketing mix.

Step 3 – Executing on the insights from the customer journey map

When the marketing team signed off on the journey map, we moved on to the second part, which was to understand what content to build, repurpose, and optimize. To be able to match topics between prospects’ conversation with Google and the content on the website, we needed to optimize 10 pages and create five new pages.

As with most organizations, Købstædernes does not have unlimited resources. Thus, the customer journey map was a great asset to understand how to prioritize their efforts. Content in the lower funnel should be produced first.

Over a period of two months, my small team managed to perform these tasks. While it is not the topic of this article I would like to mention that a project management tool such as Asana, Monday.com, Trello or other is necessary to ensure an efficient process. If you use a spreadsheet (Excel, Google Sheets or other) focus on tasks can easily be forgotten. With a project management tool you can assign tasks, set deadlines, describe tasks and sub tasks, insert tags etc. I see it time and time again that when key employees leave a SEO project is put on hold. I would therefore strongly urge you to use one of these tools to avoid brain drain and focus.

The results after 10 months

Here is the development after 10 months. As you can see, we have managed to own a big chunk of the conversation:

Traffic has gradually increased, with 100% growth for the last three months compared to the prior period.

In summary

Google is by far the biggest touchpoint in most customer journeys across industries, so it is obvious that hard data from Google Search Console and third-party tools such as Moz Keyword Explorer can help us understand user intent. Customer journey mapping on Google is a model to enable the data by visualizing it, ensuring that the full marketing team understands the prospects’ conversation with Google.

At the same time, it gives a clear overview of content prioritization, which is an important point, since most teams have limited resources.

Let me end with a few tips about customer journey maps:

  1. Make sure you have a clear goal with your customer journey. If there is more than one goal, break the customer journey into several different customer journey maps.

  2. Understand your USPs to focus on the relevant search intent. If necessary, break down the broader user intents into smaller ones on underlying customer journey maps, to get a better overview.

I hope this blog post about customer journey mapping has inspired you to think about how you can understand your prospects’ conversation with Google in a new way. Happy mapping!



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Email Marketing Trends 2023: Predictions by the Industry Stalwarts

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Email Marketing Trends 2023: Predictions by the Industry Stalwarts


Every year, we see new trends entering the world of email marketing.

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5 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience for Readers

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5 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience for Readers

Who doesn’t like to have a good experience consuming content?

I know I do. And isn’t that what we – as both a consumer of content and a marketer of content – all want?

What if you create such a good experience that your audience doesn’t even realize it’s an “experience?” Here’s a helpful mish-mash of easy-to-do things to make that possible.

1. Write with an inclusive heart

There’s nothing worse than being in a conversation with someone who constantly talks about themselves. Check your text to see how often you write the words – I, me, we, and us. Now, count how often the word “you” is used. If the first-person uses are disproportionate to the second-person uses, edit to delete many first-person references and add more “you” to the text.

You want to let your audience know they are included in the conversation. I like this tip shared in Take Binary Bias Out of Your Content Conversations by Content Marketing World speaker Ruth Carter: Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns.

Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns, says @rbcarter via @Brandlovellc @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

2. Make your content shine brighter with an AI assist

Content published online should look different than the research papers and essays you wrote in school. While you should adhere to grammar rules and follow a style guide as best as possible, you also should prioritize readability. That requires scannable and easily digestible text – headings, bulleted text, short sentences, brief paragraphs, etc.

Use a text-polishing aid such as Hemingway Editor (free and paid versions) to cut the dead weight from your writing. Here’s how its color-coded review system works and the improvements to make:

  • Yellow – lengthy, complex sentences, and common errors
    • Fix: Shorten or split sentences.
  • Red – dense and complicated text
    • Fix: Remove hurdles and keep your readers on a simpler path.
  • Pink – lengthy words that could be shortened
    • Fix: Scroll the mouse over the problematic word to identify potential substitutes.
  • Blue – adverbs and weakening phrases
    • Fix: Delete them or find a better way to convey the thought.
  • Green – passive voice
    • Fix: Rewrite for active voice.

Grammarly’s paid version works well, too. The premium version includes an AI-powered writing assistant, readability reports, a plagiarism checker, citation suggestions, and more than 400 additional grammar checks.

In the image below, Grammarly suggests a way to rephrase the sentence from:

“It is not good enough any longer to simply produce content “like a media company would”.

To:

“It is no longer good enough to produce content “as a media company would”.

Much cleaner, right?

3. Ask questions

See what I did with the intro (and here)? I posed questions to try to engage with you. When someone asks a question – even in writing – the person hearing (or reading) it is likely to pause for a split second to consider their answer. The reader’s role changes from a passive participant to an active one. Using this technique also can encourage your readers to interact with the author, maybe in the form of an answer in the comments.

4. Include links

Many content marketers include internal and external links in their text for their SEO value. But you also should add links to help your readers. Consider including links to help a reader who wants to learn more about the topic. You can do this in a couple of ways:

  • You can link the descriptive text in the article to content relevant to those words (as I did in this bullet point)
  • You can list the headlines of related articles as a standalone feature (see the gray box labeled Handpicked Related Content at the end of this article).

Add links to guide readers to more information on a topic – not just for SEO purposes says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

You also can include on-page links or bookmarks in the beginning (a table of contents, of sorts) in longer pieces to help the reader more quickly access the content they seek to help you learn more about a topic. This helps the reader and keeps visitors on your website longer.

5. Don’t forget the ‘invisible’ text

Alt text is often an afterthought – if you think about it all. Yet, it’s essential to have a great content experience for people who use text-to-speech readers. Though it doesn’t take too much time, I find that customizing the image description content instead of relying on the default technology works better for audience understanding.

First, ask if a listener would miss something if they didn’t have the image explained. If they wouldn’t, the image is decorative and probably doesn’t need alt text. You publish it for aesthetic reasons, such as to break up a text-heavy page. Or it may repeat information already appearing in the text (like I did in the Hemingway and Grammarly examples above).

If the listener would miss out if the image weren’t explained well, it is informative and requires alt text. General guidelines indicate up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best for alt text. That’s a short sentence or two to convey the image’s message. Don’t forget to include punctuation.

General guidelines indicate up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best for alt text, says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

For both decorative and informative images, include the photo credits, permissions, and copyright information, in the caption section.

For example, if I were writing an article about Best Dogs for Families, I would include an image of a mini Bernedoodle as an example because they make great family pets. Let’s use this image of my adorable puppy, Henri, and I’ll show you both a good and bad example of alt text.

An almost useless alt-text version: “An image showing a dog.”

Author’s tri-colored (brown, white, black, grey wavy hair), merle mini Bernedoodle, Henri, lying on green grass.

It wastes valuable characters with the phrase “an image showing.”

Use the available characters for a more descriptive alt text: “Author’s tri-colored (brown, white, black, grey wavy hair), merle mini Bernedoodle, Henri, lying on green grass.”

It’s more descriptive, and I only used 112 characters, including spaces.

Want to learn more? Alexa Heinrich, an award-winning social media strategist, has a helpful article on writing effective image descriptions called The Art of Alt Text. @A11yAwareness on Twitter is also a great resource for accessibility tips.

Improve your content and better the experience

Do any of these suggestions feel too hard to execute? I hope not. They don’t need a bigger budget to execute. They don’t need a lengthy approval process to implement. And they don’t demand much more time in production.

They just need you to remember to execute them the next time you write (and the time after that, and the time after that, and the … well, you get the idea.)

If you have an easy-to-implement tip to improve the content experience, please leave it in the comments. I may include it in a future update.

All tools mentioned in the article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, please feel free to add it in the comments.

If you have an idea for an original article you’d like to share with the CMI audience, you could get it published on the site. First, read our blogging guidelines and write or adjust your draft accordingly. Then submit the post for consideration following the process outlined in the guidelines.

In appreciation for guest contributors’ work, we’re offering free registration to one paid event or free enrollment in Content Marketing University to anyone who gets two new posts accepted and published on the CMI site in 2023.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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The Ultimate Guide to Product Marketing in 2023

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The Ultimate Guide to Product Marketing in 2023

Product marketing is essential, even if you only sell one or two products at your organization.

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