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Understanding the three awareness stages of your online audience

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30-second summary:

  • Are you confident about how your target consumer moves in the three stages, awareness, consideration, and decision?
  • A website that features content only suited to the first stage of awareness will struggle to convert, whereas a site only focused on conversions may struggle to get any traffic to convert in the first place
  • Here’s how you can create content that is balanced and targeted to better serve people throughout every step of their journey

Not all traffic is equal. Businesses often forget that their site visits and success metrics aren’t just numbers – they are living, breathing people who are driven by behavior. By understanding and creating content to fit the different awareness stages of that “traffic”, you can not only draw more – but efficiently turn those clicks into conversions. After all, businesses aren’t built on visits alone.

This article will show you the three main awareness stages of online traffic, what type of content fits in these, and a method for auditing your existing content. Remember, every customer goes on a journey. This is about making sure you’re at the finish line when they’re ready to convert.

The importance of knowing the awareness stages

Now, bear with us, but answer this: would you try and sell roller skates to a newborn baby or its parents? A little extreme, yes, but sometimes these make the best examples. The point is that the baby may grow into someone that needs or wants a pair of roller skates, but they’re not at that stage yet.

Understanding the different stages your potential customers are at and how they’re searching for your products/services (both directly and indirectly) will give you the accuracy to target them better. These stages are awareness, consideration, and decision. Just knowing these won’t be enough, you need a balance.

A website that features content only suited to the first stage of awareness will struggle to convert, whereas a site only focused on conversions may struggle to get any traffic to convert in the first place.

Research and roleplay will help you massively here. To get in the head of your audience and understand what their journey looks like, you should be asking yourself “What would I do if…” at almost every corner.

To better explore these stages and how they apply to content, we’ll stick to one example for the next three sections. We’ll move on from the baby with the roller skates, and instead, focus on a hypothetical Manchester-based SME that sells hearing aids and is looking to grow its customer base.

Stage 1: Awareness

This awareness stage is when the customer is just starting to realize they have a problem and that they need a solution. Before this stage, they may not have even realized that their issue could be fixed, or that it was an issue, to begin with. Good content at this stage plants seeds in their head that they don’t need to go on this way any longer.

With that in mind, you don’t want to overwhelm the reader here. Yes, they may now realize that they want a solution, but it’s exceedingly rare that a piece of content can tick all three boxes in one go. Those being – making them aware of the problem, helping them consider the options, and then decide to go with your option. That’s why we have different content for different stages. 

In our example of the small business in Manchester that sells hearing aids, the content at this stage may look like this:

  • ‘Five common signs of hearing loss’
  • ‘Data shows that hearing loss is on the rise’
  • ‘When to seek help with your hearing’

If we were writing content for this fictional company, we wouldn’t open these articles with “Now you’re here, view our huge sale on hearing aids!”. Instead, we’d relate to the problems the reader may be having. In fact, throughout all of these stages, your language should be empathetic, solution-focused, and relatable to the reader as much as possible. 

Picture a woman in her 40s that has been playing guitar in a rock band since her youth. For her, not being able to hear the nuances of music would almost feel like having an oxygen supply cut off. She might be having some hearing issues, but her search might not start straight away with “hearing aids near me”. She’d try to learn about her issues, if they’re common and how they can be fixed. In these pages, we’d relate to hearing problems and ultimately (but without sounding too sales-y) suggest that hearing aids have helped millions of people by the end. 

By writing content targeting this stage, you can be there right at the start of the consumer’s journey. While they will be more likely to convert at the end of that journey, a good content strategy is all about balance. This brings us to the next stage. 

Stage 2: Consideration

If the first stage is all about letting them know they have a problem, this is all about showing them how they can fix it. Here, the reader would actively be looking for a solution and considering their options.

While our hypothetical business may be experts at helping hearing loss, there are other ways to do so than just providing hearing aids. We can’t just assume that hearing aids are instantly the preferred option for every visitor. The challenge here is about balancing knowledge, empathy, and delivering content that is objective and genuinely useful to your consumer. However, while you educate your target audience about their options, you can add in smart CTAs that prompt the person towards a landing page that will drive revenue for your business – making this more a choice that your consumer made vs what you wanted to force down their throat.

Sticking to our example of that Manchester SME selling hearing aids, content at this stage may look like this:

  • ‘Six ways to help your hearing loss’
  • ‘The five best hearing aids in the UK’
  • ‘Why even teenagers should consider hearing aids’

As this is the middle stage, you’ll want to avoid leaning too much towards ‘awareness’ and too much towards ‘decision’. You won’t want to speak down to the reader and spend paragraphs explaining the very basics of hearing loss. You also won’t want to open up and ramble on about your great new sale on hearing aids.

Picture a scale, with ‘inform’ on the left and ‘sell’ on the right. You want this to be pretty evenly balanced, but leaning slightly to the left and on the side of ‘inform’.

Show the reader their options, and educate them on the solutions available. Then, if/when they decide that what you provide is the fix for them, they’re already on the right website! They just need a page where they can convert and make that final decision. That leads us on nicely to…

Stage 3: Decision

We mentioned before how awareness content gets you in front of the consumer at the start of their journey. While there’s a lot of value to being there at the starting line, it is content suited to this stage that turns clicks into customers.

That’s why pages here will move away from the blog/article format of the content suggested for the other stages. Instead, you want pages designed specifically for selling the reader on your product or service, with the option to convert right there.

For our hypothetical hearing aid business, the pages designed for this stage may look like:

  • Category pages showing off their best brands
  • Product pages where you can purchase hearing aids
  • A service page to organize a hearing test (with a contact form)

These pages will be laser-focused on selling, while still informing the readers why your business is a better choice for them over all of your competitors. This means a huge focus on USPs.

In the case of our hypothetical hearing aid company, these may include free delivery, the lowest prices in Manchester, or even five years of free insurance. Your USPs should all be sung about on these decision-focused pages. Remember, at this point, they know they want whatever it is you’re selling, so you don’t need to go to great lengths to explain the very basics of your offerings. Just why your business is the best for them. Ensure to have some positive reviews scattered across these pages.

The content here should be easy to read, scannable, and supported by images if you think that’s something your audience is interested in (always look to see what competitors are doing).

Outside of the copy, for ecommerce businesses, the path to purchasing these products should be clear, with large buttons to show the user that this is where you can buy them. If you’re a lead generation business, then there should be plenty of CTAs (calls to action) to point the user to contact forms, phone numbers, or email addresses.

Key takeaways

Like with any marketing or psychology model, there are variants of this with even more steps. However, if you boil it down, we believe that only three steps are necessary for most businesses. The important thing to remember is that the same user might not go through this entire journey on your website in one session. A balanced content strategy means that you can attract any potential customer at any stage, no matter where they are in their purchasing journey. 

The danger of having an imbalance in your content strategy is that there might be plenty of blog posts around the first awareness stage, but users don’t realize that you can solve the problem they now realize they have. On the flip side, you could have most of your content focused on the final stage, but you may struggle to draw in the customers that don’t even realize they need you.

That’s why we recommend you run a content audit on your website to see how balanced your current output is. Create a table like the one below and add your existing content to it. 

In the example here, we’ll use the ideas we used for our Manchester business: 

Awareness Stage Content Consideration Stage Content Decision Stage Content
 

Five common signs of hearing loss

Six ways to help your hearing loss Category pages showing off their best brands
 

How to improve your hearing at concerts

The five best hearing aids in the UK Product pages where you can purchase hearing aids
 

When to seek help with your hearing

Why even teenagers should consider hearing aids A service page to organize a hearing test (with a contact form)

 

While mapping your pages to this, you should be able to easily identify where gaps are and then plan your content strategy around filling those in. ‘Mapping’ is a great term because all successful journeys involve a map.

If you’re just publishing random content with no overall purpose, you’re stumbling around in the dark and hoping you’ll land up where you want to go. A quality content strategy is all about understanding journies and being there for whatever step of it your customer is on.


Jack Bird is the Content Operations Lead at the Manchester-based SEO and digital marketing agency, Add People.

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Olga Strel

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


Featured Image: Danishch/Shutterstock

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

There’s one thing standing between you and several days of SEO, socializing, and Singaporean sunshine: your boss (and their Q4 budget 😅).

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are 5 arguments (and an example message) you can use to persuade your boss to send you to Ahrefs Evolve.

About Ahrefs Evolve

  • 2 days in sunny Singapore (Oct 24–25)
  • 500 digital marketing enthusiasts
  • 18 top speakers from around the world

Learn more and buy tickets.

SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. Between AI Overviews, Google’s rolling update schedule, their huge API leak, and all the documents released during their antitrust trial, it’s hard to keep up. What works in SEO today?

You could watch a YouTube video or two, maybe even attend an hour-long webinar. Or, much more effective: you could spend two full days learning from a panel of 18 international SEO experts, discussing your takeaways live with other attendees.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve speakers from around the world.

Our world-class speakers are tackling the hardest problems and best opportunities in SEO today. The talk agenda covers topics like:

  • Responding to AI Overviews: Amanda King will teach you how to respond to AI Overviews, Google Gemini, and other AI search functions.
  • Surviving (and thriving) Google’s algo updates: Lily Ray will talk through Google’s recent updates, and share data-driven recommendations for what’s working in search today.
  • Planning for the future of SEO: Bernard Huang will talk through the failures of AI content and the path to better results.

(And attendees will get video recordings of each session, so you can share the knowledge with your teammates too.)

View the full talk agenda here.

There’s no substitute for meeting with influencers, peers, and partners in real life. 

Conferences create serendipity: chance encounters and conversations that can have a huge positive impact on you and your business. By way of example, these are some of the real benefits that have come my way from attending conferences:

  • Conversations that lead to new customers for our business,
  • Invitations to speak at events,
  • New business partnerships and co-marketing opportunities, and
  • Meeting people that we went on to hire.

There’s a “halo” effect that lingers long after the event is over: the people you meet will remember you for longer, think more highly of you, and be more likely to help you out, should you ask.

(And let’s not forget: there’s a lot of information, particularly in SEO, that only gets shared in person.)

The “international” part of Evolve matters too. Evolve is a different crowd to your local run-of-the-mill conference. It’s a chance to meet with people from markets you wouldn’t normally meet—from Australia to Indonesia and beyond.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve attendees by home country.

If you’re an Ahrefs customer (thank you!), you’ll learn tons of tips, tricks and workflow improvements from attending Evolve. You’ll have opportunities to:

  • Attend talks from the Ahrefs team, showcasing advanced features and strategies that you can use in your own business.
  • Pick our brains at the Ahrefs booth, where we’ll offer informal 1:1 coaching sessions and previews of up-coming releases (like our new content optimization tool 🤫).
  • Join dedicated Ahrefs training workshops, hosted by the Ahrefs team and Ahrefs power users (tickets for these workshops will sold separately).

As a manager myself, there are two questions I need answered when approving expenses:

  • Is this a reasonable cost?
  • Will we see a return on this investment?

To answer those questions: early bird tickets for Evolve start at $570. For context, “super early bird” tickets for MozCon (another popular SEO conference) this year were almost twice as much: $999.

There’s a lot included in the ticket price too:

  • World-class international speakers,
  • 5-star hotel venue,
  • 5-star hotel food (two tea breaks with snacks & lunch),
  • Networking afterparty, and
  • Full talk recordings to later share with your team.

SEO is a crucial growth channel for most businesses. If you can improve your company’s SEO performance after attending Evolve (and we think you will), you’ll very easily see a positive return on the investment.

Traveling to tropical Singapore (and eating tons of satay) is great for you, but it’s also great for your team. Attending Evolve is a chance to break with routine, reignite your passion for marketing, and come back to your job reinvigorated.

This would be true for any international conference, but it goes double for Singapore. It’s a truly unique place: an ultra-safe, high-tech city that brings together dozens of different cultures.

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Little India in Singapore

You’ll discover different beliefs, working practices, and ways of business—and if you’re anything like me, come back a richer, wiser person for the experience.

If you’re nervous about pitching your boss on attending Evolve, remember: the worst that can happen is a polite “not this time”, and you’ll find yourself in the same position you are now.

So here goes: take this message template, tweak it to your liking, and send it to your boss over email or Slack… and I’ll see you in Singapore 😉

Email template

Hi [your boss’ name],

Our SEO tool provider, Ahrefs, is holding an SEO and digital marketing conference in Singapore in October. I’d like to attend, and I think it’s in the company’s interest:

  • The talks will help us respond to all the changes happening in SEO today. I’m particularly interested in the talks about AI and recent Google updates. 
  • I can network with my peers. I can discover what’s working at other companies, and explore opportunities for partnerships and co-marketing.
  • I can learn how we can use Ahrefs better across the organization.
  • I’ll come back reinvigorated with new ideas and motivation, and I can share my top takeaways and talk recordings with my team after the event.

Early bird tickets are $570. Given how important SEO is to the growth of our business, I think we’ll easily see a return from the spend.

Can we set up time to chat in more detail? Thanks!

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