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What Is the Buyer’s Journey? How to Create Content for Every Stage

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What Is the Buyer's Journey? How to Create Content for Every Stage

People rarely just search for whatever you sell, click on your website, and buy right away.

In fact, 71% of them start their research with a generic search. They’re reading blog posts, watching videos, consuming reviews, asking their friends, participating in communities—before they even begin to consider your product.

So unless you’re creating content that buyers are searching for early on, it’s likely that you’re not even going to be in the consideration set. But if you can appear in the early stages of the buyer’s journey, you get the opportunity to educate them and influence their decision-making.

In this post, you’ll learn the following:

What is the buyer’s journey?

The buyer’s journey is the process a person goes through before making a purchase.

What are the stages of the buyer’s journey?

There are three stages:

  1. Awareness – The buyer realizes they have a problem. They want to understand more about it.
  2. Consideration – The buyer is looking for and comparing potential solutions to their problem.
  3. Decision – The buyer purchases a solution.
Infographic of 3 stages of buyer's journey: awareness, consideration, and decision

How to create content for the buyer’s journey

The purpose of understanding the buyer’s journey is to create content for each stage.

Let’s look at how to do that.

Step 1. Create buyer persona(s)

A buyer persona is a “fictional person” you create who represents the common characteristics of your customer. Knowing what they’re looking for will help you create the right kind of content.

Creating a buyer persona is not a thought exercise. Unfortunately, many companies treat it as such. They identify personas based on imagination, fill up a document, and tuck it in the recesses of a Google Drive somewhere, never to be seen again.

Buyer personas need to be based on real-world evidence. So rather than sitting in a meeting room and conjuring them up, we need to get outside.

Here’s the three-step process content marketer Adrienne Barnes recommends:

  1. Get to know your customers – Find your best customers and call them. These are the customers who knew immediately how your product worked or have been using your product without any complaints. Ask them questions about your product, what they like/dislike, the problems they have, their responsibilities, and so on. (Alternatively, you can survey them.)
  2. Organize the data – Look for patterns among the responses. You’re looking out for commonly repeated phrases, words, and remarks.
  3. Segment the audience – From the patterns you’ve gathered, you should start to see some specific audiences popping out of the data. These will be your buyer personas.

Recommended reading: How to Create the Best Buyer Persona 

Step 2. Find topics that match each stage of the buyer’s journey

Let’s illustrate this step via an example. We’ll use Billy Blogger as our buyer persona. Billy wants to build a revenue-generating blog so that he can quit his full-time job.

We’ll start by considering Billy’s potential journey, constructed from customer feedback and data:

Timeline showing potential buyer's journey of Billy. Based on the 3 aforementioned stages

Awareness

In this stage, Billy realizes he has a problem: His site is not getting enough traffic. So he searches for ways to get more traffic to his site. He learns about the various traffic acquisition methods and decides that SEO could be the solution to his problem. He begins researching and learning more about SEO.

So, if we’re creating content for this stage, we’re actually looking for topics related to:

  • Blog traffic
  • Website traffic
  • SEO

Here’s how to find more relevant topics:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter those terms
  3. Go to the Matching terms report

Since the “Awareness stage” keywords are mostly informational, we’ll switch the toggle to Questions.

Matching terms report results

To find more keywords, add informational modifiers (e.g., tips, learn, resource, guide, examples, ideas) in the Include box.

Dropdown text field to add informational modifiers in Matching terms report

There are over 30,000 keywords, and not all of them are going to align with our buyer persona. So we’ll look through the list and pick out those keywords that are relevant.

For example, the topic “how to drive traffic to your website” is likely a topic Billy is searching for at this stage. And we’ve targeted that topic with a blog post.

Consideration

In this stage, Billy realizes he needs a tool to do SEO. He begins looking for the type of tools that are available. As he encounters each product, he makes comparisons (e.g., reads reviews). If there are free versions, he’ll test the different tools out.

If we’re creating content for this stage, we’re actually looking for topics related to:

  • SEO tools.
  • Tools for each aspect of SEO (e.g., keyword research tools, link building tools).
  • Free versions of tools (e.g., free backlink checker).
  • Our brand name.
  • Our competitors’ brand names.

Here’s how to find relevant topics:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter terms like “seo tools,” “ahrefs,” or “moz”
  3. Go to the Matching terms report
  4. In the Include box, add comparison modifiers (e.g., vs, versus, best, top, review, reviews)
Dropdown text field to add comparison modifiers in Matching terms report

We’ll look through the list and pick out the topics that are relevant. For example, we can see from the list that potential customers are comparing our toolset with our competitors’ (e.g., ahrefs vs semrush). Thus, we decided to create a comparison page that addresses all of these topics.

Decision

In this stage, Billy is close to buying. He’s eyeing our tool, looking at the list of features, hesitating on pricing, and taking our toolset for a spin.

If we’re creating content for this stage, we’re actually looking for topics related to our brand.

To do this, simply enter the brand name into Keywords Explorer and eyeball the list.

Matching terms report results

Now, if you’re a small brand, you may not find many keywords for your brand name. If so, take a look at your Google Search Console data for the things people are searching for that relate to your brand.

Finally, in this stage, people won’t always be using search engines to find the information they need. After all, they’ve likely decided on your brand and may simply be looking for that information on your website. Rather than focus too much on the keywords they’re searching for, look internally.

Scan your internal site search data, talk to your customer support and sales teams, and so on. Figure out what is holding the buyers back from clicking “buy” on your website. That is the content you need to create.

”IMPORTANT”

While the process is pretty straightforward, using modifiers will usually leave many keywords on the table. Thus, it’s a good idea to look through keyword ideas that don’t contain any modifiers and consider whether they’re worth targeting.

You can do this by looking through the reports without using any modifiers.

For example, doing this shows us a few topics that we could potentially target, such as “seo course” and “seo checklist”—both of which do not contain any modifiers we’ve used thus far.

List of keywords

Recommended reading: Keyword Research: The Beginner’s Guide by Ahrefs

Step 3. Create content for each stage

Now that you have the topics for each stage of the buyer’s journey, it’s time to create content for them.

It is likely you’ll have to create different types of content for the different stages. For example, in the Awareness stage, buyers are looking for information, e.g., blog posts, videos, etc. Whereas for the Consideration stage, buyers are comparing, so they may be looking for category pages or comparison pages.

The easiest way to figure out what kind of content you should create is to analyze the top-ranking pages for the three Cs of search intent.

1. Content type

Content types usually fall into one of five buckets: blog post, product, category, landing page, or video. For example, all the top-ranking pages for “how to increase blog traffic” are blog posts.

Google SERP of "how to increase blog traffic"

Whereas for “backlink checker,” they’re all landing pages.

Google SERP of "backlink checker"

2. Content format

This mostly applies to blog posts, which are usually how-tos, listicles, news articles, opinion pieces, or reviews. For example, the top-ranking results for “link building” are mostly guides:

Google SERP of "link building"

3. Content angle

This refers to the main selling point of the content. For example, people searching for “best SEO tools” want the results to be fresh:

Google SERP of "best seo tools"

Step 4. Add appropriate calls to action for each piece of content

If you’re creating “Awareness stage” content, it’s not useful to try and sell your product right away. After all, the buyer has only just discovered their problem and is at the stage of researching.

Instead, you should add calls to action (CTAs) that are appropriate for the next stage. (In this case, it’s Consideration.)

So, for example, rather than promote our pricing page or even the $7 trial to someone who’s just learning SEO, we can introduce our suite of free tools instead. That way, potential customers can get acquainted with what we do and how our tools work. Alternatively, we can encourage them to sign up for our newsletter to learn more about SEO.

If your content is for the Consideration stage, you may want to link to your trial or collect potential customers’ contact information so that your sales team can reach out.

Final thoughts

While it may be presented as a linear stage model, the buyer’s journey never really works that way in real life.

Just think about your own behavior. Do you follow such a clean linear progression when buying something? Unless it’s an impulse buy, probably not. You probably bounce around each stage as you research, go about your day, hesitate, try stuff out, forget about it, research some more, etc.

While this model does ensure you’re creating content for each stage so that potential buyers can discover you, bear in mind that it is not perfect.

Any questions or comments? Let me know on Twitter.




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Everything You Need To Know

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Of all the many, many functions available in Google Ads, I have a few that are my favorites. And sitelink assets – previously known as sitelink extensions – are at the top of my list.

Why? Because they’re so versatile. You can do almost anything with them if you think through your strategy carefully.

For example, you can use the mighty sitelink in your advertising to:

  • Promote low search volume themes.
  • Push lagging products out the door.
  • Maximize hot sellers.
  • Highlight certain product categories.
  • Answer common questions.
  • Handle PR problems.

And that’s just a start! Sitelink assets can almost do it all.

Best Practices For Using Sitelink Assets Extensions

If you truly want to get the most out of your sitelinks, you need to think about your intention.

To help you with that, I’m going to lay out a few sitelink guidelines.

1. Get clear on your objectives. Before you start, you need to think about your goals. What are you trying to achieve with these assets? Are you advertising products or services? Will the asset work well with both branded and non-branded keywords? Your answers to these questions will help determine if your sitelinks are versatile and useful to the searcher.

2. Use sitelinks as part of your larger strategy. Don’t think of your sitelinks in isolation. You should also consider the accompanying ad, landing page, and other assets. Make sure they all work together in service to your overarching strategy.

3. Use a mix of sitelinks. Sitelinks can serve multiple purposes, so make sure you’re using a variety. For example, you don’t want to use every sitelink on an ad to promote on-sale products. Instead, use a mix. One could promote an on-sale product, one could generate leads, one could highlight a new product category, and one could direct prospective clients to useful information.

4. Create landing pages for your sitelinks. Ideally, you want to send users to landing pages that tightly correlate with your sitelink instead of just a regular page on your website.

5. Track sitelink performance and adjust. It’s not enough to set up sitelinks. You should also track them to see which links are getting traction and which ones are not. This doesn’t mean that all sitelinks should perform equally (more on this below), but it does mean they should perform well given their type and objectives.

Why it’s Better To Use A Mix Of Sitelink Assets

Let’s dive deeper into this idea of using a mix of sitelinks by looking at an example.

In a new client account, we created four different types of sitelinks:

  • Two sitelinks are product-focused (as requested by the client).
  • One sitelink connects users with an engineer to learn more about the product (“Speak to an Engineer”). It has more of a sales focus.
  • One sitelink allows users to learn more about the products without speaking to an engineer (“What is?”).

The “What is?” sitelink is outperforming the “Speak to an Engineer” sitelink when we measure by CTR. While we need more data before making any changes, I predict we’ll eventually swap out the sales-y “Speak to an Engineer” sitelink for something else.

The fact that the educational link (“What is?”) is performing better than the sales-y link (“Speak to an Engineer”) isn’t too surprising in this case. The product is a new, cutting-edge robot that not many people are aware of, yet. They want more info before talking to someone.

Screenshot by author, January 2023

By using a mix of sitelinks, and assessing the performance of each, we gained a lot of valuable information that is helping to guide our strategy for this account. So going with a mix of sitelinks is always a good idea. You never know what you’ll discover!

Sitelink Assets Examples

Now, let’s look at some specific examples of sitelink assets in Google Ads.

Example 1: Chromatography

Sitelinks extension - Chromatography exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

Application Search: This ad is for a highly technical product that can be used in a wide variety of applications. (Chromatography is a laboratory technique for separating mixtures.) So putting “application search” in a sitelink here might make sense. It helps prospective clients find what they’re looking for.

Sign up and Save Big: A good sitelink for lead generation and potential revenue.

Technical Support: I’m not a big fan of putting technical support in sitelinks. Tech support seems more targeted to current users rather than prospective users. But who knows, maybe they really do want to help current users get tech support via their advertising.

Guides and Posters: Again, this sitelink is a bit unusual, but it might be appropriate for this product. Perhaps people are downloading branded posters and posting them in their workplaces. If so, it’s a great way to build brand awareness.

Example 2: Neuroscience Courses

Sitelink Extensions - Nueroscience courses exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

I love everything about these sitelinks! The advertising is using them to reach people in all phases of the buyer journey.

For people not ready to commit:

  • Study Neuroscience: This sitelink is broad and informational. It’s helpful to people who have just started to explore their options for studying neuroscience.
  • Get Course Brochure: This sitelink is also great for people in the research phase. And while we mostly live in an online world, some people still prefer to consume hard-copy books, brochures, etc. With this sitelink, the school is covering its bases.

For people getting close to committing:

  • Online Short Course: This is the course the school offers. It’s a great sitelink for those almost ready to sign up.

For people ready to sign up:

  • Register Online Now: This is the strongest call to action for those ready to commit. It takes people directly to the signup page.

Example 3: Neuroscience Degrees

Let’s look at another example from the world of neuroscience education: this time for a neuroscience degree program.

Sitelink extensions - neuroscience degree exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

In contrast to the previous two examples, the sitelinks in this ad aren’t as strong.

Academics Overview: This sitelink seems more appropriate for a broad term search, such as a search on the school’s name. If the searcher is looking for a specific degree program (which seems like the intention based on the term and the ad), the sitelinks should be something specific to that particular degree program.

Scholarships: Just as with the above sitelink, “Scholarships” doesn’t seem very helpful either. The topic of scholarships is important—but probably doesn’t need to be addressed until the person determines that this school is a good fit.

Example 4: Code Security

Next, let’s look at two Google search ads for code security products.

Sitelink extensions - code security exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

 

The sitelinks in these two ads look like typical assets you’d find for SaaS, cloud-based, or tech companies. They click through to a lot of helpful information, such as product plans and success stories.

I particularly like the Most Common Risks sitelink in the second ad. It leads to a helpful article that would be great for engaging top-of-funnel leads.

On the flip side, I’m not a big fan of the Blog sitelink in the first ad. “Blog” simply isn’t very descriptive or helpful.

Still, there are no right or wrong sitelinks here. And it would be interesting to test my theory that blog content is not a top-performing asset!

Sitelink Assets Are More Than An Afterthought

I hope I’ve convinced you of the usefulness and versatility of sitelinks when created with specific objectives that align with your broader strategy.

So don’t create your sitelink assets as an afterthought.

Because if you give them the careful consideration they deserve, they’ll serve you well.

Note: Google sitelink assets were previously known as sitelink extensions and renamed in September 2022.

More resources:


Featured Image: Thaspol Sangsee/Shutterstock



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AI Content In Search Results

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AI Content In Search Results

Google has released a statement regarding its approach to AI-generated content in search results.

The company has a long-standing policy of rewarding high-quality content, regardless of whether humans or machines produce it.

Above all, Google’s ranking systems aim to identify content that demonstrates expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-E-A-T).

Google advises creators looking to succeed in search results to produce original, high-quality, people-first content that demonstrates E-E-A-T.

The company has updated its “Creating helpful, reliable, people-first content” help page with guidance on evaluating content in terms of “Who, How, and Why.”

Here’s how AI-generated content fits into Google’s approach to ranking high-quality content in search results.

Quality Over Production Method

Focusing on the quality of content rather than the production method has been a cornerstone of Google’s approach to ranking search results for many years.

A decade ago, there were concerns about the rise in mass-produced human-generated content.

Rather than banning all human-generated content, Google improved its systems to reward quality content.

Google’s focus on rewarding quality content, regardless of production method, continues to this day through its ranking systems and helpful content system introduced last year.

Automation & AI-Generated Content

Using automation, including AI, to generate content with the primary purpose of manipulating ranking in search results violates Google’s spam policies.

Google’s spam-fighting efforts, including its SpamBrain system, will continue to combat such practices.

However, Google realizes not all use of automation and AI-generated content is spam.

For example, publishers automate helpful content such as sports scores, weather forecasts, and transcripts.

Google says it will continue to take a responsible approach toward AI-generated content while maintaining a high bar for information quality and helpfulness in search results.

Google’s Advice For Publishers

For creators considering AI-generated content, here’s what Google advises.

Google’s concept of E-E-A-T is outlined in the “Creating helpful, reliable, people-first content” help page, which has been updated with additional guidance.

The updated help page asks publishers to think about “Who, How, and Why” concerning how content is produced.

“Who” refers to the person who created the content, and it’s important to make this clear by providing a byline or background information about the author.

“How” relates to the method used to create the content, and it’s helpful to readers to know if automation or AI was involved. If AI was involved in the content production process, Google wants you to be transparent and explain why it was used.

“Why” refers to the purpose of creating content, which should be to help people rather than to manipulate search rankings.

Evaluating your content in this way, regardless of whether AI-generated or not, will help you stay in line with what Google’s systems reward.


Featured Image: Alejandro Corral Mena/Shutterstock



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Seven tips to optimize page speed in 2023

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Tips-to-optimize-page-speed-in-2023

30-second summary:

  • There has been a gradual increase in Google’s impact of page load time on website rankings
  • Google has introduced the three Core Web Vitals metrics as ranking factors to measure user experience
  • The following steps can help you get a better idea of the performance of your website through multiple tests

A fast website not only delivers a better experience but can also increase conversion rates and improve your search engine rankings. Google has introduced the three Core Web Vitals metrics to measure user experience and is using them as a ranking factor.

Let’s take a look at what you can do to test and optimize the performance of your website.

Start in Google Search Console

Want to know if optimizing Core Web Vitals is something you should be thinking about? Use the page experience report in Google Search Console to check if any of the pages on your website are loading too slowly.

Search Console shows data that Google collects from real users in Chrome, and this is also the data that’s used as a ranking signal. You can see exactly what page URLs need to be optimized.

Optimize-to-Start-in-Google-Search-Console

Run a website speed test

Google’s real user data will tell you how fast your website is, but it won’t provide an analysis that explains why your website is slow.

Run a free website speed test to find out. Simply enter the URL of the page you want to test. You’ll get a detailed performance report for your website, including recommendations on how to optimize it.

Run-a-website-speed-test-for-optimization

Use priority hints to optimize the Largest Contentful Paint

Priority Hints are a new browser feature that came out in 2022. It allows website owners to indicate how important an image or other resource is on the page.

This is especially important when optimizing the Largest Contentful Paint, one of the three Core Web Vitals metrics. It measures how long it takes for the main page content to appear after opening the page.

By default, browsers assume that all images are low priority until the page starts rendering and the browser knows which images are visible to the user. That way bandwidth isn’t wasted on low-priority images near the bottom of the page or in the footer. But it also slows down important images at the top of the page.

Adding a fetchpriority=”high” attribute to the img element that’s responsible for the Largest Contentful Paint ensures that it’s downloaded quickly.

Use native image lazy loading for optimization

Image lazy loading means only loading images when they become visible to the user. It’s a great way to help the browser focus on the most important content first.

However, image lazy loading can also slow cause images to take longer to load, especially when using a JavaScript lazy loading library. In that case, the browser first needs to load the JavaScript library before starting to load images. This long request chain means that it takes a while for the browser to load the image.

Use-native-image-lazy-loading-for-optimization

Today browsers support native lazy loading with the loading=”lazy” attribute for images. That way you can get the benefits of lazy loading without incurring the cost of having to download a JavaScript library first.

Remove and optimize render-blocking resources

Render-blocking resources are network requests that the browser needs to make before it can show any page content to the user. They include the HTML document, CSS stylesheets, as well as some JavaScript files.

Since these resources have such a big impact on page load time you should check each one to see if it’s truly necessary. The async keyword on the HTML script tag lets you load JavaScript code without blocking rendering.

If a resource has to block rendering check if you can optimize the request to load the resource more quickly, for example by improving compression or loading the file from your main web server instead of from a third party.

Remove-and-optimize-render-blocking-resources

Optimize with the new interaction to Next Paint metric

Google has announced a new metric called Interaction to Next Paint. This metric measures how quickly your site responds to user input and is likely to become one of the Core Web Vitals in the future.

You can already see how your website is doing on this metric using tools like PageSpeed Insights.

Optimize-with-new-Interaction-to-Next-Paint-metric

Continuously monitor your site performance

One-off site speed tests can identify performance issues on your website, but they don’t make it easy to keep track of your test results and confirm that your optimizations are working.

DebugBear continuously monitors your website to check and alerts you when there’s a problem. The tool also makes it easy to show off the impact of your work to clients and share test results with your team.

Try DebugBear with a free 14-day trial.

Continuously-monitor-your-site-performance

 

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