Consumers have evolved, from relying on salespeople in brick-and-mortar stores to smart, empowered buyers. People also used to depend on sales assistants to provide information regarding a product or service they’re interested in. But this changed when the internet overtook the world.
Consumer Behavior in the Digital Age
The internet helped consumers gather information on their own, allowing them to make smarter purchasing decisions. Research shows 88 percent of consumers research online before making a purchase. This strategy ensures that they’re buying the best possible product for their needs.
The habit of looking up a product online before buying isn’t exclusive to online transactions. A study by Bazaarvoice, the ROBO (Research Online Buy Offline) Economy, revealed 82 percent use their smartphones to research items they’re about to buy in-store.
So consumers commit to knowing more about the products or services they’re considering instead of depending on advertising stunts by salespeople. As a result, businesses scrambled to recalibrate their current marketing approach and devise new ones to ensure that they’re constantly providing the needs of modern consumers.
Why Your Business Need SEO
One of these strategies is search engine optimization or SEO.
SEO is a business-driving strategy that makes sure you get to be where your target market is. SEO helps you get on the first page of search engine results, so you can deliver the right information to the right people at the right time.
As the digital space gets increasingly competitive by the minute, it’s a mistake not to play the SEO game. You may be losing money if your website is not optimized in search engines.
1. The Internet Facilitates Business More Than Any Medium
Brick-and-mortar shops still have value in the digital age. The difference is that consumers use online techniques, even when buying something in-store. A majority will check your website as they’re walking around the store.
Consumers rely on product descriptions on your site, reviews by other people, and opinions of authorities in the industry for a decision about a product. As such, the internet is often the first stop in a customer’s buying process. And SEO is one of the best ways to achieve visibility online.
2. Organic Search is Still a Big Driver of Online Traffic
Despite the growth of paid search, organic still reigns in search engine results pages (SERPs). Merkle’s Digital Marketing Report for Q2 2019 shows organic search produced 23 percent of all site visits in the second quarter of 2019. Although this is a 6 percent decline from last year’s total, organic searches still drive more traffic than paid.
In the first quarter of this year, organic clicks outnumbered paid nearly 12 to 1. Paid clicks to non-Google sites account for only 3.58 percent of the entire search market. Meanwhile, organic clicks to non-Google sites are at 41.45 percent.
Where does SEO fit in here?
The whole purpose of SEO is to drive online traffic through a strong network of backlinks and a solid foundation of content and keywords. An optimized site obeys Google’s algorithms, so it ranks higher on SERPs. And the higher your place on the results page, the more likely it is for users to click on your web page.
The links that show up on Google’s first results page receive 71 percent of the clicks because people rarely take the time to visit the other pages. In short, the first page gets more traffic, which can turn into leads if you handle it correctly.
3. SEO Targets Customers in Different Stages of the Journey
In Google’s most recent algorithm, content relevance trumps keyword density or placement. Content that answers the user’s query or problem rank higher than those that use a bunch of keywords and backlinks but don’t deliver value.
SEO helps you put out more relevant content through keyword research. This technique helps you determine user intent. The intent will tell you how far along the searcher is on the buyer’s journey, whether they’re in the awareness, consideration, or decision stage.
Determining the motivation behind the query will help you curate the kind of content that will answer the user’s problem.
For example, “SEO strategies” is a common keyword for searchers who’re probably still trying to learn more about SEO. On the other hand, keywords like “SEO companies Denver” are probably from those looking for information about a nearby business or considering to hire a service provider near them.
It’s important to identify user intent because you can’t deliver promotional content to those still in the research phase. And you can’t bombard basic information to those who have already decided what they’re going to buy.
Additionally, knowing the user intent helps you push them further along their journey – which is also a function of SEO.
4. SEO Pushes Your Audience Further Along the Journey
Consumers allow themselves to be guided along the purchasing journey if the content they see satisfies their needs. And you can make that kind of content with SEO.
For example, a user is looking for a present for a soon-to-be-wed couple. He or she will likely land on blog pages, whether on-page or off-page. For such searchers who are in the awareness stage, you can organically link products that match their requirements. The goal here is not to make a sale but to give them gift ideas.
Once the user starts evaluating options, they enter the consideration stage. They’ll most likely be looking at reviews, comparisons, news, and product demonstrations. Position your content to gently persuade the searcher to take a closer look at your product.
At the decision stage, the customer is ready to make a purchase. Here, you can include lead magnets in your content, such as discount coupons, tutorial videos, or free trials. These freebies entice users to give their email addresses in exchange for a valuable item. Don’t forget call-to-action phrases that directly link to sign-up sheets, making it easier for the searcher to go from exploring to buying.
SEO is a long-term strategy. And since Google doesn’t seem like it’s giving up the number one search engine position anytime soon, a solid SEO strategy is worth having in your arsenal.
5. SEO is a Long-Term Strategy
SEO can give you noticeable results within the first year of implementation. And these results can last for a long while if you invest time, effort, and resources in it. Also, the longer you’ve had an SEO strategy in place, the more optimized your website becomes. You’ll also be able to understand and respond to algorithm changes whenever Google rolls out a core update.
Investing in SEO is a means of future-proofing your business. It helps seal your position in the ever-competitive digital space. Once you achieve your ideal SERP ranking, you can get a steady stream of foot traffic, which you can convert to leads and then customers. But you have to work consistently to preserve this ranking.
The needs of the modern consumer evolve each day. And as a business owner, it’s your responsibility to continue providing the needs of your target market. This is the ultimate goal of SEO; not to rank, but to make sure you’re in the right place to give the right answers to your audience’s problems. SEO is the first step in building meaningful relationships — from turning mere IP addresses into leads, leads into customers, and finally, customers into loyal advocates.
Dan Smink is the founder of C1 Partners, a Denver SEO company that helps small to medium enterprises with their digital marketing strategy. Dan comes from a background of 20 years in business leadership and has a track record of helping businesses achieve million-dollar revenue values. He is an active community leader and contributor to Forbes.com’s Agency Council spreading the word on how digital strategies can make a positive impact on today’s businesses.You may connect with him on LinkedIn.