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SEO Can Be Present at All Stages of Customer Journey
Often the first touchpoint of the customer experience, SEO should be an integral component of your entire purchase funnel or loyalty loop. Far more than a one-time project, comprehensive SEO is an ongoing digital marketing effort that factors heavily into each phase of the customer journey, including awareness, demand, purchase, and even loyalty.
Different Strategies for Different Stages
An effective SEO campaign should include varying sections of content that are optimized to attract consumers at the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel or loyalty loop. If your SEO strategy centers on dropping people into the top of your sales funnel without much regard for customers who are already in the later stages, you are missing out on some serious potential.
To better understand why, consider a hypothetical customer who is in the market for a new television. At the top of the funnel, when he or she is merely exploring available options, the consumer is likely to type in search terms, such as "TV reviews," "LCD vs plasma," or "which TV is best." As this same consumer moves into the next stage of the sales funnel, however, he or she will have settled on one or more options. At this point, the customer is more likely to search for terms, such as "TVs on sale," "discounts on TVs," or "best store to buy a TV."
Finally, as the very same consumer enters the last stage of the sales funnel, he or she is ready to buy. In turn, you could expect that the consumer would search for terms such as "buy 60-inch TV" or "where to buy a (specific brand) TV."
Since people at the bottom of the funnel already know what they want and are ready to take action, they are especially valuable. They also tend to represent a relatively tiny slice of the overall customer pool. For both of these reasons, it's typically more difficult and more expensive to reach people who have already made it this far into the sales funnel. If you study AdWords, you will notice that these types of keywords tend to be the most expensive. Competition can also be especially fierce for keywords that target ready buyers. This is one big reason why it's a good idea to leverage SEO to target consumers at every possible stage of the customer journey.
Key Performance Indicators
To ensure that their SEO plans are working throughout every stage of their sales funnels, companies need insight into key performance metrics. During the awareness stage, these indicators would include impressions and click-through rates (CTRs). Further down the funnel, other KPIs would become more relevant. These would usually center on engagement, average time spent on a page, and informational inquiries. During the purchase stage, KPIs are pretty straightforward, with conversions, memberships or subscriptions the determinants of success.
Depending on the nature of a loyalty loop, SEO can also play a key role in creating a post-purchase experience that drives customer loyalty. If your service or product hits the right mark, customers are more likely to become vocal advocates for your brand. At the same time, if a brand is able to successfully deliver in accordance with the expectations of the consumer, that same consumer is likely to bypass the Active Evaluation stage of the sales funnel and take a short-cut to the Purchase stage at some point in the future.
Many times, these customers will use search engines to get back to a site. If the site is thoughtfully optimized, this is a simple, seamless task. KPIs can also be used to gain insight into customer loyalty, depending on how the business defines the term, whether that means repeat purchases, membership retention, participation or something else entirely.
Whatever the case, it should be clear that SEO is more than a one-time project for the front-end of a sales funnel. To effectively attract and engage customers at every level of the sales journey, it pays to have a comprehensive and ever-evolving SEO plan.