What is the concept of the customer journey?
A customer journey is a pattern of thought or a series of stages that a potential buyer goes through before ultimately buying a product or availing of a service. To understand this more clearly try to understand the last time you bought something for yourself. An expensive gadget like a mobile phone will be a great example.
Remember the steps you had taken before you finally committed to buying. First, you might have not known what model you should buy, so you must have made a note of the list of things you want to do with your new smartphone.
Namely, Gaming, watching movies, Social Media, or maybe even using it for recording videos or making content.
- After having a fair idea of the specifications, from Google required to perform these tasks, you might have searched in google about the phones that support those specifications in Google.
- After jotting a list of models you may have searched how they compare again each other. Again to come back to Google for the answer.
- While you are comparing the specifications you might have got a fair idea about the pricing.
- By now, you are quite aware of the specific model or models that you might want and you must be out for blood for some cheap deals. Again Google is your go-to place for finding offers and deciding on which brand to go for.
- Ultimately the decision of you wanting to buy online or from an offline store rests upon you but we already know ecommerce sales account for 30% – 40% of all smartphone sales in India alone.
Customer Journey and the AIDA Model
Seeing where I am getting with this? Throughout the entire journey, you followed through with some steps. Let me map them out for you
- First, you became aware of a need or a problem. In this case, the need was the ability to perform certain activities a smartphone can fulfil.
- Then you became interested in the solutions. In this case, you might have searched for “Best smartphones for Gaming in 2022” or “Smartphones with the best camera”.
- After you have understood the specific models you want, you now start calculating your budget and finding the best deal within that. Your “interest” has grown into a “desire” for that product.
- Finally, after deciding on the model you took action by purchasing your desired smartphone at the best deal possible.
- Another interesting thing to note, throughout your journey Google was your Go-to platform for research.
Your Journey outlined certain stages in the Customer Journey, namely Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action or AIDA.
“Customer Journey is a pattern of thought or a series of stages that a potential buyer goes through before ultimately buying a product or availing of a service.
“It generally has four stages: Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action that marketers should adher to also referred to as AIDA.”
How is the Customer Journey important for Businesses? Importance of Retention
By now you must have understood that the above example is not just a case for a singular journey of a smartphone buyer, but the same stages can be generalised to the buying process of practically any product or service.
This signifies the changing behaviour of today’s educated audience, who have a tendency of researching any product before making a purchase. Since Google is the go-to tool for research, I think it goes without saying the importance of having a Digital Presence for any company or brand.
Notice the different kinds of content that you consume in each stage. The type of content you consume in the interest stage is vastly different then what you are consuming in the desire or the action stage. This holds significance from an SEO Standpoint, the importance of creating different types of content optimised to satisfy each stage in the buying journey.
This way you are not only targeting customers.
who are currently in-market actively trying to purchase, but also you are reaching out to a broader range of prospects educating them in their buying journey and facilitating their eventual conversion.
“A content marketing strategy mapped according to the customer’s buying journey simply tips the odds of the customer going with your brand, in your favor. A significant point that can impact future ROI.”
Importance of Retention | AIDAR Model
There is a fifth component to the User journey that is often overlooked and that is Retention. The customer had availed service or bought a product like a smartphone. Now comes the hard part of making sure the customer returns to the same brand the next time he makes a similar purchase.
At this stage, the customer continues to ask service-related questions, and issues regarding usage and also continues to compare benefits with competitors.
Creating content that answers these questions goes a long way in ensuring a delightful customer service experience.
Also rewarding the customer for loyalty and other related offers often do move the needle enough to make them stay.
“There are 5 stages in a Customer Journey: Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action and Retention. Hence the AIDAR Model”.
How is Customer Journey Mapping important for SEO?
There are essentially three arguments to support this:
- With RankBrain, PaLM and LAMda Update, Google is shifting its focus from relying on Keywords to Identifying Search Intent
Understanding User Intent has been the long-standing objective of Google and with the advent of recent algorithm updates like BERT and Rankbrain, Google understands searches better than ever.
Also, Google has taken Natural Language Processing to the next level with PaLM and LAMda updates adding to its sophistication in identifying search intent.
All this means we SEOs need to adapt from not only creating articles for Keywords but also creating content that satisfies every reliable aspect of particular search intent.
This is where mapping specific content marketing efforts with each stage of the customer journey comes into place.
After identifying all the relevant Topics in each stage of the buying journey, it simply boils down to creating relevant and helpful content that will satisfy each stage and eventually ranking for all these topics thus capturing the entire spectrum of your target market,… at least in Google.
- Coordinate with Marketing Teams
Your marketing team might have an upcoming campaign that might increase the search volume of a particular product or service. It might be wise to leverage, maybe create a Page around that Keywords and build backlinks that naturally. This way we can blend SEO with brother Marketing tactics.
- Its not the Same as a Pillar Cluster Structure
A pillar cluster structure is usually designed to address all aspects of a particular topic. It generally has a single pillar page with several smaller posts addressing related topics.
The difference is a Pillar Cluster structure is usually optimised for 1-2 Search Intents, mostly Interest and Desire. Here we define the full spectrum of Search Intent in the buying journey. Hence several pillar cluster structures might have to be employed to cover each buying stage separately.
How to conduct Customer Journey mapping with Google
Step 1. Define the User Persona and User Journey Stages
In order to even begin carving a customer journey, we have to determine the kind of audience we are targeting. Hence creating a Buyer Persona can help.
There an excellent article in Hubspot where you can learn to create elaborate User Personas.
After that we can define each stage of the User Journey and determine the probable search intents.
The image below reflects the various stages of a basic User Journey:
Step 2: Data Collection
We will use the client’s search console data to find keywords with different intent related to the topic. 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.
After we have exhausted all search queries from the Google search console, we can move on to other Keyword research tools like Keyword Planner and SERanking for finding more keyword prospects with different intents.
Step 3: Search intent Mapping
Once all possible keywords for various intents have been identified we will move on to map each keyword to the specific journey stage that may seem suitable. We will do it in a presentation slide as below to be shown to the client.
- Each bubble represents a search query.
- The size of the bubble represents its search volume.
- The Green bubbles represent the queries ranking on 1st Page.
- The Yellow bubbles represent the pages ranking somewhere from the 2nd page to the 100th Page.
- The Red Bubbles are keywords where the client’s website doesn’t rank at all.
When a map like this is presented, it will naturally kick-start a focus on how we can convert all the intents to green.
User Journey Mapping according to the Business Objective
So as you get accustomed to the above segment about the AIDAL model, we can segregate the user journey mapping in accordance with specified business objectives. The user journey mapping can be categorised as follows:
User Journey Mapping for Service-Oriented Business
First, we will discuss the service-oriented business to start. We are taking a keyword called “SEO agency in Kolkata” as an instance to understand the entire consumer journey as a basis of the AIDAL model.
In the Awareness stage, the consumer might have the query like “How to choose the best SEO agency in Kolkata? ”. So once consumers triggered the search on Google they stepped into the AIDAL model. This is how the user journey mapping started.
Then in the very next user journey, the respective consumer starts searching for simple solution queries to satisfy his/her intent. This stage is about the Interest of that particular consumer. The instance would be like “SEO agency in Kolkata”. In this stage, they will also look for substitutes (e.g. “SEO services company in Kolkata”).
So by gathering interest in the respective query, the prospect now became more knowledgeable and they entered into the Desire stage by refining their search in an optimal way. They start searching for something like segments (“Fully managed SEO firm in Kolkata”).
For service-based businesses, the keywords of both the Desire/Action stage queries can be similar and overlapping.
User Journey Mapping for Ecommerce-Oriented Business
Let’s say we have an ecommerce store selling various Body Oil, Hair Oil and other related products.
In the Awareness stage, the consumer might search for queries like “Benefits of Body Oil” or “How to prevent hair loss”
In the Interest/Desire level the consumer may search for specific products and their pros and cons and also compare between products of your brands and other brands.
The action Stage is the point when the customer has decided on the product. He may now look for queries like “Best Deals of Good Vives Hair Oil”, and “How to apply body Oil properly”. At this stage, the customer is confident with their research but needs some incentive to be pushed to purchase.
In the Retention stage, the Customer will continue to compare products. At this stage posts like “Pros and Cons” or Loyalty Benefits or offers might be a good idea to retain customers.
User Journey Mapping for Product-Oriented Business
It’s similar to an Ecommerce Business. In this case, only the product may be a physical product or a Digital Product like software.
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 can help us understand user intent. Customer journey mapping on Google is a model to enable the data by visualizing it, ensuring we as marketers understand the prospects’ conversation and intent.
At the same time, it gives a clear overview of content prioritization, which is an important point, since most teams have limited resources.