New Research Defines Buyer’s Journey to 3 Steps

Recognizing how buyers navigate through their purchase process gives sellers the insight to improve their process management for fun and profit.

  |  September 12, 2013   |

Buyers Journey Starts OnlineI’ve heard the term “buyer’s journey” more than ever over the past year and a half. Marketers have been talking about understanding the buyer’s journey for some time now, but I haven’t seen any hard data to define what exactly this term means. I decided to research the buyer’s journey concept to better understand how to leverage it in modern marketing. To understand the buyer’s journey concept, I surveyed 400 B2B buyers and compiled their answers to create the first definitive guide to the modern buyer’s journey.

Why I Surveyed Buyers Instead of CMOs

I’m tired of reading surveys from chief marketing officers (CMOs) when the average CMO only drives a 5 percent click-though rate on emails. That means most CMOs fail 95 percent of the time when trying to drive engagement in the buyer’s journey. So to understand the buyer’s journey, I knew I had to survey the real buyers – not CMOs – if I wanted to get to the bottom of things.

What I Found

When asking buyers, I wanted to really understand their habits and their process much better. From understanding habits and processes, we can then map our marketing to those two behaviors and increase our engagement. So my questioning started with understanding how they research. Understanding research is the key to understanding the buyer’s cycle, because every buyer’s cycle starts with research.

  • The buyer’s journey starts online. The buyer’s journey begins with research, and 76 percent of my respondents said that they start with Google. In contrast, 15 percent of people said that they ask their peer groups first, but they still engage with search at some point in their buyer’s journey. A stunning 99 percent of respondents agreed that their search terms change as their research deepens.
  • The buyer’s journey has three steps. The next question I asked was aimed toward respondents who said that they begin their search on Google: How many times after the initial search do you go back to Google and search again during your research process? Seventy-two percent of respondents returned to Google two to three times during their buyer’s journey. Putting the journey in that context allows us to then craft content appropriate to each stage in the buyer’s journey. This is key because 77 percent of respondents also said they want different content at each stage of their journey.
  • Buyers prefer shorter content. If buyer’s want different content at each stage, let’s talk about the type of content we should be creating. I also asked their preferred size of content. Seventy percent of respondents said they prefer content under five pages long.

If you take these three fundamental understandings of the buyer’s journey, you can easily increase your engagement rates with targeted content and emails and ultimately convert more prospects into leads for your company.

Three Ways to Use This Information

  1. Define the three stages of your marketing cycle. Break your marketing cycle into three stages of interest. Then craft your content to fit each stage. Research shows that you need three stages, and people want different content at each stage. Tailor your content to each stage for increased engagement.
  2. Keep your content short and stage-specific. Make sure your content is targeted to each stage, and under five pages in length. The majority of content out there is generalized and applicable to any or all stages in the buying cycle. If you find that this is the case for your content, try breaking it down into shorter, more easily digestible sections, then separate them out and tailor them to the appropriate stage. This gives you more run out of your efforts, and it gives your buyers a better experience – one that matches the way they want to consume.
  3. Match your SEO terms and SEM buys to your three stages. Ninety-nine percent of people are going to search for a different term at each stage. Understanding this basic truth, and knowing that most buyers like getting different content at each stage, will help you to better match your search marketing with the correct content and relevant calls-to-action.

You can watch me present this data here. Also, please leave me messages in the comments section below or ping me on Twitter @msweezey if you have any questions on this research or how to implement these ideas.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

This column was originally published on July 30, 2013.

Hubspot Answers Your Top 7 Questions About the State of SEO In 2012

Posted by Rebecca Churt
Thu, Aug 23, 2012 @ 11:30 AM


We recently co-hosted a smash-hit webinar with SEOmoz, The State of SEO. SEOmoz CEO Rand Fishkin and HubSpot Co-Founder Dharmesh Shah held a captive audience (and cracked a few jokes) talking about the SEO industry in 2012 — and boy has it come a long way. During the webinar, attendees asked tons of fantastic questions, and unfortunately we couldn’t get to all of them. So we figured a blog post was in order to address the SEO questions that were more frequently asked by attendees. Here are answers to your top 7 questions about SEO, and if you missed the webinar, download it for free here and listen at your leisure!

1) If I’m just getting started in SEO, where do I begin?

If you’re just getting started with SEO, you’re probably going to want some quick wins. And the easiest way to get those quick wins is to target long-tail keywords — typically classified as phrases that are three or more words in length. Long-tail keywords typically have less search volume than head terms, but they are also less competitive. Think about it … it’s probably harder to rank for “lawyers” than for “reliable family lawyers in boston,” right? Here, take a look at this image to understand the value of long-tail search a little more:

long tail seo strategy resized 600

See that callout in the chart above that says long-tail search yields an average 36% conversion rate? That’s the other benefit of targeting long-tail keywords — because they’re more specific in nature, the traffic you’re driving by ranking for them is more targeted. And more targeted traffic means higher conversions! Piggy-backing off of our lawyer example, there are millions of people that could be looking for a lawyer; that doesn’t help the family lawyers in Boston looking for new clients. So even if they drove traffic to their website for the term “lawyer,” chances are, most of that traffic isn’t going to turn into a new client … hence the benefit of targeting long-tail keywords, instead! Less competition. Quick wins. Higher conversions. Good stuff.

2) What’s the deal with rel=Author? What does it mean?

When you see rel=Author, it simply denotes the author of a page — think of it as a way to connect authors with their content on the web. Google is using it to help surface content from great authors in the SERPs. They know that the best content comes from awesome authors, and Google obviously wants to return the highest quality content possible in their search results. They hope this tag will highlight those authors, and help their content rank in search results without having to rely so heavily on inbound links to achieve high rankings.
rel author use for seo

When this markup language is employed, it also links to your Google+ profile and through that, pulls in your profile image. This should help make that content more engaging in the SERPs, improving click through rates, showing a new focus on not just ranking in SEO, but actual engagement. To start taking advantage of rel=Author, just follow these steps:

1) Have a Google+ account with a full profile. Make sure the email address for the profile matches the author email and name.

2) Use this link to connect your website to your profile:

3) Wait for the content to be indexed — this may take up to a week or longer.

Follow the guidance from Google Webmaster Tools for additional best practices.

3) What kind of content should marketers create for optimal SEO results?

Search engines are built to mimic human behavior. What’s good for your audience is good for them. If people like your content because they find it helpful or enjoyable, they’ll read it, bookmark it, and share it. That makes search engines happy.

That means the content you’re creating should make readers happy first. And you can do that by making your content specialized and focused. You know, written with your target audience in mind. When you’re creating content with passion and the intent to help someone, you’ll naturally be creating great SEO content. So be thorough, think of topics that your audience wants to read, and offer it up in a palatable way — well written, well formatted, and sometimes even in visual formats. If you do this, you won’t have to un-naturally force a certain number of keywords into your content just to try to rank in the SERPs. In fact, doing that will make the crawlers and your readers really, really unhappy.

4) Do you have any tips on local SEO?

Why yes, I do. Before I get into some nitty gritty tips, let’s get one more general best practice out of the way.

Google has been consistently supplementing search results with immediate answers when conducting local searches. It’s their attempt to get you answers more quickly and improve your experience. As a local business, you need to leverage your knowledge and expertise to appear in these supplementary results. To do that, offer much more depth of content, and cover topics that Google may never offer up content on (simply because they don’t know). Be as specific and detailed as possible, showing a depth of knowledge that cannot be replaced by a machine.

Now that we have that out of the way, here are some golden nuggets for great local SEO:

  • Add yourself to local directories like your local Chamber of Commerce.
  • Write about local events, history, and the people who work at your company, if possible.
  • Get reviews from sites like Yelp!.
  • Have a Google Places Account — which is now managed through Google+. Bing and Yahoo offer their own versions, too.
  • Have a Facebook Account so people can perform local check-ins.
  • Have a true “Contact Us” page with a working phone number, physical address, and map.
  • Exercise superior customer service. What people experience in the real world, they talk about online.

5) It seems like larger websites need a slightly different approach to SEO. Do you have any enterprise SEO tips?

Enterprise SEO doesn’t need to be radically different, it’s just that enterprise businesses typically have more resources. So use them! Here are some tips on how you can leverage your resources for better SEO:

  • Vary your content. In other words, think of content outside of the realm of just text-based content. Make use of videos, surveys, visual content, and industry trends backed up by data.
  • Segment your content. Google really likes segmentation. It drives better search results if you segment content by, say, industry, because it lets them deliver more specific results.
  • Leverage multiple contributors and authors, especially when those contributors may have segment specialization and want to build thought leadership online.
  • Continue improving your overall website speed and uptime. Nothing is worse — for users and search engines — than a slow site, dead ends (404s), or worse, a site that’s frequently down.

6) What best practices do you have for pay-it-forward link building?

Link building is like relationship building. Come at it with a long-term, mutually beneficial approach. Think about it … if you were looking to foster a good relationship with a new co-worker, what would you do? Probably slowly get to know them on a more personal level, try to be helpful with projects, do nice things for them periodically, and do things to make them more successful at work. You know, just general, good-person things.

That’s what link building is like. Give websites links to their content because it’s awesome, and you think they deserve the credit and boost in the SERPs. Connect with them non-aggressively, like on social media. When they post a fantastic blog post, or you share a snippet of their content in your own, tweet at them to let them know you think they rock. As time goes on (and you continute to create excellent content, of course), you’ll appear on people’s radar naturally. You’ll have built a relationship with high quality webmasters, and you’ll be one yourself. Birds of a feather flock together!

7) What are considered to be “sketchy” SEO tactics?

A good rule of thumb is if it doesn’t help the searcher’s experience, it’s probably considered sketchy by Google’s crawlers. Here are a few more concrete things not to employ, though:

  • Keyword stuffing in your content and URLs
  • Overuse of tags on your blog
  • Buying links
  • Aggressively adding yourself to directories
  • Pumping out extreme amounts of low quality content
  • White on white text — for the purpose of keyword stuffing or receiving inbound links

The list could go on and on. The reality is that if it seems shady or is being practiced with the intent of just beating the algorithm — not helping readers — then chances are you shouldn’t do it. Here is a guide on how to build links using social media that is a more holistic approach to gaining traction online.

What other questions or tips do you have about SEO? Share them in the comments!

Image credit: seoz87

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