SEO and Your Customer’s Buying Cycle

seo keywords and the buying cycle

We know how critical it is that any SEO campaign starts with right keyword choices. But keyword research goes beyond simply finding words with the largest search volume in Google and that are some way relevant to your website.

Your keyword search should take into account your specific customer’s buying cycle – the process they undertake to reach a decision on what to buy and where to buy it from. This varies massively based on the products and services you sell, whether you’re B2C or B2B and other factors. But let’s use an example (completely unrelated to anything we’re working on at Tecmark) to illustrate what we mean.

Our Fictional Example Sells Trainers

So, let’s say you sell trainers. You sell all types of trainers from all kinds of brands and for all sorts of purposes. You sell exclusively online and so it’s critical for you to get people onto your site and buying. You’re not interested in driving them to a store (because you don’t have one)!

Consumer Buying Cycle

We have a customer who is about to run a marathon and needs a pair of running trainers. This customer, depending on how much they already know about their needs, could very realistically enter a buying cycle that looks like this:

  • Generic search for “˜trainers’ or “˜running trainers.’ Browse a number of stores and the brands they sell.
  • Research some of the individual brands within those various websites.
  • Identify a brand that they are particularly keen on.
  • Identify a product within that brand’s range that fits their needs.
  • Find that product at a good price from a trustworthy online seller.

Search Cycle

In online retail, that means the search cycle could follow a pattern of searches that looks something like this:

seo and the buying cycle

This is purely for illustrative purposes! I don’t personally know whether a Supernova Sequence 4 is the best running shoe, for the record! But what we see in a buying cycle across many sectors is searchers refining their searching the more they find out.

This sequence of searches or similar searches is a realistic pattern – though let’s bear in mind that different searchers are already armed with varying levels of knowledge and, as such, some enter the cycle closer to the point of purchase than others.

Incorporating this into a SEO Campaign

  • It’s not particularly feasible to rank for every single variation of every single keyword that someone looking for any single one of your products might type in. But a keyword list that balances some broader keywords as well as some higher converting specific keywords is an effective approach for ecommerce websites.
  • An on page strategy that focuses on best practice techniques for the product pages will give you a massive start (before you even think about link building) on the more specific product names, for example.
  • In ecommerce, the more generic the keyword, (certainly in this example) the more traffic it is likely to generate but the lower the conversion rate these visitors will have.
  • The more specific the keyword, the lower the search volume but the higher the potential conversion rate of traffic from this keyword.
  • If you have thousands of products, though, ranking well in search engines for your product names can equate to more traffic overall than high rankings for a handful of generic keywords.
  • Being visible for a number of searches a consumer types in throughout the process reiterates your brand to that consumer. If they keep seeing you popping up in search, by the time they reach the purchase stage, they feel “˜familiar’ with your brand.

Your Website

The internet makes it easy for consumers to find what they want quickly and easily. No matter how many times you appear in search, if your prices seem unjustifiably higher than the average for a product or your site doesn’t look trustworthy, the customer can and will go somewhere else to make their purchase.

Stacey MacNaught

Stacey MacNaught

Stacey joined us in 2009 as a junior copywriter; now she's a recognised figure on the global speaking circuit, having wowed audiences in the UK, Europe and US - including at MozCon 2014. She leads our search team and works with clients to deliver high-level campaign strategies.