How Web Traffic Is Evolving and Why Your Content Needs to Move with It
There’s been a shift of power in the way people buy products online. The days where users have to search for everything are over; instead they’re bombarded with marketing messages every day, whether they look for them or not.
The result is a new kind of web traffic where you have to meet users on their terms. Provide the content they need at the right time and you’re off to a good start. Miss the boat, however, and you could be saying bye-bye for good.
News flash: not all traffic is the same
Once upon a time, digital marketers grouped visitors into two categories: those with sales potential and those without. That was before we had the kind of data available to us know, though. It was also before users had the range of devices they now own or social media existed as we know it.
So today’s web comes with many different types of traffic, made up of various user intents we can now measure and target. The key user intents are as follows:
- Decided: The user has already decided to buy a specific product or service (although they might not know where from)
- High-intent: Ready to buy now or in the very near future
- Mid-intent: Likely to buy a product similar to yours at some point, but not committed
- Low-intent: Shows interest in your products or industry, with little intent to buy at this stage
Every one of those purchase intents could become a future customer of yours, but the journey they take will be different. This is where your marketing strategy needs to branch out and catch users at different stages of the buying process.
There are also different user actions we can associate with their intent. For example, someone who reads customer reviews for three different products in the same category is clearly comparing products (mid-intent). You can use these actions and the associated buying intent to create targeted messages that encourage users to take the next step.
Google names this kind of web traffic as ‘micro-moments’
With all the data Google has on people using the web, it’s no surprise the search giant is leading the way in building a web around user intent. Google is calling the modern consumer journey micro-moments – a wide range of interactions consumers take as they move from one buying intent to the next.
Google defines these micro-moments as times when a consumer wants to do one of the following:
Image from Google Think
These actions can take place across various devices and even offline situations, like store visits. The key here is to understand you’re now dealing with many types of traffic – each with unique needs. Neglect them and you’ll be letting valuable leads slip through your fingers.
How to turn micro-moments into paying customers
Whether you call these interactions micro-moments or not, you need a marketing strategy to address them. Your priority is to convert as many high-intent users as possible – right now – and then devote your remaining resources to users that aren’t quite ready to buy now. The point is, you want to be the brand they come to when they are ready to buy. To make that happen there are three things you need to do with micro-moments:
Step 1: Be in the right place at the right time – Whether its Google, Facebook or any other platform, you can’t interact with people who can’t see you.
Step 2: Create content for specific user intents – Forget generic content and provide the info users need so they’re ready to move on to the next stage of the buying process.
Step 3: Provide the next step – Don’t let users walk away once they’re done with your content. Always provide the next step and encourage them to stay involved with your brand.
That’s the process in a nutshell but those three stages are pretty complex – so let’s take a closer look at them.
How to be in the right place at the right time
Being in the right place at the right time is becoming more difficult. First of all, there are more places than ever and users are now connected all the time. But here’s the trick: people spend 80% of that time in either Google or Facebook products. So we know where and when people are in the vast majority of cases. All that remains is understanding what they’re looking for and Google thinks there are four key reasons:
Image from Google Think
When users want to know something, they’ll actively look for the answer on Google. This means you need to rank for the kind of queries these users type in or turn to AdWords if you don’t have that kind of search presence. Better yet, you can use both.
The key here is knowing what kind of questions people have before they do business with a brand like yours. That takes research but you can get some good ideas from simply heading over to LinkedIn groups and Quora to see what kind of questions people are asking. Better yet, reach out to them and answer.
For users looking to go somewhere or find something local your presence relies a lot on local SEO and Google Maps. Don’t forget there are other search engines and map platforms people can use to find you, but the Google connection is invaluable.
This only works if you have a physical presence to your business – ie: you welcome customers through the door. If that doesn’t apply to your business, then you can always get creative with content or ad campaigns for events in your industry that customers might be interested in. Just a thought.
For those “how to” moments, users are looking for tutorial type content. Video tends to dominate these (think YouTube how to videos) but don’t fall into the trap of thinking video is always better than text. Sometimes video can be too intrusive when people are in public and other simply prefer to read tutorials step-by-step.
Either way, your products or services should hopefully be designed to solve some kind of problem. That means your target audience has the same problem and probably others. So help them solve their problems because that’s the kind of brand you are. Just don’t try telling people your products is the solution – that’s just creepy. Provide a solution that doesn’t involve your product/service but highlight the benefits you can provide (making it cheaper, faster, easier, etc.)
As for the buying moments, this is where you need to focus the bulk of your attention and budget. After all, these are the leads most likely to convert and you want as many of them as possible.
Create highly-specific ad campaigns (eg: exact match keywords, single keyword ad groups, etc.) for people ready to buy now. Also use remarketing to keep your brand present as users continue to browse the web. Meanwhile, keep working on your organic SEO presence and consider listing any products you sell on third party sites like Amazon to maximise your reach.
Something Google neglects to mention when it comes micro-moments is the social factor. It’s no surprise, because this would mean promoting the importance of rival Facebook and highlighting its failure with Google Plus.
However, social media is important for consumers and that makes it important for you. Just remember social doesn’t come with the active search intent of Google. Social users are casually browsing the content on that platform, rather than trying to find anything specific. This doesn’t mean social users have no buying intent, though. In fact, Facebook comes with some of the best targeting features around to help you hone in on different user intents.
How to create content for different user intents
Being there is one thing but to capture users in those micro-moments you also need to provide the right content. No matter which stage of the buying process a user is at, they still need something to move on to the next. It could be a special offer to sweeten the deal, reassurance your product is the best in its category or an explainer video for more info.
To get specific answers on the kind of content you need to offer, you’ll have to do some pretty vigorous research on your target audience and competitors to see what challenges consumers come across when buying. Here are some common examples to give you an idea:
- Special offers
- Free delivery
- Money-back guarantees
- Free trials
- Customer testimonials
- Vouchers for in-store purchases
- Product reviews/comparisons
- Explainer videos
- Social competitions (create desire to own your product)
- Industry news
- “How-to” content for people who buy products like yours
- Social content showing people who use your products
Those examples could fit into different categories, depending on what you’re selling and who your target audience is. Some of them may not be relevant at all and this is why research is so important. Once you know what content users need throughout the buying process, it’s time to create a path for them, from low-intent all the way to clicking the buy button.
How to provide the next step for users
Everything we’ve looked at so far talks about micro-moments and content as small, individual elements. But to get the most out of each interaction with users, you need to create a path they can follow, from the first time they show interest in your brand to the moment they click buy – and beyond.
So every piece of content you publish needs to do two things:
- Provide the information users are looking for in that specific micro-moment
- Give them a reason to stay connected with your brand so you can guide them along the buying process
To achieve that second goal, make sure every piece of content has some kind of call to action. Never let a user leave once they’ve finished reading. Instead, leave them wanting more information and link to blog posts or service pages that go into more detail. Or do what you can to capture email addresses so you can target them in your email marketing campaigns. And, of course, you should always strive to create content good enough that people want to share it on social media, which then allows you to target users who interact with your content.
The important thing to remember is that users want to buy what you’re selling. They’re just worried you might not be the best brand to buy it from or there might be a better product on the market. Your task is to catch people at each stage of the buying process and prove to them you are the brand to do business with and that what you’re selling is the best product on the market. This is a gradual process for people that aren’t already committed to your brand – but the longer they spend engaging with you, the more likely they are to click that buy button.
So that’s the state of web traffic today. And, while it may seem complicated at a first glance, it actually shows how much better we’re getting at connecting with consumers. It also shows how many new opportunities there are to capture leads that would never have converted before – and hopefully keep them coming back to buy again. After all, new customers are great but repeat customers are what it’s all about.