Thinking About The Other Side Of Search

So much of search marketing revolves around thinking about how to get discovered that it’s easy to ignore the other half of the equation: what happens once you are found.

It’s well known that consumers are fickle. They abandon Web sites that take too long to load, reconsider purchases and leave shopping carts at extraordinary rates. Nearly a third (29%) of consumers will switch to another site or mobile app if it’s too slow or too hard to find information, according to Google. That’s why search marketers need to be aware of the user experience. 

A recent survey conducted by digital content management platform provider Episerver found 92% of consumers initially visit a brand’s Web site for reasons other than making a purchase. Nearly half (45%) are simply searching for a product or service, while others are comparing prices or looking for store details. Even more troubling, 98% of shoppers (those intending to make a purchase) have stopped short of buying because the content on the Web site was incomplete or incorrect.

“The content customers see and the experiences they have while interacting with a brand online are crucial to shaping their purchasing behavior,” said James Norwood, Episerver’s chief marketing officer and executive vp of strategy, in a statement. “While not every consumer visiting a brand's Web site is there to make a purchase, brands must consider how the experience of their Web sites — from navigation to checkout — supports engagement.”

It’s widely believed that user experience factors into a search engine rankings. While they may not be “top-order” factors in search results, studies have shown that user-experience factors like time-on-site and bounce rates do have an effect. Yet there’s little connection between the search engine and user experience practices within many marketing departments. 

As with many marketing disciplines, some of the disconnect comes from the industry’s siloed history. As Noble Studios put it in a recent white paper: “The UX team resides in one corner of the office, staring intently at their Macs with the window shades drawn, while the SEO crew is busy bubbling around and talking about ‘KPIs’ and ‘algorithm updates’ in another corner. And rarely do their two paths cross, except maybe to exchange pleasantries at the coffee pot.”

The paper argues that the silo walls need to come down, and that both search marketing and UX disciplines should come together to work on solutions that are focused on audience engagement and motivations. Search marketers should become versed in basic UX terminology and work to find common ground (audiences can be the same thing as personas, for instance) when working together, and focus on data-driven solutions.

“Those SEO professionals who strive to bridge the gap will get more attention, more resources and get the attention of the C-Suite,” the paper concludes. “Those who take the time to understand user intent, lead with data rather than opinions and train their focus on the user experience will be in the pole position — and so will their clients.”
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