Not all search engine users are ready to buy. The content of a query evidences the searcher's purchase intent, but low purchase intent may simply mean that the consumer is still early in the buying cycle.
When a consumer begins researching a potential purchase, how does the query evolve? For example, if you are in the market to buy a new car, how will you search?
First, you may be interested in the value of your "trade-in." You may, or may not, know what kind of car you want to buy. Maybe it will be a middle-aged crazy car, a "convertible" or a "sports car." Maybe your transportation needs are dictated by your family status, and you're interested in "station wagons," "minivans," or "SUVs."
Once you determine what type of car you want, perhaps you begin searching for "vehicle comparison information" or "product reviews." Maybe your budget is tight and you're looking for "low lease rates on Toyotas" or "special financing on Jeeps."
As you progress through the sales cycle, you may determine that you need some ammunition for the inevitable negotiation with the dealer, so you search "new car invoice prices." With each of these non-converting keywords, at each of these stages, marketers have the opportunity to place their brand in front of you in the results of your searches.
Now, there are really only two keyword phrases that evidence high purchase intent for a car buyer. Usually I would say only there is only one keyword phrase, but I discovered that you can, in fact, "buy new car online" or "buy car online" and actually order and take delivery of an automobile without ever setting foot in a dealership. An innovative company called "CarsDirect.com" sells automobiles right from its website.
With that exception, however, there is really one keyword that evidences purchase intent. Any ideas? How about the word "dealership" paired with a brand name and/or a city, or state? Most people still like to test-drive a car and purchase it from a dealership within a reasonable distance of their home.
Marketers engaged in search engine marketing need to remember that not all "conversions" are cash transactions and that not all searchers, or prospective customers are ready to buy the first time they begin searching for a solution.
One maxim we repeat over and over in search engine marketing is: Every time someone searches there is only one of two possible outcomes-a searcher finds you, or they find your competitor.
There is value in interacting with your customers before they are ready to buy. Intuitively, we know that this is "branding." Multiple pre-sale interactions with a customer can impact the likelihood of that visitor becoming your customer.
But to date, there are few, if any, data-driven studies that show branding impact through search engine marketing. Then again, there was a study released that proved that around April 15th, traffic to tax assistance and IRS resource sites increases. I thought: Did we really need a study?
Ask yourself, "If customers learn about my offering earlier in their buying cycle and have a good interaction as they are forming their buying criteria, are they more likely to buy from me?" Then ask yourself, "Do I really need a study?"
Most websites offer more than one type of conversion (requesting product information, signing up for a newsletter, etc.) and if site owners invested the time, they could identify and assign a value to several of them. When these smaller, softer conversions are studied, one can often identify their relationship with the "ultimate conversion" event.
Search engine marketing campaigns must aim for results above all else. But how wide you cast your net, and the number of interactions you have with prospective buyers before they reach a decision, is sure to have an impact on your ultimate success.
If you can capture visitors' clicks, and then translate visits into opportunities to enter into a dialogue through e-mail newsletters, surveys, or other methods that enable consumers to engage with your website, do you think you could sell something? Branding matters- and introducing your company to a prospective customer as early as possible in the buying cycle is key to keeping them away from competitors.