“The future of the industry lies in understanding the customer’s intent.” –thinkwithgoogle.com
With the rise of voice assistants, chatbots, and conversational search, the customer journey more often starts with a question, a desire, a need, and AI-powered¹ discovery services (ex. search engines, apps, maps, etc.) are responding with more relevant, detailed information. With this shift in consumer search behavior, following are insights for SEO² (Search Engine Optimization) strategies:
IF THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY STARTS WITH A QUESTION: HOW DO MARKETERS ANSWER?
- To ensure your business appears in search results as the answer to your customers’ questions, manage your brand data, which is made up of hundreds of facts, concepts, and details about your products/services.
- The ideal architecture for AI-powered search and discovery services emerging today is to consolidate brand information in a single location. It must be accessible and structured to align to the changing digital ecosystem.
THE NEW CUSTOMER JOURNEY
- Search engines are retraining consumers to ask instead of search; the customer journey starts with a question, which leads to new, different questions as a part of the research process
- Google search results pages include a feature that shows what “people also ask”, with a set of questions to click on for answers, and to click through for a full search.
QUESTIONS ARE THE NEW KEYWORDS
- To keep up with the shift from keywords to questions, marketers must structure their brand data to provide direct answers, on and off the brand website.
- Question = Search = Intent: search marketing has moved beyond keywords to searcher’s intentions, and consumers’ questions state exactly what they want.
UNDERSTANDING INTENT ALONG THE JOURNEY
- To understand the customer’s journey and what’s important to them, examine their searches and the questions they asked.
- Map the journey by looking at when those questions were asked, and strategize to meet similar customers along the way.
BUILDING AN INTENT MODEL
- Build an intent model, which creates the basis to answer consumers’ questions, and identifies which search terms to target to get the best return for your customers.
- The goal is to understand and optimize marketing strategies for the customer’s path of intent.
DEMOGRAPHIC VS. INTENT MARKETING
- Demographic targeting studies who your customers are, but not what they do or how they feel. Relying only on demographics to reach consumers risks missing more than 70% of potential mobile shoppers.
- Research customers’ intent based on signals of interest in a product/service. Intent marketing is more effective at reaching and converting customers, and is reactive to their stated needs and raises fewer privacy concerns.
The customer journey starts with a question, and consumers expect answers. Provide accurate, consistent, brand-verified answers to consumer questions, no matter where or how customers are searching.
¹Artificial intelligence (AI): the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems (searchenterpriseai.techtarget.com). ²SEO (Search Engine Optimization): the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through search engine results (moz.com).
Source: Marc Ferrentino, Chief Strategy Officer at Yext; thinkwithgoogle.com; how-to-build-buyer-intent-model