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Keyword strategies for the customer buying cycle

A number of studies over the last few years by search marketing experts such as Yahoo! and DoubleClick (before it was purchased by Google) have consistently found that searchers use different search terms at each stage of the buying cycle.

A Yahoo! study, dating as far back as 2004 asserts that searchers search a few times prior to making a purchase. Further results found that searchers use generic keywords at the start of the buying cycle, once the need has been identified; but use more product & brand specific keywords as they near the purchase decision.

Targeted paid search marketing management

With this in mind, in order to drive sales through search, cast a wide net of both branded and generic keywords while targeting your ad copy to each stage of the buying cycle. Based on the behaviour of searchers as they move through the buying stages, it is important to focus on the following elements:

#1. Awareness of Need & Information Search:

Integrate search with other marketing channels, both online and offline so that your brand is visible to searchers when they commence their search.

Use generic keywords to attract new customers as they become aware of your offering. But be patient, conversion rates at this stage might be lower as people still evaluate their options. You may not see results straight away, but it may translate into sales later in the cycle.

#2. Consideration of Options:

Searchers compare companies and brands on points such as price, third-party endorsements, customer service and warranty. Call-to-action points such as ‘compare now’ or ‘check prices’ may be effective here.

Cast a wide net of keywords by using your own data and log files to ensure you are capturing exactly what searchers are looking for. Add plurals, misspellings, variations and verb modifiers such as find, shop for, discount etc.

#3. Purchase Decision:

Focus on your brand & products by targeting specific models, makes and product terms. Use Dynamic Keyword Insertion, as this will capture exact products that your searchers are looking for and validate your ad’s relevancy.

Engage with the customer by capturing personal data or providing valuable downloads, information and other site interaction that may be the deciding factor for the purchase. Even if they do not buy right away, they may remember you when they are ready, if you engage them now.

Use strong call-to-actions to motivate the searcher to act accordingly on your website. They have searched, researched, compared and now they are ready to buy – make sure it is on your website.