Search journey in SEO

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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Search journey in SEO

Published on 03.03.2022 by Alexis Chappatte, Digital Commerce Consultant, Post CH Ltd

Online searches are not a static activity. They’re a journey with different stages and intentions along the way. In this article, we explain the basics of search intent and give you some ideas on how you can integrate it into your digital channels.

When a customer wants to buy a vacuum cleaner, the first thing they type into their search engine of choice isn’t just ‘buy vacuum cleaner X’. Instead, they start out on a search journey made up of several stages, and expect different responses at each stage of their search.

In the practice of search engine optimization (SEO) for websites and online shops, these stages are grouped together under the term ‘search intent’. A customer’s search intent − i.e. the purpose of their search − is different at every stage of their search for a product or service (with the goal of eventually purchasing said product or service).

Why is this important? Simply put, because this is also how Google’s algorithms work. Over the years, the search engine has refined its algorithms so that it can offer customers more relevant content suited to the different moments or intentions on their search journey. The company from Mountain View, California uses the term ‘Micro-Moments’ to define these different phases of the search process.

This phenomenon has only got stronger over the years. Google’s algorithms contain more and more artificial intelligence, which interprets the keywords entered by the end customer and takes them to the sites that it considers relevant. To some extent, the search engine increasingly changes the search terms entered according to its understanding.

So, if you run an e-commerce company, it’s crucial that you understand the different phases of your customers’ online search journey and are able to react to it in your SEO.

The different stages and intentions of a search

Most SEO actors and service providers categorize the different types of intent along a search journey as follows:

  1. Informational intent: the first stage of a search journey is a search for information. These make up the majority of searches online. Customers first search for pages or websites that have detailed information on a product or service to get a better idea of it or to find out which product or service best meets their needs. In our example, our fictional customer is looking to replace their old vacuum cleaner and the search terms they use are often combinations of adverbs and pronouns (how, which , where, etc.) and nouns related to the product: “which home vacuum cleaner to choose”, “why choose a robot vacuum cleaner”, “home vacuum cleaner recommendations”, etc.
  2. Navigational intent / brand search: in the second stage, the customer has already looked into the different models and brands and chosen one or more favourites. The customer now searches for a page with the product of the brand or company in question to find out more and inform their opinion. Rather than entering the URL directly (no one does that), the customer types in keywords to find this information. In our example, this could be: “Dyson X vacuum cleaner”, “Miele X vacuum cleaner model”, “Electrolux vacuum cleaner range”, etc.
  3. Commercial intent: by this point, the customer has a clear idea of what they want to buy and is just looking for additional information that could help with their decision, while often comparing different products. Their keywords could be something like: “Dyson X vacuum cleaner test report”, “best X brand vacuum cleaner”, “compare home vacuum cleaners”, etc.
  4. Transactional intent: the customer has made a decision and would like to make the purchase. At this point, the information being searched goes in this direction: price, subscription, offer, discount, special offer, delivery conditions, etc. To continue with our search for a vacuum cleaner, the search terms could be “buy X vacuum cleaner”, “X vacuum cleaner discount / special offer”, “X vacuum cleaner home delivery”, etc.

How to include search intent in your SEO

In summary, it’s worth offering a range of different content suited to the different search phases and types of intent of your customers. A simple online shop which only offers a product catalogue and basic information (price, weight, description) on your products is not enough. Information of that sort corresponds to the commercial and transactional searches which typically always happen at the end of the product search once the customer has already formed an opinion. That means there is a risk of not reaching all potential customers who at first want to find out about the different products available. In our example, the customer could have initially searched for a canister vacuum cleaner, and then in the course of their search, convince themselves that a cordless or robot vacuum cleaner is right for them.

Specifically, this means:

  • Create your keyword lists for SEO so that they reflect the different types of search intent.
  • Test your chosen keywords in Google and check how they are interpreted by the search engine, i.e. what sort of content is highlighted when you search those terms.
  • Then, integrate these search terms into your different content channels. Take inspiration from the results highlighted by Google to create similar content. That doesn’t mean copy and paste, which is punished by Google anyway, but is more about developing a better understanding of the type of well-ranked content (article, video, product page) and its characteristics (title, length, rich content). Don’t forget to integrate your sales pitches. Show how your product stands out from the competition (authenticity, durability, quality of service, guarantee, fast delivery, etc.).
  • A blog, integrated into your shop, is a useful technique for offering content tailored to the first two stages of the search journey (information, navigation, brands). Posts on social media and other platforms such as YouTube or Pinterest also increasingly play a similar informative role. The idea is then to connect all these different forms of content together in your online shop.

 

Interesting

Alexis Chappatte, Digital Commerce Consultant, Post CH Ltd

Alexis Chappatte, a Digital Commerce Consultant at Swiss Post, has many years’ experience in consulting and implementing digital transformation projects for customers ranging from SMEs to the public administration. He helps them develop sustainable digital strategies, taking new consumer habits and end customer expectations into account.

Portrait Alexis Chappatte

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