Using the buying cycle in your content strategy

Posted by Owen Powis on 19 Aug, 2021
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Searcher intent allows for greater flexibility in the connection between search and content. Many sites are left wondering how they can create content that covers a greater potential footprint of searches. The buying cycle may well hold the answer.

Content creation can be a difficult task, especially for ecommerce sites which often have lots of products, as that doesn’t necessarily lead to content. Especially when you want to capture users all along their user journey - as highlighted by John Mueller in a discussion around search intent…

“these inferred intents change over time, and it's a bit out of a site-owners control (sometimes user expectations vary, sometimes algorithms, or other things). By covering both possible intents, you're hedging against those changes.”

Or in other words, you need to have content that will cover a searcher’s changing perceived intent. Bearing in mind that the keywords used may be similar, but the intent Google attributes and thus the content it surfaces, can be different.

So finding how to properly create content that covers a range of intents can be difficult, especially when you have a large number of products to create content for, usually  working from a short product description. I’m sure I’m not the only one who's been sat there staring at two lines of product copy wondering how you can expand that out into multiple search engine friendly paragraphs.

The buying cycle is a great solution to that problem and with the right strategy you can cover multiple products in the same content. The further up the buying cycle you go, the broader the potential products may be, especially when part of your strategy is to create articles which help users differentiate and decide between which of your products best suits their needs.

So let's walk through the buying cycle and some content ideas for each stage.

Awareness : The customer realises they have a problem and starts looking at potential solutions

This is the broadest point where the customer is establishing that they have a problem or a need. This isn’t automatically covered by higher level content, such as a homepage. Where sites often fall down at this point is not having properly optimised category pages for products. So for example, a camping store should have dedicated and optimised pages which head up each of their product groups.

At this phase each piece of content is covering a large number of products. It’s likely to have a lower conversion rate but, importantly, will have a much larger pool of interest. Make sure to provide users with an onward path in the cycle within your site from the content. Many sites only signpost users directly off to products from each piece of content, but it can be more effective to take the customer on to the next part of the journey. Providing both options mean that those customers who are not ready to purchase have a path forwards within the site, rather than going back to the search engines.

Consideration : Understanding the market and various products and solutions available

This is where the user will want to gain a broad idea of the different products available and which ones may be the best fit. For example if they were looking for a tent, they might want to understand the different types of tents available and the different brands within the market.

Content here needs to allow the user to properly explore the market, for example a write up of different brands and the pro’s and con’s of each and what to expect from each manufacturer. It’s effectively tooling up for the next stage, so before refining their choice down the customer needs to properly understand the metrics they will use to do so.

Intent : Refining down the available options to a best fit

This is where the customer takes their understanding of the market and uses it to dig down into the available choices and really refine down into what’s available and within what price range. Using our tent example, at this point the customer would be looking to compare different types of tent within a specific category.

Content here should focus on helping the customer understand what type of product is going to be the best fit for them and how to select the right products within that category. So for example content such as ‘How to know when a lightweight tent is the best choice’ leading to content such as ‘Choosing the right type of lightweight tent’ and refining down into more precise content such as ‘The best lightweight tents under 5 KG’.

Purchase : Making the actual purchase and deciding which vendor to make it from

This is where having content that allows the user to traverse the buying cycle on site pays off, as you can signpost customers directly off to suitable product selections from your content. It’s also important to allow the customer to make direct comparisons on page, so being able to filter by price, manufacturer etc is key.

Content options within this part of the user journey are limited but making sure that the onpage copy for each product gives a proper and full overview is essential and keeps the user on the product page. As is ensuring that the actual purchasing process is as smooth as possible.

We have some excellent articles on writing product descriptions and ecommerce copy which will help you create product copy that both converts and puts you in the best position to rank well for a range of search intents.

Repurchase : Returning customers and after sales

At this point content is focused on post purchase information, even if the customer has purchased elsewhere this provides an excellent and often missed opportunity. Articles which cover after care such as (carrying on our example) ‘How to look after and maintain your lightweight tent’ are less competitive as they don’t have a direct sales focus. But repeat customers drive revenue because someone who has purchased once within a category is more likely to purchase in it again.

Creating content that captures people post purchase can lead to further purchases from them. Think about the type of item that the content is for and whether a repeat purchase would be the best option or to focus on associated items. For example ‘Choosing the best lightweight camping stove’ rather than trying to resell the same item.

However this doesn’t mean it’s impossible to resell the same type of item, there are times when the right type of content can present a great opportunity to resell to a customer. For example ‘How to repair a lightweight tent’ might present an opportunity to sell a new replacement product to that customer.

Use content to your advantage, so even where there isn’t an immediate opportunity to move someone down the path of the buying cycle, content can be used to create one. Great content will guide the user forward towards a purchase without overselling.

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