Using SEO to aid the customer journey

You may be familiar with SEO, but some business owners may not be totally aware of the customer journey and how that fits into your digital marketing strategy.

Introduction to CXM

Customer Experience Management (CXM) is one of the hottest topics in business today, with large enterprises such as AMP and Westpac pouring millions of dollars into understanding their customer’s journeys and implementing processes and technology to improve them – but CXM is not just for big businesses.

The basis of CXM is to first of all understand the step-by-step processes that lead from an initial customer interaction, to a final resolution. In its simplest form, this journey is often broken down into five stages:

  • Awareness: The customer becomes aware of a need or issue
  • Consideration: The customer identifies and evaluates their options for purchasing
  • Purchase: The customer makes a final decision and makes the purchase
  • Retention: The customer becomes a repeat purchaser
  • Advocacy: The customer not only repeat buys, but tells their friends how good you are

By mapping the customer journey (identifying how a customer interacts with your brand at each point), and discovering how good (or bad) their current experience is at each of these touchpoints, we are able to build a full picture of the customer experience and identify projects to improve them.

Essentially, our customer journey map will address four key issues at each touchpoint:

1. Motivation: why is the customer performing at this touchpoint? What is their state of mind and opinion at this stage?
2. Questions: what does the customer need answered? Explanation? Proof points?
3. Action: what action is the customer trying / we want the customer to do?
4. Barriers: what is blocking the customer from moving on to the next touchpoint?

SEO is not dead

Despite the claims of some, SEO is far from dead. It has evolved and should still be a vital part of any organisation’s digital marketing program.

The basics of SEO still remain – on-page optimisation, content creation and link building; however, we need to ensure we are thinking about our keywords, CTAs and landing pages in relation to the customer and their position in the buying cycle.

Putting SEO and CXM into action

A modern-day SEO strategy should be integrated into your CXM strategy, as SEO is a key touchpoint in almost all customer journeys.

To help understand this, let's take a look at the SEO and CXM relationship in some actual scenarios and in using a customer journey, which may be familiar to many of us – a car buyer’s journey, and we can see how a car dealership might integrate SEO and the customer experience:

Scenario 1 – Early stage of the buying cycle

Jenny is a stay-at-home mum with two children under six, and child number three is on the way. She is currently driving a Honda Civic, thinking that there is no way she can fit a third baby seat in the back, let alone all the gear she also needs to cart around for the kids.

To get started, we need think about the buying phase Jenny is in, what outcome Jenny is trying to achieve, what content would help her achieve this outcome, what keywords would she be searching, what are the goals of the dealership, and what is the call to action which would both achieve Jenny’s outcome and meet the dealership's goals:

  • Outcome: Jenny is at the awareness phase, so she's not looking for a test drive or pricing. She is after information to help her make a decision about what is the car to buy in her situation
  • Keywords: Jenny might search on “best family car”
  • Questions: Price, practicality, safety
  • Content: Content relevant to Jenny might be car comparisons
  • Goals: As Jenny is in the early phases, she is not ready to take a test drive so our job as a dealership is to help Jenny move to the next phase of the buying cycle
  • Call to action: Our call to action might be to get Jenny to give her email address so as to let her download a full comparison or sign up for offer emails

Now armed with this information, we can create our content, optimise it for the correct keywords, and align our page call to actions:

Scenario 2 – Middle stage of the buying cycle

John is looking for a brand-new, budget-friendly car that will get him from point A to point B. Ideally, he wants a brand-new sedan.

In this scenario, we have to analyse which stage in the buying process John is and identify the following: outcome, keywords, content, goals and call to action.

  • Outcome: John is at the consideration stage, where he wants to compare the prices of sedans to find one that suits his budget
  • Keywords: He might search on “cheap new sedans sydney” or “affordable new cars”
  • Questions: Price
  • Content: Content relevant to John may be a list of car prices from different dealerships.
  • Goals: To help John decide which car to buy and to finally move him to the purchasing stage of the buying process
  • Call to action: Our call to action might be to get John to check our list of the most budget-friendly sedans available or to sign up to get exclusive access to our list.

 

Scenario 3 – Late stage of the buying cycle

Mike has identified that he wants a Kia Sportage and is looking for a dealership.

As with Jenny, we need to think about the buying phase Mike is in and answer the same questions related to outcome, keywords, content, goals and call to action:

  • Outcome: Mike is approaching the decision phase and is looking for the best place to purchase his car
  • Questions: Price, Location, Value for Money
  • Keywords: Mike might search on “Kia dealerships near me”
  • Content: Content relevant to Mike might be location, reputation and after sales service of the dealership
  • Goals: Mike wants to feel comfortable with dealership and finally go for a test drive
  • Call to action: Our call to action might be to contact the dealership or take a test drive

 

Bringing it all together

As you can see, the need to integrate your customer journey with SEO is critical, from targeting the specific needs of your customers and attracting them at the right time, through to promoting loyalty, and improving retention.

In reality, there isn’t a simple formula for integrating SEO and your customer’s journey, but with the right partner you can align your customer journey with SEO, maximising your great content to create meaningful dialogues with your customers.

If you want to use your SEO budget more effectively, and begin to reap the rewards (increased traffic, conversions, funnel movement, etc) you need to consider SEO in your next CXM plan.

Tim Barnett is the co-founder of digital agency 2BInteractive.

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