An internet-enabled device, a smart phone, is a ubiquitous influence, driving an "always on, always connected" behavior. As mobile search has surpassed desktop search (among other trends), this connectedness is changing how businesses and websites must structure their online presence strategies to connect with their audiences.
Your ability to connect and convert occurs in moments, while also understanding the timing of the user experience, can leave lasting impressions and provide timely opportunities.
It begins with a Spark and Intent
"Find me a good Italian restaurant nearby", "how do I fix this flat tire", a "recipe for salmon and asparagus"... a person has a spark. A need. They are now motivated by an intent, a desire to accomplish a task. How will they go about finding the solution to their need? Increasingly they find a solution by picking up their mobile phone and initiating a Google search query.
And they query with Intent. An intent-driven search strategy is is the strategy of identifying intent-based queries that your target audience might be using, aligning your content to fulfill that intent, then positioning the messaging of your content displayed within the search engine results page to speak directly to that user's spoken and unspoken needs. Your content strategy becomes anticipatory, identifying opportunities where you can foresee challenges by your audience and provide content that meets their needs in the moment.
Results that most specifically speak towards that intent, or have the added bonus of various social signals and social proof, tend to get the click. This is where a website and online presence that utilizes a semantic search strategy can work to get placed higher in the search engine results page while increasing business goal conversions.
Turning your Social Listening into Intent-Driven content
I think it's a fair statement that most companies using social media are doing a better job of talking than they are of listening. Talk talk talk is all they do, posting content (and hoping people are listening... before they quickly unfollow/uncircle)
Social Listening flips that on its head, often in the form of customer service and support.
Customers/clients, as well as potential customers and clients, are asking questions. They're seeking a solution to a problem, and if you're listening by monitoring Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and other social channels, you can be the one answering that question. You can be cultivating brand awareness by providing a solution, your solution, and building Brand Ambassadors through your quality interactions.
You can also be discovering and creating quality and semantically rich FAQ content, by using each single case and morphing it into targeted content that speaks towards others with that same need.
Fulfilling a need in a micro-moment
Your website, through your content strategy, semantic search strategy, and audience development, has the opportunity to connect with these intent-driven searchers by directly speaking to their need and helping them accomplish the task. Not in the general sense of a listing of salmon recipes, but instead "award winning salmon recipes you can easily make at home". Suddenly I'm interested, especially when I see the reviews and comments that have been left. I'm connecting in a micro-moment, and I have a need that needs to be fulfilled.
Will this result be able to help me fully in my task? How much extra work is necessary, in the form of extra web surfing, in order for me accomplish my task successfully? I want the best result delivered to me immediately, and I want the content on that page to be able to help me immediately. The page's ability to do this, easily and without interruption, will make me happy.
Popups, interstitials, banner advertisements... all of these things will get in the way of me fulfilling my need, and ruin my experience. Let the fulfill their need before you try to fulfill your own needs.
Moving the conversation to a conversion
Now comes the hard part.
As we've discussed many times in the past, a successful website accomplishes the goals of your audience first, then your own goals for your visitors. You've managed to bring them to your website, you've answered their questions and given them a quality experience - now it's time to move the conversation to a goal conversion.
Using our Audience Development worksheet, all of our content should be aligned with the different Buyer Personas that we've identified. We can build off of this worksheet to identify optimized selling opportunities and suggested goals for each persona and each piece of content.
With the salmon and asparagus recipe as an example, this might take the form of:
- a ceramic dish that the salmon could be best cooked in via an affiliate purchase
- a fillet knife for filleting the salmon for an affiliate purchase
- a recommended book to purchase that this recipe was found in
- a signup for a newsletter where other recipes like this are featured
- a coupon advertisement to the local grocery store for these ingredients
- other recommended recipes and a daily recipe calendar subscription service
Because these goal conversions would occur after providing a high quality answer, and would be directly relevant to the reader's task at hand or extremely relevant, they would likely have a greater conversion rate but also not diminish the user experience by being seen as pushy.
Timing the User Experience
The timing of the user experience is often an area of false assumptions; you've likely heard the 8-15 second decisions maxim. Nothing could be further from the truth, and this maxim might have been destroying the user experience for your website (and thereby your conversion rate). Instead, the timing of your website should align with your content and how you'd like it to be experienced by your user.
Using Google Analytics and a few add-on tools, it is possible for you to gain valuable insight into the time and depth of your visitors' experiences with individual pages inside your site. You'll be able to see percentages of time spent on page, as well as how far down the page visitors are experiencing. You'll see what percentage of visitors are seeing each of your goal conversion points, and a better sense of "what percentage that saw the goal point, converted?"
What you then realize is, once you factor out the bounces (the people that came and quickly realized your page content wasn't what they were looking for), that it changes the dynamic for how you're interacting with the visitors who are in the right place.
If you think of it in a physical store analogy, it would be like counting the people that glance in your store while walking through the mall but never come in and look around. Should they count in your metrics? Should they be the ones leading you to create an 8-15 second experience?
Instead, you want to optimize the experience for those that are in the right place, and learn how to sell better to those people.
Expanding the relationship in a meta-moment
A meta-moment is a brief pause, a step back from the immediate moment, where the audience member has an introspective experience (perhaps even an interruption). They stop and think. You've potentially created a deeper touchpoint with the reader, one that can last beyond the immediate micro-moment and need.
Going back to the salmon recipe, imagine if instead of just the recipe, that it was strategically interspersed with leading questions, video tutorials, or even a prompt to sign up to see more "healthy recipes" and be included in a daily menu. Or tips to consider when buying the salmon ("buy the entire fish, fillet it yourself!", "how to tell if the salmon is really fresh", "easy recipes to use for the leftovers"). This is the exact behavior that is occurring among the generations that have grown up with always on, always connected.
It's more than just filling the immediate need, but giving pause to the reader and enabling them to consider more than what they initially arrived seeking. As the creator of the experience, you have the ability to design these pauses, these mental speed bumps, these moments to extend the experience and in a sense, up-sell the visitor by encouraging a deeper relationship between them and your site.
Understanding Timing can be Everything
A good site doesn't just provide what's being sought, but goes that step further in developing a relationship with its audience by taking the experience a step further - and it can do that because its approach has been both helpful and attentive. It has developed a level of trust that began at the intent-based search results to the presentation of the sought after content to the recommendations when appropriate.
Each step along the path cultivates a positive experience, using moments of intent to guide the relationship. From search, to the brick and mortar store, and back to search again, cultivate your user's experience, your visitor's experience, your buyer's experience, and build off of that lasting relationship.