Shifting Search Behavior Means Manufacturer Brands Must Optimize Across the Customer or Buyer Journey
In a 2016 study, Moz explored whether websites optimized with “near me” keywords garner more impressions and clicks for organic queries. To do so, they tested 82 car dealership websites. Half were part of the control group and the other half were optimized with “near me” terms.
On the test-group sites, Moz updated the hour-and-direction-page title and H1 tags to incorporate phrases like “franchise near me,” and “nearest franchise dealer.” They then tracked mobile impressions over five months. In the end, the control group impressions only rose eleven percent while the test group’s mobile impressions rose by an impressive 100 percent.
Even more interesting, searchers who clicked or viewed the test group websites didn’t just do so by searching “franchises near me,” or “nearest franchise dealer.” They dug deeper, searching for broader “near me” phrases related to products and services like “nearest oil-changes.”
Moz’s study was in response to Google’s reports that “near me” searches across industries had doubled in just one year (2014-2015). Like Moz, after optimizing around “near me” search terms, brands found that “near me” search engine optimization (SEO) taps into consumer and buyer behaviors to gain attention and conversions.
B2B and B2C brands developed a competitive edge with “near me” search optimization.
Think with Google reports that, each month, people visit 1.5 billion destinations related to their Google searches. And, 76 percent of people who do a “near me” mobile search for a product or service visit a business within a day and 28 percent of those visits result in a purchase.
People love to have their mobile phones within arm’s reach at all times, making real-time searches for local businesses, services, and products too easy to pass up.
In turn, location-based mobile search offers companies a powerful avenue to prove they can best meet consumers’ and buyers’ needs. Following Google’s reports, smart brands like Moz optimized their online presences for popular “near me” searches. This involved:
- continually updating local business listings with correct contact information,
- encouraging and responding to customer feedback on review sites,
- displaying contact information often on every website page or for each store location,
- using schema markup to help Google locate contact information on websites, and
- including location-specific file names and tags for website photos.
This search explosion happened two years ago and implementing the basics of “near me” SEO no doubt helped brands get ahead. But, since then, Moz shows that consumers and buyers have increasingly used “near me” searches not just to find basic business information, but to locate products and services — such as landscape design or kitchen cabinets — to meet their real-time needs.
Manufacturers and consumer brands update for 2018 “near me” search behaviors.
Lisa Gevelber, Google’s VP of Marketing for the Americas explains: “‘Near me’ is no longer just about finding a specific place. It’s now about finding a specific thing, in a specific area, and in a specific period of time.” It's no longer enough for brands to optimize around basic demographics to answer those ‘near me’ searches. They need to optimize for purchase intent as well.
To do so, both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) brands couple “near me” optimization with keywords relevant to each stage in the customer journey. To begin, after creating near-me-friendly online presences, they then think about the stages their customers or buyers go through from first product or service awareness all the way through to purchase. And they incorporate keywords into their websites to reflect consumers’ and buyers’ needs at every phase.
Top manufacturers and contractors revolve “near me” SEO around customers’ and buyers’ journeys.
If you haven’t done so already, to remain competitive, your brand must follow suite. We've already talked about the importance of tying the buyer journey to your inbound marketing. By properly planning content, you can guide your leads through the sales cycle on your website. This means that once they reach out to you, they're already serious about buying. This also means that, to garner serious leads, you must offer content to smoothly lead your readers through the buyer journey and ensure no gaps exist that will lead them to drop off. And, they must be able to search for and easily find the information they need at every phase — from awareness to consideration and, ultimately, to conversion.
To begin, consider the keywords commonly searched at each customer phase:
1. In the awareness phase, searches revolve around informational keywords like “how do/does,” “how can I,” “best,” “compare,” “improve,” “guide,” “tutorial,” “ways to” and more.
2. In the consideration phase, customers search for navigational keywords that will lead them to a website related to their needs, including brand names, product names, service names, “near me,” “cost of,” “reviews,” “directions to,” “testimonials,” “features of,” “location of,” and more.
3. In the conversion phase, customers search keywords that help them convert to buyers, including “buy,” “order,” “reserve,” “schedule appointment,” “purchase,” “where to buy,” “apply,” and more.
To help you envision this, following are examples of customer- and buyer-journey searches made by a customer or contractor who wants to create an outdoor deck for home entertainment.
- At the awareness phase, search keywords include “compare decks,” “decking guide,” “ways to build a deck,” “how can I design a deck,” “best deck materials,” and more.
- At the consideration phase, search keywords include “features of decks,” “cost of building a deck,” “reviews of deck railings,” “Fiberon composite decking,” “deck fasteners reviews,” and more.
- At the conversion phase, search keywords include “schedule an appointment with a deck builder,” “where to buy decking material,” “purchase composite decking,” “order composite decking,” “where to buy decking,” and more.
Lastly, to optimize your website for “near me” searches across the customer and buyer journey, like in our example, create your own list of keywords for each customer or buyer phase. Then, incorporate them into phase-specific content. For example:
- At the awareness phase, incorporate your awareness keywords into content like buyers’ guides and tutorials.
- At the consideration phase, use keywords to inform customers or buyers of their options and the results they can expect from them using case studies, demo videos, product lists, and white papers.
- At the conversion phase, pair keywords with invitations to contact your brand and purchase your products via sign-up pages, advertisements, free consultation invitations, and sales pages with keyword-rich call-to-actions.
Fiberon expertly caters to 2018 “near me” search behaviors.
Fiberon markets their decking material to both consumers interested in building their own decks (B2C) and builders (B2B). And they do a great job of pairing content with keywords for 2018 “near me” search behavior across the buyer and customer journey.
For example, their website automatically detects visitors’ access locations and their contact page includes a current full address, business hours, and phone number. Then, in addition to optimizing their “near me” online presence, they offer the following website content for each customer phase:
- For the awareness phase, they offer a tab to “compare Fiberon,” a “decking guide,” “how can I replace a deck board” and “how do I clean Symmetry Decking” sections on their frequently-asked-questions page, and more.
- For the consideration phase, they offer a “product” menu option complete with links to product catalogues by category in which product features are listed, a “testimonials” menu option, a page that walks customers through finding a deck builder near them, and more.
- For the conversion phase, they offer a “where to buy” menu option, and more.
And they continually update their online presence with fresh and informative keyword-rich content for both their B2B and B2C audiences, including new published how-to guides, product overviews, and blog posts aimed at B2B and B2C brands as well as a website invite for customers to search Google Maps by zip code for builders and places to buy near them. In addition to their website content, they provide fresh customer reviews and up-to-date contact information across their claimed business pages.
Whether Fiberon customers search for a nearby store or for products or services offered near them, Fiberon’s website makes it quick and easy for customers to find what they’re looking for on any device via 2018 “near me” search behavior optimization.
When done correctly, optimizing for 2018 local search behavior is ongoing.
Many brands make the mistake of thinking that once a site is optimized for local SEO, they can move on to other things. But, SEO is an ongoing process. Moz’s study shows that search keywords change as products, services, customer behavior, and locations change.
That’s why Fiberon updates local SEO as an ongoing part of business. Their approach goes right along with meeting customers’ and buyers’ constantly-shifting and in-the-moment needs for information, products, and services relevant to each
phase of the customer and buyer journey — whether consumers or buyers are in-store or online. So, keep going.