Advanced Pay Per Click (PPC) Certification Program

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The Buying Cycle Tutorial

4.2 Introduction

Hi. I'm Brad Geddes, the author of Advanced Google AdWords, the founder of Certified Knowledge and the PPC Faculty Chair for Market Motive. In this module we're going to look at the buying funnel and see how it applies to search.

4.3 The Buying Cycle

First, you may see this written as the buying cycle, the buying funnel, the decision making funnel, the decision making cycle, so forth. It's all the same name. Sometimes it's five steps, sometimes it's three steps. It's okay if you see it in a different format. Consumers go through the same choices regardless of how the charts are written. And we're going to go through the decision-making funnel to reinforce the concept that a consumer goes with these steps in making a decision to buy a product or use a service. Often the term buying funnel is connected with e-commerce. It does not matter if you're B to B or you're B to C, your customers mentally go through this process. Now the first step is awareness. Someone must be aware of your product before they can buy or even want to learn more. So the first step is introducing the product or service to the individual. The second step is known as interest. When someone's aware of your product then you need to make that user become interested in your product. This is where introducing benefits, such as how your product or service will make their life better, can help engage consumer to wish to learn more about your products. Then we have a learned phase, or learning stage that comes next. So once interest has been generated it's time for the consumer to learn more about your product or service. This is the stage where you can begin to introduce jargon terms in the descriptions of your products. Don't focus on features yet. Continue showing them how the product will improve their life. For B to B companies, this is often where webinar or white paper download is a good conversion activity. Next we have the shopper shopping stage. This is where consumers start comparing different products and services and features of those products. In this stage, you want to showcase your features and why your product is unique or better from the other products and services on the market. For B to B companies, this often where you make your pitch to sell the customer. Finally there's the buy phase. Once the user has settled into the exact product and vendor, then they finally buy a product or sign a contract for the service agency. Congrats you made a sale. However your work is not done yet. You now need to support the product and the consumer. At this point in time you should start focusing on the lifetime visitor value of that customer.

4.4 Search Buying Cycle

So let's look at how the buying cycle applies to search. In this scenario we'll look at a simplistic product someone might go through in buying a large screen TV. So the first step, someone searches for HDTV. They need to learn about the different types of large screens such as plasma, LED's, LCD's, so forth. The consumer does not know the jargon yet. They're still learning about big screen TV's. So once they learn about HDTVs, we'll assume the person will settle into buying a plasma TV. So they look around the different types of plasma TVs and their features. They'll compare the features between plasma TV models, different brands to decide what model they want to buy. Finally, the consumer decides to buy the Samsung PN58B550. The searcher inputs a product number to compare vendor prices, return policies, warranties, so forth. Then once they decide which site to buy it from, they purchase the product. In the case of buying an expensive product, there might have been many more searches conducted in each phase. For instance, at the learn phase, they might also have searched for pixel burnout or Samsung plasma TV reviews. In the shopping phase, they might have searched for Samsung plasma TV, Sony plasma TV, 60 inch plasma TV, or part or part number, extended warranties, so forth. In the buying phase, they might have searched for plasma TVs with free shipping. Where to buy this plasma TV? So, what's important to note, is that there were no searches that took place in the awareness or interest phase of the buying cycle. Awareness and interest are really difficult to promote across the search network. Reaching customers in these two phases of the decision making cycle is easier on the display network. That's the network that's not searched. We can put your ads on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, other places, its still paid search. But the displayed network has a different reach. So you might have some keywords that do fit into the awareness interest cycles. It's common to find these are more symptom and problem-based types of words. And we'll get into the keyword type in the next section when we look at keywords. So in this example, the consumer kept conducting searches to advance themselves through the buying cycle. That's not always the case. Let's take a look at a different type of buying cycle.

4.5 Buying a New Book

So in this example we're going to look at someone who wants to buy a new book. because they like to read the latest and greatest novels, the searcher starts by searching for Top Book Bestsellers. And the user sees an ad from Amazon. So they go to Amazon's site. The user learns that Amazon has a bestseller list. They read through the list. Next they pick out some books that look interesting and they start reading reviews. Reading reviews is the shopping phase. You're comparing what other people have thought about the book. So once they find a book they like, sounds like it meets their interest, they buy it from the same place they saw the best seller list and read the book reviews. Amazon's case in this instance. So in this example the user continued to the decision making cycle, while only conducting a single search. So usually, as a global statement, usually the buy cycle will have the highest return on investments. However, there's also lower search volume. The words higher in the funnel. It's called a funnel because people leave it all the time, causing less individuals to progress to the next stage. Just because you have learned about a product, does not mean you will buy the product. Hence why each phase has less people in it than the previous one. It's also important to note you cannot jump someone ahead in the decision making funnel. For instance, if someone is in the learn phase and you send them to a buy now page, they'll often hit the back button and look for their answer elsewhere. The user did a search, because they want the answer to a question. If your page does not answer the question, they're going to look elsewhere. You must let the user advance through each stage. Now in this example, if the Amazon ad went to a specific book page, and these are one of our top best sellers, user's why not just hit the back button and looked at a different best seller list. When the query is informational, such as top best seller books, you need to answer the question before the user will conduct a transaction. This does not mean the focus your page can only be about the specific stage they're in. The users in the learn phase, go any page, answers their question and then has a call to action for them to take then next step. Many users will progress to the next stage of the buying cycle on your website. That's why it's important to look at the consumer behavior. In this instance the learn phase is a good keyword search and has good ROI from a revenue standpoint, just not an awareness standpoint. These first two examples and a focus around B2C queries. The same process does apply to B2B companies as well.

4.6 Buying B2B Software

In this example, we'll look at selling B2B software. Let's say your business is currently using a Blackberry server to sync emails and contacts across corporate mobile phones. So the head of IT reads about this new Microsoft operating system and how it will have excellent integration into the outlook. It might offer some additional collaboration opportunities to the company. At this point in time, he was already aware of the Blackberry system, but now he wonders about the new Microsoft one. So now he's at the awareness phase for the Microsoft product. And next he sees a display ad from IBM that touts the new mobile sync features of Lotus notes. The initial view of the ad places him in the awareness cycle of Lotus Notes, as well. He clicks on the ad recent mobile notice. So this point in time, the IT manager feels he can lower total costs the company. And offer additional services to the company's employees. If you were to switch systems. So he conducts searches and downloads a lot of white papers to read about the various products. During this process he enters the awareness, interest and learn phases at several other competing companies. So he picks his favorite three. Google apps, IBM Lotus Notes, and Microsoft Exchange. To contact so you can interview the vendors and get in person demos, is now actively shopping and comparing features, and total cost of ownership for the company. Finally, he picks a controversial choice, Google apps. The lower total cost of ownership because he feels transition of the company to more cloud base service will help their collaborative efforts in the future and signs a contract with Google. The user went through every stage of the decision making cycle. At several stages this decision, he end the decision making cycles of various companies and abandoned the cycles of others. However, if at the learn phase a company did not offer a whitepaper for him to read the technical specs on implementation strategy the technology you've abandoned that company completely. In his decision making process he wanted to compare whitepapers, so if one of the actually searches early in this cycle was by today for fragmentation. He might has skip the ad completely as he was not going to implement this big change that day. The other is too far long the decision making cycle compared to where he still was and that learn phase. So that's why it's so important to look through how your customers buy from you. What are their stages of awareness? Interest, learn, shop, buy? They want to do phone interviews. Do they do in person demos? They want webinar items. Do you even offer a white paper? You must ask these questions of yourself. Based upon how your consumers make decisions. So you can reach them appropriately through paid search.

4.7 Ad Copy Writing

Now why is this so important? Well one step's ad copy writing. So there's two components of ad copy we're going to talk about real quickly. We'll go into more detail in later modules on ads. One is a feature. A feature is just facts about a product or service. So let's say on my computer, it weighs 3.3 pounds and it has a 7.5 hour battery life. That's just a feature. Facts, they're not very compelling a lot of times. A benefit is what a consumer gets out of the product. So, your computer weighs 3.3 pounds, why does that matter? Who cares? Well, a benefit would be, get rid of back and shoulder pain from carrying around a heavy laptop bag. It only weighs 3.3 lbs. A 7.5 battery life, does that matter to me? Well, if you do a lot of cross country flights, you can now be productive the entire way, because you battery won't die on you. So, features are easy to make. They're just bullet-point lists of facts about a product. To make it benefit, just finish the sentence. It weighs 3.5 pounds. Who cares? It weighs 3.3 pounds, so you can get rid of back shoulder pain from carrying around a heavy laptop bag. That's why it matters. Just finish the sentence. But also, we're talking the buying cycle, why is this important to the buying cycle? Because it depends on where someone is in the buying cycle what you want to focus on. [INAUDIBLE] the awareness stage, you want to show benefits. Here's how we make your life better. You want to peak their interests enough so they move from the awareness stage to the interest stage. The intro stage, you still want to show more benefits. Peak their interest enough so they continue through the cycle to learning about a product. At the learn stage you start to transition from benefits and features. So why it's important to them, and here's some of the stuff you should know factually about the product. When someone's shopping and comparing products, it's all about features. However, we spend money. We engage in services. We buy products based upon what something does for us. That's a benefit message. So, understanding where your keywords are in the buying cycle helps you write better ads to reach the searcher based upon where they are in that decision making funnel.

4.8 Landing Pages

>> Goes for landing pages as well. All landing pages aren't equal. A home page has a whole lot of traffic to it. But if someone gets to a page and the first thing they have to do is search again, browse products, that really didn't meet their interest level. If someone were searching for baby strollers, you'd want to use a category page. They said I want to know about strollers. That query is in the learn phase. Put them into a category phase. If someone searched for an actual baby stroller name, you want to put them on the product page. The furthest most logical point the buying cycle that matches their search query.

4.9 Why is This So Important?

Lets go back to the bond funnel for a moment. The awareness phase. Your page's goal is to pique nterest. At the interest phase, your want page should show why they need this. At the learn phase, this is where you see how-to articles, white paper downloads, newsletter subscriptions, learn more about the product. Now move to the next section, shopping, which is often more Category based pages or form based landing page if you're a lead generation company. If someone's in the buy stage of the cycle, you want to put in page they can buy that product right now or call your company, whatever it is that you make revenue. So by looking through first how customers progress through these stages for your products. Now, look at your keywords, how you're reaching a customer at each of these stages. Now the keywords they choose in their search will tell you where they are in their phase. Buy a candle, well that's a buy based query. Compare LCD versus an LED televisions. That's a shopping category. Big screen TVs. That's a learn page. So someone tells you where they are via their search query. That helps you create an ad copy based upon the proper benefits and features. It helps you chose a landing page based upon what's going to help them to convert. So thinking about the buying cycle is really important in paid search because you get to control. When someone sees your ad, the ad copy you use, the landing page you use. So a good exercise is to take a step back before you create an account, before you choose keywords. Think about how people buy from you write them down. Then refer back to that information in future modules when we go through keyword selection and add copy writing and landing page decisions. When you have the buying cycle in mind you match the consumer intent. And when you match those correctly that's when more conversions happen.

  • Disclaimer
  • PMP, PMI, PMBOK, CAPM, PgMP, PfMP, ACP, PBA, RMP, SP, and OPM3 are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

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