One of the most important lessons that anyone working in SEO or PPC can learn is that search is a process, not an event. There are multiple refining stages – a funnel – that a prospective customer works through as they move from understanding a problem to finding a solution.
In search, this funnel takes the form of a conversation with Google or Bing in which the user asks a series of questions that eventually lead to an answer. Whether researching a medical condition or planning a meal, there are similarities in the pattern.
While a particular search journey might be linear, there are a multiplicity of different routes to the final destination, a huge number of starting points that lead to the final point of purchase.
Depending on what decisions are made during the search journey, there are a similarly large number of final destinations.
When looking at the search funnel in the context of the AIDA model, we can split it into two main phases – research and conversion:
During the keyword research phase that forms the foundation for an SEO Strategy, the focus will often be on the sharp end of the funnel – where the action happens. This can be commercially sensible, as it concentrates resource on the areas of the funnel where there is perceived to be the highest potential return on investment.
Depending on how success is being measured, this approach will often appear successful. Looking at a single metric like conversion rate can suggest strong performance, however when compared with a measure such as overall share of search market, the shortcomings of a narrow approach become apparent, because the visibility of a purely conversion-focused website is limited to a small section of the overall range of terms that are searched for.
Conversion-centric websites may only contain pages specific to the products that they offer. You would expect to see those pages organised into categories; however, the content would not extend to cover the topic in a broader sense. They talk about the products and why you should buy them, rather than the reason for wanting them.
It is the topical content that sits at the top of the search funnel which adds value for users – they discover more about the products that they are considering and get greater insight into which might be best for their needs.
The challenge with integrating this topical content into a website is that it doesn’t necessarily fit neatly within a product focused structure. The logical answer to this challenge is to push the information to the side and create a parallel structure within the website that interlinks with related products:
Users in the research phase of the funnel are catered to by the topical content, while also having the product content to satisfy their needs.
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