Developing a winning acquisition strategy is about more than maximising traffic, it’s about reaching people at their peak purchase intent. Your mission is to reach customers that are actively seeking to solve a problem that your product or service can fulfil. This is the type of keen traffic that your search strategy needs to be best at serving. You need to create a keyword approach and a content strategy that matches the needs of customers in this state.
The battle to capture customers attention when they are most intent on purchasing starts on the search engine results page. Begin by crafting your web content as it appears here in the right way to appeal to customers at their peak purchase intent.
Search engines are savvy enough now to recognise user intent and serve results that match their needs, so your brand needs to provide content that works with what the search engines can offer. For example, content that fits into Google’s Knowledge Panel.
Writing content that matches customer search intent and persuades them to click through to your site is challenging but worth the effort.
Not only do you need to consider your keywords but you also need to think about how your content fulfils the needs of the customer at that specific point in time. For example, are they trying to price compare, explore product features or find a physical store where they can buy?
There have been some attempts to find AI solutions to these challenges by using natural language processing technology that delivers the optimum keywords for your product and brand. This tech works by looking at word associations and keyword relationships to understand what words and search strings customers are likely to use.
You can access a free version of this using Google Keyword Planner or paid services such as Twinword which claim to offer greater refinement and more focus on intent.
Once customers land on your site, they also need to find content that’s optimised for their purchase intent. That means focusing on the purchase rather than cluttering the page with extraneous information and distractions and showing CTAs clearly.
Using transactional keywords like ‘buy’ and ‘free shipping’ on the transactional pages will help show Google this is a page worth indexing for customers indicating purchase intent.
It’s particularly challenging to write content that matches your customer’s search intent if you’re working in another language. Your content needs to sound natural and meet your customer’s needs while conveying your brand’s tone of voice.
If you’re trying to serve customers in other languages, don’t make the mistake of simply translating your keywords and intent-related content into different languages.
You’ll need to do further work exploring how purchase intent is expressed in those languages and territories, by understanding the synonyms used and the particular syntax. It’s particularly disastrous if you’re using machine translation to move English keywords and meta content into Chinese languages, as this rarely optimises content properly and can lead to embarrassing translation errors.
Mixed language queries
One curious search phenomenon observers have noted in the past few years is the increase in mixed language queries. This sees users employ words mixed from two or more languages in their search.
Research in this area is fairly academic in nature but some studies indicate mixed-language queries in English and Chinese languages are on the rise.
Perhaps it’s not surprising. Increasing globalisation means that brands are familiar to audiences in another language group, so it’s perhaps normal to expect users to be searching for terms such as ‘buy (foreign brand name)’ in a combination of languages.
Consumers in many markets are increasingly educated and sophisticated in their consumer ambitions and media exposure, which supports dual-language knowledge. They also travel more than they did in the past, meaning they have greater brand and language awareness than ever before.
Another way of looking at it is that search engine users are very demanding – they expect search engines to be able to make sense of their query even if they use a jumble of languages.
But 2015 research suggests that mixed language queries are more related to brand or product names, with bilingual Chinese/English web users tending to perform mixed-language queries more often for software, product model information or for specific terminologies – such as ‘mp3 player’ or ‘PDF’.
For these queries, it seems that the search users either only know the term in one language or just find it easier to type in one language. For example, the NBA is very popular in China. The Chinese name for NBA is 美国职业篮球联赛 but many users find the English acronym easier to remember and type.
Voice search is on the rise, according to data from Mary Meeker and Google Trends. The semantic analysis seems to be really improving how well voice search understands search intent, with Google Now thought by many to be the leader in the field in terms of accuracy.
In China, voice search is even more popular – thanks perhaps to the difficulty of managing the Chinese language in the digital written form.
Even highly educated Chinese speakers find themselves forgetting some less common characters, and it’s often slower to type in digital format than it is to search by voice (or in another language). That’s why Baidu’s own analysis indicates that next year half of all searches performed in China will be via voice.
What’s the impact of this? Well, there’s a possibility that users will be more specific about what they are searching for. It’s easier and faster to speak than it is to type. It may also lead to users searching in different situations – whilst driving for example.
That’s probably going to impact on search strategies around the globe. If you’re active in China, you’ll probably need to deliver your voice strategy more quickly than in your Western markets.