Joseph Griffiths, Senior Search Strategist at Branded3, explains how content can be used to guide customers along the path to purchase
Content is crucial to influencing holidaymakers at various stages of their decision-making process, according to survey data from consumer research consultancy Incite, which – like Branded3 – is part of St Ives Group. The in-depth poll of people’s travel habits, conducted earlier this year, has thrown up some very interesting conclusions about consumers’ online behaviour within the travel market.
The survey indicates that over 50 per cent of people want to have every element of their holiday planned before they go away. This tells us that the travel market relies heavily on research done by holidaymakers, meaning fantastic opportunities for travel brands to get in front of their audience when they are planning a break. We know that these consumers have either booked a holiday or are considering booking one, and also that they are researching the destination before they go. Getting great content in front of this audience is a fantastic way for brands to build affinity and convert visitors into customers.
We have many years’ experience in the travel market and know that an in-depth, information-led content strategy that targets consumers at different stages of their journey is key to maximising opportunities in new customer acquisition, engagement and, importantly, conversion.
Consumers will ask lots of questions in the run-up to their holiday, so brands need to have a content strategy relevant to customers who are searching for different information at every stage of their decision-making process.
Where do these searches take place? Predominantly Google. Some 70 per cent of queries that come through Google are what we define as “long tail” searches, terms searched for less than 100 times per month. They are often unique queries that are question based and the user is very specific in what they are trying to find. Google has in fact said that 500 million searches (15% of total searches) that appear daily are using keywords that have never been searched for before.
Answering questions that users are typing into Google drives the creation of great content that serves a genuine purpose and solves problems. It is also exactly the kind of content that Google will want to rank for these queries and leads to an influx of traffic coming to a brand’s site, with the majority of this traffic being people actually considering purchasing a holiday. It’s a fantastic time for a brand to engage with these consumers and help them along the decision-making path.
Before content can be created, brands need to find out what consumers are asking. There are a number of ways of doing this, including but not limited to:
• Traditional keyword research
• Google Suggest
• Q&A sites
• Internal site search
• Travel forums
• Social media
The research also concluded that a large chunk of consumers feel overwhelmed by the amount of content that is on offer. But by following the acquisition method outlined above brands are giving consumers exactly what they are looking for, while also enabling them to review other related content if they need to. Although this is fine from an acquisition standpoint, brands need to make sure that they are not overwhelming existing customers or potential customers, which is where engagement comes into play.
The survey data also shows that 55 per cent of people book their holidays online. Content strategy is absolutely crucial to influencing these customers.
A good content strategy isn’t about just acquisition but also engagement and making the most of the people who already interact with your site.
As the online experience is predominantly one way, users may experience road blocks that stop them from taking the final step to purchasing a holiday, e.g. “I really want to go here but I can’t find out whether the destination is very child friendly”. A good content strategy can easily guide users down the path to find content that removes these road blocks and allows the user to move on, bringing them closer to converting into a paying customer. It also means that if a user is getting the content and information they need, they are less likely to go somewhere else to get their information.
An on-site content strategy cannot simply produce question-oriented content, there also needs to be substantial effort around generic destination-based content as well. This is where consumers can feel overwhelmed and it is the marketer’s job to see that this does not happen and show the right content on the right pages. Taking the consumer’s viewpoint and thinking about what pages they would be visiting at different times, and what content needs to be displayed, is vital for this. For example, if a consumer is on a Rome holidays page, they will likely want to see content around deals going to this destination or further information on the destination itself.
A solid content strategy is very much about getting the basics right and creating content that serves a purpose, but brands also need to deliver this information to their customers at the right time so they are not overwhelmed when they are researching in order to make decisions.
Brands need to get into the mindset of their consumers and determine what content they want to view along their decision-making process and where they would likely be on a site when they intend to read the content.
Joe will be discussing how search and content strategies influence the decision-making process at a seminar in London on May 29.