Understanding the Psychology of Website Visitor Intent

Every search query indicates visitor intent. Here’s how to optimize your website and your search engine marketing to serve the right nurturing or conversion pages to your site visitors.

Ever since I had an epiphany about website visitors, I’ve thought differently about web content.

I had been reading some research about search engine use and searcher intent that connected two dots for me and added clarity to hundreds of marketing decisions I’ve made since.

The research, a scholarly article by three Pennsylvania State University researchers, broke down three types of key phrases visitors use in search engines: informational, transactional and navigational.

Informational queries, in which the searcher is doing research, make up 80% of all searches. Searchers typically use these queries early in the buying process or if they may not have any interest in buying anything.

Transactional queries, in which the searcher has commercial intent, make up 10% of all searches. The searcher has a product or service in mind when they use these queries, and they’re planning to spend money.

Navigational queries, in which the searcher is looking for a specific website, make up 10% of all searches.

Since the third type of visitor is just using a search engine to navigate to a brand, we know the least about their intent. They may be a current customer, a job applicant or someone looking for basic contact information. Let’s set them aside and focus on the first two, those with informational and commercial intent.

Web visitors who encounter your site via informational queries are usually doing research. They are looking for answers. Visitors who come to your site through commercial queries need help finding a product or service. They are planning to make a transaction.

Source: Orbit Media

You can immediately see the value in targeting and segmenting these types of visitors. Some are much higher up in the funnel or not in a buyer journey at all. You may be able to attract them and create brand awareness, but they are far less likely to convert. Who we attract depends on the key phrase we target.

Key Phrase Targeting

Every key phrase indicates intent. A phrase that includes “how,” “what” or other question words often indicates a searcher’s desire for big ideas, specific details or instructions. An example might be, “How to fix a leaky faucet.”

A phrase that includes a type of product or the name of a service or business category indicates a searcher’s intention to take action on that topic. An example could be, “Chicago plumber.”

Notice how phrasing immediately segments your potential visitors into two groups. Search engines deduce intent from the phrase and return the most relevant pages.

Types of Pages

Site visitors land on one of two types of pages: content marketing pages or sales pages. The difference, according to marketing adviser and best-selling author Jay Baer, is teaching versus selling, content versus copy and help versus hype.

Content marketing pages, including blog posts, articles, videos and resources, are successful when they answer questions. They should be scannable and thorough, visual and detailed. Sales pages include homepages, services pages and e-commerce catalogs. These pages are successful when they are trustworthy. They emulate sales conversations by addressing objections, answering top questions and providing supportive evidence such as statistics and testimonials.

Source: Orbit Media

Every page has a job to do and an associated goal. Nurturing pages, such as landing pages for downloads or subscription forms, aim to bring visitors back and maintain brand awareness if they ever develop commercial intent. Sharing is an ideal micro-conversion on these pages. Conversion pages, which might have contact information or an e-commerce function, aim to get the visitor to convert to a lead or customer. If it is a feature of the site, chatting is one optimal micro-conversion of these pages.

The best pages of either type are focused on meeting the goals of both the visitor and the brand. They both have calls to action and, when successful, they bring visitors to thank-you pages.

We Are All Visitors

Visitors aren’t aliens from distant worlds. They’re us. To demonstrate this to yourself, open up your browsing history and look at the last few hundred websites in there. Ask yourself why you visited those websites. Just like everyone else on the internet, you likely visit websites for two main reasons: You’re researching a question, or you’re looking for a presumed answer. Put yourself in the shoes of your would-be visitors and give them the answers they’re looking for.

Source: Andy Crestodina – American Marketing Association

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