Marketing to the Researcher

Much has been made of the "commercial intent" search. Everyone wants to be first in line for that category of Searcher because of the fact that they are more likely to take immediate action.

However, there are two other categories of Searchers; The "Stumbler" and the "Researcher". We have already addressed marketing to the Stumbler (See Footnote).

Defining the "Researcher" - Who Are They?

While the Researcher is similar in some ways to the Stumbler, the "Researcher" differs in several ways:

  1. The Researcher is aware of the existence of your service/ product or Brand.
  2. These are individuals more likely to take action to close a deal, but the majority is still not quite ready for that just yet.
  3. Stumblers need to be introduced to your product through strategic display (banner) advertising, whereas Researchers are more likely to actually complete a search of a related, branded, or targeted keyword.
  4. These searches will often include: What, Where, When, How, Who.

The Researcher will often complete their searches on a Tablet or Desktop computer. Rarely is someone researching your product or services on a mobile device. However it should be noted that there is a trend toward researching on mobile devices.

The Importance of the Researcher

Recently, Google made the massive search engine “switch-out” (not upgrade) to its algorithm. This new algorithm is known as the Hummingbird update. Interestingly, some of the most clearly apparent updates to this algorithm is that “research” type results are becoming more and more prevalent in “commercial intent” searches.

Much speculation has been made about the motivation of this update. And perhaps it is an over-simplification, but think of it this way:

If you made a commercial intent search such as: “Buy Acme Widgets Online” (this is clearly a person looking to purchase), and the majority of the organic search results were for research type pages. Perhaps the Wikipedia page on; “Acme Widgets”, the searcher will be more likely to click on the paid or sponsored listings at the top of the page. This is where Google makes their money.

Yes, this may be an over-simplification, and probably an extreme example. What’s strange about this to me is that paid listings were already outperforming organic listings in search results by 2,500% before the great "algo-switch-out", so we can only imagine the impact this change is having to the Google bottom-line. This is a learned behaviour on the part of the consumer. It’s clear that the future of commercial intent search is going to be a “pay to play” affair.

So clearly Google is placing a greater emphasis on research intent results. Does this mean we should throw our hands up in the air and all flock over to 100% paid campaigns? Hold your horses their Batman!

It’s no secret that I love PPC. I love the controlled escalation, and unlike in many other methods of online marketing, every action you take has measurable response in real time.

However, this change really highlights a new, previously non-existent, opportunity to broaden, and focus your organic targeting. Let me list a few of these opportunities:

  1. It’s now possible to get research results strategically placed in commercial intent searches. Get the visit, and place the individual into a paid escalation strategy that costs less than competing for that initial click. Not to mention positioning your brand as the authority on the subject.
  2. A large percentage of individuals STILL research a product or service before taking the step up to commercial intent. Be sure to position your brand as the authority that answers their questions.
  3. Go for the low-pressure sale! Yes, that’s exactly the opposite to the advice you’ve heard a thousand times. But think about it. If you are researching a product or service, and the content you find is objective, useful, possibly self deprecating, even shareworthy, or alternatively: “salesy”, subjective, self-absorbed, full of “buy now” type conversion centric copy – which are you more likely to consider buying from when the time is right?
  4. Consider “research” as part of the sales funnel. It could be the first interaction with the potential client, or it could be the escalation point from “stumbler” to “researcher”.

What content to show the Researcher

Of course this begs the question: what content should I show the Researcher?

Here is a list of tools and resources you should consider optimizing for the Researcher. That means remove the obnoxious conversion points and sales language. Have a specific research template designed as part of your web development process. Don’t make the mistake of just including this content into a site-wide design template that has massive calls to action on it. Remember: The researcher is easily scared off!

  1. Frequently Asked Questions.
  2. Glossary of Terms.
  3. Eligibility Calculators.
  4. Tools and Resources.
  5. Info-Graphics.
  6. Blogs and Articles.
  7. White-Papers.
  8. Product Comparisons.
  9. Pros and Cons Lists.

Of course there are many others. But I think you’re getting the idea.

In conclusion

For years the Internet Marketing Industry has been so intently focused on conversions and conversion values, that the other 98% has largely been ignored, or just written off as “not interested at this time”. This is a mistake. There are a myriad of ways that people interact with your site, and as far as I’m concerned, not a single visitor should be ignored as irrelevant or disinterested.

In our next article in this series about our approach and philosophy to SEO, we’ll consider the “commercial intent” Searcher. In the mean time, if you have anything to add, feel free to comment or tweet the author @ainsleymuller.


Footnote: Interestingly, an appropriate escalation strategy from the Stumbler would be to introduce these visitors to research content through Remarketing to affirm their decisions and continue to influence their buying process.





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