McClatchy Feb 17, 2023 6:31:00 PM

Where Does SEM fit in the Consumer Journey?


More than 85% of people turn to online channels like search engines for research before purchasing. More than 50% of searchers always do it before buying to ensure the brand and product they choose is the absolute best choice possible.

Understanding how customers interact with your messaging online helps you better match your efforts to your customers' behavior. In turn, you can use search engine marketing (SEM) to target the right consumers according to their consumer journey stage and use proven strategies for resonating with those behaviors.  

Keep reading for our top tips on leveraging SEM and SEO as you create SEM campaigns.  

Understanding the Customer Journey  

understanding the customer journey and how sem affects itYour customer journey map is a visual representation of every customer-to-brand touchpoint/interaction. It's broken down into multiple stages for easy understanding. That helps illustrate the specific behaviors and needs throughout their journey to purchasing (and re-purchasing!) from you: 

  1. Awareness — The first stage is when consumers become more familiar with their needs and pain points. They may have already known the need or are just becoming aware of it. Either way, they are now becoming more serious about resolving it.  
  2. Research — After becoming aware of their problem, they begin conducting their research online (68% of these online experiences start with a search engine query). This stage includes reading about their needs and potential solutions across multiple information channels and different types of content consumption (i.e., video, text, audio recordings, infographics, etc.).  
  3. Consideration —  Now, it's time for them to consider their options. Which brands and products stand out? They've narrowed down their top considerations and are sorting through reviews, features, pricing, value, and more to decipher which option will benefit them the most. 
  4. Conversion — Your lead becomes a customer at this point of the journey. They have chosen your brand and product to solve their problem, but your job does not end here. Continuing your targeting efforts after the initial purchase will guide your customers into the next stage of their journey.   
  5. Repurchase —  As you expand your lines and introduce new products and services to the market, you will need the support of repeat customers championing you throughout the process. After all, 59% of consumers prefer buying new products from brands they've purchased from in the past. 

Each insight into these segments allows you to leverage SEM in ways that resonate with your target audience in a personal and relevant way. You can tailor your messaging to each consumer and their specific needs by incorporating the following: 

  • Using language they use 
  • Targeting their specific needs and desires in your content 
  • Reaching them at the right time and place 

How Customers Interact with SEM  

How customers interact with sem adsSEM reaches customers at crucial moments when they're researching or ready to buy. There's no better place to deliver your ads than on search engines that deliver your ads in results that are directly relevant to the ad you provide.  

Here's how you can interact with customers with SEM in each stage: 

  • In the Awareness stage, consumers conduct general searches—the 'best' products, a 'guide' to resolving their problem, questions like 'what are...?" or "why should...?" 
  • In the Research phase, consumers look more locally—i.e., the best in their area. SEM ads targeting this phase will be most successful if you use location targeting and retarget leads as they move through the rest of their journey.  
  • In the Consideration stage, consumers get specific—use branded words when you create SEM ads. These are words associated with your brands and products. An example from McClatchy on this topic may include 'search engine marketing,' 'SEM,' 'SEM experts,' 'the pay-per-click model,' 'conversion-focused ad copy,' etc.  
  • In the Decision and Re-purchase stages, you want to retarget—encourage repeat purchases and loyalty by retargeting your SEM ads to current customers with rewards programs, deals, specials, promotions, etc.  

Crafting SEM Ads to Fit Customer Journey Stages  

Crafting SEM Ads to Fit Your Customer Journey Stages  Begin every process with a goal that focuses your SEM ad on its intended purpose. After all, the SEM ads you write must be specific to different needs based on where customers are in their customer journey. 

For instance, if you're trying to increase brand and product awareness, you must appeal to the awareness and consideration stages. The awareness stage will require helpful information on the topic, while the consideration stage will require beneficial information about your company and products. 

Either way, your goal will lay the foundation for every decision about your SEM ad from that point on because creating an advertisement for the awareness stage compared to an ad designed to encourage conversions will look very different.  

Consumers in the awareness stage are not ready to purchase. Therefore, an SEM ad with content and a call-to-action to try a free trial or schedule a free consultation won't be appropriate. They're not ready for that—they don't fully know how to decide whether you're worth their time (they haven't even conducted their research yet!). Instead, you should target them with branded ads introducing your company to searchers inquiring about your solution topics. That way, you come to mind as they move through their research, consideration, and finally, their conversion stage.  

Further Your Goals with Consumer Understanding 

Understanding your customers' online behavior is crucial when you create SEM campaigns. Contact McClatchy for insight and resources on integrating your SEM seamlessly into your customer journey.  

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