Are You Aware? DR Tactics: SEM and the Product Consideration Cycle
At any given point in time, consumers who search Google, Bing and other search engines are in different stages of the buying process. They may be:
- Just starting to learn about a product or service
- Looking at specific companies, products, models, etc.
- Comparing price, features, functions, etc.
One of the most important tactics for marketers who use paid search is to develop keyword programs based on the specific stage of the purchasing cycle consumers are in. It’s an important lesson we’ve learned over the last 10 years of executing SEM campaigns for our clients. This graphic represents the stages in the Product Consideration Cycle:
We’ll focus our attention today on the three stages that can be influenced by search:
- Need/Want (of a product or service)
- Gather Information
- Evaluate Options
Using the vacuum cleaner category as an example, the consumer typically follows a path like this:
- Need/Want of a product or service – Keywords: vacuum, vacuum cleaner
- Gather information – Keywords: Hoover, Dyson, Dirt Devil, bagless vacuum, upright vac
- Evaluate Options – Keywords: Hoover WindTunnel, Dyson Sphere
Search is unique in that consumers identify themselves by what phase they currently occupy in the process by their specific search query. Search marketers need to leverage this insight and speak to consumers based on their current mindset and phase in the purchase process.
Now that you understand the basics of the product (or service) consideration cycle, let’s look at a few more advanced topics:
Takeaway #1: Set up different ad groups for the keywords for each cycle. Rather than lumping all the keywords together, use different groups so that you can write targeted copy for each cycle and track results more effectively. Our experience has shown that many ad groups with fewer keywords are much better than fewer groups with more keywords in each.
Takeaway #2: Consider using different values for metrics for the three cycles to evaluate results. Consumers searching keywords in the Need/Want cycle are very different than those in the other two categories. Consumers searching on brand names and models are very far into the purchasing process. For example, you might consider costs for clicks in the Need/Want cycle to be necessary, but not of great value in terms of leading to an immediate purchase.
Takeaway #3: Use a blended click cost allocation to compute ROI. You might find that Need/Want clicks don’t directly lead to conversions, but Evaluate Options clicks are extremely profitable. Because you need to be visible in all three cycles, consider blending click costs and results to get the overall picture of profitability.
Bonus Takeaway: Combine product consideration cycle with another key metric, such as margin. For one product, based on a 50 percent margin, you may develop a blended formula that is looser than for a product with a 20 percent margin.
For most products or services, consumers move through the product consideration cycle in the same way. Understanding this phenomenon and creating a search program that capitalizes on it is a basic cornerstone of search success.
Catch up on DRTV-Driven Search in Part 1 of the Are You Aware? series.
Irv Brechner writes about a wide range of DRTV-driven customer acquisition tactics, trends and issues. He developed acquirgy’s IntelCenter, with 100+ best practices papers, infographics, briefs and more. He writes regularly for Response Magazine, Electronic Retailer, MediaBizBloggers.com, Agency Post and other leading trade publications. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.