No two companies have the exact same buying cycle. An enterprise software company might have a buying cycle of 9+ months, while they average buying cycle for a site that sells dog food might only be 4 days. It’s usually dependent on the complexity of your product and the cost of your product (coupled with a consumer’s willingness to buy.) Typically, the more expensive a product/service is the longer the buying cycle because it represents a greater financial investment on the part of your audience.
As a potential customer moves through their buying cycle, from research gathering to just before they pull the trigger, the likelihood of them converting goes up. It’s important to remember that the further along in their buying cycle a potential customer is the more long-tail keywords they’ll use to search for information. For example, “digital camera” gets 1.5 million searches each month, “Nikon digital camera” gets 90,500 searches and “waterproof nikon camera” gets 6,600. Obviously 6,600 searches is a drop in the bucket compared to “digital camera,” but someone searching using “waterproof Nikon camera” is much closer to converting.
Obviously the most profitable visitors to your website are the ones that are ready to buy right then and there, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to drive visitors that are just entering their buying cycle to your site. The trick is to choose keywords that work with every stage of your buying cycle so your site appeals to the widest possible audience.
When someone is just researching their options, let’s say they want to buy a new digital camera; chances are they will jump from site to site reading customer reviews, comparing features and spec reports, checking out popular blogs for professional photographers’ opinions or maybe watching a video that shows off the features of a few cameras. They are looking to gather as much information as possible so they can make the best purchasing decision. Although a $350 camera might not carry the price tag of some B2B products like software systems or machinery, it’s still a big investment for that consumer. They want to know they are getting the best possible camera for their budget. These potential customers are probably searching using keywords like “top 10 digital cameras” or “camera comparison chart.” They want reviews, fact sheets and other solid information that will influence their decision. You want the keywords you target (and subsequently the content on your site) to accurately reflect that hunt for knowledge.
As consumers move through their buying cycle their search behavior changes. They get more specific in the information they are looking for. Now they want information about the “top 10 Nikon DSLRs” or “Canon waterproof cameras.” They might not know exactly what they want, but they are starting to get a pretty good idea. Your keywords and content needs to start addressing the needs of this buying cycle. What makes your product better than the competition? What unique problems does it solve? Maybe your product can do something consumers didn’t even realize was a problem until you pointed it out! This would be a great time to create some how-to or demonstration videos (optimized for SEO of course!) demonstrating the value of your product.
When you pull customers into your site early in the buying process there is no guarantee that you’ll be the final vendor they choose, but it creates that first touch point that could lead to a sale! No matter how they find your site, you want to give customers the information they are looking for and give them a reason to come back.