Knowing Visitor Intent is 90% of the Battle

Let’s say you’ve got boatloads of traffic coming to your website, yet nobody’s buying.  Apparently, you don’t have the engaging intent building content to interest them and you’re stumped about what to give them. It’s depressing, especially after you may have tried a few gimmicks without getting any traction  If only you had a crystal ball and a beginner’s guide to reading it.

crystalballreadingWell, put away your credit card, cause you’re not going to need to buy that book. This is an epic post on discovering and building visitor intent. And we’re going way beyond guessing at keywords with vague meanings and analyzing clickpaths. We’re look deeply into the whole matter from many angles to gain deep empathy with your visitors.

Marketers typically identify understanding visitor intent as the toughest challenge they face in 2017 so let’s begin solving this now. There’s videos, tips and extra resources at the bottom.

The topic of visitor intent integrates tightly with my other epic posts on how to create content with impact, how to improve visitor engagement, and reverse content strategy, blogging strategy, and useful copywriting. The more you know about visitor intent, the better your website content strategy and specific selling points will be on your pages. It’s the best investment of time you’ll ever make.

Mobile is Making This Tougher! Thank You Mobile

Screen cap courtesy of Reflektion: Understanding Shopper Intent pdf

The smartphone makes shoppers more impatient and impulse driven, more subject to the pains of the moment. The ecommerce people know this well and they actually have a wealth of data to tap into — perfect for reading shopper’s minds after the fact.

All that shopping behavior helps companies such as Google learn more about what makes people buy in the moment. Google has the best data and they use it to perfect their search engines results — giving searchers results before they even know what they’re looking for next.

It’s not magic, it’s data.  Yet, for non-ecommerce businesses, understanding customer behavior is a frustrating and disappointing challenge. If Google and ecommerce companies can figure it out, at least you know it can be done.

Regardless of whether you intend to find new customer traffic or convert more existing traffic into customers, knowing more about your visitor’s intent and how to strengthen it is vital to success.

Let’s take a quick drive through of how you might discover your visitor’s intent and what you could do to turn them into customers.  I’m a content and SEO consultant so I do focus a great deal on the words that attract and drive visitor engagement. Sorry if I get too focused, but I’m sure you have your own particular goals to achieve, and that might be well beyond copywriting. You’ll find those things here too.

Uncovering Visitor Intent

27 Things to Know and Do about Website Visitor Intent

  1. write down all the reasons why people are visiting your site – what insight, information, experience or transaction could they possibly want?
  2. what specifically does your content help visitors solve, and what is their problem?
  3. is your value proposition clearly evident and how can you make a few changes to make it clear?
  4. ask visitors what they’re looking for and what makes a difference for them by using a non-intrusive question box.
  5. use Google’s or WordPress internal search box to let them do a search on your site
  6. interview your customers and find out why they chose your website/product/service
  7. find out who your visitors are: age, gender, location, occupation, income, lifestyle
  8. what content of yours are visitors sharing?
  9. analyze the content of the pages they view the most; what is the intent of the page — to help or sell?
  10. analyze clickthrough data from your analytics interface — what links did they click on?
  11. assess what your most relevant, top competitors are offering their visitors
  12. where do your top competitors get their traffic from and what are their visitors reading before they land on your competitor’s website?
  13. assess how you can juice up your value offer with specific benefits and then do A/B testing
  14. assess what else is on the page might be turning on or turning off your visitors
  15. provide locally relevant information for visitors from different cities
  16. ensure other related, deep content to keep them fully engaged in a topic – A/B test them
  17. use geo-based content delivery to give the best content for visitors in specific cities – A/B test it
  18. ensure your web design looks highly professional – what about the design could affect visitors?
  19. ensure your graphics, photos, headings are very relevant to the topic at hand
  20. show your presentation of information is accurate and credible by citing the authoritative sources they believe and trust
  21. deal with post-purchase regret by showing them how happy they will be and that the purchase is a wise one that trumps all possible other purchase options — leave no room for doubt
  22. tell them what to expect and what will happen immediately when they buy or choose your company
  23. find snackable content that lowers visitor’s distractedness, boredom, and gives instant satisfaction
  24. is their content to affirm their values and conviction in their own judgement
  25. have you shown how their alternatives with competitors are a losing choice?
  26. make the clickpath to satisfaction as short as possible (minimize frustration and doubt)
  27. add new relevant content based on the geo-specific location of the visitor

Keywords Are a Powerful Indicator of Intent

As this quote from suggests, we need to understand more about the relationship between keywords searchers use and what the visitor’s actual intent is.

When Andrew Witherow of Razorlight Media was optimizing the PPC account of one of his clients, he did some research into what exactly someone was searching for when they typed “wedding San Diego” into Google. He found that the majority of people searching for that term were looking for a list of wedding venues in that area.

The above example highlights how vague keywords may not foretell what they’re looking for or will buy. So maybe we should get away from the matter of keywords and look more about the searcher as a person and more fully serve their actual intent?

Think with Google is all about better capturing those key moments where shoppers make decisions about buying with their hopes/doubts/issues, and capturing those micro-moments before they disappear.

Google Micromoments – Capitalizing on Buyer Impulse

Why mention Google’s micromoments right now? Because it refers to the issue which Google can’t really help you with.  They can’t help you create impactful, engaging and transaction-building content packaged within a clear value proposition to build visitor’s intent. Although, they do see this as a huge problem for their paying advertisers – hence the development of Think with Google to help them improve.

Google’s Adwords customers want things easy, so they advertise and expect a slick, fast push to the checkout as the way to go. Just get a quick sale and no messy customer journey involving persuasive engaging content.

However, PPC advertising may cause marketers to ignore quality content and creating a context that builds visitor intent (content strategy). Advertisers assume customers have sufficient intent just because they typed the right keywords in. But with conversion rates at 1%, we know the keywords don’t tell us everything.

What are shoppers thinking when they arrive to buy car insurance, Cost Rica vacations, weddings in San Diego, womens shoes, ski jackets, or a baby accessory on an ecommerce site? What thoughts would change their minds and lose the sale? Most SMB’s have weak knowledge in this area.

Try Harder to Convert a Poor Prospect?

So tempting to do, but a poorly qualified visitor on your site is tough to convert. Yet SMB owners believe it is possible to create a customer out of disinterested visitors if they just have that little piece of information or a gimmick/tactic that makes them click. If you don’t have this insight, you might be left using those annoying pop ups that trap you and force you (squeeze pages). That’s a certain sign the site’s content and value offer don’t work.

Basically, there’s 2 problems with your site: 1) your current visitors are poorly qualified prospects, and 2) your website doesn’t impact, grab their impulse, hold them, and get your value proposition across so that it appears you are the best choice for them.

Creating a Customer Out of Nothing at All

Can any website create a customer out of any visitor? Think with Google suggests it’s possible. Google’s VP of marketing reiterate’s Google’s intent with their mantra: “Intent beats identity. Immediacy trumps loyalty.”

That might be stretching the truth, yet Millennials on their smartphones are less brand loyal and most likely to take a good offer when it’s presented. It would be nice to know their intent (best price, great product, something that shows they’re so smart?).

Original, Existing Intent or Intent in the Moment?

Original intent and intent in them moment arent’ the same.  Intent in the moment is a factor you may have control over on your website and SEO and Content Strategy are the best ways to go. You can never know enough in digital marketing because the medium and competitive field change so rapidly. Original intent before they arrive is something you have no control over. The customer is what they are, take em or leave em.

With the thousands of potential customers coming and going on our websites, we’re left scratching our heads at what they were looking for? The key fact is: they left. You did not have what they were looking for.

How do we peer into their minds and discover what information or transaction they were expecting?  Some of what we need might be readily available, such as search engine keywords, pages they landed on, clickpaths while on our site, length of visit on specific pages, videos viewed, pop up survey feedback and more.

There is a little bit of data, but to get more data, we may have to do some A/B testing of content. And as I suggested in this post on reverse content engineering, we can study the top sites and apply what they’re doing on ours.

Google Think has been exploring this topic in depth for a while and they’ve got quite a bit of relevant data to gain insights. They’re sharing a few of them. Google formerly came up with Zero moments of decision which did translate well, so they’re calling consumer decision making at retail “micromoments.” They’re suggesting that shoppers make decisions at point of purchase rather than due to earlier intent or brand loyalty.

Here’s Google Think’s introduction to the Micromoment topic:

If you’ve shopped online, you can see how this isn’t far from the truth. We start out shopping for something specific and end up buying something slightly different such as boots and gloves. We’d have to caution though that if we go searching for something like a “ski jacket” it’s because we need a ski jacket.

So if micromoments are influential in this case, it might only be our choice of color, appearance, on page testimonials, or automatic discounts that might sway us from buying a ski jacket and instead buy boots. In this case, the shopper’s clear intent is to buy a ski jacket because it’s cold out there and perhaps because they intend to ski?

Screen Capture courtesy of

If the shopper actually buys something completely different on that shopping trip, then perhaps at their micromoment point of decision, they realized they wanted a new smartphone more than a new ski jacket. A lot of pressing wants shapes shopper intent and something called post-purchase regret can affect their buy decision.

If the visitor is searching for “homes for sale in Los Angeles” the intent is apparent — they’re looking for a house in LA. But LA is big region so might know that they’re either a real estate investor who might even be interested in other cities, or a prospective buyer considering moving where they need to get a reasonably priced home.

So while we search and shop, we may be bouncing back and forth on the matters of specific needs vs overall life fulfillment, what the visitor sees and reads on your site, may well determine if issues get in the way. You need to delete those issues on your pages and help to get the visitor focused. This is why sharply focused niche sites might convert better and why squeeze pages are considered vital by ecommerce site marketers.

If we can know really well, what the visitors intent is, we should be able to improve our value proposition and the customer experience so we get that valuable sales conversion.

Intent is king in digital marketing and you may have to shape your content strategy and content, and social media strategy to cull out the intent of our visitors.

Other Resources on Intent Building

Segmenting Intent by visitor behavior:

Reflekt report on shopper intent:

Qualaroo is a software that let’s you learn more about your visitor’s intent:

Here’s some extra resources on building visitor intent you may find useful:

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