How Google search disrupts the sales funnel

We’ve written about the marketing funnel in the past, exploring the ways in which the old-fashioned customer journey (passing through four key phases: awareness, interest, desire and action), has been disrupted completely by digital channels.

Marketers understand that customers may now effectively bypass the top of the funnel and go straight to action, and that much of the time this happens impulsively, when they haven’t planned to buy.

Online search has radically changed the way consumers browse and shop — especially in the wake of Covid-19. Searches will often show paid ads as the first results at the top of a page, but some consumers scroll straight past ads to get to the first organic results. Many don’t get any further than the top few. Research shows that the vast majority of users don’t get past the first page of a Google search: only 0.78% of Google searchers clicked on something from the second page.

The changing habits of buyers — and how this disrupts everything you may previously have relied on as fact during selling — is something you need to pay attention to, now more than ever. Here we take a closer look at improving your organic traffic, using Google Ads and buying trends in the wake of the pandemic — and how you can start marketing smarter.

Content marketing is an investment

It’s no wonder that many companies use content marketing to drive traffic to their site. It's a sound investment: 85% of consumers say that online content has a ‘moderate to major’ influence on their buying decisions. Great content is the best kind of marketing:

  • It helps customers move through their purchasing journey faster and with more confidence
  • It creates collateral for your sales team to leverage during the sales process
  • It improves brand awareness, visibility and recognition
  • It gives you authority and credibility across your industry 
  • It develops lasting, meaningful relationships with your audience
  • It establishes you as an expert in your field
  • It gives value without first extracting it from prospects and customers.

Playing the long game with content creation has to be at the forefront of your mind. For ESM Inbound, it’s taken over two years to reach page one of the SERPs we wanted to be ranking highly for:

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In Spring 2018, we committed to a consistent, thorough, keyword-rich content strategy which has been increasingly paying off — we are now number one in Google for several search terms important to our industry — but that didn’t happen overnight. Weekly SEO-optimised blogging, daily social media posting and releasing regular pillar page content has enabled us to make a success of our content marketing — but we had to play the long game to get there, creating topic clusters of relevant, educational content (that didn’t just talk about ourselves.)

Ads go hand-in-hand with content

Ads are another vital part of your content strategy, but these can deliver results far quicker than organic content. This shouldn’t be an either/or situation though: one compliments the other, so don’t use ads as a quick cheat tactic: it won’t work. As Digital Marketing Institute explains:

‘Your marketing team can’t thrive on paid or organic promotion alone. Instead, add in paid campaigns that complement and support the success that you’ve already seen from the organic side.’

To achieve this, you need to do some SEO strategising — which can feel complex. Google uses 200 ranking factors to make its decisions about which ads to show, and which not to. One of the key factors is relevance. When a user clicks on an ad, the page they are taken to — the landing page — needs to show them relevant content that they expect to see. 

If your ad uses the same keywords as those that are used on the landing page itself, Google will be happy with that ad and is far more likely to show it to searchers. Ads are monitored based on this ‘quality score’ — if you try to send searchers to a page which doesn’t have anything to do with the ad, Google’s algorithm won’t like it, and your ad won’t get shown. 

If you are creating or modifying existing landing pages to support your Google Ads campaign, ads become a way of ensuring the right content is served to more customers, more quickly. It doesn’t rely on waiting for the SEO ranking to climb, the way that organic content does. What’s notable about this is that it’s still your content that acts as your salesperson: if someone clicks through to your landing page and takes a particular action on that page, such as downloading a resource, that’s a clear signifier that they are a qualified lead.

To help you get started, Google is currently offering small- and medium-sized businesses Ad credits which can be used towards Google Ad spend. This applies across all of its platforms until the end of 2020 — so there’s really never been a better time to invest in paid advertising.

Keeping up with changing buyer trends

With consumer spending down and customer loyalty being tested like never before, marketing is vital for any business looking to survive. In previous eras, marketing budgets were the first thing to go when the chips were down, but now, the opposite is true. A McKinsey report published in 2019 revealed that 83% of CEOs listed marketing as the major driver of their growth agenda.

The response to Covid-19 has changed consumer behaviour radically — unless you’re a supermarket, most customers won’t be able to turn up at your shop or office. As a result, there is more online competition. Analytics means that when a customer Googles you, your competitors will also pop up and this customer may be more tempted to explore other options than a customer who was looking for a specific retail outlet. 

In other words, Google Ads has become more powerful than ever, and the marketplace is increasingly competitive. To truly target prospects, at the right time and place, a combination of SEO-rich content and targeted ads is the solution. No matter which stage of the sales funnel customers are at when they find you, you need to ensure you have remarkable content and ads with a relevant landing page, ready to help convert them.

Key takeaways 

  1. In the wake of Covid-19 (and even before) customers are shopping differently, switching from an awareness-interest-desire-action journey, to a more targeted, bottom-of-the-funnel position.
  2. How buyers use Google may change the focus you put on your marketing, applying a hybrid of organic SEO-rich content and Google Ads.  
  3. Organic content takes time to build and perform well on SERPs. But once it does, it’s worthwhile since your pages will be amongst the first buyers see.
  4. Investing in Google Ads, as well as inbound content, is a proven way to ensure that your marketing budget is being directed towards assets that will deliver results.
  5. Investing in Google Ads rather than other search engine advertising is likely to deliver better ROI. 

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