How Google Is Shifting Search To User Journeys And Why It Matters To You

Computer displaying google search engine

Why is Google Changing Search Results To User Journeys?

When you’re starting to think about purchasing a new product or looking up a business that performs a service, chances are you’re going to perform a Google search and do some research. Google used to base it’s search results simply by providing users the “best answer” related to what they typed into the search bar (amongst other algorithm criteria).

However, people’s motivations behind their searches aren’t always the same. In an effort to personalize search results even further, Google is shifting its results based on where the user is within their buying journey. The updated algorithm understands the meaning behind what users are really looking for when they type in a phrase or question, based on the users search history.

Google is now using its AI to understand the language and context that is being used when the search occurs. The AI looks into the users search history to predict where the user is within their search journey. Ie. Are they in their research phase, or buying phase? This is a big step forward, as it makes results more relevant and personal for the user.

How Google Used To Display Search Results

When a user starts a journey with a company, they go to Google and search for the information that they’d like to know. These searches could be things like: “SEO Toronto”, “Marketing Agency in Toronto”, “Social Media Advertising Toronto”.

Previous to the shift to user journey results, Google would display search results based on their algorithm criteria which included information like content, keyword matching, relevancy, location, backlinks, and more.

So, what’s the issue with this? Well, Google didn’t necessarily understand what the user meant to do, what their intention behind the search was. They also weren’t taking into account what the user had already searched for and the websites that they had visited in those previous searches.

Person holding android with google maps

User Journey Shift

Google’s AI can now understand that there are multiple meanings behind every search, and even though a search might be the same across users, motivations between users are unique.

For example: A user will begin with a simple search: “SEO agencies near me” or “SEO company in Toronto”. The user then proceeds to visit a digital marketing agency website, spends time on the website doing research and returns to the search results to look at another company.

Trusting a digital marketing agency with your company is a big decision, so the user decides to think on it. A few days later, the user decides to search for the same terms again, as they’ve had time to think about companies they’d like to proceed with.

Google can now understand that they’ve searched for this term previously.  Google knows what websites were visited, how long they were on the website, the number of pages they visited, and more. Based off the history, Google can understand that the user doesn’t want to look for new options but is actually deciding between ones that were already looked at.

Google will show the websites that the user visited and actually engaged with, and not the ones that they hit the back button on quickly, or didn’t visit at all. Google will also show other relevant content to the user. Going back to our example, underneath the company listings within the search result, the user may find articles and other relevant information on hiring a digital marketing agency in Toronto, and what to look out for when doing so.

This is now matching the users motivations, as the user has performed their research initially, thought about it, and is now ready to make a purchase.

How Do You Get Your Content To Rank For User Journeys?

Google now evidently cares a lot about making users search results even more personal based on the users buying journey. So, how do you appear for these types of searches within the results? If you are performing outdated SEO tactics and simply targeting keywords within your content in hopes of getting ranked, you’re missing out.

You now must categorize your keywords within certain groups that match the buyers / sales journey that would be relevant to your business. You should include keywords for at least each of these groups:

Users in the research phase: content that doesn’t try to sell the audience but educates, and answers questions or pain points that the user might be experiencing without the use of your business or products. Keywords within this phase would be focused on broad keywords such as: “Do I need digital marketing”, “Digital Marketing Toronto”, “Best Digital Marketing Agency in Toronto”.

Users who are weighing their options: content that validates your brand, differentiates your brand from your competitors, and establishes an emotional connection with your audience to establish loyalty and brand awareness. The content here will also target branded terms, but also terms related to your industry. Keywords within this user journey phase would be focused on now finding more information about a specific company or brand. Keywords would include branded searches such as: “Consultus Digital reviews”, “Consultus Digital”, “Directions to Consultus Digital”.

Users who are ready to make a purchase: Content that helps persuade a prospect to purchase from your company. This type of content will highlight products and services more directly versus content for those in the research phase of their user journey. Keywords in the buying phase of the user journey would be focused on transactions. These terms would include keywords such as: “Quote”, “Buy”, “Sign Up”, “Schedule Consultation”, “Discount”, etc. ie. “Consultus Digital marketing consultation”, “call Consultus Digital”.

If you create content surrounding each of these stages and map the specific keywords mentioned above within that content, you can actually funnel your users down to the next stage of the buying journey and lead them to a sale.

In 2019, we need to change the way we think about the way users search. We need to understand the user journey rather than just the search term itself. In changing your content and the way you map out keywords; you can appear for each stage of the user journey and have the right content appear to the user, when the user needs it.

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