Today Simon Heseltine (of AOL fame) led a panel discussion featuring SEOGadget’s Jon Quinton and Crispin Sheridan from SAP. The topic: how to optimize the user journey on your website when you take searcher workflow into account.

Searcher Workflow

The Typical Search Workflow

Both presenters suggested a similar outline of the searcher workflow, from intent, through engagement to conversion:

  1. Thought/Need
  2. Search
  3. Results (SERPs)
  4. Landing Page Experience
  5. Conversion/Purchase

As SEOs we tend to begin the optimization process with the SERPs in mind, since this is the first time we can influence what appears in the workflow. But Jon noted the importance of the initial search intent. With this we can not only appear in the SERPs, but build trust, relevance and really engage searchers with accurate content.

Moving Back to Intent

Jon suggested taking keywords and moving backwards until you are really analyzing the intent behind those keywords. The thought processes behind searches tend to involve informational, navigational and transactional searches.

It also helps to consider the personas of your customers and what content they are likely to require. Jon’s example was a holiday website offering beach getaways. Pages on Ibiza and the Maldives will obviously need different content, but it’s also important to think about the personas behind the searches. It’s likely different people will be looking for those pages with different ideas of what a beach holiday might involve! 

The Ins and Outs of Identifying Intent

In order to really analyse the intent behind each search you can:

  • Look at forums and in places like Quora to see what people are talking about for a topic. The more you understand about their common concerns, the better you can create content to pre-empt their questions.
  • Automate the process. Jon created a GoogleDoc where you can enter a keyword phrase and see everything that is being published around that topic.
  • Use Google Analytics data to see which keywords are driving traffic to certain pages. And then ensure the right page is ranking.
  • Look at your top exiting referral keywords to see where your content might be sub-optimal or even missing.

More specifically, Crispin Sheridan suggested looking at the keywords for broad terms and brand terms. Also different forms of vocabulary. This can all tell you a lot about who the searcher is and what they’re looking for.

Improving Your Content

Once you know what the intent of the searcher could be, you need to analyse your content and be certain that the navigation flows and the key content is easy to find. One way of doing this is by monitoring your internal site search. What are people have difficulty finding? Can you create any content around that topic, or if it already exists can you make it more prominent?

Crispin also suggested thinking about the attributes in the SERPs you can influence, so you can cover all bases. For example, if couples are looking for beach holidays in Spain does your URL, page title, meta description etc help reassure them that this is the right page?

To identify these pages you should look at the articles with the lowest CTR and analyse why they aren’t receiving any traffic. Then, when they do reach the page, are they converting?

Testing for the Conversion

Landing page optimisation is another way of ensuring the consumer journey is smooth and that you make the most of the traffic you receive. For example, if you have call-to-actions on your page (or should I say, since you definitely have call-to-actions on your page :) ) you will want to conduct A/B or multivariate testing on these to test wording, button colours, sizing, positioning, context and so on. 

Crispin did his testing from the point of view of the searcher, so he could really understand what people might be looking for and what could be blocking conversions.

He also recommended using cookies to see whether visitors have been before and, if they have, whether you can serve different information to make their visit better. Not only that, but if they are viewing with a mobile device, is the workflow still smooth, or does the experience stall on a smaller screen? Use the data you have available to inform your content and help the searcher find what they’re looking for.

All of these are important aspects to consider when analysing the searcher workflow but, if you get granular and look at the data behind your hunches, Jon and Crispin say it can make the journey easier for the user and increase engagement and conversions.

Thanks to Simon, Jon and Crispin for the session and let us know what you thought of the panel discussion in the comments section below!