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Thursday, Mar. 31, 2011 at 12:22 pm

How to Create Custom Segments for Buying Stage

By Whitney Wilding
March 31st, 2011

Long-time Grok readers already know that we regularly use buying stages as a part of our OnTarget subscription analysis. This kind of approach to making your website better definitely can get more conversions on your site, as evidenced by this case study Melissa Burdon wrote about the first test she ran with one of her clients. If you have no idea what buying stages are, here is a brief introduction. We categorize prospects into one of these three categories based on their intent or propensity to buy:

  1. Early Stage Buyer- An early stage buyer is someone who has a problem or challenge to overcome and is looking into possible solutions. They may not know who you are or what product or service you offer.
  2. Middle Stage Buyer – A middle stage buyer is someone who is prepared to buy a certain product or service to resolve their problem, but is not exactly sure from where.
  3. Late Stage Buyer – Lastly, a late stage buyer has decided exactly what solution will satisfy their needs. They are ready to buy from you, as long as you can convince them that buying from you is worth their money.

Get details about these 3 stages of the buying process and how they apply to various website goals in Brendan Regan’s post “The 3 Stages of the Buying Process: Expanded Definitions.”

Having an awareness that there are 3 stages of the buying process for prospects who visit your site can help you to create content that speaks to all 3 buying stages to get more conversions on your website by:

  1. converting more of those who are ready to buy
  2. moving others forward to the next buying stage more effectively.

One method we use with our clients to get an understanding of their site’s performance for each buying stage segment is to create custom segments in Google Analytics. Doing this can be a great way to start to form your own hypothesis about where to begin testing on your site as well. Here’s what you need to do:

Step 1: Make a List of Your Keywords

The first step to creating custom segments by buying stage is to pull a sample of your top keywords. Look to your Google Analytics Traffic Sources (you can even specify by paid or non-paid keywords) for this list. We suggest at minimum listing your top 50 keywords.

Step 2: Sort Your Keyword List by Intent

Once you have this list, you can sort them into buying stage categories by the intent (or level of commitment to your particular product) behind the keyword. For example, let’s say that you’re company name is “Socks Rock” and you specialize in selling custom design socks. An example of an early stage keyword to your site could be “socks,” a middle stage keyword could be “custom design socks,” and a late stage keyword could be “socksrock.”

Step 3: Create Custom Segments Based on Keyword Groups

Once you have your list of segmented keywords, the next step is to create your custom segments in Google Analytics. Brendan recently wrote a detailed article you can read to get step-by-step instructions to create custom segments. To create a custom segment for buying stages, use the “Traffic Sources” dimension and a condition of “regular expression.” Then simply enter the keywords for each category separated by a pipe. Of course you’ll need to do this for each buying stage. Once you have created your segments, you can select custom segments to get an idea of how many visitors you have on site for each segment and how well each segment is converting.

Here is an example of the dashboard in Google Analytics for one of our clients with the “All Visits,” “Early Stage,” “Middle Stage,” and “Late Stage” custom segments selected (click on the image at left to enlarge). Just by taking a quick glance, you can see that the majority of visitors landing on the site are from early stage keywords, however visitors that came to the site from middle and late stage keywords had more pageviews and viewed more pages per visit.

Seeing data like this could be a hint to take a look at what early stage keywords are driving traffic to the site, and to check out their associated landing pages. You may want to test one of these landing pages against a revised version that provides prospects with more information aimed at early stage needs. This example only skims the surface of what you can do with custom segments to gain invaluable insight into your visitors. If you’d like to get specific direction from a website conversion specialist about what to do on your site, reach out and ask how we can help.

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Comments (28)

  1. Thanks Whitney. It always great to hear another perspective on optimization tactics. I like the strategy on keywords which has always seemed more ambiguous to me – CC

  2. Great post – creating custom segments of your site for different keywords is a great strategy if your site is able to effectively target those different markets.

  3. Really useful post ,but for me is better to use different counter.I just thing that google analytics is not the best solution.

  4. Very helpful article. I know about the stages but I never thought this simple step in GA can help me see much better behaviour of people in different stages and other helpful data. Thanks, Petr

  5. Thank you for this, we have one e-commerce website where this sort of approach would come in very handy, rather than painting all visitors with the same brush.

  6. Do we have to follow this if we have e-commerce or a static page?

  7. Is “Traffic Sources” located somewhere in Google Analytics? Your ideea of segmenting is great, but I don’t think I am able to do it. Even if I would, I don’t have over 100000 visitors as the site in your example. Is it useless all this trouble when my sites gets no more than 150 per week? (note that I sell luxury interior design products, not products you purchase on a daily basis and I am located in Romania where the demand is not that high :| )

  8. @mihaela @ grilaje ferestre – Yes, “Traffic Sources” is in your Google Analytics. It is one of the options in the left hand menu on your main dashboard. You can segment regardless of the amount of traffic your site gets. With smaller levels of traffic, you will have to wait a little longer for any patterns you see to have any kind of mathematical significance. The same goes for any tests you would run on the site too. The concepts are the same though!

  9. @stainless steel jewelry – Yes. The process is still the same.

  10. Tracking is key. You’re breakdown on this process is really insightful! I also love how you make sure that we are always targeting someone’s problem and offering a solution! (great point)

  11. THANK YOU!! I am very new to the web marketing world and I have to say this really clears up some issues for me. I do have a question though…

    How can we expect to rank for a late stage keyword if we target a specific brand? My thinking is, if the brand name has it’s own domain and is saturated with that keyword, most of the people searching for it would be looking for that site. Do you think it would be more advantageous to target “cheap socksrock products” or “socksrock discounts”? Then maybe you can contact the manufacturer for a private offer.

  12. Thank you for this, we have one e-commerce website where this sort of approach would come in very handy, rather than painting all visitors with the same brush.

  13. That makes sense, as that would be buyer keywords on many levels. You always have to try and get buyer keywords that work.

  14. thanks whitney, All points are informative and good, but last one is very hard to get or understand, a beginner can’t understand easily.

  15. This article is a total eye opener. In the past I have made an effort to accommodate potential buyers at various stages with one page. It makes more sense to create a page specifically for each buying stage. It seems I have been getting buyers to my site but losing by treating them as the same buyer.

  16. I’m not real big on Google Analytics, but at this point it’s about the best i’ve found so far to help me keep track of visitors.

  17. I will follow this, step by step. I don’t know much about Google Analytics but I think this would be a great help.

  18. I am a owner of a small company. Analytics is a gold mine of data, but if You don’t have data to analyse it is worthless then. I have maybe 20 visits a month. It is very hard to see anything from analytics then.

  19. To be honest I never thought about categorizing prospects into three categories. This is really going to help me keep my sales and marketing approach into perspective.

    Now, applying it to Google Analytics just seems natural when you think about it. I can’t wait to see what kind of results I’m going to get. I’m convinced that the resulting data will help influence any future marketing plans.

    Thank you so much for your article!

  20. nice tips.
    I will try to follow the steps.
    And I think statcounter is also a good alternative to google analytics.

  21. Do we have to follow this if we have e-commerce or a static page?

  22. The information about keywords for really helpful. Thankss

  23. Valuable information. Understanding conversion and visitors on your website can be tricky. You can get loads of traffic to your site, but if you don’t know how to convert this traffic into buyers, you are leaving money behind. Thanks for your post on conversion and Google Analytics. Just bookmarked the page and will be following.

  24. I deal in house rentals and sometimes it is very difficult to actually tell what stage my clients are at. From now on I know how to segment visitors to my website for first stage buyers :)

  25. someone who is ready to buy your product or service can solve their problems of course

  26. According to the marketing guru Phillip Kotler, a human need is defined as a state of felt deprivation. A human want on the other hand is a need shaped by the individuals culture and society. I think he is right……

  27. @rudi cisara – Rudi, I guess you mean that they will persist and complete their purchase? That depends. If there is a technical conversion issue such as the payment won’t proccess, and you don’t have any contact info on the website so they can call and complete their order over the phone, they won’t be able to complete a purchase. And that is assuming that they will make that much effort to complete their purchase. Methodical types, or humanistics may. But faster-paced types of personas won’t make the effort.

  28. [...] step by step and figure out how you can use your data. On Grok, FutureNow has talked about approaching your analysis process based on the buying stages, starting with approaching those areas of your site that are most broken for the late stage [...]

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