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Monday, Nov. 21, 2011 at 7:30 am

Buying Stages and Ad Campaigns

By Whitney Wilding
November 21st, 2011

It’s not a secret, that what we do here at FutureNow is conversion rate optimization. One common misconception about conversion rate optimization is that it begins once a prospect lands on your site.  Optimizing  your conversion rate should start before a prospect ever lands on your site. For example, if you are investing in campaigns focused at driving traffic to your site, you should be planning those campaigns to match your intended prospect’s buying stage.

Buying Stage Definitions

If you’re new to our blog, buying stages refer to how ready a visitor is to buy from you when landing on your site. We break buying stages down into early, middle, and late stages. An early stage visitor has identified a need or problem and it still conducting research to find the solution. A middle stage visitor has identified an interest in purchasing a certain kind of product and isn’t exactly sure which yet. They are continuing to gather information and narrow down their selection. A late stage visitor has already conducted research about the product and knows just what product they want to buy. Their aim is to compare manufacturer’s and companies before they feel confidant in taking action.

Not Just for Web Pages

Buying stages don’t just apply to your site, but to all of your marketing messages. Take PPC campaigns for example. With PPC campaigns, you have total control of the keywords you are bidding on, the messaging in your ads, and the landing pages that you are driving traffic to. Don’t make the mistake of bidding on keywords, using campaign messaging, and driving traffic to a landing page with content that speaks to the needs of prospect’s in different stages of the buying process! Are you investing in a marketing effort that is very likely underperforming for no good reason?

The Example

Why is maintaining the same buying stage messaging so important throughout a particular campaign? Let’s take this hypothetical example:

It’s November and  Christmas is just around the corner.  You need to start thinking about a Christmas present for your 6 year-old niece. You really don’t have any idea what little girls like these days.  As a caring aunt or uncle you want to get her something you know she will really like, so you begin an online search using the keyword term “favorite toys for 6 year old girls.” (If you have read our description of buying stages you will know that this keyword term is likely an early stage keyword). How would you react after clicking the search button and seeing the very top PPC campaign that pops up onto your screen say something like this?:

Great Prices on Fijit Friends

Buy 3 Fijit Friends, Get your 4th friend free.

Great gifts for kids.  Shop Now!

If you have little exposure to kids you will likely have no idea what a “Fijit Friend” is and will likely pass right over the ad. The copy of the ad is intended for someone that has already done the research on gifts for 6 year olds girls and knows just what they want to buy online.  They are just looking for the right vendor. In other words, the ad is directed towards someone in a late stage of his or her buying process, when, in our story, you are still in the early stage.  That’s money a company is investing in an ad that is losing prospects, and we see similar things happening in real life everyday! Make your PPC ads match your prospects’ buying stage.

The Remedy

If you were this hypothetical advertiser, a great place to start cleaning your mess up would be to review the keywords you are bidding on. In addition to sorting keywords by category, it’s a great practice to sort them into buying stages. Some examples of late stage keywords that would be appropriate for our ad example would be “Buy Fijit Friends,” or “Cheap Fijit Friends.” In other words, keywords that display brand knowledge and a high intent to purchase. Just make sure the landing page you serve from your late stage keywords and PCP ads is also geared toward late stage buyers. It would be another mistake to feature a list of favorite toys for 6 year old girls on the landing page.   The appropriate thing to feature would be your cute Fijit Friends along with deals and offers prominently on the page, a clear call to action above the fold, and reassurances on the page about why a prospect should buy from you versus one of your competitors.

Have you ever been frustrated by the results of a keyword search?  Does it feel like vendors are trying to throw their products at you without actually helping you through the buying process?  How do you market to prospects in different stages of the buying process?  Do you see this as a good way to increase your bottom line of do you have other more valuable methods?  We’re always here to help you increase conversions from the beginning to the end of your prospects journey to buy.

Add Your Comments

Comments (11)

  1. I am making money with Adsense and reading this post I started to think that PPC advertisers really do hard work and they must have got better brains than those SEO guys:)

  2. Thank you for the help! I’ve been trying to appropriately target early-stage buyers using Google Analytics’ new funnel tool, but it seems like they are missing a lot of data. How do you figure out the most effective early-stage keywords when you have a long research/ purchase cycle?

  3. Thanks for this article, I’ve tried a keyword campaign before, but it was unsuccessful, and having read this I think I know why.

    What’s funny is the “get rich quick” blogging community don’t seem to tell you there are so many nuances and important facets to your blogging success. I guess learning by doing is important too.

    Thanks for the information.

  4. I think I should start an adsense campaign soon! Thank you for this article!

  5. This is a brilliant post. I started off with the opposite – I created a solar panels website myself, quickly, and started doing SEO, thinking we’d pay a designer when it started to rank. Eventually we thought “let’s get a design”. Not only did the conversion rate improve three times, it also shifted forwards about 7 places in Google for a very competitive keyword. I wonder if they actually use bounce percentage in their ranking, even if they say they don’t.

  6. Very good article, thanks. It will be good to see more examples, as when you have high ad expence you think about effective promotion methods

  7. It is kind of a paradox, in that if they are in the late buying stage when they arrive to your site, you want to get them to the check out as quickly as possible. However, if what James is saying is true about bounce rate playing a part is search rankings I would definitely have to change up my strategy.

  8. Thankyou for sharing such an intelligent information. Till now I was categorizing Keywords only on the basis of literal meaning it has but from now on I’ll also use “buying stage” angle to categorize keywords! Great Post.

  9. On the contrary, I think that bounce percentage has got a bigger and bigger importance in Google ranking system and I think some engineer admitted that. It’s all about users and their behaviour: if they like your content they don’t go back immediately, do they? A good designed template is a good advantage at this regard, in my opinion.


  10. ‘wonder if they actually use bounce percentage in their ranking, even if they say they don’t.’

    Pretty sure it is being used in Google’s algorithms…

  11. Interesting post and may I suggest using as a cheap and effective traffic source to test your landing pages or website conversions. a great way to test your banner or text ads too

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