Every time customers initiate a search, they're sniffing for scent. People hunting for data on the web behave remarkably like animals sniffing out prey. It's the most effective means of finding a teeny-weeny squirrel in awfully biggish forest.
Preserving and creating intentional scent trails on your site translates to improved ROI for your paid and organic search terms. How well does your site preserve the scent trails your visitors are following?
The prospect types the term she believes will serve up the answer she's hunting for. Then, willfully, she follows the scent trail of that specific term, branching out from the center point (usually the search results page), seeking her specific answer. She returns to the center point frequently to orient herself. If she doesn't find the answer after several clicks out from the center point, she starts a new scent trail. She repeats this process until she finds the answer, the 'meat' she is looking for.
You must understand this process so you can measure and optimize the scent trails people are following on your site and in your marketing campaigns. Pulling the 'scent trail' they are following out from under them is one of the reasons why for most sites enjoy a staggeringly high 80% drop off rate after 3 pages.
Most search marketing is about getting found. The problem is that most search marketing does little more than put signs on every tree that read 'squirrels in forest'. While squirrels certain live in the forest, that helps the hunter very little in her quest to find the actual squirrel she's hunting.
Even worse is the marketer that doesn't even have squirrels, but thinks it acceptable to lure in squirrel hunters and then serve up tofu on its landing pages.
The search terms that she keys in and then follows reveal her intent. The more specific the term, the more transparent her intent. If you want to convert your prospect, your site must serve up the content and the pages and the path that will match her intent.
So how do you measure your site's effectiveness at doing this? It's a simple matter of using your metrics to follow user scent trails and see where they drop off. Special thanks to our bud Steve Jackson for helping us outline this.
Start with a fresh spreadsheet
In one column list your top 100 search terms/phrases (both pay-per-click and organic).
In the next column, assign a number between 1 to 5 (5 being highest) to indicate how relevant the landing page is to the adword or listing term the customer clicked on.
In the next column, list the single page access or bounce/reject rate from that page.
In another column, list, for each term, every conversion goal (calls to action) from that page.
Calculate the Bounce Rate from each step in the scent trail from the landing page through to the call to action pages.
Depending on the complexity of the sale and the amount of information a prospect would need to convert, you can begin to uncover how bad your scent trails are. You can see where they break down, and where there might be a disconnect between what a prospect is looking for and what content you are placing on her path
To optimize your scent trails make sure that if the intent is transparent, that the scent trail on any chosen term matches the intent.
It makes no difference if the trail starts with pay-per-click or from an organic search. When a prospect clicks she hopes to find one of two things: the answer she seeks or another link that will take her to the content she seeks.
Echo back the search terms she is using so when she sniffs her way onto your marketing and online efforts she will have a relevant scent trail to follow through to conversion.
The best SEO and SEM efforts mean nothing if you are attracting the traffic only to see them drop off for lack of a relevant scent trail.
Know where your prospects are sniffing, and you'll be sniffing some profit yourself.
Anthony Garcia is Future Now, Inc.'s Senior Persuasion Architect