Want to Find Customers Online? Here’s How They’re Searching for You

Discovering product purchase intent via search behavior yields sales

Before the “buy now” button, search behaviors involve long-tail keywords, third-party sites and last clicks. iStock
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Performance marketers evaluating conversions via last clicks on search engine results pages have two major factors to consider: consumer intent and where those consumers are clicking. (Hint: It’s not just on Google).

Keywords still matter when determining purchase intent

Voice assistants, keyword-free ad options and the rise of third-party marketplaces may have performance marketers thinking keywords don’t matter as much in 2020. But keywords reveal a great deal about consumer purchase intent. 

From SEO firm Yoast’s blog post in October to marketing thought leader Neil Patel’s still-popular 2017 piece about long-tail keywords converting at 36%, organic search professionals say the more specific the keywords, the better.

Yoast’s Marieke van de Rakt advised the first step in doing so is to find brand mission keywords and build up related phrases from there,

“Long-tail keywords get less search traffic, but will usually have a higher conversion value, as they are more specific,” she wrote. “They allow you to gradually get more traffic to your site and be found by new and motivated audiences.”

More than 33% of Google searches are greater than four words long, according to search marketing company WordStream. That’s why performance marketers pay for clicks on phrases like these “transactional searches,” which are highlighted by digital agency Louder Online

  • “Buy washing machine”
  • “Best stove for under $1000”
  • “[insert brand] coffee machines”
  • “Buy [insert product code here] online”

But as with all magic fixes, WordStream cautions that performance marketers should maintain a search marketing mix: Use long- and short-tail keyword strategies, as well as keywords plugged in by customers that they aren’t yet using in their paid search efforts. (That said, “buy” is the clearest purchase intent keyword, according to WordStream.) 

Amazon is the dominant destination for consumers determined to buy

Last year, 49% of Americans were starting their product searches at Amazon.com, “while only 22% start at Google—a 122% difference,” reports marketing software provider CivicScience. That seems to have only increased. Mid-pandemic, Amazon saw a 37% year-over-year increase to $96.1 billion in net sales in Q3.

Within closed ecosystems like Amazon, the marketplaces create the algorithms—unless they use a third-party search engine like Google. In March 2020, Innovell and PPC Hero opined in their research that such ecosystems make measurement easy.

“In order to succeed on Amazon, a product must rank for relevant keyword searches,” the report read. “This rank is determined by the algorithm, a system with three groups of factors: customer experience, sales maximization and product attractivity.”

The research stated that products available to Amazon Prime members were in select company that resulted in increased sales. Those increased sales may happen because Amazon Prime provides a better customer experience, which is part of the aforementioned Amazon algorithm. The better customer experience elevates the product’s placement in Amazon’s search results for its keywords.

Last-click attribution is still popular  

A Google/Ipsos study that mentioned one customer’s purchase journey taking 73 days and more than 250 touchpoints to complete illustrated an aberration, because “85% of consumers will take a product-related action within 24 hours.” And performance marketers prefer knowing what ad, keyword buy or link in a sponsored tweet cinched the sale.

While Amazon recently debuted an attribution tool for multichannel marketers to track the touchpoints leading customers to Amazon.com, one reason Amazon appeals to performance marketers is simply that last click.

Fifty-five percent of “agile Amazon marketers” surveyed by Innovell and PPC Hero use the last-click model for attributing sales, which researchers believe means the teams work in a silo the way Google search marketers once did. But only 14% of paid search generalists think the last-click model deserves such devotion. That means Amazon search marketing is nascent.

Heather Fletcher is a freelance reporter for Adweek. She covers performance and direct marketing.