Sep 2022

The Stages of Potential Customer Search

 

Sales Funnel

Not all searches entered into Google or other search engines are equal. There are several important categories of searches that Internet users perform. In this article we focus on:

  1. Navigational queries
  2. Informational queries
  3. Transactional queries

We will discuss several stages your audience will move through as they progress from general interest to a specific preference and finally to a resolution of their needs. We will also see how several key search types aligned with audience intent and how you can utilize your knowledge of your audience to better drive the right traffic to your website. The best way to get inside the heads of searchers and figure out the types of queries they are using is to look at the stages of search and buyer intent throughout these stages.

This may change a little because a user isn’t always looking to buy something but the path and process will be similar. Users will start with a broad topic and gradually refine their search terms to be more specific as they discover exactly what they want. At the beginning of the purchase path, Organic Search helps customers gain awareness of your brand product or service. At this beginning stage, your potential customer has identified a need and is seeking a resolution. Let’s use an example potential customer to illustrate the search process.

The Awareness Stage

Let’s say Edward decides he needs a computer, but he doesn’t know what kind. Like most people, he turns to Google and enters the keywords best computers to buy. Looking through the search engine results; Edward quickly realizes that this search is too broad. To get the best results, he will need to refine his preferences and evaluate specific types of computers. Edward decides he would like a laptop instead of a desktop computer, so he refines his search to the best laptop to buy his results. He is shown a huge variety of different laptops and realizes he needs to narrow down his choices. There are different laptops for different uses. Some people use laptops for school. Others use laptops for gaming or graphic design. In this example, Edward decides he wants a gaming laptop, so he looks up gaming laptop reviews to help him decide on a specific choice. After reading reviews, Edward has decided on a specific laptop brand and model he wants.

The Comparative Shopping Stage

Occasionally, your potential customers will seek the best prices, the highest quality products, or the service provider or merchant with the best online reputation. In our example, Edward has narrowed his search and is homing in on the best gaming laptop based on customer reviews as well as the best vendor from whom to make the purchase.

The Purchase Stage

Edward is now in the purchase stage and searches for a specific laptop brand and model number.

So – your potential customers start with 1) general awareness of what you were looking for. They then 2) evaluate those choices and develop a specific preference. 3) They look into that preference and 4) decide and move on to the Purchase or Resolution Stage.

Having an Organic presence (via Organic SEO) is useful in all stages of the cycle but is more useful the closer you get to the actual purchase phase. You generally don’t need a lot of visibility during the initial stage of awareness, although it can be beneficial to have a brand presence here, so users recognize your brand or website later. It can be helpful to have organic visibility in both the evaluation and preference intent phase because the user may decide to convert and remember your site.

The purchase phase can be very beneficial to SEO visibility because this is where the user is actively looking to buy a product, hire a service provider, or perform a specific action. Their query means they do not have a specific site in mind for their purchase. If your site has visibility during this stage, you have a greater chance of attracting and converting users.

Stages of Consumer Search

Types of Search Queries and Searcher Intent

In addition to the stages of a search, you have specific types of search queries. Each type of search query has a different intent associated with it. These types of queries are navigational, informational, and transactional.

Navigational Queries

The first type of query is known as a navigational query. In this case, the user has a specific website in mind. Perhaps they have spent some time on a specific website in the past and enjoyed that site’s content. In this type of query, they search for the website or brand name directly and visit the brand’s website. Let’s use Adidas as an example. The high brand focus means that users are looking for your brand by exact name and will be more engaged with your website usually resulting in higher conversion rates.

 

Customer Reviews

Note: You should be constantly aware of your brand being mentioned on search engines results pages and social media platforms. A negative story about your brand may influence potential customers’ decision to visit your site let alone convert and make a purchase. You should also note that brand searches can pull up your Twitter account and your latest tweets. It’s important to ensure that your social media team always maintains brand focus on social channels and posts regularly.

Informational Queries

With these types of searches, people are looking to get a bit more information about a topic or to make an informed decision before making a purchase or hiring a service provider. This is the middle stage of the buying funnel. An example would be someone searching for reviews while looking to hire a local general contractor to install an HVAC system. Note that during this stage, users are more likely to notice suggested search queries. These are queries people have typed into Google when searching for a general contractor or a gaming laptop. When potential customers see the list of suggested queries, it may change the query they use. You can use suggested queries to generate potential content ideas for your website.

Transactional Queries

At this point, browsers are ready to make a purchase. They lean heavily on Google to provide the results they need for their search query. At this stage, your potential customer has decided to purchase a specific gaming laptop or hire a particular general contractor after reviewing all relevant information.

Note that not all transactional queries have to result in an actual transaction. Someone could be trying to sign up for a newsletter or create a free account. These are also steps along the road to becoming a paying customer.

These three types of queries are closely aligned with the stages of search and are great for ensuring that you are targeting the right keywords to match the searcher intent of your target audience and generating conversions

Jun 2022

Keyword Research and Strong Meta Header Tags & Meta Descriptions

If your website is not attracting the amount of traffic you’d like, a lack of keyword research and lack of or poorly written and organized Meta Data is the usual suspect.

  1. Meta Data
  2. Title Tags
  3. Header Tags
  4. Meta Descriptions

The first step in driving traffic to your website is to conduct thorough keyword research based on the words used by your ideal customers when they search for your products and/or services. That’s beating a dead horse at this point.  However, if you want Google to actually recognize your target keywords and present your website to those potential customers, you must optimize, that is, weave those targeted keywords into your site’s pages and be clever about it.

Meta Data. Think of it as a Table of Contents. When Google wants to know what a webpage is about, they take a read through , crawl, the table of contents in search of keywords that match search queries. Of the three elements of meta data, your title tag is the most important to Google, hence, the most important to everyone who matters. Here’s an example of the connection between a potential customer’s search intent and your title tag.

If someone is in the market for a design/build contractor in Miami, for example, and enters those keywords in a search:

search engines begin to search for websites that contain these keywords within their title tags. After all, what good is a search engine if it doesn’t find what I’m searching for.

  • Note that the keywords “Residential Design/Build…” are underlined and highlighted along with the company name. This is the site’s homepage title tag.
  • Note also that the keywords are BOLDED within the meta description (we’ll get to this later).
  • Final note on title tags: Although there isn’t a direct correlation between keyword-rich title tags and first place rankings on Google, if you search any competitive keyword or keyword phrase on Google, almost all of the top ranking results use exact keywords in their title tags. Idk
  • Final, final note: keep title tags under 60 characters, 55 characters is best.

Speaking of reading a text, all the best students know how to read quickly and efficiently. They never ever read a textbook straight through. The best ones use the SQ3R method or one similar to it. They read the title, then go through reading “Headings” and “Subheadings” to understand the structure and purpose of the text. Google is an excellent reader. Think of the H1 heading tag as you would the heading of a chapter in a textbook and the H2 as an important but subordinate subheading ( there’s also H3, H4, H5, H6, etc., but they are pretty insignificant as far a search engines are concerned). The H1 and H2 headings should be on each page of a website. They serve as the title of the page visible to both search engines and visitors. They inform both Google and visitors about the purpose and structure of the page. It makes sense, therefore, to “naturally” wrap these headers tags in the same keywords used in the title tag.  It adds a flow factor to the reading.

A friendly reminder – one size does not fit all. You do not optimize a website. You optimize each page of the site. Each page should have  its own distinct title tag, header tags, and meta description. If they do not, the site is perfectly positioned to get dinged in the head by Google for duplicate content, a BIG no-no. We must agree. Who enjoys reading the same content over and again?

Finally, Meta Descriptions, shh! It’s a secret. Meta descriptions cannot be seen on a website page or within a browser. It appears in search results under the title tag and URL. A meta description is the block of text that describes the content visitors will find on the corresponding webpage.

The keywords included in meta descriptions, those BOLDED, are not ranking factors. They do, however, match the keywords used by users in their search query. They can, therefore, be used to direct traffic to your website thereby increasing your site’s click through rate (CTR), another important Google ranking factor.

Take-Home Message

It’s all about delivering value to the people who visit your website in search of information, services, or products. They are all looking for answers to solve an existing problem. Your job is to present valuable information that answers the call. If your site enhances the viewer’s experience, even just with heading tags and meta descriptions, this will lead to positive results for your company, the user, and the search engines.

By optimizing keywords into your website pages, it sends a signal to Google letting it know that your content is relevant, valuable, and trustworthy.

Final note, promise: If you do not write your own meta tags, Google will write them for you. They’re excellent readers but no so hot when it comes to writing.

 

Aug 2021

Inventory Records: Definition, Guide, and How-to Record Inventory

Inventory is the heart and soul of your business, and it’s constantly moving throughout the supply chain, including:

  • New batches of inventory entering your warehouse
  • Items getting fulfilled and shipped
  • More inventories being ordered, transported, received, and stored

Along with the type of products you sell, your warehouse location(s), and your inventory’s current value — keeping tabs on ecommerce inventory data and information at all times can be challenging, error-prone, and time-consuming. Yet when the accounting period ends, your accountant is going to expect accurate reporting. 

That’s why online brands ditch the manual work and implement technology that makes record-keeping a breeze.

In this article, we explore:

  • What inventory records entail
  • Why it’s important to consistently track inventory 
  • How to outsource inventory management

What are inventory records?

Inventory records are repositories of data pertaining to each item in a brand’s product line, including:

  • What’s in stock at the SKU level
  • What’s been sold and reordered
  • The product’s value
  • The inventory’s storage location
  • Other information that pertains to a business, such as work-in-process (WIP) inventory data

Each entry must have a description of the SKU along with relevant data. These records are either created manually or digitally.

Why it’s important to keep up-to-date inventory records

Keeping proper inventory records provides better inventory control and visibility into inventory as changes occur.

Since inventory is noted as an asset in a business’s balance sheets, you will be expected to provide accurate inventory information at the end of a fiscal year or accounting period.

Here is why every business owner should be keeping proper inventory records.

Ensures inventory tracking is accurate

Consistently keeping track of what’s leaving and entering the warehouse ensures inventory accuracy and inventory reconciliation.

Inaccurate inventory counts can lead to inventory shrinkage, or when stock is less than the recorded balance in the accounting record, and it can cause major discrepancies that can throw off profit margins and other financials.

Makes inventory accounting easier

Accurate inventory records make the inventory accounting process much more bearable.

Keeping track of inventory value and count is legally required of all retailers and manufacturers, as per the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and regulated by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).  

By maintaining a proper inventory record-keeping process, you’re also able to track changes in value, so you know how much your inventory is worth at the end of an accounting period.

Helps prevent items from going out of stock

Keeping up-to-date inventory records help you prevent stockouts and have a better understanding on when it’s time to reorder more inventory.

Keep in mind that not having enough inventory can cause out-of-stock issues but storing too much inventory can increase carrying costs  and lead you to potentially accumulate too much dead stock.

Since inventory is constantly moving throughout the ecommerce supply chain, the use of real-time inventory management technology makes it easier to check if all inventory is accounted for when comparing physical inventory and electronic records.

Being able to track inventory without the manual work can reduce risk while optimizing operational costs, including storage fees.

Prevents mistakes from being made based off of bad data

If your records aren’t up-to-date, you and your team risk making important business decisions based on incorrect data.

By using technology to track inventory in real time, you can reduce mistakes by cutting out time-consuming, manual work.

Tracking inventory in real time can be done using inventory management solutions, including inventory apps or a more robust system like ERP inventory software. These systems allow you to aggregate data by connecting your upstream manufacturing activities with your downstream sales.

With real-time data tied to inventory, you’re also given the information needed to identify trends and forecast demand, so you can make better predictions on inventory reorder quantities and levels.

Tips for keeping accurate inventory records

Depending on the number of SKUs you sell, your order volume, and the size of your company, the complexity of inventory record-keeping varies.

No matter how intricate your business is, here are some of the top inventory management strategies you can implement.

Keep physical backups

An inventory audit is defined as the process of checking a company’s actual inventory levels against their financial records to ensure accurate inventory accounting. To make inventory auditing more efficient, it is helpful for retailers to keep physical records of all inventory along with online backups (or vice versa). 

Keeping original physical copies can be a legal requirement in some states. And it also secures your information in case of a situation where your cloud server’s integrity is compromised.

Get input from your accountant on what to record and how

Find an accountant you can trust and get their insights into how to keep inventory records for your business.

In most cases, the information you need during the accounting period includes COGS, raw materials (if applicable), beginning inventory, and the value of ending inventory (what’s left over at the end of an accounting period).

You can also ask your accountant for their advice on how to choose the best inventory valuation method  based on the type of products you sell and your typical sales volume.

Remain consistent in your accounting methods

There are many ways to track and record inventory. No matter what method you choose, the most important thing is to stay consistent to ensure accuracy. 

At the end of an accounting period or financial year, you will need to calculate how much your inventory is worth.

The most common valuation methods in ecommerce include: 

  • FIFO (first-in, first-out)
  • LIFO (last-in, first-out)
  • Inventory weighted average (WAC)
  • Specific identification method

Invest in inventory management software

When it comes to keeping records on inventory, you have two options:

  1. Update records after a designated accounting period (periodic inventory system)
  2. Continuously update the records with every transaction (perpetual inventory system)

As your business grows, adapting a perpetual inventory system is your best bet.

This can be done by investing in an inventory management software, which will help you track inventory flow in real time and record live updates without you lifting a finger.

What a good inventory management software should allow you to do

A powerful inventory management software makes inventory record-keeping a breeze.

By automating the tracking of all inventory and real-time changes, you can optimize inventory to meet demand and improve supply chain efficiency.

With the right software, you can easily download records and custom reports, so you have all the information you need when it’s time to meet with your accountant.

Here is a breakdown of how an inventory management software works.

Real-time views of inventory levels across all channels

As you expand your business, you most likely will branch out from selling exclusively on your online store.

Marketplaces (e.g., Amazon and Walmart) and social media platforms (e.g., Instagram and Facebook) provide direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands different avenues to sell through, so they can broaden their customer reach.

That’s why many merchants implement a multichannel inventory management software, which tracks inventory across channels and aggregates records all in one place. 

If you partner with a technology-enabled 3PL  you get access to built-in inventory management tools that also allow you to track inventory across channels and distribution centers in one place.

This allows merchants to spread inventory across multiple fulfillment centers and be able to track inventory in real time through one dashboard instead of relying on multiple sources.

Automatically generate inventory reports

Arguably, your inventory management software is only as good as the inventory reports it generates. Calculating and tracking these metrics in spreadsheets or through multiple different integrations can be troublesome. 

Inventory management technology automatically aggregates data, so you can pull custom reports whenever you need them.

For instance, many order fulfillment  platform automatically pulls reports and data on SKU velocity, inventory days on hand, inventory turnover rate, and much more. 

Set reorder points based on historical data

Inventory management software allows you to automatically set reorder point notifications, so you can replenish inventory on time without the need to be tracking inventory every hour or manually as each order is placed.

The software pulls insights from historical sales data to give you a better idea of when it will be time to reorder more inventory per SKU, so you can set a predetermined reorder point.