Human Choosing Cycle
If you have a public web site, chances are you want visitors. The purpose for wanting visitors (members, customers, ad-clickers) will vary from site to site but no matter the reason, you need visitors before you can achieve your goals.
When trying to increase visitors, it’s helpful to be aware of the human choosing cycle. Whether looking for entertainment, information, or products, nearly every visitor will follow the same path: Interest → Gather → Research → Exclude → Choose. Depending on the exact search, this path could take seconds or days, but the details of each stage are the same:
- Interest. Inputs interest directly into a search engine.
- Gather. Uses the results to get a general idea of what is out there.
- Research. More specific searches are performed based on first results
- Exclude. Crosses certain results off of the list.
- Choose. Makes a choice based off of the remaining options.
The first step is to determine where in the choosing cycle your visitors will be when they reach your website. Let’s say you own a pizza parlor. You want visitors to your site to visit your restaurant for dinner. During the gather and research stages, potential customers will probably use other sites such as Yelp and Urbanspoon. By the time visitors get to your website, they will be to the exclude stage.
You might have a site with comprehensive information about digital cameras. Some visitors will come to your site near the end of the choosing cycle, during the exclude stage. They’ve identified several digital camera sites, and are now skimming each, crossing those off their list that they see as less trustworthy. To retain these visitors, you need to provide them with content that makes your site stand out as more trustworthy than the others. Once visitors have made that choice, they will return to your site for the quality information you provide. They will want to know what you have to say about different cameras, lenses, techniques, and other gear. They will use your site for the gather, research, and exclude stages of subsequent searches.
Once you determine which stages your visitors are at, you can begin to tailor your content for maximum relevancy. You can use tools like Google Insights for Search and Google Analytics to find out what keywords people are using and incorporate them into your content in a natural way. If done right, you can also create new pages to help capture specific keywords. For instance, you may have lots of visitors arriving at your website after searching for the term “calzone”. But you may only have one little section about calzones on a hard to access menu. You could improve your chances of making it through the exclude stage by highlighting calzones on the main page.
Finally, although understanding the choosing cycle can help create relevant content, you also need to have quality design that demonstrates professionalism and confidence and an understanding of SEO to help keep your site in the top search results.