A website usually has multiple groups of users whose information needs would depend on how close they are in their progression to the ultimate goal, whether that is making an online purchase or signing up for a newsletter.
Andrew Chak, author of “Submit Now: Designing Persuasive Web Sites”, describes four main categories of users:
Each one of those groups would have different needs and depending on how well through usability and persuasion the site answers those needs, it would bring the users through to the next stage of the user lifecycle evolution.
An optimized website would enjoy the additional benefit of having each particular page targetting the different user groups rank higher in the main search engines. Such a website would enable the users, regadless of their stage in the pursuation evolution, to land directly to the most appropriate page.
The following is a brief, general overview of how optimizing different pages for different user groups would enhance not only the search engine position of the site as a whole, but also would increase its persuasive power:
SEO for “Browsers”
For “browsers” who are scanning the web with no specifically identified need yet, the ideal place to land from a search engine result page, would be a page which helps them better understand their need and eventually prepares them for making a decision to purchase or signup. Having such a browsing user land on the purchase page for a particular product would be premature and would do them no good since they would not know if the product offered is an answer to a need they have not yet completely comprehended.
SEO for “Evaluators”
Those users who are knowledgable enough about their needs and are thus able to compare alternative solutions for satisfying these needs, should land to a page which provides information much more specific than describing a need, and ideally would offer comparison of specific products or services.
SEO for “Transactors”
Those users who have already made the decision to make a purchase and have selected their product — either on a previous visit or at a different comparison shopping site — might prefer to land directly to the “Buy Now” page for the specific product.
SEO for “Customers”
Those who have made a purchase and are your customers already, would want to reach information about how to use the product or how to resolve technical issues they might be having with it. Educating them about how good the product just purchased is would be a waste of time; they’d rather start using the product and benefiting from its qualities. Thus they should land on a page answering those post-purchase questions they might have.
This simplified explanation of the information needs of the different user groups has a major implication to the search engine optimization effort of any organization:
You do not optimize a web site; you optimize multiple individual web pages! Particularly, you do not optimize just the front page as it would be useful to only a small portion of your users. What would be much more practical is to optimize a number of web pages whose content informs the different user groups according to their corresponding stage of the purchasing decision. This way, rather than one door, the web site would have multiple doors — pages optimized for search engine rankings — each of which would be appropriate for different user groups and their particular needs as experienced on the different stages of their purchasing decision evolution.