Understanding the three stages of awareness of your online audience

30 second summary:

  • Are you sure how your target consumer moves in the three phases, awareness, consideration and decision?
  • A website that features content that is only suitable for the first stage of awareness will have a hard time converting, while a site focused only on conversions may have a hard time getting traffic to convert in the first place.
  • Here’s how you can create balanced and targeted content to better serve people at every stage of their journey

Not all traffic is the same. Businesses often forget that site visits and success metrics aren’t just numbers – behavior-driven people live and breathe. By understanding and creating content to suit the different stages of awareness of that “traffic,” you can not only attract more, but effectively convert those clicks into conversions. After all, businesses don’t rely on visits alone.

This article will show you the three main stages of online traffic awareness, what type of content suits these, and a method for checking your existing content. Remember, every customer goes on a journey. It’s about making sure they’re at the finish line when they’re ready for conversion.

The importance of knowing the stages of awareness

Now, have patience with us, but answer this: Would you try to sell roller skates to a baby or its parents? A little extreme, yes, but sometimes these are the best examples. The point is that the child may become someone who needs or wants a pair of roller skates, but he is not at that stage yet.

Understanding the different stages your potential customers are in and how they are looking for your products / services (both directly and indirectly) will give you the precision to better target them. These stages are awareness, consideration and decision. Knowing only that these won’t be enough, you need a equilibrium.

A website that features content that is only suitable for the first stage of awareness will have a hard time converting, while a site that is focused only on conversions may have a hard time getting traffic to convert in the first place.

Research and RPG will help you enormously here. To get inside your audience’s mind and understand what their journey looks like, you should ask yourself “What would I do if …” at almost every corner.

To better explore these stages and how they apply to content, we’ll stick to an example for the next three sections. We will move on from child with roller skates and instead focus on a hypothetical Manchester-based SME that sells hearing aids and is looking to grow its customer base.

Phase 1: Awareness

This awareness stage is when the customer is just starting to realize they have a problem and need a solution. Before this stage, they may not even have realized that their problem could be solved or that it was a problem to begin with. A good content at this stage plants seeds in their head that they no longer need to go on like this.

With that in mind, you don’t want to overwhelm the reader here. Yes, they may now realize they want a solution, but it’s extremely rare for a piece of content to tick all three boxes at once. What they are – they do aware of the problem, helping them consider the options, and then to decide to go with your option. That’s why we have different content for different stages.

In our example of the Manchester small business selling hearing aids, the content at this stage might look like this:

  • “Five Common Signs of Hearing Loss”
  • “Data Shows Hearing Loss Is On The Rise”
  • ‘When to Seek Help with Your Hearing’

If we were writing content for this fictional company, we wouldn’t open these articles with “Now you are here, check out our huge hearing aid sale!”. Instead, we would relate to the problems the reader might have. Indeed, during all of these stages, your language should be empathic, solution-focused, and as recognizable to the reader as possible.

Imagine a woman in her forties who has been playing guitar in a rock band since her youth. For her, not being able to hear the nuances of the music was almost as if her oxygen supplies were cut off. You may have hearing problems, but your search for you may not start right away with “hearing aids near me”. She would try to find out about her problems, if they are common and how they can be solved. In these pages, we will cover hearing impairments and ultimately (but without sounding too commercial) suggest that hearing aids helped millions of people in the end.

By writing content targeted at this stage, you can be present at the beginning of the consumer’s journey. While they will be more likely to convert to end of that journey, a good content strategy is all about balance. This brings us to the next stage.

Phase 2: Consideration

If the first step is to let them know they have a problem, it’s just a matter of showing them how to fix it. Here, the reader would actively seek a solution and consider their options.

While our hypothetical business may be adept at helping hearing loss, there are other ways to do this than just providing hearing aids. We cannot simply assume that hearing aids are immediately the preferred option for every visitor. The challenge here is to balance knowledge, empathy, and deliver objective and truly useful content for your consumer. However, as you educate your target audience about their options, you can add smart CTAs that push the person to a landing page that will generate revenue for your business, making this more of a choice your consumer made than what you wanted. force their throats down.

Using our example of that Manchester SME selling hearing aids, the content at this stage might look like this:

  • “Six Ways to Help Your Hearing Loss”
  • “The five best hearing aids in the UK”
  • “Why teens should also consider hearing aids”

Since this is the middle stage, you will want to avoid leaning too much towards “awareness” and too much towards “decision”. You won’t want to talk to the reader and pass paragraphs explaining the basics of hearing loss. Plus, you won’t want to open up and ramble about your fantastic new hearing aid sale.

Imagine a staircase, with “inform” on the left and “sell” on the right. You want it to be fairly balanced, but leaning slightly to the left and to the “inform” side.

Show the reader his options and educate him on the available solutions. So if / when they decide that what you provide is the solution for them, they are already on the right website! They just need a page where they can convert and make the final decision. This brings us good to …

Step 3: Decision

We previously mentioned how outreach content gets you in front of the consumer at the start of their journey. While there is a lot of value in being on the starting line, it’s the right content for this stage that turns clicks into customers.

That’s why the pages here will depart from the blog / article format of the suggested content for the other stages. Instead, you want pages specifically designed to sell the reader your product or service, with the ability to convert right there.

For our hypothetical hearing aid business, the pages designed for this stage might look like:

  • Category pages showing their best brands
  • Product pages where you can purchase hearing aids
  • A service page for organizing a hearing test (with contact form)

These pages will be focused on selling, while informing readers why your business is a better choice for them than all of your competitors. This means a huge focus on USPs.

In the case of our hypothetical hearing aid company, these can include free delivery, the lowest prices in Manchester, or even five years of free insurance. Your USPs should all be sung on these decision-making pages. Remember, at this point, they know they want whatever you’re selling, so you don’t have to go out of your way to explain the basics of your offerings. Just because your business is best for them. Make sure you have some positive reviews scattered around these pages.

The content here should be easy to read, scannable, and supported by images if you think it’s something your audience cares about (always look to see what competitors are doing).

Outside of the copy, for ecommerce businesses, the path to buying these products should be clear, with large buttons to show the user that this is where you can buy them. If you are a lead generation company, there should be plenty of CTAs (calls to action) to direct the user to contact forms, phone numbers, or email addresses.

Key takeaway

As with any marketing or psychology model, there are variations of this with even more steps. However, if you cut it down, we think it only takes three steps for most businesses. The important thing to remember is that the same user may not go through the entire journey on your website in one session. A balanced content strategy means you can attract any potential customer at any stage, regardless of where they are on their buying journey.

The danger of having an imbalance in your content strategy is that there may be a lot of blog posts during the first stage of awareness, but users don’t realize you can fix the problem they now realize they have. On the other hand, you might focus most of your content on the final stage, but you might have a hard time attracting customers who don’t even realize they need you.

That’s why we recommend that you run a content check on your website to see how balanced your current output is. Create a table like the one below and add your existing content.

In the example here, we will use the ideas we used for our Manchester business:

Content of the awareness phase Content of the consideration phase Content of the decision phase

Five common signs of hearing loss

Six ways to help your hearing loss Category pages showing their best brands

How to improve hearing at concerts

The five best hearing aids in the UK Product pages where you can purchase hearing aids

When to seek help with your hearing

Why teens should also consider hearing aids A service page for organizing a hearing test (with contact form)

When mapping your pages to this, you should be able to easily identify where the gaps are and then plan your content strategy to fill them. “Mapping” is a great term because all successful travel involves a map.

If you’re just posting casual content with no general purpose, you’re stumbling upon the dark and hoping to get where you want to go. A quality content strategy is to understand travel and be there for whatever stage the customer is in.

Jack Bird is the head of content operations at Manchester-based digital marketing and SEO agency, Add people.

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