How to recognise the importance of each type and ensure you have the right balance for your sales funnel and branding.
Part of creating powerful content that resonates with readers is writing with your audience’s intentions in mind, i.e. what attracted them to you in the first place and how you are fulfilling their needs. Understanding reader intent requires a deep delve into readers’ minds and motivations. Knowing user intention is essential for returning users, conversions, and attracting clients as well as other benefits (like brand strength).
When reading content, two primary needs drive viewers: the need for information and the need for a solution to a problem.
When you tap into user intent and design content based around it, you will be meeting their needs, such as how you can address a specific issue with an effective solution, while at the same time building your brand awareness and authority.
First things first: how to recognise user intentions and utilise informational-based content and transactional-based content.
Viewers arrive at your content — such as your blog, podcast, or vlog — while they are searching for information. Informational intent indicates a desire to find out what something is, how to do something, or research a topic of interest or use to them.
Example: informational intent content
A startup is interested in building an email list to capture customer information for remarketing and they search ‘how to build an email list’ and come up with results including autoresponders, copywriting services, pop-up creators, GDPR-friendly opt-in subscriber forms, downloadable content in-exchange-for-email, and so on.
When a user views content with transactional intent, they have moved through the informational intent stage and are ready to convert by signing-up, subscribing, getting in touch or similar.
The challenge of transactional content is to convince the viewer that the solution they’ve landed on is the right one specifically for them.
Example: transactional-based content
Following on from the example above, the user has searched for ‘best autoresponders 2019’ or ‘best autoresponder for small businesses’ and along the way they have landed on the site of a web designer, email marketing company or similar. The content on one of the sites resonated with the needs of the user, they revisited the site and learned more about the company and their service in successive sessions.
When users decide to make contact and move to purchase they enter the next level of the website sales funnel and this is the critical move to transactional-based content that details the product or service e.g. FAQs, price plans, reviews and testimonials, explainer videos, etc.
The relationship between informational and transactional content
Typically, readers spend a significant amount of time at the informational stage before moving to the transactional stage. Therefore it is important to keep an eye on website returning-users statistics and the ratio to new site visitors.
That said, it isn’t necessarily a linear progression and it largely depends on industry and product. A user can remain at the informational stage indefinitely without moving to the transactional stage. Conversely, they may consume a limited amount of informational content — if any — before committing and converting.
User behaviour: a typical scenario
Here’s an example scenario just to show how complex it can be. A user may have consumed a significant amount of informational content but across various websites and in several different content formats (video, textual, audio) to learn more about a specific topic or service. Then, the same user moved to transactional content and consumed a large amount of content, again spread across different sites while evaluating different companies and their offerings. Finally, they select the company and service that’s right for them and convert, however, the amount of content they consumed on their chosen business’s website — mainly the informational content — was relatively limited compared to all of the content they consumed.
This muddies the waters when it comes to analysing user-behaviour somewhat, since a user may know what they need before they visit your site for the first time. But this kind of behaviour doesn’t represent all users and analytics insights remain valuable. Two key points to remember are:
Have a balance of both informational based-content and transactional-based content in your sales funnel.
Ensure that your informational based-content is exactly relevant to the services or products your offer. You will likely need to update your content as you change and adjust your offering(s).
The value of informational content consumption
Some marketers underestimate the value of visitors consuming informative content on their website, partly because it is comparatively more difficult to measure its conversions and ROI. Nonetheless, there is great value in getting your website and name onto a user’s radar when they are in the informational stage because this is the critical time to establish your brand in their mind. This contributes to developing authority and building trust. Critically, informational-based content shows that you’re up-to-date with industry trends and how your business solution addresses a specific user need.
New users on the hunt for information seldom switch to transactional content and convert in their first session. Analytics data highlights this. However, informational content is an excellent source for the rest of your marketing campaign including social media marketing, email marketing and ads campaigns.
Illustration: informational content for remarketing
User data can be gleaned from users consuming informational content while on your website, including social media account information, emails, and IP addresses. Remarketing enables you to target visitors who have already visited your site and draw them back in. Facebook Pixel tracks visitors to bring them back through targeted advertising. Email marketing is a tried and trusted method of turning one-time visitors into customers. For example, using Facebook live chat on your site enables Pixel to capture user data for future remarketing on the social platform.
As users consume informational content, they move closer to making an informed decision and converting.
When users are closer to converting, content success is measured by specific data including the number of autoresponder signups, more frequent and longer returning user sessions, lower bounce rates, and social shares.
If your content sustains a user’s attention by satisfying their needs at each stage until they move to transactional content, you are in an excellent position to convert them.
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Switching to transactional content
Presenting visitors with targeted, well-written transactional content when they are close to converting maximises your chances of turning a visitor into a customer. With this type of content, you want to create a sense of urgency without appearing manipulative.
When a visitor has the information they need or finds a deal they cannot ignore, they are more likely to switch from informational to transactional and commit.
Example: content types to effectively target users at the transitional stage
Video demo. For example, an app developer might create a demo video that explores the features of the app and demonstrates how users make the most of premium features.
Comparison video. If a user has decided on your product — or is close to deciding — showing how service packages or products in a range can help them commit by choosing the one that is right for them.
Discount code. When visitors stay in the informational stage for too long, they can be plagued by analysis paralysis, or they have a barrier preventing them from committing. They need an outside motivator to push them to convert. A limited-time offer or coupon code will help with this.
In-depth review. Reviews and testimonials can be informational or transactional or contain elements of both depending on how they are written. If a visitor is early in the decision-making process, a review might not be enough to sway them. If they are almost ready to act, a review plus review data (i.e. stars out of five, review highlights, etc.) is enough to assure them they’re making the right choice.
Balanced content: don’t over focus on transactional content
It is a common misstep of startups and SMEs as well as marketing professionals to focus on transactional content. This is illustrated by data from Searchengineland which reveals that up to 80% of keyword searches are informational. Nonetheless copywriters and marketing coordinators over focus on the conversion-potential of transactional content rather than opting to use informational content to widen the sales funnel by addressing the informational needs of users.
A consequence of over focusing on transactional content means a heavy reliance on high-risk users who make impulse conversions. However, it is fair to assume that the majority of users will make informed decisions before committing and moving to transactional content. This mindset also places a higher value on the product or service you offer.
Repeat visits: bring users back
As we mentioned earlier, website visitors in an informational mindset are extremely valuable for building up your business and online presence. The challenge is to make sure that their visit isn’t a one-time event.
Example: techniques to net repeat visitors
There are several quick-to-implement techniques and easy-to-use tools to keep you at the forefront of users’ minds and encourage repeat sessions.
Free guide signup. If making a transaction is reliant on having the right information then offering a high-quality guide that lays information out in an appealing way in exchange for an email address will likely be the key to securing conversions.
Email list. Your research into your target market should show you how long it takes the average consumer to convert. Build an email list and send out regular newsletters with useful tips and information to stay in the minds of interested users while they mull options and move towards conversion.
Related information. Users are seeking information; you need to be the one to provide it to them. Make it easy for readers to transition smoothly from content to related content across your site.
For example, if a user on your landing page is looking for information on selecting the right personal finance app. Include a link to a detailed blog post that features personal finance apps: what to know and key features, such as how to use personal finance apps to improve your credit, and how personal finance apps integrate with banking accounts. The option to review in detail will greatly appeal to users and providing them with a range of content formats to do so will suit different user preferences.
Creating content to match user intent
Producing informational and transactional content that effectively matches user intention demands an understanding of the target audience and what they need to know to make a decision. Important information from your content strategy or marketing communication strategy covering target market, target personas, and demographic data will enable you to develop content that matches user needs.
Content analysis tools — such as Buzzsumo, Social Animal, or Sproutsocial — can help identify content opportunities within your target audience, especially if you lack target market data.
Finally, it is well worthwhile creating a community channel on a social media platform or dedicated messenger app (such as Telegram) to enable direct engagement with visitors, users, and clients. This forms an effective channel for customer service and a.i. chatbot integrations can efficiently handle user input. Direct user feedback from a community channel is invaluable; it can be directly fed back into your marketing strategy to further optimise campaigns and to effectively launch new lines and products.
Get in touch with us if you want to learn more about our content analysis, strategy and campaign services.
Published 18 November 2019
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