There’s some evidence to suggest that in its search results, Google is trying to mimic the journey that potential customers go through. This means using any clues it has, in order to provide results that are more relevant to what a user wants at that moment. These clues include things like additional search terms, the user’s recent search history, etc.
The model it seems to follow is a three-stage one: information, decision and buying. If the search engine can work out which stage the user is at, more appropriate results can be shown.
For example, if someone searches for ‘blue widgets’, and has no previous history of doing so, Google might assume that what they’re after is initial stage buying information, just as if they searched for ‘blue widget suppliers’ or even ‘what is a blue widget’.
If the user comes back and makes the same ‘blue widget’ search, Google might consider that they’re now looking to shortlist suppliers, as if they’d searched for ‘best blue widget suppliers’.
Finally, if they come back yet again with the general search, Google probably assumes they’re ready to buy, and all they want to see are the suppliers whose websites they’d already visited and reviews of those suppliers, as if they’d searched for a company by name.
This mimics a theoretical search ‘journey’ of checking out what blue widgets do and who sells them; then which suppliers are most appropriate; and lastly, if the suppliers shortlisted have good reviews.
So how does this affect our SEO strategy? It suggests that writing separate content for all of the three stages is a sensible one – or perhaps, if you have a lot of different products, that your product pages try to cover all these angles. For the information stage, blog posts or other general articles which answer basic technology questions are required. For the decision stage, we need to associate our brand with that product, perhaps with ‘why you should choose us for this product’ articles. And for the buying stage, it’ll be ‘how to choose and buy’ content.
There are search keywords associated with these stages too; think about what someone identifiably at each stage might be searching for, and how you could be positioning yourself for that search.