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What Influences Customers to Click, Read and Buy? The Answers Might Surprise You

December 5th, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Do you use content marketing for your small business? Do you rely on the content on your business website to promote your expertise, attract customers who are searching for your type of product or service, or inform your audience? If so, you’ll be interested in Behavior Shift: Getting Content in Front of Consumers, a new nRelate study by Harris Interactive that explores how consumers find and use content online. The results might surprise you—and change how you design your website.

First, consumers are actively engaged in a search for content, spending an average of seven-plus hours per week looking for content. (Younger consumers spent more time.) A whopping 92 percent of adults read online content.

As you might expect, search is the number-one way consumers look for content—but what you might not expect is that “related links” at the bottom of articles were the second-most popular way consumers find content. Used by three-fourths (76 percent) of online content consumers, these related links were more important than social media or recommendations from friends in finding content.

While we’re hearing a lot about the importance of images in online content and social media today, some 62 percent of respondents say they’re more likely to click on a related link to a traditional article, as opposed to images or videos. However, 39 percent say they’re more likely to click on an article if it has an associated image.

The biggest determinant in what consumers click on after reading one article is quality. How do users define quality content?

  • 60 percent say it’s from a source already known in the offline world
  • 24 percent say it includes images
  • 23 percent say it Includes author image and byline
  • 11 percent say it includes embedded video

Purchasing decisions are most influenced by trust, and despite the prevalence of social media, nearly half (44 percent) of consumers say the information they trust most is content from a brand or company’s website. Content found via search engine was trusted by 31 percent, expert content by 28 percent, mainstream news sites by 20 percent and social media content from friends by just 10 percent.

While these results shouldn’t cause you to abandon or decrease your social media efforts, they do show that consumers are still influenced by traditional sources of expertise—articles, experts, and brands—far more than by social media.

Image by Flickr user Iwan Gabovitch (Creative Commons)

The views expressed here are the author's alone and not those of Network Solutions or its partners.

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