Have you noticed that questions and answers are appearing more places online? From Quora to the “people also ask” feature in Google’s search results, to Amazon’s Alexa Answers and product Q&As appearing on all kinds of e-commerce pages, this framework for consumer information is proliferating wildly. And there’s a good reason for that: The customer journey now starts with a question.

Consumer search behavior is undergoing a paradigm shift from keywords to questions, and search engines are moving from delivering chaotic results to structured answers. With the increasing adoption of voice technology and chatbots, plus the introduction of conversational search, we are being retrained to ask for what we want — or need.

This is an incredible opportunity for marketers, because these questions provide more insights into the customer journey than ever before. By asking questions, consumers are telling marketers exactly what they want.

Questions reveal intent, which helps marketers understand where and how their brands can reach and connect with consumers in meaningful ways.

Think With Google flagged this as a key trend for 2019: “Rip up your demographic-based personas. Kiss goodbye the old-school marketing funnel. The future of the industry lies in understanding a customer’s intent.” They also reported that if you rely on demographic marketing exclusively, you run the risk of missing more than 70% of prospective mobile shoppers.

Intent marketing means marketing your product or service based on consumer behavior. In other words, it means marketing to individuals whose actions indicate the likelihood they will take a specific action or make a specific purchase.

To win in the new era of search, marketers must meet consumers at their moment of intent by delivering relevant answers everywhere they’re asking questions.

Effectively implemented, an intent marketing strategy will lead to a better customer experience, increased discoverability, lower support costs, and more clicks and conversions.

Discover Your Audience Intent

By looking at the questions customers ask in search and across third-party sites — think reviews and product listings — marketers can learn what’s important to a customer about their brand, product, or service. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to discover these questions:

Search Data

Dive into the keywords that are driving traffic to your site via both paid and organic search — free analytics tools can provide some info, but if you’re using additional solutions for your search and content marketing efforts, you’ll find much deeper insights. Searches that include terms like “buy,” “visit,” “purchase,” “price,” “near me,” “open now,” etc., indicate a high intent to transact no matter what you’re offering. Make sure you go beyond those terms to see what kind of informational queries are bringing consumers to your site at the very beginning of their purchase journey, and analyze your branded searches carefully, as this data can tell you a lot about why customers transact with you, who they perceive your competition to be, and what they’re hearing or reading about your brand.

Third-Party Sites + Listings

Customers are reviewing your products and locations across the digital ecosystem. They’re also asking questions on Google My Business pages, Amazon product listings, and in online forums (just to name a few examples). These are all great ways to see inside your customers’ minds and better understand both the path to purchase and your brand’s customer experience. Your competitors’ reviews and listings can also highlight opportunities to connect with your audience.

Search Results

Check out the search results pages for the search terms and questions you’ve uncovered so far. Look at what appears in related searches, rich snippets, “people also ask,” and autocomplete text. This can help you understand the broader context around consumer intent for these searches, and which topics search algorithms surface as most relevant to a customer’s question. Cross-check search results on multiple engines, devices (desktop and mobile search results can differ significantly), and voice assistants for a 360-degree view.

As you research your customers’ questions, you’ll likely run across the answers that appear in search and elsewhere — are they correct? Who is providing those answers? Your brand needs to be ready with answers.

Learn how to take control and deliver answers, verified by your brand, in all the places consumers search with Yext’s free eBook Why Your Brand Needs to Be Answers-Ready.

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