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Martech Search Marketing Guide

Are you addressing all 3 stages of the search journey?

By Chris Pitt, Managing Director

Vertical Leap


The Drum Network article

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May 16, 2023 | 7 min read

Chris Pitt of Vertical Leap explains why your search marketing strategy could fail if you don’t seriously consider each part of the customer journey.

Two men walking camels in the desert

Not all traffic is good traffic, says Vertical Leap’s Chris Pitt / Fabien Bazanegue

A profitable search marketing strategy needs to convert traffic into paying customers. Optimizing to maximize traffic is great for visitor numbers, but it doesn’t necessarily generate revenue.

Targeting and nurturing visitors that have genuine potential to complete your marketing goals is a must. In this article, we’ll look at the three most important stages of this journey: acquisition, engagement, and conversion.

Each stage leads into the next and performance carries over, improving your chances of achieving each objective. For example, relevant traffic is more likely to engage with your website and engaged users are far more likely to convert during the final stages of the search journey.

1. Acquisition: capturing the right kind of traffic

Maximizing traffic isn’t a viable search marketing goal for most companies. With this approach, traffic becomes a vanity metric and you’re wasting a valuable budget on visitors who will never see a return on investment. Instead, your goal is to bring the right kind of traffic to your website – opportunities that are worth investing in.

To do this, you have to know exactly who your target audience is, what they’re looking for, and where they’re going to look for it. This will change as they progress through the search journey themselves and purchase intent increases.

Initially, they might head to Google Search for product recommendations, then YouTube to watch some reviews and, finally, Google Maps to find local stores. Whatever the search journey is for your target audiences, you need to be present at each touch point, but also relevant.

2. Engagement: from interest to interaction

Certain types of engagement are more valuable than others. Ideally, you want meaningful interactions that bring prospects closer to your conversion goals. It could be as simple as visiting the right sequence of pages or something more significant, like signing up to one of your email marketing lists.

Before you can build these interactions, you must nail the user experience (UX) essentials. First, you want users to stay on the first page and engage with it; you want them to read your content, watch embedded video clips, click interactive elements and then, click through to the next target page.

So: you’re optimizing for metrics like avg. time on page, pages per session and session duration. You’ll also want to optimize loading times/page speed and minimize bounce rates. You can also set up events measurement in Google Analytics 4 to track page clicks and other interactions.

For example, you can track user scrolling to make sure users are reaching certain points of the page or video play button clicks to check they’re watching embedded videos.

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3. Conversion: turning traffic into paying customers

If you’re capturing the right traffic and optimizing for meaningful engagement, you’ve already closed the gap to converting. Next, you need to give prospects the final push by ramping up incentives and putting conversion actions within their reach.

Crucially, targeting specific audiences at the acquisition stage of the search journey allows you to be more relevant with your calls to action (CTA). It’s crucial to match the intent of visitors at every stage of the journey and create CTAs that promise to deliver.

Event measurement can help you track the effectiveness of your CTAs, too. First, make sure users are reaching them with scroll tracking. Then, you can track CTA button clicks to measure conversion attempts.

This is important because you want to distinguish between visitors who do/don’t attempt the conversion from those who fail to complete conversion actions at a later stage, e.g. an account signup form or the checkout.

From here, you can track every key action in the conversion process, including form interactions to identify potential issues. For example, you may find a lot of potential customers are running into problems with a specific form field on your payment page. By tracking these details, you can identify smaller issues getting in the way of conversions and resolve them.

By this point, you’re generating traffic with a high conversion potential, to begin with. Next, you’re maximizing engagement with visitors who have an invested interest in your messaging. And, finally, you’ve got an optimization system that converts traffic into paying customers.

No more wasting traffic (or SEO budget).

Martech Search Marketing Guide

Content by The Drum Network member:

Vertical Leap

We are an evidence-led search marketing agency that helps brands get found online, drive qualified traffic to their websites and increase conversions/sales.


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