Confronting Relevance

  |  July 12, 2002   |  Comments

Relevance is what your customers want. Here's what it is and how to deliver it.


You hear the word all the time. Do you know what it means and how to make it work for you? You experience it every day. You make decisions based on it. Do you implement relevance when trying to get prospects to take action?

"Bring me what I want, when I want it," is what the customer feels. That's why search engines strive to be the most relevant. Relevance is what delights their customers. Why is it most Web sites don't recognize and exploit that need?

What is relevance? "The American Heritage Dictionary" provides three definitions:

1. Pertinence to the matter at hand. 2. Applicability to social issues: a governmental policy lacking relevance. 3. Computer Science The capability of a search engine or function to retrieve data appropriate to a user's needs.

I like number three. Relevance is a measure of how closely search results match the search request. Relevance is the single most significant factor in getting your prospects to take action.

Why is relevance such an important concept for Internet marketing? The value lies in understanding your prospects and how they reach buying decisions (search engines are often a tool for this).

To successfully get your prospects to take action, you must see the world from their buying point of view. Though you maintain a sales perspective, you conduct your sales process so it's in tune with how customers decide to buy.

Each of us engages in the buying process numerous times every day, whether buying a can of soda or making a more complex decision, such as purchasing a new car. Whenever a customer makes a buying decision, it represents the culmination of a process. It may take place almost instantaneously or stretch out over a long period. Regardless, it's a process -- not an event.

No matter how long the process takes, the buying decision always begins when the customer becomes aware of a need or problem. Once the need is identified, she explores avenues for meeting the need. This is the important part: the search for a perceived relevant solution to her need. While gathering information, the customer refines the buying criteria that affect the purchase decision. She then narrows the choices to the best few based on ability to provide value, grab attention, stir interest, and motivate desire. Finally, the customer chooses from the best and takes action.

The information architecture of your Web site must recognize every step of the consumer buying process. Each step feeds and leads to the next to create sales momentum. Although the sales process is ultimately linear, there are often feedback loops within the process as a customer reevaluates information. It's not unusual to address two, three, or even all five steps on a single page. Think of the process as operating simultaneously on a micro level (the individual page) and a macro level (the overall buying and selling experience). Always acknowledge and address the needs of the buying process at both levels.

How do we address these issues on both levels? A tool from the world of offline sales is just as powerful online -- perhaps more so. It's known as "AIDA": attention, interest, desire, and action. We apply it as "AIDAS" (satisfaction).

Every successful professional sale incorporates these elements at every step. They drive the process of turning visitors into buyers. Apply the AIDAS test to your home or landing page:

  1. Does the page grab visitors' attention in about eight seconds? Can they perceive the relevance of your page to solving their problem and meeting their need?

  2. Does the page stimulate their interest and reinforce they're in the right place? Does it suggest your solution is among the most relevant and useful?

  3. Does the page inspire the desire to take the action of clicking deeper toward purchase? Does it explicitly engage the imagination of your prospects and make them feel they will get value from your solution?

  4. Is how to take action obvious and easy? Do you provide relevant information at the point of action so visitors feel more confident in taking that action?

  5. After they've clicked, does the next page give them satisfaction by providing exactly what they wanted -- exactly how they wanted it?

Once you've tested for AIDAS on your home and landing pages, test every other page on your site. When you've fully implemented AIDAS on the micro level of the page, step back and test whether AIDAS is working for you on a macro level. Are visitors moving comfortably from your home or landing page through the entire site to and through the checkout page?

Relevance is what they want. Provide it at every step toward conversion.


Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is co-founder and chief marketing officer (CMO) of IdealSpot. He is co-author of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times best-selling books Call to Action, Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?, and Always Be Testing, and Buyer Legends. Bryan is a keynote speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as Gultaggen,, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others for the past 10 years. Bryan was named a winner of the Marketing Edge's Rising Stars Awards, recognized by eConsultancy members as one of the top 10 User Experience Gurus, selected as one of the inaugural iMedia Top 25 Marketers, and has been recognized as most influential in PPC, Social Selling, OmniChannel Retail. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of several venture capital backed companies such as Sightly, UserTesting, Monetate, ChatID, Nomi, and BazaarVoice. He works with his co-author and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at

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