Keyword research – an evolution into the intent of search

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Owen Whitcombe

Senior SEO Specialist

What is keyword research?

Keyword research is the process of identifying the words and phrases that people use when they search for information, products, or services on search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo. The goal of keyword research is to determine the most relevant and valuable keywords to use in your content or advertising campaigns, based on their search volume, competition, and relevance to your target audience.

Keyword research involves using various tools and techniques to find and analyse keywords, such as using keyword research tools, analysing search trends, reviewing competitors’ content, and conducting user surveys or interviews. By conducting thorough keyword research, you can optimise your website or marketing campaigns for the keywords that your target audience is searching for, increase your search engine rankings, and attract more traffic and leads to your website.

Keyword research used to be so easy. Back in the day, a business would choose the simple words that they thought typified their brand and, after a bit of work from some friendly SEOs, they’d enjoy a steady stream of traffic to their website.

But nowadays, thanks to updates in Google’s algorithms and online users’ growing sophistication, getting your keyword research right is more complicated than pairing the right phrase with the right page.

Attracting in-depth enquiries

People aren’t typing single words into search engines and expecting simple results any more. Thanks to their familiarity with search engines and their ability to refine non-relevant results, online-savvy users are confident that the search engine will be able to answer more specific queries. As a result, they’re putting more and more detail into their search terms. For more information on this read our piece talking about the benefits of long tail keyword research.

For example, I’m looking for a lovely new dresser for my boudoir. Instead of typing in ‘furniture’ to Google and taking my own route to the vintage white dresser with a mirror that could look good in my home, I trust the search engines to save me time and find the dresser I’m looking for. So I search in more depth with “vintage white dresser with mirror” – finding a number of options in around 0.18 seconds. If I’d searched around from the (highly competitive) ‘furniture’ keyword, it would’ve taken an age to find the dresser I wanted – with no price comparison or other handy snippets available. By searching for a long-tail term, I’m taken to relevant product-level pages immediately.

Customer journeys

Although singular keywords such as ‘furniture’ are lucrative and will bring substantial traffic to a site if you rank well for them, they typically bring in customers who are browsing near the start of the customer journey. A more detailed, long-tail term suggests a customer that’s closer to buying a product. That’s where understanding customer intent comes in…

But what is search intent?

Search intent, also known as user intent or customer intent, refers to the reason why a user conducts a specific search query on a search engine. It is the underlying motive or purpose behind the search query, which can vary depending on the user’s needs, desires, and expectations.

Mapping intent

Customer intent is all about viewing keywords in context. Each phrase is Googled by a user for a reason – after all, I searched for a vintage white dresser with a mirror because I wanted to know where I could buy one online and how much it would set me back.

It’s still as essential as ever to locate the uncompetitive, popular keywords and phrases that people are searching for in order to help your website rank and bring in traffic. But now, online marketers have to understand what a user wants when they enter a specific keyword and tailor their site to fit that.

There are four different types of intent that a keyword or phrase would fall into:

•    Informational – where a user tries to find the answer to a question. E.g. “How can you add space to a bedroom?”
•    Commercial – where a user researches products in the early stages of buying, but doesn’t part with any money. E.g “Furniture”.
•    Transactional – where a user wants to compare, analyse and buy a specific product or sign up to a service. E.g. “vintage white dresser with mirror”.
•    Navigational – where a user has pre-determined brand loyalty and is looking for a specific website destination. E.g. “John Lewis furniture”

Typically, transactional intent is the most lucrative type of intent, but well-written, attractive and engaging content can also help to convert users who are entering informational and commercial keywords. At the very least, this attractive content can help to strengthen a brand – making it more likely that your website enjoys traffic from navigational search.

Write your content to fit

It makes sense that the intent that’s gauged from a keyword should also inform what you’re writing online. Interesting, well-researched content that you write for informational queries shouldn’t be ‘salesy’ or attempt to shove products down a visitors’ neck – that’s not what they clicked on your website for. Similarly, sales copy for transactional enquiries should simply give as much information as possible, with plenty of persuasive pointers to encourage the visitor to make up their mind. You know that they’ve visited your site with an intention to buy, after all. Read more tips with our article how to use long tail keywords to boost your blog so you’re in place to capture search intent at ever level of the user journey.

What do you think? Let us know at our Cardiff SEO agency and see what we can do for you.

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Owen Whitcombe

Senior SEO Specialist

Owen has worked in primarily Ecommerce since leaving University. Many years spent in the online sports retail arena before gaining experience in the online catering business then becoming digital marketing manager for national toy company before finding his feet in SEO. As a results driven individual Owen loves nothing more than when we can give…

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