SEO | September 17, 2013

Keyword research – an evolution into the intent of search

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 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…

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.

What do you think?

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