There’s an inherent problem with the way many marketers look at search intent when it comes to keyword selection and content ideation. Typically, most marketers prioritize volume over search intent. This means they wind up with a list of high traffic keywords that don’t convert very well.
This problem often rears its head late in the SEO process: when clients, executives, and management starts asking “Is any of this traffic driving leads/sales/revenue?” Marketers in this situation often resort to hand wavy explanations about pages “building top of funnel awareness” or the strategy simply “needing more time”.
We think understanding and applying search intent principles can help solve these problems, so below, we’ve put together an advanced guide to search intent that can help you increase conversions instead of just chasing search volume.
We’re also going to show you a unique and original process that can lead you to discover new keywords that convert well and allow you to craft high-quality pieces of content that your target customer profile will love.
Note: ReportGarden is launching a new reporting platform for agencies to do more with their data—so you can focus on client performance and growing your agency. >.
What Is Search Intent?
Search Intent looks at the reason behind why someone is performing a Google search.
For example, what if Susan typed the word: “content marketing” into Google?
What information is she trying to find?
- The definition of content marketing.
- A content marketing agency she can hire to write a particular type of content for her website.
- Tips on how to perform her content marketing.
The problem with this query is that it’s a head term, meaning a one or two-word keyword that drives lots of traffic. Due to its inherent ambiguity, you don’t know exactly what Susan was looking for when she performed her original search.
If a content marketing agency optimizes their content and website to rank for the keyword “content marketing,” there’s a good chance they will find that the traffic doesn’t convert into leads very well.
In contrast, most people who are searching for the services of a content marketing company will type something along the lines of “content marketing agency” into a Google search.
As you can see from the above image, the keyword volume for “content marketing agency” is a lot lower than “content marketing.” But, because it’s longer tail, the former will most likely convert much better than the latter based on the based on the user’s intent.
If you’re an agency and trying to rank for the keyword “content marketing agency,” you’re intentionally sacrificing volume in exchange for a higher transactional intent—and it’s probably a tradeoff you’re willing to make. It’s also much easier to rank for that term due to the lower competition.
Search intent is directly tied into conversion rates and your marketing goals. There are several different types that can help you figure out if a keyword is worth chasing after from a conversion perspective:
The Four Types of Search Intent
There are four basic types of search intent, but you’re probably only going to want to concern yourself with two of them, as the other two typically don’t convert very well:
- Informational – An informational search is when someone is strictly looking for info. The weather, how to raise a child, and even last night’s football score are all considered informational intent queries. These keywords often have high traffic volumes, but low conversion rates.
- Navigational – A navigational search is when someone is looking for a specific website. “Amazon.com,” “Facebook,” and “YouTube” are all considered to be navigational intent.
- Transactional – Such queries as “buy Nike shoes,” “hire content marketing agency,” or “Keurig coffee machine” all exhibit intent on the part of the searcher to buy a product or service. These transactional searches usually have high click-through rates.
- Commercial – Searchers who use commercial intent keywords are usually performing research now with an intent to buy later — such target keywords as “Ford Focus vs. Honda Civic,” “Samsung 4k T.V. alternatives,” and even “burr coffee grinder reviews” are all indicators that the person performing the search requires more information before they feel comfortable making a purchase.
How to Figure out If a Keyword Has Transactional or Commercial Intent
Informational searches and navigational queries might send a lot of traffic, but it’s usually low-quality as those types of keywords don’t convert very well.
Transactional queries and commercial intent keywords tend to convert much better, but only when they exist in or near the bottom of the funnel.
For example, let’s go back to the search term: “Content marketing,” which is a very top of the funnel keyword. By itself, it’s highly ambiguous and the search intent is unclear.
Look for the Long Tail in Order to Find High Transaction and Conversion Intent
What if instead of “content marketing,” the user typed in “content marketing agency San Diego, California?” This is what’s called a long tail keyword search. This has even more user intent than “content marketing agency” which we discussed above.
While it doesn’t get anywhere near the amount of daily search traffic that “content marketing” gets, it does suggest a highly specific keyword intent to retain the services of a content marketing agency in San Diego, California.
The long tail of any given keyword search is simply a very specific query that contains the head keyword along with one of several different classifiers. Using the above “content marketing” example:
- Head: “content marketing”
- Mid: “content marketing strategy”
- Long tail: “content marketing agency San Diego, California”
As the person performing the internet search keeps adding keywords, the query becomes very specific, transactional, and shows a clear intent to buy.
The tradeoff is that these types of long tail keywords don’t drive a whole lot of traffic in the SERPs, but when they do it tends to convert very well.
There are many different common classifiers that can be put in front of the head search term that will turn it into a long tail keyword with commercial or transactional intent:
- Pricing – “Cheap Nike Shoes”
- Comparison – “Ahrefs vs. Majestic SEO”
- Tools/software – “QuickBooks Online”
- Service/agency/consultant – The user is looking for a service or expert.
- Reviews looking for social proof – “Instant Pot review”
- “Alternatives” – “Geico alternatives”
The key challenge here is to keep finding ideas and keywords that have a high conversion intent or are indicative of what your highest converting audience is searching for.
The problem is that the highly converting bottom of the funnel keywords tend to run out after a short while. Once this happens you’re going to need a way to discover new keywords topics that have a high transactional or conversion intent.
Keyword Strategy: How to Discover New Topics
When most people perform keyword research, they first come up with a list, prioritize it by volume, and then come up with content ideas. They’ll sometimes spend hours combing through their Google Analytics or Google Search Console looking for a needle in the proverbial haystack.
The problem with this approach is that it’s time-consuming and the vast majority of these terms are navigational, informational, top of the funnel, and ultimately do not convert very well.
A better way to perform research for topics is to first look at customer pain points, generate content ideas, and then look for keywords. Completely disregard paid or organic traffic levels as they’re usually not an indicator of how well a keyword converts.
This way, you’re immediately chasing after those sweet spot long tail keywords which convert just as well as the super bottom of the funnel keywords. This should give you a longer, higher intent list of keywords and topics to pull from when you run out of bottom of the funnel keywords.
Bottom of the Funnel Keywords
Bottom of the funnel, transactional, or commercial keywords convert exceptionally well. For example, “content marketing agency San Diego” and “best content marketing agency” are both bottom of the funnel. They indicate that the searcher has already done his/her research and knows the value that a content marketing agency brings to the table.
The main problem with bottom of the funnel keywords is that they tend to be few and far in between — you’re eventually going to run out at some point in time.
To prevent yourself from running out of these high-converting keywords, we suggest that you first look for super high transaction intent keywords regardless of their keyword volume that are coupled with pain points that only your ideal customers would have.
It’s your job as a marketer to find these specific pain points that are extremely unique to your target customers.
For example, if you are just starting your first blog, a pain point in content marketing is how to write a blog post.
But, if you’re trying to attract the attention of the VP of Marketing, they probably aren’t Googling “how to write a blog post,” as it’s too beginner level.
What would the VP of Marketing Google? We can brainstorm a few ideas…
- “How to allocate budget to content marketing?”
- “Best KPI’s to report on content marketing ROI?”
- “How to use search intent to find new keywords?”
If you work at a content or digital marketing agency, your job is to figure this out. What are the pain points of the VP of Marketing whom you’re trying to target?
Below are a few ways you can figure out exactly what pain points your target audience has.
A simple 5-question client survey can produce incredible insights into pain points and use cases. Whether you have your IT department install a script that pops up an exit survey, or you pick up the phone and have a chat with a recent customer, here are a few questions you can ask to determine their pain points:
1. Before you discovered our product or service, what problem(s) were you looking to solve?
The answers to this question will show you which keywords you can use to target someone who’s researching a solution to the above problem.
2. What service or product would you use if our product or service no longer existed?
The answers given will determine who the competitors are.
3. Imagine a friend who knew nothing about us. How would you describe our service or products to this individual?
The English language is full of synonyms, antonyms, and subtle nuances. The answers given to this question will tell you exactly how your customers would describe your service or product to a colleague or friend.
Pay close attention to the terms that they use. There’s a good chance that they might use words and phrases to describe your products or services that you haven’t yet thought of. You might discover new, low-competition search terms that you’re not actively optimizing for in Google or other search engines.
4. Name the top 3 benefits that you’ve obtained from our service or products.
You’ll be able to determine the top benefits and use cases that people get from your service or product.
5. If you were performing an internet search, what keywords would you use to search for us?
You might discover some real good nugget keywords here that you haven’t thought of prior.
No Direct Client Access?
What if you’re a marketing agency and it’s impossible to interview the customers of your clients?
Or, what if you’re a marketer in a company and upper management won’t allow you access to current or past customers?
There are a few ways to sidestep these challenges and still gain valuable keyword and topic insights. For example, you can:
- Interview Different Departments – Conduct a phone or in-person interview with various internal departments that regularly and directly communicate with the customer. The sales or customer support teams are in the proverbial trenches daily and can provide invaluable insights into various pain points that the customers or clients face.
- Talk to the CEO or Leadership Team – There’s usually nobody in the company who has a more innate understanding of a product or service than the CEO or various individuals in upper management. They can help shed more light on different pain points or other use cases.
- Delivery Side or Product Side – Those people who work in the delivery or product side of the business can help shed some light on pain points and other issues that customers or clients might regularly be experiencing.
There are countless online communities where people with the same problems congregate for both support and advice.
For example, if you work for a company that manufactures LED lights for saltwater fish tanks, you can navigate to a saltwater fish forum, register for free, then browse the posts going back several years.
You will most likely find many pain points, such as:
“My current halogen light makes my corals look bleached” or “What wattage LED light should I use to keep my clownfish happy?”
There are several other online communities where you can find valuable insights into your target audience:
- Reddit – Reddit has tens of thousands of “subReddits” that deal with almost every single subject imaginable. You can either use the search function on www.Reddit.com or type the following into Google: “niche subreddit.”
- Quora – Quora is one of the most popular Q&A websites out there. Founded by former Facebook employees, it gets over 100 million visitors a month. Either type in your search query and browse the responses, or you can ask the community for an answer.
- Industry-Specific Communities – There are countless industry-specific communities out there. From small business owners to underwater basket weaving forums, if there’s interest around a particular subject or niche, there’s most likely a specific online community that exists to serve it.
- Facebook Groups – Facebook, and to some lesser extent, LinkedIn, have a ton of groups dedicated to a particular interest. Log onto your Facebook account and perform a search in the search bar.
Some groups may require you to answer a short questionnaire before they allow you to join. This is to help prevent spammers from bombarding the groups to promote their products or services without adding any value.
When it comes to search intent, it’s not always about how much traffic a keyword drives. You need to keep the intentions of internet searchers and your target audience in mind when generating keyword lists and new content ideas for your blog and landing pages.
If you follow our suggestions above, you’ll discover new keywords that convert very well and will have the ability to write powerful and engaging content. This will help keep your audience engaged and ultimately drive new leads or conversions to your business.