Search volumes are so last decade! Just kidding, we all want to be chasing the popular terms, but you need to be considering everything from the commercial value of a keyword, to the user intent behind it, to make sure you’re driving traffic that’s highly relevant and most likely to convert.
I love a keyword research tool as much as the next SEO geek, but they have a nasty habit of replacing common sense and making us lazy. It’s too easy to throw a bunch of keywords into a research tool and pick your target phrases based on those with the highest volumes.
What you should really be asking, is what’s going to bring me more traffic – or better still – what’s more likely to bring me the right kind of traffic, and is also most likely to convert. For example, if someone types “shoes” into Google, versus “red Hunter wellies” – providing you do actually sell red Hunter wellies, the latter is much more likely to click through to your site, and more likely to convert once they are there.
Firstly though, it’s important to think about the different types of intent, and the kind of language which indicates each type.
Research-based intent may include a lot of broad terms, as well as a number of “what is”, “what are” variants. Because of this, there tends to be high search volumes, which is where some SEO agencies make the assumption that these are the right terms to chase. But of course, a high number of these may be students researching the topic, or marketing agencies like us looking to get to grips with a new client’s industry.
There will also be a pool of potential customers in here though, they just may be at an earlier stage in their journey; looking to learn more before they make an informed decision. It’s still worth considering these terms, as you want to be reaching people at all points in the funnel, and if you provide them with useful information early on in their search, they are more likely to trust and return to you later on.
Other information-focused terms include variants such as “best” or “cheap”. There is a suggestion that they are looking to buy, but a strong indication they are also at the research gathering stage. They are likely to be looking for impartial advice or aggregation, which means there’s a good chance they won’t select your listing, and that’s a lot of wasted effort getting to page one for a highly competitive term.
Commercial intent terms tend to be longer tail phrases. The more obvious iterations of these could include words like “buy” or “purchase”, but it also comes down to common sense. To go back to our red Hunter wellies example, we can see that there’s enough detail here that we can deduce that this particular searcher is probably looking to buy a pair. The phrase “red Hunter wellies size 7” would suggest even more commercial intent, as would search phrases that include delivery preferences.
Location-based terms also suggest a certain amount of intent, but when measuring this, it’s important to remember that when it comes to local terms, rather than clicking through to your website, they may choose to visit you in person. This of course depends on the product or service you’re offering. If you’re a local shoe shop, they may well choose to come to your store instead of your website. If you’re a nearby solicitors however, it’s more likely they will click through to your site to find out more about you.
It works both ways round. You can pinpoint which type of traffic you want to attract and optimise for those keywords, and you can also identify the intent, and cater towards it.
Once you’ve identified which terms you want to chase, and the nature of the intent behind them, take it a step further by thinking about where to optimise.
Moz carried out a series of research into which search features appear most prominently for which intent type. The results provide a great way of identifying where your best opportunities are for any given keyword.
For example, news articles are more common in informational intent searches – probably because the intent is more ambiguous and Google is serving up results that will help you to define exactly what you’re looking for – the same is true of the People Also Ask feature.
On the contrast, terms with a higher commercial, or transactional intent, are heavily dominated with Shopping Ads, and there are also more featured snippets available to compete for:
As you’d expect, local intent throws up the places pack for a quarter of its results, so it’s worth making sure elements like your map listing are fully optimised.
Of course, there are other elements to keyword research, but it’s a great base to work from. From here, you can use your own data to uncover realistic opportunities, as well as consider the commercial value of your keywords, for an SEO strategy that goes beyond simply search positions.