Say Goodbye to Keyword Research... and Hello to Search Intent

Posted by Kameron Hurley on March 17, 2020 at 2:15 PM     SEO
Say Goodbye to Keyword Research... and Hello to Search Intent

As consumers and algorithms have become more sophisticated, so has the keyword research process that we perform here at Marketing Essentials. Developing a keyword research and implementation strategy has never been a one-and-done affair. It’s an evolving process that must be rigorously monitored and tweaked. 

The folks at Google have said for at least the last 10 years that their end goal was to create a Star Trek computer interface. You know the one: “Computer, how fast can we get to Vulcan?” Part of achieving that goal is analyzing and serving up content that isn’t just about what a user has typed in but what their intent was in typing it. 

In this article, we will take a deeper dive into how to adjust your keyword research strategy to be more focused on optimizing for customer intent. 

How Does Search Intent Work?

Google has already made great strides in guessing about a user’s intent when one inputs a keyword or search phrase. For example, if I type “keyword research” into Google, it suggests ways to frame this query as a question, which may help me hone in on the answer I’m seeking: 

Google has a single towering obsession: It wants to build the Star Trek computer.

Keyword search intent examples from Google.

At Google, they want to provide the most relevant results for a query. That means you must serve up the most relevant content in response to those queries in order to rate high in search. It may sound like a no-brainer, but uncovering search intent using just a few key phrases and crafting content to answer those questions is both an art and a science. 

How to Research Search Intent

There are generally four types of search queries: informational, commercial, transactional and navigational. We can make informed guesses about what a user is searching for based on the keywords they use in search and then use intuitive suggestions to craft content. 

1) Informational: Users are researching specific topics to educate themselves about people, events, media, etc. They are generally asking “who, what, where, when, why” types of questions. Examples: 

    • What’s on Netflix
    • Greta Gerwig

2) Commercial: Users doing research related to a purchase they want to make but haven’t yet decided on the specific brand or product they will purchase. These users are asking “best, top, review or comparison” types of questions. Examples:

    • Best computer for gaming
    • Highest rated restaurant near me

3) Transactional: Users have completed research or have a specific brand or product in mind that they want to purchase immediately. Questions from these users are often related to words like “price, buy, quote, coupon or order.” Examples:

    • new book Harlan Coben
    • Audubon red barn bird feeder

4) Navigational: Users typing in these queries are looking for a particular website or piece of content. These queries will often be highly specific, featuring brand and/or product names. Examples:

    • Twitter login
    • NYT article about guacamole peas  

Using these search phrases, you can infer the long-form question(s) behind these phrases. If you want to build a piece of content that ranks high in search results for the phrase “assisted living,” you may find yourself fighting long and hard with a bunch of competitors that are also trying to optimize for this phrase. Instead, look at building an intent-first strategy and ask yourself what questions a user who types in this phrase is trying to ask. 

Examining these questions will often lead you to longer-tail keywords that you can optimize your content around.

Yes, it’s time to embrace the magic of long-tail keywords!

How to Build an Intent-First Keyword Strategy

Long-tail keywords are highly specific, targeted key phrases that are related to the term(s) you want to optimize for. If a user types in “assisted living,” here are some questions they may be asking: 

  • Is there an assisted living community near me?
  • How much does assisted living cost in my state? 
  • I want to know more about assisted living communities.
  • What is the top-rated assisted living community in my city?

These types of questions are the inspiration behind “long-tail” keywords. While it may be difficult to compete with sites for a term like “assisted living,” a quick look at your “intent” questions can help you craft a long-tail keyword phrase like “top-rated assisted living Concord.” 

You will find that your competition for these longer-tail keywords are not only less competitive but are more likely to result in capturing the target audience/demographic for your specific service or solution. A wide net catches all fish: but that’s not helpful when what you’re really trying to fish up are some quality lobsters. 

Using a tool like Google or SEMRush, you can find and add modified keyword variations like these to your content plan. A quick search for “top-rated assisted living Concord” can also show you which pages currently rank in the top three for this keyword phrase. Examining how these pages are optimized can help you craft and optimize your own content.

Keyword and Intent Optimization is a Process - Not a Project!

Finally, remember that keyword research, intent research, and other types of optimization that make up the SEO family are not one-and-done projects but instead require ongoing maintenance. If you are looking for a strategic partner that keeps a finger on the pulse of SEO - contact our team

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