"Why" Matters More in Keyword Research

by Anthony Contoleon January 24th, 2012 

why

Why someone is using a certain search query is just as important as how often it is used. Search is one of the few marketing channels where it is possible to target people by their intent rather than an arbitrary demographic grouping. Planning keyword research and optimization strategies to maximize views over targeting likely leads is ignoring one of the most powerful aspects of search engine marketing.

Keywords Are Easy

Actually finding keywords is not the hard part of keyword research. There are a large number of tools and resources available online that can be used for this purpose. Popular and effective keyword resources include but are not limited to:

  • User generated content relating to the product or market
  • AdWords Keyword Tool
  • Google Insights for Search/Related Searches/etc
  • Broad and Phrase matched terms in AdWords campaigns

There are also tools for assessing competition on terms, ranking difficulty and for assigning a value on traffic based on paid search data. Short of using paid search traffic to test the effectiveness of queries for conversions, there are not that many that can be used for determining what traffic should provide a return.

Linking search terms with consumer behavior concepts such as the buyer decision process, or finding a connection between what the user desires as an outcome from the words they use in search and the site's business model. These models can provide a framework for developing an effective Search Engine Marketing strategy.

Why Choose The Keywords You Chose?

Classifying user intent by search terms is an important concept. A paper called A Taxonomy of Web Search (PDF) lays out a good model for categorizing search queries by the searcher's intent using a number of groups:

In the web context the "need behind the query" is often not informational in nature. We classify web queries according to their intent into 3 classes:

1. Navigational. The immediate intent is to reach a particular site.
2. Informational. The intent is to acquire some information assumed to be present on one or more web pages.
3. Transactional. The intent is to perform some web-mediated activity.

Google's leaked search quality tester guide outlines a similar model along with the phrase "Do-Know-Go" where Do, Know and Go roughly correspond to Transactional, Informational and Navigation from Andrei Broder's paper. Google's document outlines how to determine the user's intent to the search query and its relationship to the relevance of the result.

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Intent, Keywords And Conversions

When conversions and not just traffic matter in a Search Engine Marketing strategy, the intent driving the search is as important as the amount of potential traffic. There is still another factor to consider: how the desired conversion matches the user's intent. An e-commerce site would get a greater immediate return from Transactional search traffic, whereas a site that exists purely to generate leads through enquiry forms would suit a campaign based on Informational terms. Frequently Navigational terms feature brand or specific product words, and are often associated with either an existing audience or a customer acquired through another channel, such as offline marketing.

Search Taxonomies In Your Keyword Strategy

Using search taxonomies in a keyword strategy as a part of keyword research is another tool to focus resources on search optimization activity that will create a return. Keyword research requires more tools than just a list of words; putting a search query into some kind of meaningful context is just as important as knowing how many searches per month it attracts.

Learn more about better keyword research:

Anthony Contoleon

Anthony works as an SEM Manager in the tourism and travel industry. Most of his free time is lost to creating comics about the digital industry, writing blog posts and drinking coffee.

Contoleon.com

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3 Responses to “"Why" Matters More in Keyword Research”

  1. Jeff Casmer says:

    I think that "intent" is very important. One marketer told me last week that some sites are targeted as "research" keywords and other keywords target the "buy" mentality. Important to differentiate the difference when building a profitable site.

    • Anthony Contoleon says:

      I agree, targeting the right people for the kind of conversion you are after is just as important as appearing for the right products or industries. After all, at the end of the day it is about the ROI.

  2. Dave says:

    Thanks for the insight. I always have trouble really nailing keywords that buyers use. I generally go for the most common ones then use variations of this so this blog has given me some good ideas for targeting new keywords! Cheers