Search Marketing Basics: Search Intent Is Just As Important As Search Volume

Search MarketingThe canonical technique for choosing keywords is to research relevant keywords with high search volumes and low competition. Although that’s an effective technique in many scenarios, it doesn’t always produce the highest conversion rates because it ignores user intent.

In many cases, lower volume keywords — those that are searched for less often — generate less traffic but higher conversions. Smart content marketers use high-volume keywords, but are careful to monitor the performance of content with an eye to discovering the long-tail keywords and phrases that actually convert.

Intent To Buy

Keyword research is a cornerstone of content marketing and search engine optimization. The goal is to discover the search terms that leads enter into search engines when they’re looking for pages relevant to the company’s offerings.

Some relevant search terms are highly competitive — it’s difficult, although not impossible, to rank well for them. But in many niches it’s possible to find relevant keywords and keyphrases with a fairly high search volume that aren’t competitive. Ranking for these terms is easier than ranking for more competitive keywords.

However, a keyword or key phrase can look perfect — low competition and a high volume of searches — but yield low conversion rates because the searchers entering that term have no intention to buy anything.

The math here is straightforward. Let’s look at an implausible but illustrative example. If you’re a wedding photographer, you might use a tool like Google AdWords to discover that a huge number of people search for “wedding photographs” every month. But, if the majority of those searchers are bloggers who want a photo of a wedding to decorate their blog posts, almost none of them will become your customer even if they do visit your site. Your conversion rate will be very low.

On the other hand, a long-tail, low-volume key phrase like “how much does a wedding photographer in Phoenix cost” will have a much lower search volume, but it expresses an intent to actually pay for the services of a wedding photographer. It might generate a tenth of the traffic, but if conversions for referrals from that key phrase are 50 percent rather a fraction of one percent, the value of the traffic is orders of magnitude higher.

The basic keyword research technique — good volume, low competition — is sound, but you should also create content around long-tail keywords that are more expressive of a transactional intent. You should also carefully monitor which content and keywords generate the highest conversion rates for your site — in my experience the results can be surprising, and they can provide insights that will give you an edge on the competition.

Matthew Davis is a technical writer and Linux geek for Future Hosting.

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