Most of the content online related to searcher’s intent is catered to managers of e-commerce sites.
But that’s not you.
Maybe you’re a nonprofit, a government agency, an association or a news site.
So, how do you structure your keyword research so that it’s keywords that make sense for you and your audience and keywords are grouped in a way in which you can move forward with tracking hundreds or thousands of rankings and can spot optimization opportunities?
With a huge number of potential keywords, how do you organize your keyword list and make sure that your keywords are the PERFECT keywords?
Why is getting the INTENT right so important?
Today’s search engine result pages are personalized to the end user – based on location, IP, search history, Gmail activity, online reading behavior, context, etc.
This kind of environment makes it even more essential for a marketer to reverse engineer the intent of the searcher for every keyword phrase to make sure that one is targeting terms where your answer (and URL) are the absolute best answer to the implicit question contained in that keyword phrase. Otherwise, you’ll get traffic that will bounce (which is a negative search ranking signal).
Also, make the most of your time by creating content that has the best chance of being shown in a Google search.
Let’s look at an example.
Say you are running the site www.cancer.gov and you want to see if you can rank for term “why quit smoking”. Here’s what that search engine result looks like:
Based on those results you can see that the target users are looking for the following:
- All the reasons to quit smoking
- How long it might take to quit smoking and what the process involves
- How soon they would see the benefits from quitting smoking
Based on the searcher’s intent, they really are not (with that keyword phrase) directly looking for how lung cancer is driven by smoking.
But let’s look at a keyword phrase that is a better fit: “cancers from smoking”:
And now Google is showing www.cancer.gov content.
Still not convinced?
Google doesn’t show your page if you don’t match the searcher’s INTENT.
In case you’re still not convinced about searcher’s intent, I think you’ll find this data finding from Wordstream’s March 27, 2017, post compelling.
“Google has confirmed a recent core algorithm update, and surprisingly, some of the biggest losers were high-authority magazine domains like the Atlantic and the New Yorker. However, it’s not so surprising when you look at where they lost rankings – on older content that was ranking for third-party brand searches:”
“In this image from Searchmetrics (apologies for the grainy image), you can see that the Atlantic had pages ranking for keywords like “Netflix” and “pizza hut.” Guess what! It’s highly unlikely that people searching for “pizza hut” want to read an old think piece about it; they probably just want to find the nearest store or the number to order a pizza. By booting these results out of the rankings, Google is recognizing that intent is more important than domain authority.”
You need to be the PERFECT answer for your target audience and the question that they had in their heads when they typed (or spoke) a keyword phrase into Google.
In 2017 you need to understand:
What was the searcher’s specific GOAL based on their keyword phrase?
Each search query is not just empty words. It has a user’s hope and desire behind those phrases – a burning question.
Smart SEOs go after keyword phrases where the searcher’s intent COMPLETELY matches the content being optimized so that they attract visitors to their site that stay and don’t bounce back to the search engine result pages (SERPs). Bouncing back to the SERPs is called pogo sticking in the industry, and is a NEGATIVE signal to Google.
Targeting high volume keywords is not how to do SEO.
Targeting keyword phrases where the searcher’s INTENT is perfect for what your content provides is.
How do you figure out searcher’s intent?
Here is the reverse engineering into the intent behind each search query (Or “searcher’s intent” as it’s called in the industry).
1. Look at the non-personalized SERPs by your keyword.
Particularly the “People also ask” box and related searches. These queries are presented because of what Google knows about the intent behind each keyword and they also give you some sense about how Google links topics together.
Let’s look at an example.
I searched for “pet food articles” using Chrome’s Incognito and here’s what that result looks like:
Once you get past all of the ads (this is clearly a low organic opportunity SERP), you can see that the searcher intent is the following:
“I am a pet owner and am looking for information about what is in my pet’s food, and whether I should switch pet foods to keep my pet healthy.”
2. Brainstorm the major and minor intents you see.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Why does someone land on your page?
- What were they searching for right before they arrived?
- Based on the other pages ranking (and related searches), what type of answers are they hoping they will find for that keyword phrase?
Most non-personalized search results show more than one intent. Record as many intents as possible.
3. Understanding your searcher’s “micro-moment”
Micro-moments are instances where your target audience is looking for information on the fly often on their phone – and they want instant answers. In fact, 91% of users check their phones for information while performing some other task.
Google, in their 2017 human rater guidelines, breaks out these micro-moments intent into four categories:
- Know query, some of which are Know Simple queries
- Website query, where the user is looking for a particular website or webpage
- Do query, some of which are Device Action queries. (Some examples of this would be: download, buy, obtain, to be entertained by, or to interact with a website).
- Visit-in-person query, some of which is looking for a specific business or organization or category of business.
Here’s how to make micro-moments actionable:
As you look at the non-personalized SERPs for your keyword, record the micro-moment of your user – is that query a “know query” or a “do query”? The content that you provide to them should match their desired action as well as their desired question.
4. Use your Personas
Ask yourself these questions:
- Is this content you’re working on associated with a specific persona?
- If so, what do you know about that persona’s background that would influence what type of results they would like to see
5. Use your internal search data
Do you have users searching for this keyword phrase using your site search? If so, what results do they click and stay on? What does that data tell you about what type of content best satisfies the question behind their query?
6. Where are they in the customer journey?
Even for an information based query, your target audience could be either in the beginning stages of research or have moved on to a comparison or consideration phase.
Where does this content fall along the customer journey?
Record that data as well in your tracking sheet.
7. Use a keyword research tools to spot related terms.
Head on over to Keyword Explorer and drop in your primary keyword like “cancer from smoking” and choose “related to keywords with similar result pages” and sort by “Relevancy”.
How do those related terms help you confirm their intent?
8. Deliver on active and passive intent
Every user has a singular answer that they are looking for when searching for something by keyword phrase. Additionally, they will find your site useful if you deliver on supportive information that they didn’t explicitly ask for but is useful to their original query.
Active intent is explicitly described by the query itself. You must satisfy active intent immediately on the landing page because if the user doesn’t see their keyword phrase, they will bounce back to the search results.
Passive intent is hinted at by the query or keyword phrase. For instance, a search for “potty training” is implicitly looking for books, videos, tips and charts/reward systems to help with the overall process of potty training.
You should deliver on the active intent with the content on the page, and the passive intent by linking to supportive content that answers the passive intent query.
9. Dive into your own Google Search Console data
If you have a site with a decent amount of traffic, you can spot the intent of your users by looking at the queries that are currently being driven to your site.
Go to Search Traffic > Search Queries and filter by a particular query. You will often see a pattern emerging and you should be able to build a hypothesis around what your searchers are looking for. You can then click “Pages” to see what page is receiving that keyword traffic.
Feel free to grab the other keywords that you see in the Google Search Console report and add them to your landing page copy. There is no need to go overboard with keyword stuffing, though. Focus on making the copy readable to the end user.
There you go. The nine step process for figuring out your searcher’s intent by keyword. Evaluate your data, and collect it in the SEO Writing Template. Use the terms and create content that is the PERFECT answer to your user’s burning question – if you’re the best answer to that user’s question, you are one step closer to having Google reward you with better rankings and traffic.
Thanks for reading!
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