This post was originally published on the STAT blog.
In this article, we’re taking a deep dive into search intent.
It’s a topic we’ve covered before with some depth. This STAT whitepaper looked at how SERP features respond to intent, and a few bonus blog posts broke things down even further and examined how individual intent modifiers impact SERP features, the kind of content that Google serves at each stage of intent, and how you can set up your very own search intent projects. (And look out for Seer’s very own Scott Taft’s upcoming post this week on how to use STAT and Power BI to create your very own search intent dashboard.)
Search intent is the new demographics, so it only made sense to get up close and personal with it. Of course, in order to bag all those juicy search intent tidbits, we needed a great intent-based keyword list. Here’s how you can get your hands on one of those.
Gather your core keywords
First, before you can even think about intent, you need to have a solid foundation of core keywords in place. These are the products, features, and/or services that you’ll build your search intent funnel around.
But goodness knows that keyword list-building is more of an art than a science, and even the greatest writers (hi, Homer) needed to invoke the muses (hey, Calliope) for inspiration, so if staring at your website isn’t getting the creative juices flowing, you can look to a few different places for help.
Snag some good suggestions from keyword research tools
Lots of folks like to use the Google Keyword Planner to help them get started. Ubersuggest and Yoast’s Google Suggest Expander will also help add keywords to your arsenal. And Answer The Public gives you all of that, and beautifully visualized to boot.
Simply plunk in a keyword and watch the suggestions pour in. Just remember to be critical of these auto-generated lists, as odd choices sometimes slip into the mix. For example, apparently we should add [free phones] to our list of [rank tracking] keywords. Huh.
Spot inspiration on the SERPs
Two straight-from-the-SERP resources that we love for keyword research are the “People also ask” box and related searches. These queries are Google-vetted and plentiful, and also give you some insight into how the search engine giant links topics.
If you’re a STAT client, you can generate reports that will give you every question in a PAA box (before it gets infinite), as well as each of the eight related searches at the bottom of a SERP. Run the reports for a couple of days and you’ll get a quick sense of which questions and queries Google favours for your existing keyword set.
A quick note about language & location
When you’re in the UK, you push a pram, not a stroller; you don’t wear a sweater, you wear a jumper. This is all to say that if you’re in the business of global tracking, it’s important to keep different countries’ word choices in mind. Even if you’re not creating content with them, it’s good to see if you’re appearing for the terms your global searchers are using.
Add your intent modifiers
Now it’s time to tackle the intent bit of your keyword list. And this bit is going to require drawing some lines in the sand because the modifiers that occupy each intent category can be highly subjective — does “best” apply transactional intent instead of commercial?
We’ve put together a loose guideline below, but the bottom line is that intent should be structured and classified in a way that makes sense to your business. And if you’re stuck for modifiers to marry to your core keywords, here’s a list of 50+ to help with the coupling.
The searcher has identified a need and is looking for the best solution. These keywords are the core keywords from your earlier hard work, plus every question you think your searchers might have if they’re unfamiliar with your product or services.
Your informational queries might look something like:
- [product name]
- what is [product name]
- how does [product name] work
- how do I use [product name]
At this stage, the searcher has zeroed in on a solution and is looking into all the different options available to them. They’re doing comparative research and are interested in specific requirements and features.
For our research, we used best, compare, deals, new, online, refurbished, reviews, shop, top, and used.
Your commercial queries might look something like:
- best [product name]
- [product name] reviews
- compare [product name]
- what is the top [product name]
- [colour/style/size] [product name]
Transactional intent (including local and navigational intent)
Transactional queries are the most likely to convert and generally include terms that revolve around price, brand, and location, which is why navigational and local intent are nestled within this stage of the intent funnel.
For our research, we used affordable, buy, cheap, cost, coupon, free shipping, and price.
Your transactional queries might look something like:
- how much does [product name] cost
- [product name] in [location]
- order [product name] online
- [product name] near me
- affordable [brand name] [product name]
A tip if you want to speed things up
A super quick way to add modifiers to your keywords and save your typing fingers is by using a keyword mixer like this one. Just don’t forget that using computer programs for human-speak means you’ll have to give them the ol’ once-over to make sure they still make sense.
Audit your list
Now that you’ve reached for the stars and got yourself a huge list of keywords, it’s time to bring things back down to reality and see which ones you’ll actually want to keep around.
No two audits are going to look the same, but here are a few considerations you’ll want to keep in mind when whittling your keywords down to the best of the bunch.
- Relevance. Are your keywords represented on your site? Do they point to optimized pages
- Search volume. Are you after highly searched terms or looking to build an audience? You can get the SV goods from the Google Keyword Planner.
- Opportunity. How many clicks and impressions are your keywords raking in? While not comprehensive (thanks, Not Provided), you can gather some of this info by digging into Google Search Console.
- Competition. What other websites are ranking for your keywords? Are you up against SERP monsters like Amazon? What about paid advertising like shopping boxes? How much SERP space are they taking up? Your friendly SERP analytics platform with share of voice capabilities (hi!) can help you understand your search landscape.
- Difficulty. How easy is your keyword going to be to win? Search volume can give you a rough idea — the higher the search volume, the stiffer the competition is likely to be — but for a different approach, Moz’s Keyword Explorer has a Difficulty score that takes Page Authority, Domain Authority, and projected click-through-rate into account.
By now, you should have a pretty solid plan of attack to create an intent-based keyword list of your very own to love, nurture, and cherish.
If, before you jump headlong into it, you’re curious what a good chunk of this is going to looks like in practice, give this excellent article by Russ Jones a read, or drop us a line. We’re always keen to show folks why tracking keywords at scale is the best way to uncover intent-based insights.
Read on, readers!
More in our search intent series: