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Stop the Keyword Obsession! Optimize for Visitor Intent Instead

searcher intent types title image

Since the beginning of time (excluding everything before the invention of the World Wide Web), SEOs have focused on keywords to get traction in the search engines.  People search using keywords, so we use keywords in the content in order to be deemed worthy of ranking for that phrase.

This made keyword research an important part of every digital marketing campaign. After all, I have argued that keywords are the foundation of all digital marketing efforts. Everything we do revolves around the words and phrases our target audience uses to find what we sell.

None of that has really changed. Today, keyword research is just as important, but there is a new complication added to the mix. It’s not so much about the actual words or phrases themselves, but the intent behind the usage of any word or phrase that matters.

Every query typed into the search engines has a specific intent behind it. The phrase itself is just a means to the end, which is for the searcher to get a resolution to their intent-based search.

Keyword Intent Is Keyword Optimization

I would argue that the most important aspect of on-page optimization is understanding and optimizing for the searcher’s intent. It’s delivering what the searcher is expecting to find when they enter their search query.

importantOptimizing for keyword intent is simply delivering what the searcher is expecting to find when they enter their search engine query.

The keyword still matters as a means of understanding the topic of the search, but then we have to go one step further in order to match the intent behind it. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself optimizing a page that fulfills the topic of the search while missing the intent by a mile.

Let’s look at five basic searcher intents:

  • Product / Service Research – The searcher is starting their buying journey without any kind of deep understanding of the topic. They start researching so they can learn more about what they want and need.
  • Shopping – The searcher moves from the research intent to the shopping intent. They have learned the basics of their product, which gives them the information they need to dig deeper into available options.
  • Buying – Here the searcher is ready to make a purchase, but they’ve yet to determine where they will buy from or the specific product they want. This is where they search for specifics in order to do some comparisons on costs, quality, value, etc.
  • Informational – Many searchers are simply looking for information. Most informational searches are performed by or for the DIY crowd. They are looking for tips, tutorials, and how-tos.
  • Brand – These searches are performed by people who are already familiar with your brand and want to go directly to your site but don’t know the URL (or are too lazy to type it in.) Brand searches are often used in conjunction with the other search intents above, but not always.

types of searcher intent

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Now, let’s put these intents into real-world scenarios. We’ll start with a general topic, motorcycle battery, and then look at keywords that might be used for each intent.

Product / Service Research

Keywords

  • motorcycle battery
  • motorcycle batteries
  • battery for motorcycle
  • buy motorcycle battery
  • high performance motorcycle battery
  • replacement motorcycle battery
  • replacement motorcycle batteries

Landing Page

A product category page that provides basic information on motorcycle batteries and a list of all motorcycle battery products available.

 Example: A search for “streaming media devices” brings you to this page from Best Buy that provides general information about “cutting the cord,” brands of streaming media players, types, and more.
research searcher intent example

shopping searcher intentShopping

Keywords

  • gel motorcycle battery
  • agm motorcycle battery
  • lightweight motorcycle battery
  • honda motorcycle battery
  • dukati motorcycle battery

Landing Pages

Each of the keywords on the left needs their own landing page. Each should provide information and specific products for that particular search.

Example: Someone who has narrowed down their flooring search to laminate flooring would see this page from Lumber Liquidators in their search results. It provides information specific to laminate as well as the products in that category.

Buying

Keywords

  • 2015 honda motorcycle battery
  • honda interceptor motorcycle battery
  • 800cc honda motorcycle battery
  • YTX14 motorcycle battery

Landing Pages

Each of these keywords should lead to a unique page that provides a list of the products that meet the criteria. One would list all batteries for 2015 Honda motorcycles, another that narrows the list to just Honda interceptor batteries of all years, and another that narrows by all Honda bikes that fit into the 800cc category. The last keyword is actually a search for a particular product number. The best landing page for that is the actual product page for that particular battery.

 Example: Someone searching for a “2018 hyundai sonata” should be taken to a page like this that compares models:
informational searcher intent

Informational

Keywords

  • What is the best motorcycle battery
  • How to replace a motorcycle battery
  • How do I store a motorcycle battery
  • motorcycle battery prices
  • motorcycle battery size chart

Landing Pages

  • Product comparison guide
  • Tutorial/video on replacing batteries
  • Article on battery storage tips
  • A pricing guide for batteries
  • A size chart

Since these searchers are looking for information, it would be foolish to land them on product pages or product category pages. Instead, you want to create content that satisfies the intent of those searches.

Example: To serve searchers looking for information, you might want to have articles on your website that answer common questions, like this Knowledge Base article on www.batterystuff.com:
informational user intent example

Brand Research

Keywords

  • battery stuff motorcycle batteries
  • battery mart motorcycle batteries
  • batteries plus motorcycle batteries
  • impact batteries motorcycle

Landing pages

Each of these keywords would want to take the visitor to the same page as the product / service research landing page noted above, but for each of the respective sites mentioned. As long as there is a keyword mentioned with the brand, you want to take them to the best page that represents the keyword rather than the site home page. If the search is for the brand alone, the home page will suffice.

 Example: If someone wanted to find vacuum cleaners at Target, they might search “vacuum cleaners Target” and find this page:
buyer research example

Brand Shopping / Buying

Keywords

  • scorpion motorcycle batteries
  • shorai motorcycle batteries
  • odyssey motorcycle batteries
  • optimia motorcycle batteries

Landing Pages

Here, searchers are not looking for a particular store, but rather a particular product brand. This is closer to the shopping and buying cycles than it is the research cycle (though it could be any of the above, depending on additional search qualifiers). The best place to deliver these searchers is on a page about the brand and a list of all the products (at least in the motorcycle battery category) that you offer.

Example: A search for “mr. coffee coffee makers” takes to you to a page with only coffee makers rather than the home page.

brand research intent example

Concluding Thoughts

Notice that the topic of all of the searches above remains the same. However, the intent of what the searcher is looking for within that topic changes dramatically.

I do want to make one important point before I’m done. I’m not at all advocating going back to the one-keyword-per-page optimization strategy. You can still find many similarly minded keyword variations with the same intent. But we do need to have a one-intent-per-page optimization strategy. And that is based on both the topic and overall intent of the query in order to deliver searchers to the specific page that best meets the need of the search.

That may mean creating one page around one keyword, or one page around a dozen. Just figure out what is best based on what the searcher wants. Because that’s what optimization is really all about.

Want more information? Check out our free Keyword Research and Selection Ebook and Spreadsheet Tool!

Stoney G deGeyter

Stoney deGeyter is the author of The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!. He is the founder and CEO of Pole Position Marketing, a web presence optimization firm whose pit crew has been velocitizing websites since 1998. In his free time Stoney gets involved in community services and ministries with his “bride enjoy” and his children. Read Stoney’s full bio.

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