How to Do Better Keyword Research While Considering Search Intent

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In the early days of the Internet, getting your website to rank on the first page of Google was dictated by keywords. 

You could boost your traffic by packing your pages with keywords and pumping out endless content around different phrases.

Today, the web has moved on – and that’s a good thing.

Google now rewards businesses that best meet their customers’ (yes, the searcher is also Google’s customer) needs with helpful content.

While keywords are still a vital part of SEO in 2020, they need to be used more intuitively and with far greater planning. 

This means that not only do you need to understand what your target audience is searching for, but why, and what they’re expecting to find at the end of their search. 

What is keyword research?

Keyword research is the process of researching what your target audience is looking for when they use search engines. 

These keywords – like “plant nurseries in London”, “buy scarves online UK”, or even just “compost” – form the core of any SEO strategy. 

When conducting keyword research, you want to be able to answer the following questions:

  • What is my audience searching for?
  • Why are they searching for it?
  • How many people are searching for it?
  • How competitive is this keyword to rank for?

Being able to answer these questions thoroughly, and ideally for different buyer personas, will help you to understand how users find your website and what content they are expecting when they arrive there. 

Why is keyword research important for SEO?

Keyword research will help you identify what your users are interested in based on what they’re searching for. 

While search engine algorithms have moved away from promoting pages only based on keywords that match a user’s search, they are still a vital part of a page’s visibility on search engines. 

Keyword research also allows you to identify the questions your audiences are asking, but that haven’t been answered yet, so you can close that opportunity gap.

With this information, you can plan your content around user interests that not only help readers but gains organic traffic and broadens your audience reach.

What vs. Why behind keywords

There are two parts to understanding your audience via the keywords they type into Google:

  1. What your customers are looking for (these are the actual keywords)
  2. Why they are looking for it (these are the underlying reasons behind the keywords)

You can only answer the “Why?” if you know your audience well enough. You can only understand your online audience if you have conducted thorough buyer persona research.

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Let’s have a look at how to do intent-driven keyword research and analysis in 2020.

Step 1: Make a list of topics that are relevant to your target audiences

To get started, you need to make a list of topics that are relevant to your business, using your common sense and what you already know about your audience.

This can take as much or as little time as you want, but the more ideas you have, the better.

Once you know what topics you want to cover, you need to put yourself in your audiences’ shoes. Think about what traffic you want to attract, who those people are, and what problems they’re facing. It’s important to understand the language they use to describe their problems, too.

If you’re selling a product, you need to understand why your product offers a solution to your audience.

For example, if you’re selling a hanging bird table, understanding the specific reason your audience would want that product (to attract more birds to their garden, because it’s easier to clean than competing products, or even because it has a desirable style) will be better for your SEO than targeting generic topics.

Step 2: Search forums to expand those topics

Once you’ve got an idea of what your audience is searching for, what problems they have, and how they’re trying to solve them, it’s time to delve into forums to expand your topics even further.

Forums have a large number of people, concentrated in one place, who all have the same interests. They provide an incredibly accurate example of how people talk – and therefore, search.

Within our SEO services we use different tools to scrape forums when we do keyword research for our clients, but you can also just copy and paste topics manually into Excel – it just takes longer and can be overwhelming to analyse if you’re new to Excel formulas.

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Quora.com and Reddit.com are two of the most popular forums, but there are highly niche forums for any industry. You can use Findaforum tool to find a forum for your niche.

Let’s take an example of a cooking business that wants to write more content for their vegan audience, so they find a forum for vegans to discuss all aspects of their lifestyle.

seo keyword research forums


They can then select the “Food and Drink”, “Recipes”, and “Products” topics to further narrow down what their audience is looking for.  See image below:

 


Taking the first threads in the “Recipes” topic, they know that their target audience is looking for creative appetiser recipes, how to make cheese alternatives at home, and crowd-pleasing recipes for occasions like the Superbowl. 

Not only is this a great way to tailor your content to what your users are specifically looking for, but it can also be a golden opportunity to find long-tail (5+ word) keywords with large volume and little competition. 

Long-tail keywords are often easier to rank for than shorter keywords.

By the end of this step, you should have a list of 1000+ keywords in Excel (or less if you’re collecting keywords manually).

Step 3: Understand what keywords your competitors rank for

Understanding what keywords your competitors rank for can give you ideas about what your audience may be searching for – and therefore, care about.

SEMrush is one of the most valuable tools for competitor keyword research, as it allows you to see not only what your competitors are ranking for, but what keywords they’re using in their pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. PPC keywords are important because they’ll show which keywords bring a positive return on investment (ROI).

SEMrush will also allow you to check each keyword for metrics like organic click-through rate (CTR), competition, and how difficult it is to rank for that keyword. 

SEMrush allows you to easily export all data in Excel, which you can add to your existing list.

Step 4: Uncover your keywords with targeted research

Now you’ve got an idea of what keywords are working for your competitors and your niche, you can start to expand those into long-tail keywords that work with the language your audience uses.

Thankfully, there are a lot of free tools available to help you with this. 

Free keyword research tool – AnswerThePublic

AnswerThePublic is one of the most comprehensive keyword research tools. It will take the keywords you provide, expand them into questions, and show related searches. 

how does answerthepublic work

 

Free keyword research tool – Soovle

Soovle uses a similar format, and it covers popular search engines like Google, Amazon, YouTube, and Yahoo!. Typing your keyword into this engine will give you the top searches for that keyword, which can help inspire you not only for what keywords to use but what content to create.

soovle keyword tool

The only downside of Soovle is that you can’t export the keywords, which is why at Digivate we use the paid tool Ahrefs that have similar but more advanced features.

Step 5: Group keywords by search intent

Once you’ve compiled a list of keywords using the techniques and tools we recommend in steps 1-4, you can begin organising them in a way that helps you decipher which will be the most valuable for you to pursue. 

The first option with this is to organise them by search intent. 

Search intent is the goal someone has in mind when they type something into Google search.

There are 3 main search intents: informational, transactional, and navigational.

search intent examples


It’s obvious that when users search for phrases beginning with “how to…” they’re looking for guides or tutorials, but there is often a lot more nuance that gets overlooked.

Can you guess what people want to find when they type in a word:

“Facebook”

“baseball”

“dresses with sleeves”

PRO TIP! You can easily find out search intent behind every keyword by typing it into Google search and analysing the 1st-page results.

In 2020, search engines like Google have built algorithms that are extremely efficient at identifying a user’s intention, so you can trust Google’s judgment on what the intent behind the keyword is by simply looking at SERPs (search engine results page).

My quick analysis shows that “Facebook” is a navigational query (i.e people want to find facebook.com page); “baseball” is an informational query (i.e people want to find out what is baseball, how it’s played, what are the world-known teams, etc); and the “dresses with sleeves” is a transactional query (i.e people want to buy a dress with sleeves there and then).

Why is search intent important?

Understanding what your audience is looking for when they search your keyword is crucial to improving your rankings. 

You don’t want to mistakenly create blog content that targets transactional keywords. Equally, you don’t want to try to rank for “Facebook” by writing the article “What is Facebook and how it works?” because this is not what people want when they search for “Facebook”.

Step 6: Group keywords by business value

This step is very similar to the one above but focuses more on how the keywords you’ve identified fit in with your business goals.

Now that you understand user intention, you can begin to narrow down your list of keywords that fit with how you want users to behave on your website.

As an example, let’s say your goal is to increase traffic and user engagement with your cooking website. This means you’ll want to focus on using keywords that have a high CTR and traffic but don’t necessarily have high revenue potential. With this in mind, you might focus on publishing more recipes and tutorials, and targeting very specific keywords like “vegan slow cooker recipes with chickpeas”.

While these keywords wouldn’t necessarily generate much revenue, you’ll potentially rank higher and generate more backlinks, which will increase your overall domain authority and as a result – make your site more visible for other more transactional terms going forward.

Step 7: Prioritise your keywords

This isn’t necessarily a step on its own as much as it is a process you’ll naturally go through as you do keyword research, but it’s worth mentioning that you should be noting the following things:

  • Estimated potential traffic
  • Competition
  • Estimated ROI of incoming traffic
  • Resource investment in ranking for that keyword

While some keywords might seem like a great choice, it’s usually the keywords with a high ROI that you want to target. 

This return on investment often looks different to every business, so it’s up to you to decide whether the keywords you’ve found through your research will work for your business. 

Summary: How to do keyword research and analysis in 2020

Keyword research is a vital part of your SEO strategy.

After all, keywords are what a user uses to find your website in the first place.

We hope this guide helped you to understand the value of keyword research and how to find out the intention behind the keywords, so you can create content that meets the expectations of your target audience.

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