Keyword Research Blog:

What are keywords?

Keywords are the words, terms or phrases that people type into search engines to find results. Whether you’re trying to grow your web traffic organically using keyword SEO, or are paying to rank for keywords with PPCs (pay-per-clicks), choosing effective keywords is key.

SEO Keyword research and PPC keyword research take very different approaches, and while there are benefits to both, it’s important to understand what these benefits are and what will best serve your business.

The biggest difference between Keyword SEO and PPCs is keyword intent, i.e. the purpose of the user when making their websearch. We explore the benefits of Keyword SEO and PPCs below, as well as keyword intent, so you can choose what works for you.

Keyword Research SEO vs. Paid Ad Keyword Research:

You’ve probably seen pay-per-click ads before. They are the ads that appear at the top search results with a little ‘Ad’ icon beside them.

With PPC’s, you choose the keyword that you want to rank for. This means that when someone Googles the keyword you’ve chosen, your ad appears at the top of the search results. By paying to appear at the top of search results, you bypass other websites. If you’ve chosen your keywords effectively, and considered the keyword intent, you’re more likely to make sales and conversions. However, if you’re using the wrong keywords, PPC’s aren’t going to work for you.

Consider a general keyword like ‘how to SEO.’ Is it likely that the person searching for this term is looking to make a purchase? Maybe not, they may just be doing some research. If you aren’t strategic with the keywords you use, you might actually end up losing money. A search term that is too general is likely to get a lot of clicks, but this doesn’t necessarily mean a sale. Remember, when somebody clicks on your ad, you pay for it, so you need them to be making sales. This is where understanding search intent comes in, which we are going to explore in a little while.

First, let’s explore Keyword SEO. Unlike PPCs, ranking for keywords organically is free and, if done correctly, can deliver enduring results. If you want to build a truly authoritative online presence, then ranking organically is a must. However, unlike PPCs, to rank a website naturally takes time and patience. The focus isn’t so much on making sales, but rather gaining traffic. This is done by creating rich content that you know will engage your customers. This might be in the form of blogs, videos, or the information you give on your website.

What is search intent?

The search intent is the user’s intention when they perform a web search and is Google’s prime focus when deciding how to rank pages for SERP. A user might be looking for somewhere to eat, to find a plumber to fix a leaking pipe or may simply want to find out more about a certain topic. The primary focus of this blog, for example, is to give you the information you need to perform keyword research. If users aren’t clicking on results in the search page, it indicates to Google that the information isn’t relevant. It’s therefore important to match intent with content.

To get a good return-on-ad-spend with a PPC campaign, you need to be strategic, carefully considering the user’s intent. As we’ve mentioned, the clue is in the title; pay-per-click. If people are clicking, but not buying, you’re losing money. Using keywords with a large search volume isn’t necessarily going to make you loads of sales. So, let’s explore the different types of online buyer intent.

There are four types of buyer intent online. These are:

1. Informational
2. Preferential/Commercial Investigation
3. Transactional
4. Navigational

1. Informational:

This one is pretty self-explanatory and is the most common form of search intent. Internet users with this intent are online looking for information on a specific topic. Examples include any question you might ask Google such as ‘what is the weather today?’ and ‘how many people live in New York?’ Informational intent searches don’t necessarily take the form of a question either. You might simply type ‘Martin Luther King’ into Google hoping to find more information on his life.

2. Preferential/Commercial Investigation:

Oftentimes at the beginning of a buyer’s journey they do online research. They might look up a product or service, to see what reviews say, what the price is or what the procedure is for buying. The preferential/commercial investigation comes when they know what they are going to buy, as in the type of product, but aren’t sure where or who they are going to buy from. A user with this intent is comparing various brands to find what works best for them. Examples of this kind of search are ‘best place to buy sustainable clothes’ or ‘best camping gear’. The user is literally asking the internet to hand them the ‘best’ deal and result.

3. Transactional:

By this stage, the user knows exactly what they want to buy. They’ve done their research and they’ve chosen the brand that they want. Their intention to buy is high and they are looking for the right place to make their purchase. They might google ‘Converse High-tops’ or ‘Apple Airpods,’ before choosing a company.

4. Navigational:

These searchers know exactly which website they are looking for. However, they may not know the exact URL and so instead use keywords and/or specific search terms relating to the website, such as its name or the brands it sells. Examples are ‘Adidas gazelles,’ ‘YouTube’ or ‘Pinterest’.

Low and high intent keywords:

Next you need to think about whether a keyword has a low or high buyer intent. If the intent is low then it’s not going to work for PPC, because users aren’t ready to buy.

Low intent keywords are broad and informational. An example is ‘PPCs versus Keyword SEO’. In this case it’s likely that a user is looking for information, rather than a service or product. These keywords work well for things like blog posts, but not if you want to make a sale.

A high intent keyword, on the other hand, looks like this: ‘Best SEO agency.’ High intent, or high value, keywords work well for PPCs. Because your ad will appear at the top of search results, a high value keyword is likely to catch the attention of someone already looking to make a purchase. This can be especially useful for small companies, who don’t have as much incoming traffic yet, as it allows them to compete with bigger and more established companies.

While low intent keywords don’t work for PPCs, they can be very useful for SEO. Because SEO doesn’t cost, it doesn’t matter how many clicks you get without making a sale, you’re not going to lose money. Low intent keywords can be used in blogs and other forms of content that give the user a taste of what you do.

A user may not be ready to buy just yet, but if you can provide them with compelling enough content, it’s likely they will remember you for the future. If you’re running an effective keyword SEO campaign users with a low intent will eventually transform into people who want to buy from you. Although slower, this organic traffic is more beneficial in the long-run, as it serves as a solid basis for future growth.

So how do you determine search intent?

1. Look at keyword modifiers:

Keyword modifiers are words attached to your main keyword, which makes it more specific. ‘Buy’ is an example of a modifier, e.g. ‘Buy a harddrive online.’ ‘Harddrive’ is the keyword and ‘buy’ and ‘online’ are the modifiers.

There are a range of ways to find modifiers, including several useful research tools such as:
? SE Ranking
? SEMRush
You can use their filter tools to look for terms that include modifiers/phrases, that help determine intent.

2. Read the SERPs in each case

This is a quick, easy and free way to research search intent. All you do is type the relevant search terms into Google to see what the search engine considers most important. You can try this with informational, preferential/commercial, transactional, and navigational search intent in turn, to see what type of information comes back.

In the case of informational, you’ll notice photos, snippets of information from sources like Wikipedia, and related questions. SERP results for navigational intent, on the contrary, will feature a specific website at the top, as the user already knows they want to visit this site and this site only.

Ignore the paid adverts that appear, however, as Google may display an ad that is not 100% relevant. Focus instead on the websites that rank organically and how their information is displayed by Google.

In the example you can see someone looking for “best apples trees for sale” is looking for information about the best apple trees however adverts are appearing – a product page will never rank well from an organic perspective.

3. An integrated approach:

In order to get the best results, you should be using both of these methods. Simply using SERP to determine buyer intent won’t be sufficient as search terms often have more than one intent or meaning.

Consider ‘boots’ as a term for example. This could refer to Boots the pharmacy, or a pair of boots.

How terms appear in SERP depends on the information that’s available, so be aware and use other tools, like those that we’ve mentioned above, in conjunction with SERP research.

How to optimise for search intent:

1. Include your keywords in metadata and content:

So, once you’ve identified your keywords you need to insert them into your content and metadata. Metadata is data that offers information about your other data, i.e. your content. For example, a meta description gives Google an idea of what your blog post is about so it knows where to place you in search rankings.

You can start by inserting keywords into your title tag, H1 and H2s (your headings and subheadings). Writing a catchy title is more likely to increase your CTR (click-through rate), so try to find a balance between information and intrigue.

2. Look at the competition’s content:

Before starting to write content, it’s a good idea to Google your keywords and see what the posts that rank highest offer to web users. Look at the tone, formatting, information and where they fall short. You can then use this as a guide to create more compelling content, to ensure you have a competitive edge.

3. Match search intent to formatting for SERP results:

As we’ve mentioned above, depending on the search intent, search results will look different. If the search is informational, for example, Google might come back with snippets from a Wikipedia article, or a list of bullet points with the relevant steps for a specific task. Say for instance you want to learn how to make curtains and you do a general search. Depending on how you frame your question you might get a video tutorial as the top result, or a number list with the steps clearly laid out.

Google rewards content that is well formatted, so if it’s relevant, include things like number lists, bullet points and video/visual content.

Also, be sure to check the related questions in SERPs. If you can answer these with your content, you are even more likely to rank!

Difficulty Score:

A keyword difficulty score determines how hard it will be to rank a keyword on Google. The higher the score, the harder to rank.Difficulty scores are based on the stats from the first 10 websites in Google results giving you an insight into what you will need to rank a webpage.

Difficulty scores are based on a number of factors, including
? the number of links
? website size
? web page’s authority
? quality of their content

A lot of tools will tell you what difficulty ranking you need to target but for a lot of smaller sites I’d suggest under 25 or 30 at a push when starting off.

Below is a screenshot of what Difficulty score looks like in SE Ranking

PPC or SEO? A summary:

If your goal is to establish an authoritative online presence, ideally you should focus on optimising your keywords with SEO. Keyword SEO produces more traffic, which can lead to greater brand awareness and sales, leads and conversions over time.

Your strategy in this instance is to produce high quality content, in the form of blogs, videos, etc. that is relevant to your business and includes plenty of keywords, both with high and low intent. As you don’t have to pay for the terms you want to rank for, you can use as many relevant keywords as you like.

Having said that, there are definite benefits to PPCs, especially for small companies who are starting out and don’t have the online authority to compete with other giants of the trade. The right keywords turn into sales, so choose wisely. Don’t include any keyword with a low buyer intent, as this is going to cost you money.

Hopefully this has given you an insight into PPCs and Keyword SEO, so you can choose a strategy that works for you. Remember, in both cases it is effective keywords that are going to make the difference, so spend time researching and using the tools we have mentioned above.