In the past, keywords were crucial to search engine optimization (SEO). Times are a-changing, and now keywords are only one of the many factors for rankings. While they are still relevant, keywords should be researched alongside a variety of other optimization factors.
To get a page of content noticed, understand that what’s behind the keywords is just as important as the keywords themselves: Think demographics, personas and intent. Consider keywords carefully, but also keep in mind who’s behind the keyboard. Understanding your user can help you not only bring traffic to your site, but it can also impact who is coming to your site.
Regardless of the type of business you own, you have a target audience. With careful research, you can accurately predict their searches – as long as you understand that keywords aren’t powerful enough to justify your entire focus.
The ‘Why’ Behind the Search
Consider user intent. It’s all about why a person is looking – the motive behind their search. The why impacts what keywords are used. Like a detective, you must divine a motive for the search before you can understand how to use keywords.
Google understands the intent behind a user’s search. Try Googling “hair dye” as an example. What comes up is an option for a beauty supply chain store. Google assumes that the intent of your search is to make a purchase. If a user gets more specific and types in “hair dye effects,” the search results offer information on the correlation between hair dye and cancer risks. So by adding a single word, user intent changed – and Google picked up on it.
Basically, specific words that users choose for a search reveal their intent. This is valuable information, and your goal is to make your product or service match the intent and be the answer they need. Understanding audience intent will help you choose the right keywords and phrases to generate traffic on your site and for your business.
The ‘Who’ Behind the Query
Who is searching matters. People have different motives when searching, and this is why demographics matter so much. Demographics and personas are the details about a group of people or a specific person, such as:
- Who they are
- Where they’re from
- What their professions are
- What their likes and dislikes are
Obviously, demographics matter. They can tell you whether you should be putting ads on Snapchat or Facebook (depending on age). They can give insight into who is making the purchase. For example, men’s shoes may be the purchase, but women may be the purchaser. Do your keyword research with demographics in mind. It’ll pay off.
Personas are even more helpful in determining who’s on the other side of the search engine. Maybe you want to target 20-year-olds who stay up late to read books, or 30-year-old men who eat spaghetti. A persona is different than a demographic, as it’s more specific. It’s the details that make people who they are, and thereby explains the why behind their search.
Beware of the specific demographics you’re trying to reach because, depending on your keywords, you could miss your target audience. For example, your target demographic might be women combating hair loss. If “hair loss” is your keyword, you might find that the demographic searching “hair loss” is primarily men, so you’d then have to adjust your strategy.
Why Search Queries Matter
Queries are another topic to consider. This is different than a keyword search: It’s “Mexican food” versus “where to find good Mexican food.” Queries tie back to intent. They carry a specific purpose – much more so than keywords do.
Queries are often used by people who know exactly what they want, and there are different kinds of queries with different intentions. Queries are generally categorized as:
- Transactional, and
In other words, users are searching for one of the following: to find information, to make a purchase, or to find a specific website.
Understanding these different types of queries will assist you in navigating user intent and help lead you to a greater understanding of the demographics that are being led to your site.
Decide What Your Goals Are
Before you can understand demographics, personas and intent, you need to have a goal in mind. Increasing site traffic is probably one ambition, but what else?
What about sales? Gaining user awareness of your business? Multiplying ad clicks? These are all important goals to think about when establishing what you want to achieve through keyword research.
Your goals will inevitably assist you in deciding your course of action for keywords. Start putting your keywords in categories, and use them effectively. Perhaps your goal is sales and you want to use “money phrases.” Or maybe your goal is awareness, so you want to use specific phrases that your demographic is likely to use.
Money phrases matter, too. These are all about one thing: the sales funnel. An example of this is “shoe clearance.” Words that dictate selling (like “buy” and “sale”) are commonly used in money phrases.
Understanding the ‘Fully Meets’ Rating and SERPs
Search engines judge and rate websites by how well they meet their user’s needs. This goes back to the importance of intent. Because websites are rated this way, it means keywords must be used correctly and with user intent in mind to gain more traffic from the right demographics. Aim for a “Fully Meets” rating, which is when a site fulfills all of the user’s needs. This means that the user doesn’t need to see any other site.
Search engine results pages (SERPs) are important. Review them on a regular basis to understand how your keywords are functioning: Who is searching those keywords and why. SERPs will be paramount in your keyword research. By reviewing SERPs regularly for keywords you’re considering, you’ll begin to recognize trends and more closely deliver what users are searching for.
Talk to Your Team About Intent and Keywords
You don’t have to always turn to the web to gain an understanding of user intent and how it affects keywords. Your teammates, particularly in sales, probably have valuable information about your users and what their intentions are. Use this information to form an understanding of user needs and to create appropriate keywords. Ask your team about the questions they’re frequently asked.
Creating a help center on your site can be useful as well. Such a location will give you valuable data about what questions people are asking: Essentially, what is user intent? Use this crucial information to guide your keywords.
Keyword Research Is Not a One-Time Occurrence
Understand that to be effective, keyword research isn’t something that you do once and never return to. It’s an ongoing field of research that’s always changing. You’ll need to consistently review your keywords and queries to see how they are stacking up in search engine results. Look for relevance to user intent and if your keywords are still hitting the mark.
Deciphering keyword research could be as simple as, well, Googling it. Use Google to gain an understanding of user intent. The search engine is excellent at understanding the intent behind words and phrases. The results produced by typing in specific keywords or queries can give you an idea of user intent. And since Google’s algorithms are what guide all other search engines, what the company is doing matters – a lot.
Based on your search results, think about whether your own keywords are describing your product(s) and service(s) correctly. Are they relevant? Do they present an honest representation of your business and what you have to offer?
Those are questions you should be asking yourself when conducting keyword research. Then consider who’s searching for your services exactly the way you’re describing them through keywords. This is paramount. Answering this will enlighten you about user intent.
The Takeaway on Keyword Research in 2016
Keyword research is only one factor among many when conducting research on SEO. You want to not only understand user intent to increase traffic to your site, but to also increase traffic among the right demographic. Otherwise, users are visiting your site without utilizing your products or services – and you’re accomplishing little.
By taking advantage of relevant tools, such as your team members, SERPs and even Google itself, you’re setting yourself up to gain a strong understanding of how users find your site and what steps they take next.
If the keyword-research process sounds too daunting or complex for what you can take on right now, expert help is always available. Click to find out about Eminent SEO’s Keyword Research Services or call 800.871.4130 today.