Keyword Strategy: A User-Centric Approach to Keyword Research

Keywords are still a critical part of running an eCommerce site, but if you’re not taking search intent into account, then you’re not going to see the best possible conversion rate.

The simple truth of the matter is that blindly adding keywords won’t help your website succeed – you need to have a specific objective for each keyword, and you can create that objective by following this keyword research strategy.

Stage One: Defining Your Objective

What, exactly, are you trying to accomplish when you bring someone to your site? Are you…

  • Looking to increase the number of leads that look at your marketing material?
  • Trying to increase your brand awareness and get people to think of you?
  • Looking for new subscribers who can start receiving your newsletter?

Hint: If your objective includes the word “sales”, you’re doing it wrong. That’s a later part of the sales funnel, and you should be focused exclusively on issues like three listed above.

Stage Two: Define Your Primary Audience And Build A Buyer Persona

Next, it’s time to think about who you’re actually trying to bring to your site. For example…

  • Are your primary customers experienced with the industry?
  • Do they understand technical jargon, or would simpler language be better?
  • What kind of lifestyle do they have? Are they usually up and moving around, or are they typically laid back and relaxed?
  • What is their income level, and how much of their money are you trying to obtain?
  • What pain points do they have, and can your product help alleviate those?

Now it’s very easy to get delusional when it comes to this, most people confuse between “creating a buyer persona” and “creating a ideal buyer”. It’s very important to be honest when creating a buyer persona. You want to make sure you don’t invent the person you want to sell to – figure out what your potential customers actually care about and go from there.

For example, if your audience love your competitor’s product, then it doesn’t help to imagine them loving yours. Instead take that as an insight and work from there.

You want to be asking yourself all these questions.

You want to be asking yourself all these questions.

Stage Three: Analyze Your Competitor’s Marketing Strategy

Once you know your goals and who you’re trying to target, it’s time to figure out how well your competitors are doing.

Start by observing their methods. See what tricks they’re using for advertising, find out what keywords they’re focusing on, and ask how you could do better.

Take the time to compare their strategy to your own. You want to have as much information as possible when you’re creating your own business plan.

Stage Four: Understand Your Audience’s Search Intent

This is the important one. Nobody just enters keywords and browses around for no reason at all – there’s always an intent behind the search, and matching this intent is what brings massive numbers of visitors to your site.

There are three major types of search intent you should know about:

The three pillars of search intent

  • Informational: The searcher’s goal is to learn something by visiting a web page. For example, they may enter “How to Fix a Shower” because they’re suddenly not getting any water in the morning, and your response would be a step-by-step guide to identifying common shower problems and resolving them. Informational searches can be further broken down into these categories:

    • Direct Questions: The searcher know exactly what they’re asking and what the answer would look like.
    • Undirected Question: The searcher wants to know as much as possible about the topic.
    • List Seeker: The searcher wants a list of options that they can choose from.
    • Finder: They’re trying to locate a specific person, place, or item in the real world.
  • Navigational: In these searches, the person behind the keyboard is searching for a specific URL or other directory that will help them locate what they want. These searches are usually performed because they know who they want to visit, but don’t know where, exactly, that is.

    Navigational searches can also be made to either Informative sites or Transactions (below). In all cases, the key to keep in mind is that the user is navigating because they want to do something else. They’re actively involved, which makes them great potential leads if you can catch their interest.

  • Transactional: Here, searchers are looking to make a transaction and exchange something. People who want to buy your product are quite literally the best possible candidates, so finding out which searches are made with this intent is key. Transactional searches can be broken down into the following:

    • Obtaining: The searcher wants to obtain a specific item.
    • Downloading: The goal is to download something to their computer, tablet, or smartphone.
    • Interactive: They want to interact with the results somehow and perform further actions.

Let’s look at some examples of how each of these could be used. Earlier, we mentioned broken showers as a potential subject for informative searches.

In the Navigational category, customers might be searching for your business, Generic Shower Fixing Company, after remembering an advertisement. They’d like to see your offer, so they input your name into the search engine.

For a Transactional search, they actually want to hire you. They honestly don’t need to be sold on your material – they just want to get their issue resolved as fast as possible, and would appreciate easy navigation straight to your contact or appointment-making page.

Here’s a quick questionnaire to get you started:

  • What are you offering?
  • What kind of searches would people make if they wanted your item?
  • Is a given page (such as a landing page or a blog post) focused on being reached by a specific kind of search, or are your pages looking a bit generic?
  • If customers aren’t searching with the intent to buy, how can you change their minds?

To keep the Broken Shower example going, you could address an informational search by providing a guide, then mention that Tool X is important for fixing showers and you can help them find the closest store that stocks it.

It is also important to have a prominent CTA to guide your transactional visitors.

For example, if you are targeting transactional keyword, make sure to have a prominent CTA (like the yellow buttons above) to guide your transactional visitors.

Stage Five: Coming Up With Keywords

Now that you’re finally done identifying search intent, it’s time to start researching keywords that will bring people in. There are two tools you’re going to use.

Start with Keywords Tool – this is a free program that generates a large list of relevant long-tail keywords that you can copy down. The real value of this program is that it creates these keywords by using Google Autocomplete, so the majority of them are relevant.

Once you have these keywords, use Google’s Keyword Planner to obtain more information about each one, such as what kind of search volume and competition it has.

Do not use Keyword Planner on its own. It’s primarily meant to be used for Google AdWords, and keywords that work well in AdWords aren’t necessarily the best keywords to use for SEO.

Now, you may have already noticed that Keyword Tool will offer you a variety of long-tail keywords. There are a few reasons for this, including:

  • Most short tail keywords are highly competitive, since they’ve been in use for a long time.
  • Users are growing more adept at using search engines, and the longer a keyword is, the more specific it tends to be.
  • It’s easier to understand the intent behind a long-tail keyword, which makes it easier to appeal to the people searching for it.
  • Long-tail keywords tend to have less competition, in part because there are so many variations.
Long tail keywords generally work better in today's highly competitive environment.

Long tail keywords generally work better in today’s highly competitive environment.

In short, it’s generally better to focus on long-tail keywords that you can work into your content.

A popular kind of long-tail search is the location-based query. For example, if the searcher is trying to find that tool to fix their shower, they might search for “Hardware Store in Citysville”.

Getting a local listing on SERP is also extremely helpful when you are targeting location based keywords.

Getting a local listing on SERP is also extremely helpful when you are targeting location based keywords.

Stage Six: Integrating The Keywords Into Your Content

Once you’ve reached this stage in your content marketing process, things are nice and straightforward.

The idea is to write a piece of content that revolves around a specific keyword and directly addresses the buyer persona you created earlier.

It’s important to work the keywords into your content in a natural way – don’t just stuff the keyword in wherever it fits when you can create a single, well-polished article. For example, the information you’re reading right now is all about keyword strategy – and those two words are the keywords we focused on to bring you here.

Keywords should also be spaced fairly evenly throughout your article – if you’re having to write them over and over in the same paragraph to get things to fit, you’ve got a problem. It is always better to focus on writing outstanding content.

You can also use Latent Semantic Indexing – that’s too much to cover here, but SEOPressor has some good information and a tool to help you do it.

Stage Seven: Measuring the Results

First thing first, you want to be tracking your keywords’ performance. And if possible, you also want to know every single keyword that actually ranks and brings you traffics.

The latter was probably extremely difficult, at least before the born of RankReveal. But now that we have RankReveal, it’s getting pretty straightforward. Tell us your domain and we will do the rest of the job. Now I don’t want to turn this into a sales-pitch, so just head over to our homepage and check us out.

Google Analytics – is another great tool you will need for this – allows you to group content into specific categories to obtain more information on how they perform in relation to each other and other categories.

This is a phenomenally powerful tool, and you should be using it. Content groups can help you observe things like which sources ultimately lead to the best conversion rate, what visitors are most interested in doing on specific pages, and where people with each type of search intent are likely to go.

For those who are not familiar with Google Analytic’s content grouping, Moz did an awesome cover of the topic. You can find detailed steps to deploy your GA’s content grouping here:

Google Analytic content grouping is an awesome way to gain insights into how your content perform.

Google Analytic content grouping is an awesome way to gain insights into how your content perform.

The final goal is to measure the return on investment for the effort you put into creating content that revolves around search intent.

Remember to measure by how well you achieved your original objective, rather than focusing on things like exact sale numbers. To measure an increased number of leads, for example, you might look at how many people are signing up for your newsletter.

The last thing I want to mention here is, there’s a good chance when you first start out that visitors will be going all over the place and you’ll have a jumbled mess of data. Don’t worry about this.

No, seriously, don’t worry. Just improve your keyword strategy over time and that will fix itself.

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Updated: 27/5/15


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