A commercial companies’ choice of keywords to focus on in their site’s content, or the terms they purchase in a PPC campaign, are normally balanced between the relative popularity of the terms and the strength of the competition for those them.

And while these still remain very valid indicators of what people are likely to type in, they can also risk ignoring the behaviour of your target market, especially if we don’t understand the reason that they’re using a particular keyword.

It can be easy to forget that, at the end of the day, the internet is a consumer market just like everything else, and one of the few things that change is people’s idea of profit.

A search engine marketing campaign, for example, might consider a range of indicators such as organic traffic, conversions, search engine rankings or straight forward ROI.

Keywords Are All About Context

It’s not just about people visiting your site though, it’s about the right people visiting. The key is trying to understand where the searcher is coming from, and how they think. This is called a mental model.

Often, keywords are popular because they have a broad range of definitions or associated interest. For example, the search term “repairing windows,” although a medium-tail keyword, could refer to the repair of car windows, windows in buildings, or the operating system. All three belong to completely separate industries.

Focusing on broad or unspecific keywords forces your site to compete for rankings with a much bigger index of sites.

Determining Intent

The conversions from your web traffic can often come down to a difference in word order or the use of the plural. Most of all, these nuances can determine the intent of the searcher.

Informational Searches

The majority search queries fall into this category. The user is just trying to find some general information and perhaps some comparisons on the product they’re interested in. This can lead to a conversion but one shouldn’t count to heavily on it.

They normally use very broad terms or plurals to return lists, or follow the term with a qualifier like “models”.

Navigational Searches

This means that the user is looking for a specific site or page but can’t recall the URL or website name. It also frequently happens when the user is not practised enough to use the address bar instead of the search page, or can’t be bothered to type out the full address.

They tend to use branded keywords or long-tail terms, so you shouldn’t worry too much about optimising around them.

Transactional Searches

The money keywords, so to speak. This indicates that the user is ready to purchase but is looking for the right price or company.

They do know what they want but they still tend to use very broad keywords. These are dominated by bigger e-commerce websites. They key is to catch them earlier in the process, and keep your conversion funnel tight.

Qualitative and Quantitative Research

So, while keyword analytics will definitely improve your business, If you want a competitive advantage you’ll have to approach your search engine marketing strategy the same way you approach any marketing strategy.

Don’t just try to understand how many times people are typing in a keyword, but what’s motivating them to type in those keywords. What are their demographics, where are they in the buying cycle, and how do people react emotionally to certain keywords.