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How Does User Intent Affect Keyword Research?

Writing by Nick Stamoulis in Keyword Research


Quick question—what’s the difference between running shoes, gym shoes and tennis shoes? Are the three terms relatively interchangeable or do they have very specific meanings to you? That right there is user intent. When an avid tennis player searches for “tennis shoes” they are expecting to find a very specific product. A mom looking for new shoes to for when her kids go back to school might search using “tennis shoes” even though her kids don’t actually play tennis. They both used the same search phrase to look for different things. Is your site optimized to take user intent into account?

Keyword research and selection is actually a lot harder than most website owners think it is. It has taken me years to zero in on exactly the right language for my own site based on how my target audience searches. For instance, someone looking for an SEO consultant and someone looking for an SEO company don’t actually want the same thing. A website owner looking to hire an SEO consultant is usually interested in getting someone to audit their site and current SEO campaign and provide recommendations to take it to the next level. A website owner looking for an SEO company is usually interested in hiring someone to manage their SEO entirely. It’s a subtle difference but dramatically affects the kind of language I use on my website and those individual pages.

When choosing keywords for their site, many site owners often select the keywords with the highest search volume. More searches mean more visitors mean more revenue, right? Well it also means more competition and room for interpretation. For example, if someone searches for “pizza” are they looking for a local pizza restaurant, a pizza recipe, or pizza places reviews? These broad search terms, things like “consulting firm” or “computer help” can take on a variety of meanings based on the user intent. Your site might not be attracting the right audience because your keywords aren’t specific enough.

I’m not saying that website owners shouldn’t target broad search terms. If you just glance over my site it’s very obvious that “SEO” is a top keyword, but I also target keyword phrases like “SEO training,” “Boston SEO company” and “full service SEO solutions” to help attract a more targeted visitor. Someone searching just for “SEO” could be looking for the definition of SEO, SEO guidebooks, how to become an SEO professional and much more. It all boils down to what they are looking for when they search. You want to make sure your site is focused on targeting the right visitor with the right keywords that take their intent into account.

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