How Search Intent Determines Your SEO
Search intent is something that isn't talked about very much by many SEO companies, but it can impact your SEO in a major way. Have you ever searched for something in Google but couldn't find what you were looking for? It's as if website owners, and even Google itself, is not understanding what your intent is.
This can be very frustrating for users. When you design websites, and then market those sites, you have to keep this in mind. Take "insurance," for example. If you run an insurance website, you have to know what your users want. If you write articles on car insurance, life insurance, or even homeowners insurance, there are specific keywords that your potential site visitors will use to get to your website.
If you set up your SEO strategy so that "insurance" is your target keyword, you'll have to work really hard to get ranked for that keyword. The problem is that "insurance" doesn't tell you anything about what your site visitors are looking for. Are they looking for quotes so that they can buy a policy? Are they "tire kickers?" Do they want to buy a policy 6 months from now?
You don't know what your potential visitors want when you target a keyword like "insurance." When you get more specific with your targeting, this idea becomes more clear. For example, if you targeted "buy homeowners policy," you could be reasonably sure that people searching for "buy homeowners policy" want to buy a homeowners policy. If they search for "cheap life insurance," that pretty much means that people are actively searching for a life insurance policy.
People tend not to search for something like "cheap life insurance" unless they are ready to buy. The principle to understand here is to optimize your keywords for profitability, not visitor volume. There is a school of thought that claims that getting the maximum number of visitors to your website, for keywords related to your niche is the best way to dominate your niche.
However, what if none of those visitors converts into dollars and cents? What if you're left with a lot of visitors using up bandwidth looking for freebies? Why not seek out a smaller number of visitors, but do a better job of targeting the traffic?
Visitors can be divided into 2 basic camps. First, you have non-profitable visitors. These visitors are people searching for things like recipes, research for homework, gossip-type stuff and entertainment or news, or both. Some of these people are basically just killing time. There's no commercial potential there.
The other type of visitor has commercial potential. These people are searching for shopping-related phrases, "Do It Yourself" projects (DIY), or they're looking for travel-related topics or they're looking to solve a problem that involves buying something.
Now, just because you target "buying" keywords doesn't mean you're targeting keywords that will make you money right now. Some keywords, like "Nike shoes lowest price," "cheap Nike shoes," "discount Nike shoes online," or "buy Nike shoes" are all "hot" keywords. If people are searching for any product, and their search includes modifiers like "cheap," "discount," "lowest price," or "buy," these represent keywords that have the highest probability of paying off for you right now.
Other buying keywords are more research oriented. For example, "how to fix a leaky pipe," may not result in an immediate sale because the visitor is trying to gather information about how to fix a leaky pipe. You can nudge the visitor a bit by offering products related to fixing a leaky pipe, but the visitor is clearly researching the "how to" part first. Don't take this to mean that these keywords are inferior to "hot" keywords. A site like "askthebuilder.com" relies entirely on these research-type keywords, and Tim (the owner) makes a very good income from Google's Adsense program.
At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself "if I were the end-user, what would be in this for me?" Better yet, ask the question directly: "what's in it for me?" If you can look at your website as a site visitor, rather than the webmaster, it will help you design the site so that it's useful for your real site visitors.
Also, don't be obsessed with offering just one product or solution. Different users have different needs. Be mindful of that. Some users may want the cheapest solution to a given problem. Other users may want the highest quality. Offer several solutions for your website visitors. Of course, some keywords speak to a specific price level, like "cheap life insurance." In cases like these, the answer is obvious. Offer them quotes for term life insurance using a quote engine.
Shooting for fewer visitors may seem counter-intuitive, but who cares about that if your closing ratio goes up and your net profit increases?