Why is it important to categorise keywords around user intent?
Google appears to be increasingly engagement driven, i.e. a website ranks well on Google because the site has trust and authority given to it by Google. This trust and authority seems to be driven by a combination of very good web links and aggregated user engagement with a website.
Since key phrases are essentially questions, it means search results are essentially answers.
Users want the best answers to their questions (obviously) and so Google makes a great effort to give users what they want. If Google fails on this, they lose users and competitors win.
Based on the thinking behind Google quality rater guidelines 2014 , pages should have a purpose and the purpose of a page should be to answer the implicit questions users have.
By categorising key phrases, it makes it easier for you to organise content around the implicit questions users are asking.
Another way of looking at this is to think of the purpose of your webpage and how it helps users.
In iGaming for instance, affiliates are the commission only sales of the Internet. Most affiliates feel that Google hates them but… There are affiliates which rank extremely well on Google despite not even having very good inbound links. Why?
Because the purpose of their websites align very well with the implicit questions and answers that users want.
Freebets.com answers an implicit set of questions users have when they type in a phrase like ‘free bets’ :
- Do you have free bets I would like? – Yes
- Can I trust your website? – Yes
- Is the site fast and easy to navigate? – Yes
The purpose of the site is very closely aligned with the answers a user wants when they ask a question like: ‘free bets’
Because this site does a good job, it’s engaged with and Google will rank it more highly because it trusts this site.
That’s why it’s really important to categorise key phrases around the kind of activity people are interested in, the stage in the buying cycle they are at and the implicit questions users are asking.
Keywords represent three main activities:
A user wants to get to a webpage or website by using a search engine because they can’t remember the full URL.
A user wants to get more background information on a particular subject
A user is intent on buying a product or service
Keywords also have implicit questions are sitting behind them.
High-level thinking on key phrases: every key phrase is a question and every question has other related questions associated with it.
These questions will probably have one or more of these elements:
Keywords also represent various stages of the buying cycle:
This purchase funnel goes from ‘cold’ to ‘hot’.
On the ‘cold’ end, users are driven by a need, i.e. they need to buy a service or product in order to fulfil a requirement. Perhaps somebody needs a new pair of shoes, and they want those shoes to be comfortable and breathable. Therefore they might search using this phrase: ‘men’s shoes breathable’ and from there they’ll have lots of choices.
In the ‘warm’ part of the cycle, the user might see that GEOX shoes have a patented breathable membrane on the sole of the shoe which makes it very comfortable to wear even in hot conditions. The user also shortlists a series of websites where they could buy the shoes from.
In the hot part of the cycle, the user goes to website which has lots of GEOX shoes at competitive prices and cheap delivery. Then it’s just a case of finding the right shoe with the right size.
This funnel below explains the funnel visually:
Finally, there is keyword selection.
Google keyword tool makes it easy for you to do keyword research around particular subjects. It then gives you cost per click by search volume data, which helps you understand which phrases have the highest search volumes, along with the highest commercial value which is represented by cost per click.
If you’re selling a product or service, users will evaluate you before making a decision so it’s important to have content that helps them shortlist you for the final part of the buying cycle.
In other words, if you just have a landing page with a good offer, but no supporting information then you will find your conversion rates plummeting because users will not have been able to evaluate you properly.
This is where content marketing plays a part. The underlying assumption with content marketing is that users have questions and if you can give them answers, you will ultimately create brand loyalty and increase conversions of the other end of the buying cycle. Of course, it’s critical the answers you give are related to the purpose of your product or service.
For example, it’s a nice idea for GEOX to write a blog post about trousers people use when hiking, but it doesn’t really answer any questions about the hiking shoes that GEOX offer… In other words relevance is key, but above that answering questions buyers have that leads them to purchase is critical.
Putting it all into practice:
Pick a subject… Any one will do. I have used the keyword ‘breathable shoes’
Google has come up with a set of categorisations for related key phrases. That’s very helpful, because it saves me lots of time.
I download the file as Excel
And I create an extra column called CPC x Vol. this is where I multiply the cost per click by search volume to get a single sortable figure.
I then sort the phrases by ad group, then CPC x Vol so the most valuable phrases are at the top of each ad group list.
And by conditionally formatting the CPC x VOL column column so the highest value cells are green and the lowest are red, I can easily see how valuable a particular phrase is.
Not many people look for breathable shoes, but if they see some content which answers the implicit questions they have around breathable shoes, they will probably click on it… engage with it and help to sell a suitable breathable shoe.
What are the implicit questions:
- How do they work?
- Who does breathable shoes?
- Which are the best ones?
- How much do they cost?
- Where can I buy a pair?
If the keyword something completely different like ‘online casino’, Google will also give me some very useful categorisations:
- Online Casino
- Online Slots
- Online Poker
- Mobile Casino
- Online Gambling
- Casino Bonus
- Live Casino
- Best Casino
It’s then a case of going through the lists and marking out any keywords that just shouldn’t be there.
Then you can categorise each group based on the part of the buying cycle there in when they ask a particular question
The categorisation structure is like this:
- Vague Consideration – ‘how’ / [topic area] / ‘which’
- General Consideration – ‘reviews’ / ‘best’ / [topic area]
- Active Consideration – ‘comparison’ / ‘[name of brand]’ and/or [‘product’]
- High Purchase Intent – user knows product or service, and searches out vendors
- Buying – they have made the decision and they want a frictionless experience.
Google will often categorise groups of phrases around modifiers like ‘buy’ or ‘best’. So, if there’s a group called ‘buy [keyword]’ , obviously it’s a high intent ‘buy’ phrase.
And if it’s a group called ‘best [keyword]’ , then it’s a general consideration/research phrase where people want to see comparison information.
Vague Consideration – ‘how’ / [topic area] / ‘which’
- Can you give me more background information?
- What sort of general product or service is right for me?
General Consideration – ‘reviews’ / ‘best’ / [topic area]
- What should I choose?
- Who should I choose?
- What is the best value?
- Is there anything I should be wary of?
Active Consideration – ‘comparison’ / ‘[name of brand]’ and/or [‘product’]
- Is this the right product/service?
- Which seller gives me the best value?
High Purchase Intent – user knows product or service, and searches out vendors
- What variation of the product or service should I buy?
Buying – they have made the decision and they want a frictionless experience.
- Get me through the purchase funnel quickly and easily. ?
Once you work to this framework, it easy to organise content around particular themes and questions.
The next task is answering the implicit questions people have, around the keywords you want to rank for.
For example the search results for ‘breathable shoes’ on google.co.uk
The implicit questions:
- show me breathable shoes
- I want to compare different shoes
- which are the best shoes
- how much do they cost
- where is the best place to buy them
Ranking number one is GEOX who have a patient technology to make shoes very breathable
Here is the page that ranks number one:
And are ranking number two is a detailed explanation of how the GEOX breathable shoe technology works
By building a brand around comfort and breathability, GEOX easily answer the implicit questions users have around breathable shoes.
On the first search result they give you choices for shoes, on the second search result GEOX explain in detail how their breathable technology works, answering whole set of other questions around whether as a user I should buy into this.
The third search result is for hi-tec and some breathable shoes they produce
There is a consistent pattern with Google these days. The sites which do the best job in answering the implicit questions users have, rank best.
Finally, to reinforce this point you should have a go at this little fun test from Linkdex
It shows you two pages and asks you to guess which one gets the most search from organic traffic. Generally, you’ll find the best sites get the most traffic.
What does this mean? That Google is very good at identifying sites which answer questions that people have. That’s why it’s worth categorising keywords around both the buying cycle and the implicit questions they ask.
Then you can be very clear on what content to produce in order to be as relevant and useful as possible to users. In turn, as long as you have sufficient link equity, you have more chance of ranking than your competition.