Here’s an important question to consider: In the world of search engine optimization (SEO), what’s worse than not ranking on the first page of Google for your desired keyword?  You can’t do any worse than that right?

Wrong! You can actually do much worse.

The answer is investing time and money to rank on the first page of Google for keywords that do not result in sales.  That is much worse because SEO is a longer term investment so you could waste months or even years going after keywords that do not generate revenue.

In this article, I’ll explain a critical SEO concept to help you avoid that fate.  The concept is called…  “Search Intent.”

use search intent to guide your SEO strategy

2 Main Types of Search Intent

Behind every keyword is what’s called “search intent.”  To understand search intent you need to put yourself in the shoes of the person searching for the keyword you’re considering for your SEO.  Then answer the question, “What is this person really looking for?

As you go through this exercise, you’ll find that most keywords fall into two categories of search intent:

  1. Research-intent
  2. Buying-intent

As you can guess, research-intent keywords are the phrases people type into Google when conducting research.  For example, when my Achilles tendon started to hurt as I increased my marathon training, I searched for “achilles tendon pain.”  That search led me to several articles about the causes and cures for Achilles tendon pain.

Buying-intent keywords are the phrases people type into Google in order to find products or services to buy.  In my example, it didn’t take long before I learned there are products like Achilles supports and braces, as well as services like podiatrists.  I didn’t need those products or services, but if I did then I would search again for “Achilles supports” or “NYC podiatrists.”  See how those 2 example keywords have much more buying-intent than my original search for “achilles tendon pain”?

OK, now that we understand search intent, we need to adjust our SEO strategy based on this information.

Initially, Focus Your SEO on Buying-Intent Keywords

Ultimately, the goal of SEO is to drive sales, not to rank in Google.  With that in mind, it’s best to focus your SEO efforts on the buying-intent keywords rather than research-intent keywords.

Again, the worst-case scenario with SEO is that you invest time and money to rank your website for keywords that don’t drive any sales.

Now, this does not mean you should ignore research-intent keywords.  There can still be a lot of value in ranking for those keywords as well, but I recommend you focus initially on ranking for the relevant buying-intent keywords.  To do this, you will optimize your product or service pages so they are 100% relevant for the buying-intent keywords you want to target.

After you’re done optimizing your product or service pages for the buying-intent keywords, it’s time to expand to research-intent keywords using a slightly different approach.

Widen Your Marketing Funnel With Research-Intent Keywords

As mentioned above, targeting buying-intent keywords is straight forward because you simply optimize the relevant product or service page on your website.  To target research-intent keywords, you’ll likely need to create new pages.  In many cases, it’s best to create a new section on your website that includes relevant and informative articles optimized for research-intent keywords in your industry.  This could either be a standalone section (such as a “Resource Center”) or it could be a traditional blog.

By targeting these additional keywords, you will effectively widen your marketing funnel so you capture prospects earlier in the sales cycle.  For example, when I was researching my Achilles tendon pain, I didn’t know about all the different Achilles braces and wraps on the market.

After I completed my research, then guess which product I’m more likely to buy if I determine I need additional help?  You got it, I’m more likely to purchase from the business that published the helpful information that I was reading.  In other words, by publishing information optimized for research-intent keywords, you’ll be able to reach prospects before they even know they need your product or service.

Of course, there is a catch to make this work…

You Need a Lead Magnet

To effectively convert research-intent SEO traffic into sales, you’ll need to capture the contact info of those visitors and follow up with a pitch for your product or service.   If you fail to capture contact info, then you may end up educating a prospective customer who then leaves your website to make a purchase from a competitor.

The best way to capture contact information is to use what we call a Lead Magnet.  A lead magnet is a valuable piece of content like a guide or checklist (for example, our SEO checklist), or a coupon that is only available by completing a form.  Once you’ve collected the prospect’s email address, then you can follow up with more information about your product or service to try to close the sale.

As you can see, your approach to SEO depends on the search intent of the keywords you want to rank for.  First, optimize your product or service pages for the buying-intent keywords.  Then optimize informational pages for research-intent keywords and use a lead magnet to convert researchers into buyers.

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