What Consultants Need to Understand About Keyword Research
As a consultant, you already know that keyword research is a critical part of SEO and paid search marketing tactics. But the way in which you need to undertake keyword research has shifted a lot over the years.
Google and other search engines rank their results based on intent nowadays. That means your keyword research needs to be about more than identifying words associated with your clients’ businesses. It must focus on how each prospect and customer will search throughout their customer journey. And you must acknowledge how those keywords and phrases will change along the way.
Let me walk you through the finer points of keyword research so that you can achieve the best results for your clients.
Why the Focus on Intent?
When Google announced their Hummingbird update several years ago, it marked a major shift towards semantic search. Basically, this means that instead of taking the individual words within the phrase and determining results based on that, they decided to take the whole phrase into account.
And it makes sense, because the phrasing indicates a lot about what the searcher’s actual intent is. Not only that, but the way that people search has shifted a lot over the past few years. The majority of searches now begin on mobile devices. A search on a mobile device that asks for “hardware stores near me,” indicates that the person is probably out running errands and looking for a place where they can stop in and buy a hammer and nails.
That searcher has a different intent from the person who searches “best hardware store in Kansas City.” This searcher may be considering a larger purchase in the future. They want to research pricing, availability, and quality of the store before they settle on a choice.
Voice search has also driven a change in how people search. No one simply says, “Alexa, barbecue Austin.” They’d instead ask, “Alexa, where can I find barbecue in Austin, Texas?” or, “Alexa, what are the hours at Franklin Barbecue?” Again, these two questions indicate very different types of intent.
High Intent versus Low Intent Searches
When you dive deeper into the matter of intent, you divide searches by high intent and low intent. Low intent searches are generally undertaken by those who are early in the customer journey. They’re looking for general information and are not anywhere near ready to make an actual purchase.
High intent searches, on the other hand, indicate a strong likelihood that the searcher is in the market for a specific good or product and is ready to make a purchase soon.
The searches with the highest intent will include words about making a purchase, questions about coupons or deals at specific retailers, or checking availability on a model number or distinct type of product.
So You Want to Rank for High Intent Searches, Right?
Of course, if someone is ready to make a purchase right now, it makes sense that your client would want to be the company they discover on Google. That’s true of your client’s competitors, too, though, and it means that ranking for high intent searches can be competitive.
As you well know, there are only 10 blue links on each page of search results. The likelihood that searchers will click back to page two or three to find your client is low.
Rather than going for the broadest of high intent searches, it’s better to aim for more specific, long-tail keywords. That’s particularly true if they’re in a crowded market. Additionally, you’ve got to make sure they’re taking advantage of the Google My Business tool. Claiming their Google My Business profile is the key to appearing in Maps search results (where a lot of high intent searchers turn for immediate solutions to their problems).
Hub Pages Get You in on the Ground Floor
With intent-driven searches, it pays to get in front of searchers early. Rather than trying to win someone over at the last minute, why not greet them early on in their research? If you can establish your client as the voice of authority in their industry, they become a trusted resource for prospects who are just starting on their customer journey. You’ve then set them up to be the go-to business when the prospect is ready to buy.
This is where hub pages come in; I’ve been talking about them a lot lately because they’re so effective. They cater to prospects’ needs and give your clients great SEO juice. A hub page serves as the ultimate guide on a given topic. There, you can arrange your client’s content around a given topic, group it into areas that prospects care about, and become a complete resource.
An Example of Hub Pages in Action
Let’s say your client does photography. They offer headshots, wedding and engagement packages, and do family portraits. So you create “The Ultimate Guide to Finding the Right Wedding Photographer.” This guide includes all sorts of information that happy couples might want to know. From typical costs of a wedding photographer, to what to expect on the big day, to the types of services (retouching, etc.) that are usually included in a package, you’ve got them covered.
Suddenly, this photographer becomes more than just a potential vendor for the couple. The photographer becomes a trusted insider, who’s willing to let them know what to expect. The photographer wins over their trust, and is that much more likely to be the person the couple chooses to shoot their big day.
Not only that, but the hub page gives the photographer a major SEO boost. The bride finds the hub page and clicks on one article, then another, and another. She sends one of the articles to her mom and maid of honor. She goes back a few weeks later to check out another article on the hub page.
Suddenly, Google begins to realize that users find this content really helpful—they spend a lot of time on the page and keep coming back. This is the kind of behavior that can help move your client up the SERPs.
At the heart of a great keyword research strategy is a focus on and understanding of the role of intent. Use keyword research to shape your content and speak to customers along their journey. With that approach, you can win new prospects early in the process and capture the attention of those high-intent searchers at the moment of truth.