Interest vs. Intent: Google’s Keyword Tool

by JC Hewitt on February 5, 2011

Is your traffic looking for information or something to buy?

Keyword research is still a largely misunderstood art. Clients will often come to SEO providers with a set of keywords that they want to rank for. Unfortunately, the keywords that usually come to mind first are all the wrong ones.

There are many reasons why people use Google. The two major ones are to research and to buy something. In terms of traffic, the former outweighs the latter. People like to use the internet to learn and communicate most of all.

Especially in the early days of search marketing, people mistook searchers just looking for information for those that actually wanted to buy something.

Part of the art of choosing which keywords to target is using your best guess about how people express themselves through searches. You’ll never get that entirely right. Another part of it is getting a sense of the types of terms that get higher bids for advertising. Luckily, the Google keyword tool provides a rough estimate of how much competition that you’ll face when bidding on certain terms.

Here’s an example of a broad term with uncertain searcher intent. “TV.”

Notice how the “tv” term has low competition on advertising despite a tremendous number of monthly searches. What this means is that the preferences of searchers are indeterminate.

Are they looking to watch TV online? Are they looking for a TV to buy? Are they looking for TV schedules? Are they terrorists looking to buy TV Guided Missiles?

No one knows, so the search has a low value. Notice how the smaller search term “tv on the internet” has a higher advertising bid. This is because online TV providers know that those searchers are probably looking to watch TV online, and can advertise accordingly.

Notice how these keywords with relatively tiny traffic have higher advertising prices compared to the huge terms?

There are the sorts of high-value keywords that you want to target for both advertising and direct sales. When you’re scoping your market, look for keywords with potential that your competition haven’t discovered yet. One of the largest causes of wasted online advertising budgets is a poor understanding of intent.

[Photo credit: J.Elliot, Flickr]

  • Anonymous

    Nice article. Keyword research is still widely misunderstood.

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  • http://twitter.com/TheStartupGuru TheStartupGuru

    Nice coverage. I don’t understand keyword research at all, so this was a breath of fresh oxygen.

  • http://www.justinmccullough.com mccJustin

    It’s easy to draw the wrong conclusions from the data available in keyword tools. This is a refreshing look at keywords and key phrases that remind us that traffic on keywords isn’t enough – its the ability to convert on the traffic. Excellent primer here.

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