I’ve spoken to hundreds of CEOs, Growth Hackers and Marketers and Search Engine Optimization is BY FAR the most challenging and hard to understand growth marketing tactic.
Receiving hundreds of new leads through natural traffic sounds like a good promise.
But most of the time, as a business owner, you feel like you are leaving your fate to the RNG-Google gods.
TO THIS DAY, SEO experts argue about the importance of simple things, including backlinks, keyword prominence and image alt tags.
And while everyone has their own take on what works and what doesn’t, usually backed up by results, the analysis and decision-making process is often the same for everyone.
THIS is especially true when it comes to the keyword selection process.
Did I miss something?
Well, most people I’ve talked with would say “no, that’s pretty much everything you need to select a keyword” to rank.
Granted, some would have slight notes on the specificity and the way they calculate competitiveness or separate the traffic by region,
BUT no one talks about the SECRET that I’m here to SHARE with you today. The secret that can help you…
And what does this secret do?
Simply adds another step to your keyword selection process.
A STEP, crucial for your SEO success, that 99% of SEO experts would miss. It’s a growth-hacking SEO secret.
What is its name? Keyword Intent.
Let’s get down to business.
Keyword Intent is the perceived intent with which a search query has been typed into a search engine by a potential customer.
It’s also the analytical perception and tactic that is implemented to answer the question related to the intent and specific purpose of a search.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE TYPED-IN SEARCH TERM?
It’s simple. You want to know the answer to the question, to be able to position your brand in the right content space.
WHAT DOES THE USER WANT TO FIND?
I’ve met with dozens of SEO experts who understand the importance of this question. Yet, they do NOTHING to implement an actual solution to their keyword selection process.
For them, it’s more important that you RANK FOR a keyword than the KEYWORD itself.
As long as it’s within your industry and fits the word cloud behind your content pillars, it’s good, right?
(Content pillars is a SE-way of saying the content around which your blog revolves around, i.e. your professional or business expertise)
Well, NO, expert. It’s not.
I respect your ability to Rank via age-old tactics and I’m not saying you should STOP doing what is already proven to work.
I’m just saying that IF you think MORE about the Keyword Intent you will have the chance to improve your SE-Tactics in various ways.
Similar to other SE tactics, finding the benefit of Keyword intent boils down to simple logic that is most often difficult to directly analyze and A/B test.
Ok. Now that you understand that I’m not just talking smack at SEO-Experts, let’s get down to business.
To find the purpose behind a search query is no easy feat. At least, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago, when GOOGLE decided to implement a machine-learning (read ALL KNOWING) algorithm.
How does Google Algorithm work?
If you aren’t already familiar, Google uses a machine-learning algorithm that in a sense decides which pages to show to users based on a variety of factors. Its purpose is to make a BEST GUESS what YOU as a USER want to find and offer you a related response.
Why using the Google SE Algorithm to find Keyword Intent is a good thing?
The algorithm Google has is already working fine and dandy. This will allow you to BEST understand the user’s intent right from the source. Google.
And, yes, I mean that SEARCHING for a specific query/keyword will give you the best representation of what Google thinks and what might very well be the intent and purpose of a search.
Time to get tactical?
Now that I’ve introduced you to the concept of keyword intent, it’s time to talk tactics.
I would usually suggest this roadmap to Keyword Intent Success. Although, per your convenience, you might want to pick and choose certain portions of it and integrate it into your existing content process.
The first and most important step (and something you should have already done) is understanding what your audience wants.
To be able to select the right keywords for your business and to get into the search intent, you must have a deeper understanding of the industry, tactics and what people are interested in finding.
I’ve already talked about the best tools to help you select keywords here (top 5 free tools for keyword research) and here (top 3 SEO tools for tracking your website rankings) …
And you should already know how to find a list of nice keywords that will help you with your overall content goals.
For me, the tool I use, that helps me with keyword suggestions and analysis is Ahrefs. (feel free to check it out)
What I usually do (and you can do that by using a tool of your choice) is enter Ahrefs, click the “Keyword Explorer” button and start with a basic analysis of the keywords that would fit within my overall keyword strategy.
I do some magic. (Subscribe to my EMAIL LIST to stay tuned as I give out more of my SEO secrets) and I select a list of dozen-or-so keywords that I plan to use.
Based on my selection and suggested by AHREFS, I stopped at the choice of “get free Instagram followers” as my next ranking term keyword.
Now let’s check what our keyword intent analysis will show us about this term. First, I make a note of my initial perception of the keyword.
What I presume
From this initial presumption, I can conclude that …
What I intend to find out is whether or not there’s a HIGHER percentage of people searching for natural and legitimate ways to grow your Instagram following or not.
Let’s see to what extent my initial presumption is correct and how I can use the free tools at my disposal to realize the searchers' intent for that specific query.
I’ve praised AnswerThePublic before and everyone in this space does because it’s simple, (mostly) free to use and gets the job done quickly, no questions asked.
What you do is go to ANSWERTHEPUBLIC.COM and in the immediate FIELD right in the bottom center of the website, you enter your keyword.
Once this is done, simply press the “search” button and wait for the magic to happen.
What you’ll receive is a visual representation of data related to direct questions and queries people have related to your keyword.
In some cases, there’s more queries and data, in other cases, it’s just a handful of terms.
In my case, the tool was sprawling out with different queries related to the “get free Instagram followers” term.
You will receive a couple of category boxes with data related to questions, prepositions, firms and more.
Once you receive the data, it’s time to analyze.
To do this, click the “Data” button so that you can go through the terms more easily. (Although, you can stick to the visual style if you prefer)
Do note that you’ll have to do that for every single category box.
When you do, you’ll be able to go through the terms more easily.
These will give you a better representation of the search queries of the audience, which will help us understand the keyword intent better.
Take a note of everything that confirms or denies your initial presumption and take notes.
Make sure to also pick out the terms and queries that you don’t understand.
In my case, I was a bit surprised by the number of people who are looking for arguably illegitimate ways.
What piqued my interest was that people seem to be looking for specific apps, specific arguably shady companies and ways in which you can get followers with comments, by watching videos without human verification and without doing surveys or logging in to your account.
ANALYZING THE DATA Now, while an initial oversight is good, we must also have more exact data. To do this, click the “Download CVS” button, located in the header section of the menu.
Once your file is downloaded, I would recommend uploading it in Google Drive and opening it via Google Sheets, ALTHOUGH you can use any EXCEL-Type software that deals with sheets and data.
Once you open it up, you’ll see something looking like this.
Now it’s time for the painstaking part.
(It should be done quickly and take you no more than a minute)
Go through every single query and in a separate column mark whether the query FITS with your content strategy or whether it doesn’t.
Mark “x” next to the queries that DON’T MATCH your content strategy and “v” next to the ones that do.
In the same gif, on another cell write the following formula.
= COUNTIF( YOURRANGE; “x”)
Where YOURRANGE should be the range of cells, which you’ve used to mark whether the value fits or not.
This will basically tell Google Sheets to find EVERY time “x” is mentioned in the range.
On another cell, write the same formula, but for the value “v” for true.
= COUNTIF( YOURRANGE; “v”)
Now take the two values and divide the value you get for “v” divided by the value you get for “x” and multiply it by a hundred.
The resulting number will show you the PERCENT OF KEYWORD SEARCH QUERY INTENT that matches with your content strategy. Based on the data and results from AnswerThePublic tool.
In my case, it’s an extremely low 15% match score.
Usually, you would want to shoot for at least a 50-75% match.
I was quite surprised by the results. While I did EXPECT for there to be a few bad apples that searched for illegitimate ways, it turns out a lot of people are interested in getting Instagram followers for free in various ways (using coins, in return for surveys and watching videos, etc) …
Now, pretty much every growth marketer will tell you that these would be ILLEGITIMATE ways, which you shouldn’t do. But that’s not the topic at hand.
Currently, we want to understand WHAT PEOPLE WANT and in turn, see whether it MATCHES with what we provide.
In this case, I was slightly disappointed in humanity, but our keyword identity search is not over yet. Let’s continue our journey down the rabbit hole with this keyword term.
Another awesome tool pretty much every content specialist is familiar with is SHAREIT. Made by SocialPilot, it’s completely free to use and gives you an oversight of current trending topics and influencers related to a search term.
You’ll be greeted with a clean UX design with a SEARCH BAR right in the middle. By now, you should know the procedure. Simply enter your search term and click “Search” to get the needed results.
In my case, the search was to no avail. I received only one result as an “influencer” in the space, which was an account with a title related to making money online. It seems to be of the shady type.
To proceed, I did try with the shorter “free Instagram followers” term, which did bring up one result.
The result seemed fairly legitimate and did outline a few tried-and-true tactics, such as giveaway for likes, but as a whole, my results weren’t that insightful.
This will probably be different in your case and ShareIt can bring up a ton of Twitter influencers, which might help you understand your industry and the search term far better.
But now, considering we have our first great insights, we must proceed with the longtail keyword intent check directly on Google.
And don’t worry, I’ll make sure to explain everything about intent modifiers on the way.
As mentioned in the beginning, Google is the best place to gain insights on the specificity of items the audience wants to find.
It will also help streamline your SEO content writing process by providing you with better long-tail keywords and ideas for what to include in your article.
Now it’s time for a bit more manual labor. However, once you get the gist of it, you’ll be able to do this much quicker.
PLUS, I promise you … the analysis is WORTH it for your long-term content strategy.
Open up a new Google Sheet and create a simple table with two columns.
Now, go to Google, type in your keyword phrase to receive the Autofill results. (You can alternatively use a tool to get those results, which I’ve explained in my keyword research tool piece, but I’ve decided to do this manually for this article for simplicity and ease of understanding)
The Autofill results should show up automatically and look something like this.
Once you do, transfer those search queries to your sheet. We do this, because to get a more precise number on the percent of search intent that matches with our content strategy, we would need to go through the ten most popular autofill terms.
Immediately write “0” in the “Fits with Content Purpose” column, next to the terms that DON’T fit your content strategy at all.
Now, we need to take a look at the search queries that fit.
In my case, there were three, but in your case, they should be more.
These will be the search queries we’ll be typing into Google next.
Type each query into Google and look for a TOP 10 RANKED result that FITS your content strategy.
Each time you encounter such a result add 1 to the column of the corresponding query.
Repeat the process for all queries.
Once you are done, it’s time to calculate your KEYWORD INTENT MATCH percentage for the top google results related to your keyword. To do this, add a “TOTAL” to sum up the numbers.
Add a “PERCENTAGE” and divide the “Total” by 100. (100 would be a maxim match, of 10 keywords having 10 ranked pages)
Conveniently, due to the way numbers work, that’s your end percentage.
In my case, the KEYWORD INTENT MATCH from the Google Page Ranks is 14%.
The way you decide to choose a keyword to target for your SEO efforts is complex in nature.
It’s a combination of competitiveness, traffic and a bunch of other factors that are usually provided to you by the SEO tool you are using.
HOWEVER, I’ve just given you the THIRD most important factor that you should ALWAYS include in your consideration. From now on, I hope that all SEO specialists and content strategists add this to their reports.
“KEYWORD INTENT MATCH” It allows you to understand what your audience wants, whether it fits with your content strategy, business goals and the content you want to provide.
It’s a simple number, it mostly requires a bit of manual research and work, but it allows you to be certain that your CONTENT efforts will be efficient, effective and will be able to target THE RIGHT audience and people.
On the surface, a lot of keywords can match your “audience persona” profile.
However, excitement about the “traffic” a keyword receives and the “low competitiveness” shouldn’t overwhelm you. Your GUT feeling that IT JUST FITS might be wrong.
That’s why, you ALWAYS need to do your due diligence and calculate your Keyword Intent Match score before making a decision.
In my case, the numbers ended up like this.
Audience Intelligence Research (via AnswerThePublic) - 15% KIM
Google Rank Keyword Intent Score (via Google Autofill Analysis) - 14% KIM
AVERAGE: 14.5% Keyword Intent Match
What does this tells me?
That regardless of the quality of my content, the image alt tags, the backlinks and everything in between, EVEN IF I rank for this keyword, I’ll receive a high rate of bounce backs, low audience retention scores and ultimately, traffic that I might not necessarily want, resulting in low conversion rates.
I usually do this analysis when I’m selecting the keywords I want to target for a particular period of time.
Depending on the business you have, the consistency of your blog and the push you want to make for keyword ranking, you might do this once every month, twice a month or even once every six months.
It all depends on your bigger content strategy.
BUT even if you DON’T have a more coherent content strategy in place, when making a decision to target a certain keyword for ranking, remember that YOUR GUT feeling might not always be right.
PRO TIP! If you are an SEO Service provider, a Content Specialist or a Growth Hacking Agency, make sure to include this in your Content Strategy report. CLIENTS will love the result and you won’t have to deal with explanations that you “think” this keyword fits their strategy. CLIENTS LOVE EXACT numbers in your analysis and strategy reports.
If you haven’t realized already, WITHOUT doing a keyword intent analysis prior, you might end up with vanity ranking targets that you’ll never hit.
This can hurt your SEO service business, your clients, or your own business, if you are someone who does his own search engine optimization.
In addition, just copy-pasting keywords that your SEO tool tells you to target is not WHY these tools are there in the first place.
The TOOLS give you the DATA to help you to ANALYZE it and make BETTER decisions for your business.
In my case, the results are obvious. An average KEYWORD INTENT MATCH of just 15% tells me that shooting for this keyword is not only UNREALISTIC due to the type of content I pursue, but WON’T get me the CUSTOMERS for my business that I need.
So at first glance, having the keyword suggested by Ahrefs as “get free Instagram followers” and gut-feelingly saying “yeah, I know quite a few legitimate hacks, why not rank for them?” … might have hurt my business in the long run.
Keyword intent and the subsequent analysis is best done at the beginning of your content strategy journey. However, if up until now you’ve had SEO experts who were worried only about the traffic and ranks and not about your business, it wouldn’t hurt to update your strategy at any given time.
In fact, as far as my experience goes, keyword and SEO analysis is a process that goes best when combined with a healthy dose of consistency.
Understanding the intent behind a search query will allow you to realize the potential of your content better.
It’s as simple as that… ...and THIS truly is BY FAR the biggest SEO mistake I’ve seen people make.