Content marketing is a powerful business strategy that attracts leads and drives sales. However, it comes with significant time and financial investment, so you need to validate topics for it: what interests your audience, whether it solves a pain point, and, most importantly for your business, search intent.
To reap the most benefit for your bottom line, your content marketing strategy should target keywords with high purchase intent. This means ranking for search terms that indicate the searcher is almost ready to make a purchase and just needs a little nudge to convert.
Honing in on these types of keywords can improve your bottom line. By creating content that focuses on high-intent keywords, your website will appeal to (and be discovered by) visitors who are at the buying stage of their customer journey.
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into how you can use data to identify high purchase intent keywords to boost your content marketing and drive more conversions.
What are high purchase intent keywords?
There are four basic types of user intent keywords: informational, navigational, commercial, and transactional. Typically, 99% of all search queries will fall under these categories, with 50%-80% of all queries usually being top-of-funnel informational searches.
You should be able to determine the intent of a search query based on the keywords it uses. Examples of keywords within each of these intent categories are:
- Informational – How, what is, best way to, alternatives to, guide, tutorial
- Navigational – [Brand name] + website, [product name], locations near me, Twitter, reviews
- Commercial – [Brand name] vs. [competitor], review, top, best
- Transactional – Buy, order, discount, price, coupon
Informational keywords are considered low intent. People using informational keywords are looking for more knowledge on a particular topic to educate themselves, with no intention to purchase.
Navigational keywords have a clear intent, but not necessarily that of high purchase. Searchers are usually hunting for specific information about a brand, website, or social media page. Even though these may not directly lead to a purchase, it’s still good for your brand to dominate search results.
Commercial keywords attract searchers on the brink of making a purchase. However, they’re not ready to hit “buy” just yet; they’re still researching product reviews and/or comparing similar brands.
Transactional keywords usually lead to purchase options with highly branded SERPs. These keywords typically signify a searcher is ready to purchase and is looking to do so. Therefore, transactional keywords indicate high purchase intent, whereas informational keywords show the lowest.
By understanding different types of keyword intent, you can improve the SEO performance of your content marketing efforts based on business objectives.
Why use high-intent keywords in content marketing
Google recognizes that users no longer follow a linear path from awareness to purchase. Instead, they search according to intent and hope to find immediate answers.
Featured snippets that display answers in the search results and the “People also ask” section that covers common FAQs both indicate Google’s prioritizing search intent and serving relevant information to searchers. As a result, keyword intent needs to be a critical factor when planning your content marketing strategy.
1) Target each stage of your funnel
Keyword intent can target potential customers at various stages of the buyer journey. Informational keywords should be integrated into educational content pieces aimed at consumers who are still in the awareness stage. Meanwhile, high-intent keywords will reach consumers in the consideration and conversion stages of your marketing funnel.
By creating content tailored to each stage of the buyer journey, you can nurture leads accordingly and increase conversions through each step. This helps align your marketing strategy with your desired business outcomes.
2) Boost conversions and cost efficiency
PPC campaigns that incorporate high buyer intent keywords are significantly more cost-effective than campaigns using informational, or low intent, keywords.
The content marketing benefits of high-intent keywords include more effectively reaching consumers in the buying stage, a higher conversion rate, and better lead nurturing.
3) Create more engaging content
By having a clearer idea of which stage of the funnel your readers are in, you can tailor your content more closely to your readers’ expectations and motivations.
For instance, if you’re targeting an informational keyword, you know your readers have no intention to buy something.
Instead of hitting them with a strong CTA or harping on the benefits of your product, your content should focus on answering their main question. While you can still include a CTA, you’ll likely need to experiment with a softer approach. Use something like, “Sign up for our newsletter” or “Join our upcoming webinar” that’s inviting without being a hard sell; the goal is to stay in touch with your readers and nurture them into customers over time.
When applying this to high-purchase intent keywords, you can create the exact content someone is looking for in order to make a decision. For example, comparing your service to multiple common competitors and highlighting your benefits. In this scenario, you can use a CTA to sign up for a free account or a demo to bring the lead home.
4) Outrank competitors
Not all businesses have enterprise-level budgets to invest in SEO and ranking. However, you can beat these big budgets by outranking them on keywords they may be overlooking.
High-intent keywords are, by nature, usually long-tail keywords that point you towards less competitive SERPs.
Take the keyword “best dog food for german shepherd.” This is an example of a commercial keyword that a pet supplies store could target. While the Petcos of the world may be eyeing (and dominating) the SERPs for “dog food”—which draws over 110,000 monthly searches—you’re eyeing a keyword that captures a fraction of that search volume (3,600), but still attracts a relevant crowd and is significantly easier to rank for.
5) Analyze content performance more effectively
Another perk of high-intent keywords is the ability to set more realistic expectations for your content’s performance. Site owners commonly rush into SEO expecting mind-blowing results — only to be sorely disappointed by the long return cycles. (Content brings slow, compounding returns.)
By researching the intent behind a keyword, you can better anticipate what actions your readers are likely or unlikely to take. As mentioned earlier, someone searching an informational keyword like “how to cook a healthy dinner” probably won’t jump on an offer for a professional-grade saucepan.
On the other hand, someone who searches “best cooking pans” (even better, “[Your Brand] pans”) may take the bait. In either case, you’re better equipped to understand the mindset of your readers and gauge whether or not your content is realizing its potential.
How to identify high buyer intent keywords
Maximizing your visibility and generating website traffic is important. But if those people fail to convert, you need to incorporate high-intent keywords into your content marketing strategy.
From analyzing your existing keywords to leveraging data to discover new keyword opportunities, you can identify high buyer intent keywords by following the steps below.
1) Analyze the performance of your current keywords
Analyzing your existing keyword performance is a great starting point to optimize your content for user intent. Keyword analysis can upgrade your existing content, find missed opportunities, and determine what type of search intent your content is targeting.
By understanding which search queries qualified visitors input when they land on your website, you can customize your content marketing to increase traffic and conversion rates for your business.
Use Google Analytics to see how visitors interact with your site
Google Analytics is a valuable tool to begin analyzing the keyword performance of your existing website copy. You can use its Acquisitions table to explore your organic search data. This shows a selection of keywords that have driven traffic to your website over a given time period.
If you set the secondary dimension to “Landing Page,” it’ll reveal which web page users landed on when searching each query. You can then review various performance metrics to gauge the success of your content and whether you need to alter the keywords used in these articles.
The Behavior Flow report in Google Analytics helps you understand the behavior of your website visitors. It analyzes how they reach, traverse, and interact with your website.
How users interact with your website should inform your decisions on which areas of search intent need improvement.
For instance, when examining the Behavior Flow report, you may learn many users interact with informational content on your website, but don’t convert. In this case, you could create complementary content with high buyer intent keywords to warm these leads and encourage them to make a purchase.
Tip: If you want to dig deeper, you can use a tool like FullStory to see exactly how users navigate around your website.
Use Google Search Console to identify current search terms
Google Search Console can provide direct insight into the terms that are bringing people to your site today. Simply navigate to Performance on the left-hand menu, then click Search results.
Beneath the initial chart, you should see a table with the tab Queries. This report will show you the top search terms from which people enter your site.
You can filter by page, time period, and/or device (among other dimensions) to drill deeper into the data. View the total clicks, impressions, and average positions for these queries.
Are there any high-intent queries you could rank higher for? Are your click-through rates healthy? Or, are your pages attracting a broader audience than you believed?
Sometimes the best place to start is with your existing content. Find what could be improved and make some quick, but powerful changes.
2) Check out current SERPs
For every keyword you plan to target, first Google it and see what currently appears on the SERP. Do this from an incognito window so the SERP isn’t influenced by your browsing history and user data.
Scan the first-page results that appear when you enter your keyword. Are the title tags similar to what you had in mind? Are your competitors currently ranking for the term or phrase? Is the intent what you imagined?
You may find you assumed a keyword had high-intent when it doesn’t. Or, conversely, you might’ve thought a keyword was broad and attracted an audience looking for helpful, educational content, but it’s actually highly commercial-focused.
As an example, a google search for “ice cream” will pull up a list of local ice cream shops and recipes, rather than articles on ice cream’s nutrition. Alternatively, if you’re a SaaS company selling email marketing software, you’d find the term “email marketing” brings up a hodgepodge of results. It’s unlikely your home page or product page will wind up on the first page given the lack of commercial intent.
Tip: Check out the “People also ask” or “Related searches” for more inspiration. You might find your ideal keyword within these suggestions.
3) Draw from your advertising campaigns
If you have Google Search ads running, you could benefit from looking at the terms that bring the most views, clicks, and conversions to your site. In fact, your search ads are a hotbed of audience data—you can see who clicks what from where, and investigate any patterns in user behaviors once they navigate to your site.
You may discover several keywords worth targeting organically. Once you stop pumping money into your ads, the traffic to your site is likely to drop, so you’ll need to rely on organic sources. Continue to reap the benefits of well-performing terms even after your ads have expired.
4) Collect and analyze customer FAQs
As digital marketers, we’re often immersed in the top tech and keyword platforms that make it easy (and convenient) to find the data we seek. But we stand to benefit from going straight to the source: If you take the time to talk with your customers and leads, you could emerge with valuable insights on how they feel about your brand.
Consider launching a customer survey, sending an email, or even asking for opinions via online communities and social media. Ask end users what they want in a product like yours and what steps they take to research their options.
You could also speak with your sales and customer service teams to learn what questions are frequently asked. These can serve as inspiration for blog post ideas—whether they’re intended to educate people or act as sales enablement material.
5) Use keyword analysis tools
Finally, you can utilize a plethora of content tools designed to help you refine your keyword strategy. Some of the most popular include Google Keyword Planner, Semrush, Ahrefs, and Moz.
Although not the most exhaustive tool, the Google Keyword Planner is efficient for conducting keyword research.
When using the Keyword Planner, sort results by “Top of Page Bid” to see which keywords have the greatest cost. This is a dependable indicator of commercial intent.
Results with an elevated Top of Page Bid are likely high buyer intent keywords. You can test this by typing those queries into Google and analyzing the search results.
To obtain the best results from your keyword analysis, use paid tools like Ahrefs and Moz to conduct more in-depth keyword research.
Semrush is useful for determining keywords with high-intent. You can find keywords by entering your URL into the Organic Research tool and seeing what keywords your company currently ranks for. You can do the same with competitors’ URLs—see what content drives the most traffic for them, analyze the purchase intent for their keywords, and work on mimicking any interesting strategies.
Additionally, Semrush includes a content marketing tool called Topic Research. This feature helps you visualize the common questions and queries on a given topic. You could easily pull high-intent keywords from this list, but be sure to corroborate your findings with Semrush’s Keyword Research tool.
With the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer tool, you can use keyword modifiers (i.e., “buy,” “how to,” “top”) to filter for keywords with specific intent. You can then analyze the results based on Competition and Search Volume to determine which ones you want to include in your content marketing.
You can also use Ahrefs Keyword Explorer to find keywords that align with the conversion stage of the customer journey. Filter keyword search results to include only results that contain shopping SERP features. Search queries that generate shopping ads in Google are an indicator of keywords with high commercial or transactional intent.
Tip: Ahrefs is also great for backlink analysis, so you can view your competitors’ backlink profile and reach out to the same companies to see if they’d like a guest post from you as well.
The Keyword Explorer tool from Moz is another solid choice to gather data for intent-focused keyword research. Use the Moz Keyword Explorer tool to stay ahead of the curve by researching long-tail keywords with high relevance.
Consumers in the transactional stage of the buyer journey are most likely to use long-tail keywords with lower search volume. By identifying these long-tail keywords, you can increase your website’s conversion rate.
The Moz Keyword Explorer tool can also analyze your competitors’ keywords. This enables you to see which ones they rank for; if your competitor ranks for high buyer intent keywords, you can look at their content to inform your content marketing strategy. The Keyword Difficulty score will then give you a good idea of which keyword phrases you have the best chance of ranking for.
You can also check out other paid tools like WordStream if you need additional options.
Once you’ve gathered your list of high buyer intent keywords, along with their search volume, keyword difficulty, and competition data, you can craft relevant content to target users based on transactional intent.
Bonus tool: Surfer
Similar to Google Docs, Surfer allows you to write and edit articles and web copy online, plus make updates and collaborate with writers and editors in real time.
It also offers vital SEO advice, such as suggested keywords and formatting tips, and best practices that are easy to follow. These recommendations are based on search data and analyses of what has performed best historically.
Tip: Write for readers rather than blindly following suggestions. Since they’re built on search history, suggested keywords could have errors like typos, especially if a keyword is commonly misspelled.
Incorporate high intent keywords into your content marketing strategy
Finally, let’s discuss how all of the research and theory should come together in your content marketing strategy to reap the most rewards.
1) Create a list of high-intent keywords
The first order of business is to decide which keywords you want to target. Use the tools and strategies recommended above to create a master list of keywords. Remember to pay attention to search volume as well as organic competitiveness and relevance (does the SERP show results that are relevant to your business?).
To help your team work through this list in an organized manner, prioritize your keywords in one of several ways:
- By search volume – e.g., start with the highest volume keywords and work your way down the list
- By strategic importance – e.g., is there a particular product or service you want to draw attention to, and a high-intent keyword to match?
- By level of effort – e.g., are there any keywords you already have content for that you can optimize or reuse?
- By competitiveness – e.g., is there a keyword your competitors rank for that you should have content on too?
- By current trends – e.g., if you predict a certain term will be highly searched in the upcoming weeks, tackle that one first
2) Identify how to target these terms with your content
The search intent behind your keywords will shape your approach to content.
For example, you may choose to target most transactional keywords with your category and/or product pages. Since buyers who search “where to buy [YourBrand] tools” are clearly on the verge of making a purchase, they’ll likely appreciate you saving them a few steps and linking them to a page that makes it easy to buy your product.
They need less convincing than someone who’s still in the middle of researching products and options. For these types of searchers and keywords (i.e., commercial keywords), you could instead write a blog, buyer guide, or site page (like an “About Us” page) that goes into greater detail about how your product compares to a competitor’s, or what makes your company stand out.
Notice how the format, level of detail, and main purpose of your content changes depending on the search intent. You’ll also want to avoid targeting the same keyword multiple times. Have a clear approach for and record of the keywords you pursue to prevent competing against yourself in SERPs.
3) Follow SEO best practices
For each piece of content you publish for ranking, follow SEO best practices. This includes weaving your keyword in naturally through your H1, URL, body text, and metadata.
Additionally, you’ll want to touch on the following elements:
- Incorporate semantically related words and synonyms for your keyword into your text
- Create a short URL that features your primary keyword
- Customize your title tag and include your keyword, plus modifiers
- Customize your meta description and include your keyword
- Be mindful of formatting, and use subheadings, bullet points, and other tools to aid readability
- Be intentional about image file names and alt text
- Make sure your page loads quickly
- Ensure your page is mobile friendly
- Include internal links using strategic anchor text
- Avoid flimsy content, such as vague claims and theories that don’t teach or equip your readers
- Incorporate images, video, and other media to increase engagement on your page
4) Create a great user experience
When creating a page that’s optimized for search engines, ensure it’s optimized for conversions as well. The last thing you want is for someone to click on your page only to bounce because it’s too difficult to navigate your page or they lose confidence in your brand.
As you target high-intent keywords, make sure your content includes complete and accurate information. Be generous with your photos, product details, and user testimonials. These elements can help clinch a sale and ensure your SEO efforts aren’t in vain.
5) Repurpose content into different formats
As you publish content focused on conversion, remember that different audiences consume content in different ways. While some may prefer to read written descriptions of your product or service, others may respond more positively to video or audio.
Test various ways to educate your buyers on your company. Repurpose your content and learn which formats hold audience attention longer, whether they’re early into the buyer journey or close to making a purchase.
6) Track, analyze, refresh
SEO is not a set-it-and-forget-it strategy. Even after you hit “publish,” you’ll need a plan to measure results and update your content over time. Some pages won’t rank as well as you expect, while others may decline in performance over time even though they performed well initially.
Identify a tool(s) and establish a process for monitoring your organic performance. Keyword research tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs can help you track movements in your rankings. Meanwhile, Google Search Console reveals which search terms yield a click. This pairs well with Google Analytics, which shows on-page performance and any changes month over month or year over year.
Keep in mind that some changes in performance may be seasonal and temporary. Others, however, may be permanent and triggered by an algorithm change or competitor activity.
Wrapping up — How to incorporate high purchase intent keywords into your content strategy
Targeting high purchase intent keywords can help you create content that converts, empower your audience with the information they’re looking for, and rank for keywords that drive business goals. Begin by listing high-intent keywords relevant to your business, then follow the other steps discussed above to realize the benefits of these powerful phrases.
Published: February 24, 2020
Updated: June 16, 2022