Search intent is something that a lot of SEO professionals talk about. And the reason is, search intent is more important than keywords.
Essentially, ranking well on the search engines is no longer as important as it used to be. Otherwise, chasing high rankings alone will only result in useless traffic that never converts. Targeted traffic comes from a lot more than just matching what people are looking for.
Back in the mid-2000s when I was mostly writing copy, someone on Twitter asked me what keywords should a content writer or online copywriter target. We began tweeting back-and-forth in an effort to help him with his keyword selection for his niche.
He told me that his keywords are pulling in very little traffic. A conversation and a series of tips ensued, where, in short, I told him to target better keywords — because the ones he chose may not be on his target market’s radar.
The problem, I gathered, was that he was betting on searches revolving around his specific services. While that may not be entirely wrong, his prospective ideal clients were not looking for his services or aware of the need for them.
“Copywriting services” is more of an informational search. But “increase traffic,” “increase conversions,” and “increase sales” (and their variations, including long-tail keywords) are likely more commercial investigation searches.
Search Intent is a balancing act.
People who know what they need and look for specific services will search for “copywriting services” (or whatever service you offer).
But people who don’t know what they need are not going to look for solutions by typing them into search engines. They are likely researching solutions by typing in the problem or symptom, instead.
True, traffic levels may not be extravagant. There’s a lot more traffic for “copywriting services” than there is for “how do I increase website conversions.” But the latter will bring in more quality traffic in need of copywriting services than someone looking at, for example, copywriting services as a topic.
The point is, “quality traffic” depends on “quality content.” But both are relative. The quality of the content depends on how well it serves your users. And the quality of your users depends on what kinds of clients you’re looking for. By focusing on search intent both of these become exponentially more effective.
Both are directly proportional.
The quality of your content depends on the quality of your audience.
And the quality of your audience depends on how targeted they are.
When a client of mine wants to rank high for a vague, short, generic term, especially for their primary service like “corporate lawyer,” often it’s because they are chasing vanity metrics. But vanity metrics are not meaningful if they don’t impact the business or bottom-line.
Plus, broad keywords are highly competitive, volatile, and elusive. Rankings, if any, will always be short-lived. It’s a fool’s errand to try to rank for a pet keyword. As one SEO expert said: “Chasing keyword rankings (or trying to outrank competitors on keywords) is a bad investment of resources.”
My friend and top copywriter David Garfinkel once said that, to write good copy (just like you would “quality content”), you need to know three critical things:
- Who is my client,
- What is their problem, and
- How are they talking about it?
Writing content and SEO copywriting are no different.
Knowing your client is crucial. A lot of people do market research only to gauge demand without ever knowing who their client really is, much less how they perceive, talk about, and seek out solutions to their problems.
If you’re like most professionals, you don’t offer your primary services right away. You likely offer some kind of analysis, audit, or assessment before offering a solution. Professionals never prescribe without diagnosing first.
Similarly, people looking for your services may be typing something completely different into the search engines. That’s why keyword research sucks (or the traditional way of doing keyword research). Because it’s only telling us what keywords are worthy to chase but not the keywords your audience is chasing.
Back the original question.
Since the question came up on Twitter, I provided some tips on how to use Twitter for market and keyword research, too. In fact, the exchange was itself a great example of how to research your market: questions. In other words…
Ask questions. Answer questions.
The quality of your traffic often depends on the quality of their questions.
“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”— Voltaire
Speaking of Twitter, search Twitter for questions your audience in your niche is asking, and respond to them. You’re not trying to show off. Just be helpful and generous. It will come back to you.
Your goal is not to seek out people to promote to. It’s about being helpful, getting feedback, doing research, and increasing your visibility about yourself, your expertise, and your services. You will gain genuine followers — real people with real problems and concerns who like and value what you say.
That’s what market research is all about.
Finding, engaging with, answering questions from, and offering advice to people in your market will provide you with tons of research and content ideas you can write about — quality content that will bring in quality traffic.
In fact, Twitter can be a great tool to help complement your keyword research efforts. Do a Twitter search for the kinds of questions people in your niche are asking when they have a need or a problem, and you’ll be amazed by the results. Then, simply create content that responds to their questions.
My point is, don’t go trawling for leads by focusing on vanity keywords.
Look for people you can help and serve.
Quality is something you attract, not extract.
So post quality content that’s helpful to your audience, and you will attract quality traffic and leads almost as a byproduct.