How Search Query Intent Shapes Online Strategy

Posted on Dec 16, 2011 in link building blog

Search query intent has become one of the big drivers of what is shown in the SERPs. It is what’s behind many of the recent changes as the search algorithms learn what searchers are after. Search query intent should be of key interest to website publishers because it can largely determine whether or not their online strategy is a success.

One of the common issues I see affecting a website’s viability for achieving maximum earnings, whether it’s AdSense, eCommerce or an Affiliate site is that the  keyword ranking strategy was predicated on traffic.  Traffic volume is not the ideal metric for settling on a content strategy because traffic does not always predict earnings. This post is going to address the issue of maximizing earnings by focusing on site visitor intent. Why people are on a site is determined by what keyword phrases led them to the site. Understanding search query intent will help you form an online strategy that results in traffic that converts into clicks or sales. 

Keywords can be classified in a number of ways and reasons. I’m going to classify them as I see it in terms of profitability. For convenience I am going to classify them into six buckets divided into two classes, profitable and unprofitable. They can be grouped in a number of ways, but for expediency I’m going to classify them into six buckets.

Least profitable search queries

  1. Time Killing (news, gossip)
  2. Homework
  3. Non-shopping miscellaneous research (recipes)

Profitable search queries

  1. Shopping related phrases 
  2. Do It Yourself (DIY) projects (hobbies, health)
  3. Local Search/Travel

Focus on user intent
Phrases related to killing time, homework and non-shopping research like recipes are the least profitable.  I knew a guy who went on a shopping spree purchasing authoritative domains related to expired online newspapers. Thousands of newspapers were closing across the United States about ten or so years ago. He saw this  as an opportunity to pick up inexpensive domains with solid backlink authority. The problem was that news content  was not evergreen nor was it shopping related. Those domains were unprofitable for him. They could have been profitable if he had turned them into a local search or travel destination but he was focused on keeping them news related. User intent is king. If that web developer had focused on user intent he would have realized that site visitors with the intent of making a purchase were more valuable than those who were killing time. That’s a simple example. But there are more subtle variations for user intent and this is where more experienced website publishers can benefit from a better focus.

Shopping queries
Shopping related phrases can be said to be on a cold and hot scale, with phrases closest to the hot side of the scale relating to an imminent purchase and those on the cold less likely to result in a sale but building to a sale. Those on the cold side of the scale can be research related. Those on the hot side of the scale are those who have completed their research and are more or less walking up to the register with cash in hand, so to speak. Naturally, cash in hand phrases are going to be the most profitable. What are cash in hand phrases? Keep reading, I will get to that in a second.

DIY and hobby queries
DIY project and hobby queries usually relate to phrases like How do I/When do I, etc. These can be profitable to AdSense publishers as well as eCommerce sites. DIY can be related to home improvement, auto restoration/repair, pets, personal health and so on. Every one of those queries can find a solution in a purchase. This is important and bears repeating. A search query is important if the solution can be found in a purchase.

Q. How do I fix a fish with pop eyes? 
A. Buy Pop-Eye Begone

Q. What’s the best bicycle?
A. Buy a Bianchi if you have the cash. Buy this excellent Schwinn if you are on a budget.

Money phrases
Now we get to the part I promised to discuss, the cash in hand queries. Search queries that convert, the ones where consumers are walking up to the cash register with cash in hand, are called, Money Phrases. What are examples of  money phrases? They can be something like:

  • (product name/type of product) lowest price
  • Cheap (product name/type of product)
  • discount (product name/type of product) online
  • Buy (product name/type of product) online

It’s not neccessary and probably not recommended to focus exlusively on Cash in Hand search queries, but it is important to research those and have them on the site. Even if you do not sell the products, you can still advertise them or sell them via affiliate links.

Research related buy queries
While these phrases can lead to a purchase, they are going to convert at a lower rate than the money phrases. Nevertheless, with proper presentation of information you can still get the site visitor to convert if you dangle the bait (the product) in a manner that the consumer finds enticing, i.e. it will solve their problem/fix their social life/make them more attractive/improve their sporting skills, etc. At it’s most fundamental, when you are thinking about keyword phrases that will make money for your site all you have to do is put yourself in the site visitor’s shoes and ask, What’s in it for me? Then set yourself to answering the question of what is in it for your site visitor and make sure there are several products that can answer that question.

Side note about multiple products
One size does not fit all. One way to structure keyword phrases/product offerings in your site is to accomodate site visitors with different needs. Some keyword phrases relate to price. Some money phrases relate to quality (regardless of cost). Each visitor has different needs. If you have an article or product  page about a specific product, it may be useful to post images or links to related products that are cheaper or better so as to capture a sale from those who may be looking for cheaper or better. This circles back to… user intent.

User intent
Considering user intent, asking, “What’s in it for me?” will help you build a web page, product section, or website taxonomy/site architecture that will
attract the right kind of visitor that will convert into a click or a sale. User intent should be foremost in your mind when considering what domain to buy, what content to place on a web page, what categories to add to a site. Keeping site visitor intent in mind can help assure that you are on the right track to a profitable web venture.

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