Search Terms

Understanding Keywords and Search Terms

You’ll often hear SEO experts say, ‘Choose the best keywords’, which is probably one of the most unhelpful pieces of advice you’ll ever hear. For a start, telling someone to find ‘the best’ keywords doesn’t take into account the multitude of different types of keywords and search terms that exist. A keyword that might be the best for one person’s needs may be completely unsuitable for the next, even if they are in the same industry or niche.

One of the first things you need to recognise is that whenever someone types a search term into Google (or any other search engine) there is a reason behind it. If you are targeting that keyword you need to ensure that if the searcher clicks on the link to your site, what they find there matches their reason for searching in the first place.

Let’s say someone types in the search term ‘silver Adidas running shoes’. They have used very specific terms, so there are not many reasons they would have done so other than to buy a pair of silver Adidas running shoes. If you think about it, they have typed in a specific brand, a specific colour and a specific product type. It should be obvious that this person has not just started to research sports equipment.

The search this person has entered is what is known as a ‘commercial intent keyword’. It is a keyword where the likelihood is the person is either considering buying or is going to buy, what they typed in. If you are targeting this keyword it makes sense that the page or site you optimise for it, is one where the searcher can fulfil their buying intent.

What it would be ludicrous to do is to target this keyword and then optimise a page which has general sports news, or a blog which offers running tips. Yes, they are relevant in the broader sense but not to the intention that the searcher had.

Another search might be a phrase like ‘best shoes for cross country running’. Consider if this person is typing that search with their credit card out, ready to buy now. They’re not. Based on their search, they are looking for information, advice or comparisons of shoes suitable for cross country running. They haven’t even stated a brand. If you were to target this term and then send searchers to the sales page of a white Nike running shoe, the chances are the person will click away immediately.

In this case, you need them to arrive at a page where they can read about running shoes that are suitable for cross country. You might have a review site which gives the pros and cons of different shoes types or brands. In this way, you are giving the person who searched in Google what they were looking for. This leads to them spending more time on your site which Google can see, and therefore gives you more ranking power for that term.

In other words, Google has identified that the term ‘best shoes for cross country running’ is one where you have relevant content. When someone uses their search engine to type in that term Google also sees once they land on your website that same person is spending a reasonable amount of time there.

These are the simplest of examples, but they illustrate that when you are optimising your web pages for keyword terms, think about the intention of the person who might type them in to a search bar. Consider whether the content they see when they arrive at your site matches this intention or not. If it does great, if it doesn’t then either the keyword you are targeting or the content you are offering needs to change.