Keyword research is the foundation of Search Engine Optimization. When poorly done, your entire SEO plan will come crumbling down. That’s why you need to go into keyword research with a strategic mindset.

In this post, I go over the fundamentals of keyword research. First, we discuss the types of search queries by Internet users and their goals. Then, we develop a story line based on your ideal customer. Finally, we identify keywords and categorize them based on search user behavior.

First, let’s break down the difference between search queries and keywords. Often these two terms are used interchangeability but they are two different things.The Strategy Behind Successful Keyword Research Search queries are words a user types into a search engine. Keywords are words or phrases search marketers use to target search queries. Search queries and keywords change as a customer moves through the buying funnel.

Types Of Search Queries

Search queries have three identified purposes or intent. People use search engines to find information, find a website or find a product or service. User intent breaks down into three categories: Navigational, Informational, and Transactional.

Navigational search queries are when a user already knows the name of the website or business. A user may be looking for Walmart or Ford and type in those brands into the search engine. Users either don’t know a website’s URL or just too lazy to type the whole URL in the search box.  Unless you are a major brand name, navigational searches are not helpful.

Informational search queries are when users are looking for information on a subject. The majority of search queries are about gathering information. Penn State researched 1.5 million search queries, 80% were under the Informational umbrella. These types of searches are hard to monetize. This is where creating high quality, unique content becomes critical in attracting these types of searchers.

Transactional search queries are where the user is looking to buy a product or service. The user has done their research and now they are looking for a solution provider. This is the Holy Grail of search user intent and easiest to monetize. Targeting transactional search queries will drive less traffic but higher quality traffic.

Transactional searches have the most value and the best ROI for your SEO campaign. As we mentioned above, we have to match keywords to the search queries we are looking to attract. This is where keyword research gets strategic and powerful.

Create a Customer Story

To identify the best keywords for your campaign, you need to create a story. The story is on your typical customer and a situation in where they will need to buy your services. For example, let’s say you own a plumbing business in Boston, MA. Imagine a common situation where a customer needs your plumbing service. A customer will need your services if they had a water pipe break and now their basement’s flooded. Once we create a story, then we identify the keywords we need to attract them to our business. Keywords gather into four types of groups: Explicit, Problem, Symptom and Specific.

Types of Keywords

Explicit keywords are where searchers know what they are looking for. In our example, keywords such as emergency plumber or Boston plumber would work well.

Problem keywords would be another group. These types of keywords try to match search queries based on a specific problem or situation they are in. Keywords such as flooded basement or basement water damage would be great problem keywords.

Symptom keywords describe the possible reason for their problem. Maybe a broken pipe caused the flooded basement. Then keywords such as broken pipe, fix pipe or pipe repair would be great to use.

Specific keywords are for the more advanced search user. Maybe they saw a YouTube video on how to fix the broken pipe or a fellow plumber needs a specific part to fix a broken pipe. In this scenario, keywords such as PVC pipe or ¾ inch copper pipe will help attract these types of search users.

Wrapping It Up

Keyword research approached in this way creates a strong foundation for a successful SEO plan. Through understanding the motive behind search queries, you can better understand your customers. Then you can develop stories based on customer situations that your services solve. Once you develop the stories, finding the right keywords will be easy.