Understanding Keyword Intent & High Intent Keywords

When it comes to ranking highly on Google or other search engines, one of the most misunderstood concepts is keyword intent. Here is a breakdown of both the technical definitions plus the psychology behind keyword intent so you can go after high intent keywords that match the results you’re seeking.

Let’s start with the psychology.

Keyword intent is understanding the motivation and desire behind a person’s behavior when they enter a search term online. When going after high intent words, you will succeed if you have identified keywords that match what your customers want. Not necessarily what you want, but what they want.

High intent keywords have a “high motivation” that aligns with the goal behind the keyword research on Google. In other words it matches what your target audience wants when a user searches for a particular product or service.

When this is aligned, your high intent keywords logically match with the next predictable action the reader takes following the click on your blog post or product.

In other words, the person searching wants something without your influence. That’s when your high intent keywords give them what they are looking for.

When you understand the difference between keywords that have the purpose of gathering knowledge versus taking an action step, then you’re getting to the heart (the psychology) behind search intent. When a person’s transactional intent is to find data, information, the “latest” news/gossip/trend etc, it is very different from a search intent to buy something.

This is called “informational intent” and it’s exactly as it sounds: the user wants information. When search queries are focused on gathering information, you’re really exploring the “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” and “how” of a topic. 

And these details are rarely omitted as people explore finding help/solutions or taking action steps to solve their problems.

So whether your potential customers get the information from you or someone else, they will search for whatever they need to know before they’re ready to buy.

This is how the buying process works. We gather data, information as our need for a solution deepens. How deeply we go in this kind of “research” is dependent on the topic and the cost (not always monetary) for a solution.

Keywords with a commercial intent or transactional intent are deeper down the marketing funnel and ultimately serve your business in a more transactional way. That is NOT to say those keywords are better, just that their conversion rates are stronger for sales and behaviors that lead to sales.

Far too often, SEO writers create content that matches what they want to sell, but doesn’t match what the user is looking for when using a particular search phrase.

This is a critical mistake.

Content marketing should ultimately align with what the consumer wants as they explore the search process. When that happens, you learn how to match keyword intent with your business goals. And, it feeds your content marketing campaign and gives direction to your entire digital marketing plan.

User intent is what the user intends to find when they type a search phrase into Google.

To know if your keywords match high user intent, you can get a sense of how Google sees the keyword if you search for that keyword and review the results on page one. 

  • What do you see?
  • Does it match the article you want to write?

If the answer is yes, then you are using the right keyword.

But matching the keyword you want to use to the content you see on the first page of search isn’t enough to guarantee an action will be taken from the search results. You have to follow the consumer’s behavior another step and explore their motivation.

Motivation is the real driver behind the action you want from the person reading your article/landing page.

High intent matched with high motivation is the winning formula.

A high intent keyword that is valuable to you is one that matches with the next logical action step you want the reader to take. In this sense, high intent keywords that are the most valuable to your brand answer for the reader what they naturally want next after reading your content.

In well-crafted SEO writing, the user’s next step is aligned with what you want them to do as well.

If you want the reader to take an action (click to a second page, click a button etc.) ask yourself how well the user’s next step aligns with what they just read?

  • Does it rationally make sense that the user would read your article and then psychologically feel motivated to take an action?
  • Have you inspired them with curiosity or motivated them with passion, inspiration, or another feeling that encourages another click?
  • Did you amplify motivation, or address pain or a lingering question so that your offer for a “next step” is a logical answer to some unresolved question in their mind or heart?

If you motivated them with your high intent keywords, you’ve likely written a winning article.

Here is the formula:

Copy that matches with the reader’s desire for “next steps” is copy that sells.Copy that fails to align with what the user naturally wants will have a higher bounce and exit rate on the page.

It’s that basic. Your copy has to match what the user is motivated to do or buy, or they will leave once they get the information they were looking for.

Keyword intent is one of many core concepts to understand if your goal is to improve the SEO on your website. High intent keywords are an important part of the SEO picture and your marketing strategy, but it’s only part of how to grow your website and your traffic.

As you write content, explore the organic traffic you get. What do they do on your website?

  • Does it lead to a high bounce rate?
  • Does it lead to higher conversion rates?

These are a few of the KPIs you want to track. Just remember, the psychology of search doesn’t leave room for skipping the natural experience customers want as they make their way down the marketing funnel. There is still a very strong reason to focus on the bottom of the funnel topics. 

The biggest reason of all is that these topics instill trust in your brand when you give away good, well-written and authoritative advice/insight.

Trust is one of the most components of developing a strong E-E-A-T score with Google. And when you prove to Google that your brand can be trusted because you truly provide value to your readers, you will get more SEO traffic if your topics are also SEO friendly. (You can read more about E-E-A-T score here.)

Ultimately, you have to remember that people are still people. Appreciating the human need to investigate, ask questions, price shop and then ultimately buy will give you a smarter approach to your content marketing and content creation in general.

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If you need support to understand the high intent keywords your clients use in search queries as they look for your services, please reach out. We offer a complimentary consultation to get a full picture of your SEO to see how we can best support your SEO and content marketing goals.

Updated: 3/2/23

author avatar
Melanie Gorman
Melanie Gorman is the owner and operator of Crownsville Media. She holds a masters in counseling psychology and has been in the fields of web development, SEO optimization and content creation for more than 20 years.

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