The “marketing is art and science” theme may be overused (guilty as charged), but in this age of endless data, it’s often true. We particularly see it in keyword development today, which barely resembles the simple process we used in the beginning.
Rand Fishkin’s Whiteboard Friday on keyword repetition last week really underscored for me how the basic content of a keyword list (the science) is taking something of a back seat to its intent (the art). This applies to content development in general as well.
Looking for meaning.
We always look for commercial/retail intent with our keyword research. For our own agency, a keyword such as “SEO” would make sense, of course, but “SEO company” or “SEO agency” has retail intent — it encompasses what the searcher is actually intending to find. A search entry such as “[keyword] consulting” may be used by those looking for consulting gigs rather than the services of a consultant. “[Keyword] consultants,” however, means someone is probably in the market for a consultant. A small difference at a glance, but a large one in terms of outcome.
We saw this in action when we first targeted “EHR consulting” for a client and ended up with a lot of undesired resumes. When we changed it to “EHR consultants,” sales leads started coming in.
Are you talking to yourselves?
Intent is coming into play more every day. Not only does Google continue to tweak its algorithms in its efforts to return search results based on what users are really looking for (which is reason enough for marketers to pay attention), working to understand intent is part of content development. You have to avoid the trap of talking to yourselves, using words and phrases that your audience would never think of when looking for you. You may have issued a company-wide decree that the frying pans you manufacture will now be referred to as “egg preparation vessels,” but your customers just want a frying pan.
As Rand says in his recent Whiteboard Friday, we make split-second decisions as we scan a page of search results, and we do that on web pages as well. We tell our clients that web copy is written on a tightrope, balancing what search engines want and what users need. Intent matters more than ever on both sides of that equation.