15 Tips For Building An Intent-Based Keyword List To Drive Qualified Traffic

In the early days of internet marketing, businesses focused on incorporating words they wanted to rank high for on search engine results pages into their company website’s copy. The goal was to organically “own” the industry-related keywords, phrases, and terms that users most frequently searched for by packing their sites with them. Of course, we now know that casting such a wide net isn’t the best SEO strategy.

Today, if a company hopes to attract online shoppers who are in a transactional mindset, actually considering making a purchase and more likely to convert, understanding the motivation behind the questions users ask is key. 

Here, 15 members of Forbes Communications Council each offer their No. 1 tip for businesses that are trying to build an intent-based keyword list to drive warmer prospects and qualified leads to their sites.

1. Focus On The Customer’s Pain Points

Keep your focus on the customer and the pain points they face. We also adjust for current industry news and events as needed. One model to consider to inform content strategy is AIDA: attention, interest, desire, action. Using this as a guidepost, you can determine the optimal keywords for the solutions prospects might be looking for. There are a number of tools that can help.

2. Understand Your Audience’s Psychology

Invest in understanding the psychology of your audiences. Knowing how they think and the “why” behind their search actions will keep you laser-focused on the right keywords and phrases. It’s easy to get caught up in the nuance of SEO, but sometimes the best first step is a return to the basics.

3. Anticipate Customer Needs

Most successful and innovative companies anticipate customer needs. You should constantly scan your environment, business, and societal trends to stay one step ahead of the customer. A good first step is to be positively engaged in communities where your customers are. Besides generating a lasting positive impact, you will build trust and learn more about your customers’ values, hopes, and aspirations.

4. Utilize Website Data

Your website data is a great resource. By utilizing the data of users who are finding your site and converting, you can build a high-intent keyword list to target more like them. A few places to start include sorting your PPC data by conversions to view the unique queries that have converted over time, seeing what modifiers are searched via your internal search data, or mining your form data. 

5. Focus On Topics, Not Specific Keywords

Rather than attempting to optimize a page for a specific keyword, think instead about topics and write pages that explore different topics in more depth. As you create content, use synonyms, variations, and related phrases to broaden the semantic scope of your copy. If you write naturally, this will happen automatically—and your readers will appreciate it also.

6. Monitor Website Search Queries

Keep tabs on your website’s search queries. You can speculate on what content topics your users are seeking, but search queries tell you exactly what types of content your visitors are looking for to inform solution-based purchasing decisions. This data should inform your content strategy so that your content not only aligns with your messaging pillars but also fulfills your prospects’ needs.

7. Use Key Phrases And Search Listening Tools

Since Google’s algorithm uses semantic search rather than simple keywords, build your list according to phrases or groups of words rather than single ones. Sprinkle in several key phrases and provide more context to serve up more useful results. Also, take advantage of free search listening tools such as AnswerThePublic, which provides instant insight directly from the minds of your customers.

8. Take A Customer Approach By Searching For Yourself

Search for yourself and your competitors from a customer approach. Think of all of your target markets and compile a list for each of them. This research and activity will help you build a strong list of keywords in addition to giving you powerful insight about which areas you need to build upon online. 

9. Listen To How Customers Talk

Listen to your customers—not just what they want, but how they talk. Review inbound digital responses and online forums for words or phrases customers use. Ask your sales reps in the field for lists as well. Once you compile a list of phrases, cross-reference them against search volume. You’ll find opportunities for highly targeted keywords. Often, they’re less competitive too! 

10. Partner With Your Customer Service Team

We all know we should be looking at SEO keywords, but never underestimate the power of partnering with your customer service team. Dig into the most common questions your customers ask and the biggest pain points they want your product to solve. Your customers are coming to you with the highest intent, so they give you a strong understanding of the topics your website content should cover.

11. Know Your Market And Your Customers

Building an intent-based keyword list all boils down to knowing your market, knowing your customers, and, most importantly, connecting the two with your company’s offerings. By doing that, you will successfully merge company messaging with what you already know drives prospects to your company site, yielding a significant increase in traffic.

12. Connect With Front-Line Teams

Sales, support, and customer-facing teams, in general, are a great source of keywords for building an intent-based keyword list. They are the front line of your organization, hearing daily how prospects voice their needs related to the type of solution you offer. Join their meetings or organize a contest to collect many keywords and ideas for you to work with.

13. Scan Articles About The Problem You Solve

While doing press pitch research, save the links to one to three articles from each outlet that are precedent pieces about the problem your product is solving. Tag each outlet with the stakeholder they are targeting. Then, for each stakeholder, create a document. Copy and paste all the relevant articles. Run that text through databasic.io word counter for some hints about key phrases or words to use. 

14. Consider How Search Platforms Respond To Your Keywords

It’s all well and good to build an intent-based keyword list, but if you don’t go a step further by correlating how search engines might react to that intent, then activating against that keyword list might reap disappointing outcomes. My tip is to correlate that list with data that tells you how search platforms will respond to those keywords once activated.

15. Start With The SERP

Use Google’s rankings themselves as a lens for user intent. Google’s algorithms are entirely trying to match intent (match a query with the desired result), so analyzing the search engine results page for your target keywords is critical. Some results are “Wikipedia”-flavored, some e-commerce, and some purely educational. Make sure you are working on rankings that match the intended intent. 

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