Keyword Research for SEO – Intent, Volume and Difficulty

Keyword research extends far beyond identifying what terms and phrases your audience uses to search for your particular products or services. While knowing what terms people use to find you is important, there are several other factors that play a role in how well your website ranks. Of those, three of the most important are keyword intent, keyword difficulty, and keyword volumes.

Keyword Intent Vs. Keyword Difficulty Vs. Keyword Volume: What Do These Terms Even Mean?

Before you take a deep dive into keyword research, why these particular metrics matter, and how to measure them, you first need to understand what intent, difficulty, and volume even mean. Below is a brief definition of each term.

Keyword Intent

Keyword intent — also known as “user intent” and “search intent” — addresses the “why” of a search query. Is the searcher looking for information? Does he or she want to find a specific website? Or is he or she planning to purchase something? User intent helps the search engines narrow down the type of content searchers want and to deliver the most relevant results despite the vastness of a topic.

Keyword intent typically falls into one of three categories. Those are as follows:

  • Informational: Informational searches are searches users conduct to look for answers to questions or concerns they have.
  • Navigational: Navigational searches are ones that users perform to search for specific websites, platforms, or landing pages.
  • Transactional: Transactional searches are searches that individuals conduct with the intent to make a purchase.

Transactional searches have what SEOs refer to as “high intent” and necessitate high intent keywords. High intent key terms include phrases such as “buy now,” “get a quote” or “[product] coupons.” Informational and navigational searches are low intent, as the commercial intent of them is low to non-existent.  

Keyword Difficulty

Keyword difficulty is a metric used to determine how difficult it is to rank for a keyword, term, or phrase. In other words, it tells you how competitive a keyword is, and whether it is worth your time to try to rank for it.

Keyword Volumes

Keyword search volume tells you how many people use a particular query — which can range in length from a single term to a phrase to a complete sentence or question — to search for your specific products or services. It assesses the popularity of a term or phrase over a determined period of time. Many SEOs use keyword volume and difficulty together to devise an effective and budget-friendly SEO strategy.

The Importance of Keyword Intent

Too many marketers operate with the objective of attracting as much traffic as possible, qualified or not. As a result, they rarely take into account keyword intent. This is a mistake.

On the one hand, failing to consider the intent of your audience will cost you in the long run. If you take the “quantity over quality” approach to your Google Ads or other forms of pay-per-click advertising, you are likely to exhaust your budget quicker than if you were to target only high-intent traffic. This is because with PPC ads, you pay for clicks even if those clicks do not result in sales. You can avoid wasting your budget on traffic that will never convert by using high intent keywords to make your intent with ads very clear.

On the other hand, creating content without any consideration of intent can hurt your rankings. Google’s primary objective is to satisfy user intent. It does this by delivering the most relevant content possible based on on-page optimization. If your page does not reflect the intent of the user — whether on accident or by design — Google will penalize you. Given this information, it’s in your best interests to try to match keyword intent to user intent by emphasizing keyword research importance to your SEO team.

The Importance of Keyword Difficulty

Understanding keyword difficulty and all the factors that affect it can be confusing, to say the least. However, this metric relies largely on domain authority, page authority, and link equity.

To assess keyword difficulty, you would input the keyword or phrase into the search bar and then run a competitive analysis of each site or page that ranks on the first 10 pages of the SERPs. Your analysis should focus largely on domain authority and page authority. What you learn about each should give you a good idea of how much link equity each page or domain has. The more link equity associated with a particular keyword, the more difficult it will be for you to rank for it.

Assessing keyword difficulty should be an integral part of your keyword research process. The difficulty of a keyword is a highly accurate indicator of whether a particular keyphrase will be worth your time or monetary investment when both optimizing an organic page and creating a Google Ads campaign. While you want to target popular keywords, you don’t want them to be so popular that the first five pages of the SERPs are dominated by large corporations with unlimited budgets.

The Importance of Keyword Volume

If your business is like most, you rely on organic search to bring in most of your website’s traffic. As a result, you need to target keywords that have a high search volume — or, at the very least, an impressive one. After all, if no one is searching for the keywords you target, no one will find your content, thereby rendering any and all of your SEO efforts mute.

That said, you don’t want to target keywords with too high of a search volume, as you will struggle to compete in the SERPs. You should also continually monitor the search volume of certain words and phrases throughout the year, as seasonality and major regional or industry events can drastically affect this metric. For instance, “best outdoor water toys for toddlers” may see a spike in popularity during the spring and summer but drop significantly come fall. When monitoring volume data it is also important to monitor seasonal keyword trends, as both can inform your SEO strategy.

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Using The Three Metrics To Devise an Effective SEO Strategy

There are dozens of tools that can help you analyze the intent, difficulty, and volume of your desired keywords, one of the best of which is the Google Keyword Planner. To make the most of your efforts, identify intent first and foremost. Do you wish to inform, drive traffic, or sell? Once you identify intent, search for words and phrases that have substantial volume but that have a mid to low-range level of difficulty. The SEO tool you choose to use should clearly indicate the score for intent, volume, and difficulty and guide you toward the best keywords and phrases for your budget.

Of course, going about keyword research and selection the right way is easier said than done. Even with the right tools at your disposal, you may become overwhelmed by the process and second-guess your every decision. We get this, but we also get that you need to act now if you want to start building up your rankings. If you want to take steps today that are guaranteed to lay the foundation for strong rankings and real results in the near future, work with an SEO company that has SEO know-how, talent, and experience. Explore the SEO solutions from ScaledOn, or contact us today.