Understanding Searcher Intent: The Forgotten Ingredient In Keyword Research

understanding searcher intent

I’ve been carrying out my SEO coaching calls, and there’s a forgotten ingredient that many business owners and bloggers are simply not aware of.

It’s the concept of understanding searcher intent when choosing keywords to optimise web pages for.

This is actually one of the reasons why I put together the one-one one SEO coaching calls in the first place.

I’ve been doing SEO coaching and training for quite a while now and there are always things that “people don’t know what they don’t know.”

Or in the words of Steve Jobs, “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Today I want to SHOW you the forgotten ingredient in keyword research – something that you possibly ” don’t know what you don’t know.”

Understanding or inferring searcher intent 

It’s not enough that a keyword is relevant or is extremely popular.

It has be a word or phrase that your ideal client would actually use when they’re looking for information online or want to do something. In other words, the word or phrase has to mean something to the person searching online.

The concept of searcher intent is changing the entire SEO landscape. Ranking for a keyword just because the search volume data says it has 6000 monthly searches is not enough and it doesn’t mean you will get traffic from that keyword. Depending on where you rank on Google (if at all), you could get zero traffic from that keyword because the competition is just too strong.

This is NOT to say that doing keyword research or that keywords are dead. It is NOT. It’s about finding keywords that will bring you the RIGHT people to your website.

Let me give you an example.

You should never optimise a page for a single word or even two words. When I refer to a keyword, I’m referring to a phrase or a key phrase and that is what you should be targeting.

When someone types the words “mobile phone” into Google, what do you think they’re searching for? Are they searching for mobile phone plans, prepaid mobile phones, brands of mobile phones or the Apple smart phone?

The answer is you don’t know.

You don’t know the reason or the motivation why the searcher is looking for “mobile phones.”

And that my friend is what searcher intent is all about  – the WHY! Why is someone Googling ‘mobile phone?” It’s a far too competitive and broad keyword to target. Even if the keyword does bring you some traffic to your website, there’s a good chance most of that traffic will bounce.

The type of content you create needs to match the intent of the person searching for it.

Here are some more examples.

What’s the reason someone would Google “weight loss?” Does it mean the person wants to lose weight? Do they want to lose 5 kilos in 30 days? Again you don’t know because there’s not enough information for you to make a conclusion. Perhaps the person is searching for a weight loss pills, weight loss calculator, weight loss articles or weight loss clinic?

A person wanting to lose weight fast or lose weight in 30 days is more likely to search for “fast weight loss plan,” “how to reduce weight,” or “how to lose weight in 4 weeks without exercise.” If you’re in the business of helping people lose weight, these are the types of phrases and topics you should be blogging about.

The term “weight loss” is too generic, broad and vague. Yes it’s an extremely popular and highly searched for term but it lacks intent.

Choose phrases that are specific and relevant and use them in your content. Your focus needs to be on getting good quality traffic not quantity.

Get inside your ideal client’s head – it’s all about mindset

get inside ideal client's mind

The best way to understand searcher intent is through talking with your ideal and potential clients. You need to understand at what stage your ideal client is at in their journey because this will help you convert visitors into leads. For example, person A searching for business coaching could be looking for reviews of business coaches, general information or just wants to find out what business coaching entails. Person B searching for a business coach could be ready to hire a business coach.  There’s a big difference in the mindset of person A and person B. If you’re a business coach that wants to capture email addresses and leads when people visit their website, then you could be better off optimising for business coach.

Still even the term business coach is too broad. This is why you need to niche and understand WHO exactly do you serve. Are you a business coach for women entrepreneurs or a business coach that serves high end executives? Do you specialise in systems and processes or do you help people figure out their purpose and passion? Understanding your USP is key to discovering the right words and phrases your ideal client is searching for.

People just don’t randomly Google “how to overcome depression without medication” without having given some thought and consideration as to why they’re searching for that. That is a very specific phrase someone has searched for. Why do you think they’ve searched for that? This tells me the person is aware they have depression, they’re looking for a cure or treatment and they want to do so without taking drugs. Hello health coaches and natural therapists out there. This is the TYPE of content you need to be creating because someone searching for this is a lot further along the sales journey, which means they’re more likely to engage with you or even hire you than someone just searching for “understanding depression.” Two completely different mindsets.

More examples of searcher intent

TOO BROAD & VAGUE                                MORE SPECIFIC   – people you want to attract to your website
How to break up How to handle a break up with kids
Raw food Raw food recipes for beginners
Stress and anxiety Vitamins for stress and anxiety
Information on fibromyalgia Natural treatment for fibromyalgia

The person searching for ‘natural treatment of fibromyalgia,’ after reading your sales page, is more likely to click for the free 30 minute discovery session with you because they’re on the hunt for a solution. Their search behaviour indicates that whereas the person searching for information about fibromyalgia could be looking for anything related to the topic.

This means that Google is getting better at determining what’s relevant to you and what you’re actually looking for. This gives you the opportunity to plan a content strategy not just in terms of what specific keywords you want to rank for but also what topics your ideal client is interested in. So if you’re a raw food coach, think about the types of content you could create. For example, could people be looking for recipes, recipes for beginners, recipes for desserts, meal plans, the different types of raw foods, detox plans, raw food smoothies, or a raw food shopping list? If so, be the one to provide them with this information AND to optimise for these specific keywords.

The easiest way to do this is to create topics and content that will be most USEFUL to your ideal client. I’m a novice when it comes to raw food so having access to information catered specifically for beginners would be extremely valuable to me.

One easy way to do this yourself is to simply go to Google and type a word into the search box to see what results it suggests. For example, when I type ‘raw food,’ I get a bunch of local results such as raw food restaurants and stores. So if you’re a raw food coach, you won’t rank well for ‘raw food’ because Google is returning a whole different set of search results.

If you want to find out more about understanding searcher intent, I recommend you check out this video from Rank Fishkin from Moz.

The future of SEO

SEO is no longer about just getting links and ranking for specific keywords. With the evolution of Google Plus and personalised search, searcher intent and Google’s ability to determine the context and meaning behind certain keywords and phrases will only become bigger. According to Search Engine Journal, voice search is something on the rise and predicts that voice search, along with local+social+mobile and vertical search will own the future.

Next month I’m heading to London to attend Search Love SEO conferencewhere I’ll get the opportunity to learn a lot more about what the future has in store for SEO and network with industry leaders. I’ll be sure to give you first-hand updates and insights.

Is Blogging Dead? No. Find out how my blog posts still send me boat loads of traffic 3 years later.

Did you like this content? Don’t miss a single update…. It’s FREE!


  1. Such great info Shae. I love how you talk about the need to add content related to the searchers intent. I always learn something new from your posts 🙂

  2. Shae, I learn SO MUCH every time your blog comes out! And thanks specifically for the real life examples. (mobile phone, raw foods, etc.) Helped me process everything as SEO is so new to me. And have fun in London, rock star! 🙂

  3. I always love your articles, Shae! This one is no exception. Thanks for the examples: it really gets the point across. I’m dedicated to learning more about SEO and whenever I read your articles I feel more educated. Thanks for sharing your genius! x

  4. Seriously Shae… you are such a freaking rockstar!!
    This SEO stuff has taken a while to drop into my head, but its just starting to sink in for me!
    Love you passion for this, it is awesome! xxx


Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge