Let me ask you a question: What if you’ve got your keyword research all wrong?
I ask because most marketers use the same broken process:
- Hop onto a keyword tool
- Plug in some industry-specific keywords
- Extract the keywords that they feel their customers might search for
And inevitably, put these generic keywords to use in their content.
It has no impact on their search engine rankings, and it moves no needles for their sales process.
Generic keywords spewed from a keyword tool don’t match the search intent of your prospective customers.
Let me explain.
For years, attracting prospects online and converting them into customers was a short and sweet process.
Now, the buying cycle is longer and more intricate. Customers go through an entire journey of not even knowing that they have a problem, to them finding your solution.
It’s not until the end of that cycle that they evaluate their options and make a final purchase decision.
That’s where search intent comes in.
At each stage of this buying cycle, your prospects will use different search queries to match their intent.
If you can predict what those search queries are at each stage of their journey, you can create the type of content that will influence their purchase decision.
Do you see how this can be a powerful conversion tool?
The best part is, it’s way simpler than it sounds.
In this article, I’ll show you exactly how you can map your keyword research process to your buyer’s journey.
Let’s jump in.
Keyword Mapping Basics
The Buyer’s Journey
Before we get into keyword research, here’s a quick refresher on the buyer’s journey.
The buyer’s journey is the path that customers take all the way from researching a product to making their final purchase decision.
Why is this journey such a big deal?
If you know what customers are doing at every point of interaction with your business, you can optimize this process for conversions.
There are three stages in the buyer’s journey:
Here’s a brief overview:
At this stage, the buyer has become aware of their problem, they’re on the hunt for information, and they’ve reached an important tipping point.
What does this mean for your business?
The opportunity is prime for them to discover you.
If you play your cards right, this is where buyers will make the first point of interaction with your brand.
Your task is to ensure that you create content that is optimized for the search queries that they’ll be using at this point.
Here, buyers are acutely aware of their problem and have stumbled across your solution.
The consideration stage is where a buyer is the most engaged. They’ll be dissecting and evaluating all their possible options and will also be considering your solutions.
Your ability to outperform your competitors on all marketing fronts is tested at this stage.
At this point, your buyers’ minds are made up and they will be making their final purchase decision.
The decision stage is where the magic happens. Your chance to make a sale is right here.
Now that you have an overview of the three phases of the buyer’s journey, the work begins.
You need to get a solid grasp of who that ideal customer is to you.
If you don’t get clear on that, you won’t understand how they move through your sales and marketing funnels.
That’s where buyer personas come into play.
Buyer Personas and How to Map Your Buyer’s Journey
You’re probably tired of hearing about personas at this point.
But here’s the thing:
This simple map of your ideal buyer has utility in every pillar of business.
They’re the ones that matter.
What are their needs? What keeps them up at night? What’s going to drive them towards your solution?
Discover that, and you’ll be well on your way to outranking your competitors in organic search.
Here’s how you can find information about your ideal buyer.
i. Look at your website and social media data
You don’t have to look past your analytics to find key data points on your audience.
In fact, you can use Facebook Insights to find demographic information as well as the type of content that your audience responds to best.
I also recommend Google Analytics to gain insight on how users engage with your website.
What are your popular sources of traffic? Which pages are the most popular? From what segment of your audience is this traffic coming from?
ii. Talk to your customers to get into their heads.
The single best way to get insight into your ideal customers is to talk to them. Survey your email list and use polls for your social media audience.
Ensure that you ask questions that will help you determine their behaviors at each stage of the customer journey.
Here’s what you should be looking for:
- What are buyers’ challenges and objectives at each stage?
- What steps do they take to get informed about these challenges?
- What type of content do they respond to at each stage?
- How much do they participate and engage? (You’ll likely find that customers are way more involved during the consideration stage)
- What are their interactions with your brand?
After you’ve gotten this insight, you can now connect the dots to create your persona and map your customer journey.
With this information in hand, it’s time to do your keyword research.
Keyword Mapping: The Types of Keywords for Each Stage of the Buyer’s Journey
Knowing your ideal buyer is great.
Knowing how they navigate through your sales funnels is even better.
But knowing what keywords they use at each stage is everything.
I’ll tell you why.
At each stage of their journey, buyers have different needs. It means that each time, they will approach their search process with a different intent.
By extension, they’ll be using different keywords to communicate this intent.
Does that make sense?
Let’s break it down some more.
Understanding User Search Intent
Keyword research and search engine optimization are all very technical, right?
In many ways, yes.
But SEO has as much to do with people as it does with search engines.
Many marketers overlook the human element of keyword research because they think it’s all about robots.
That’s a giant misconception.
Imagine this scenario:
- You’re an end user on the hunt for information.
- You type in a few search queries to find that information.
- You click on the first few results in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
- The content on these pages is irrelevant to your search query.
You’d be annoyed, right? Sure you would.
After all, you’re no more informed than you were before you conducted your search.
That’s why search intent is a critical component to keyword research.
It adds context to the process.
In other words, it will allow you to provide the right information to the right people at the right time.
Search engine robots can’t do this for you.
They have, however, simplified the process considerably.
Google defined four micro-moments that describe most search queries:
It’s up to you to do your due diligence of getting to know how these apply to your audience.
The result? You provide infinitely more value to your users.
In turn, your clickthrough rates increase, your SEO performance improves, and your overall brand equity is elevated.
With that out of the way, how do you find keywords for each stage of the customer journey?
Let’s find out.
How to Find Informational Keywords for the Awareness Stage
At the awareness stage of the customer journey, buyers will be using informational keywords. As the name suggests, these are the keywords that customers use when they’re conducting research.
From an e-commerce perspective, these queries aren’t immediately valuable because they have very little commercial intent.
From a holistic marketing perspective, these keywords are gems.
If you can position yourself as an authority, this will positively impact your lead generation efforts.
The more leads you collect at the top of your marketing funnel, the more conversions you can have at the bottom of your funnel.
It’s also going to help you gain trust with your audience. With informational keywords, your focus is on providing value to readers.
You won’t be creating content that’s geared towards landing a sale.
Why is this important?
According to this survey, users frown upon an excess of promotional content. Almost 60% of social media users say they’re annoyed by too many promotional posts.
You now know how important informational keywords are.
Let’s find some.
Use the following questions to brainstorm your informational keywords:
- What problem does your product solve?
- What transformation will your product bring?
- What words will buyers use to describe their problems and their aspirations for transformation?
- What attitude does the buyer have towards their problems and potential solutions?
Let’s say that you’re selling a tool which helps to optimize websites for converting leads.
Using the questions above as a guideline, here are some of the queries that a buyer might search for:
- “Grow my email list.”
- “How to get email subscribers fast.”
- “How to create a lead magnet that converts.”
- “What’s the best way to grow an email list?”
- “How to build an email list from scratch.”
Go ahead and brainstorm some ideas for your product.
You can also use a simple Google search to help you.
Plug in your general keyword in the search bar, and you’ll get even more ideas from Google Suggest:
Go through with your search and scroll down to the bottom of the page. There you’ll find more searches related to your keyword:
I recommend taking this search across several layers. Click on one of the options and check out the related keywords as well. You’ll get even more detailed ideas:
Repeat this process until you have a sizable list of targeted long tail keywords.
Take a note of all these search queries. You won’t use all of them, but it gives you options.
How to find navigational keywords for the consideration stage
At the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey, users will be searching for navigational keywords.
These are search queries that correspond to a product, company, or brand name.
Be mindful that potential buyers will be looking at both your products and that of your competitors.
That means that you need to consider your competitors’ keywords as well. To do that you need to find what these competing products are.
Some places you may search include:
- Google paid ads
- Facebook paid ads
- Other online marketplaces
After you’ve got an idea of who your competitors are, consider these questions for coming up with navigational queries:
- What is your brand known for?
- What are the frequently asked questions for your product?
- What are the pros and cons of your product?
- How do buyers feel about these pros and cons?
- Which products out there are competing with yours both on price and benefits?
- What category does your product belong to?
Transforming these questions into search queries is simple.
Here are a few examples:
- A buyer searching for frequently asked questions might simply search for: [Product name] FAQ
- A buyer searching for product comparisons might search for: [Product name] versus [Competing product] or [Product name/competing product] Pros and Cons
- A buyer searching for a brand’s overall history with a particular product category might search for: [Brand name] + [Main Keyword] or [Brand name] + [Product Category]
Take a note of the keywords that you come up with.
How to Find Transactional Keywords for the Conversion Stage
At the conversion stage of the customer journey, buyers will be using transactional keywords.
These are search queries that indicate high commercial intent.
In other words, if a buyer uses these search terms, they’re more than likely primed for purchase.
Consider these questions:
- What do prospects need at the exact moment that they’re about to make a purchase?
- What are some of the things that will get them through the cart faster?
- Are buyers the sole decision makers? Who do they have to consult before making that final purchase?
- What expectations do they have for a transaction?
Again, it’s simply a matter of using these questions as activators for coming up with your transactional keywords.
For example, to help them make a purchase, buyers may search for coupons and promotional offers. They may use this formula: [product name] discount.
Beyond the Conversion Funnel: How to Find Keywords to Improve Customer Retention and Loyalty
Your potential buyer has converted into a customer.
You’ve made the sale.
Does your work stop there? Not unless you want to lose that customer.
Most people don’t optimize their content beyond the conversion funnel, but it is critical to your business.
It doesn’t require much legwork to optimize this stage.
Customers will also be using navigational keywords. Only this time, it will be more targeted to the product that they purchased.
Consider these questions:
- What problems do new customers complain about?
- What steps do customers have to take to use your product correctly?
- How can customers get additional functionality out of your product? Are there any integrations or add ons that they can use?
It’s not difficult to find this information.
You can search through product-specific Facebook groups. You can also go to third party review sites, read the reviews, and see what customers are saying about your product in the comments section.
Take a note of all the queries that you come up with.
At this point, you should have keywords for each stage of the buyer’s journey.
But they’re just ideas.
How do you know the potential of each keyword and which ones to target?
It’s all in the data.
How to Expand on Your Keyword Data
Now that you have some keyword ideas for each stage of the customer journey, it’s time to use a keyword tool to get some concrete data.
I recommend UberSuggest.
First, plug in your keyword and press “Suggest.”
You’ll get a massive alphabetized list of keywords. Here are my results when I type in “keyword research.”
As you can see, I got 237 additional keyword ideas for that one search query. There’s no way all of these will be useful or relevant to me.
The key is to pick the ones that align with your business.
What about the search volume and other metrics attached to these keywords?
After you’ve gotten concrete terms from UberSuggest, go to TermExplorer to get this data.
Find the tool and click on “Start a Keyword Analyzer Project.”
Name your project and enter your keywords. You can analyze up to four keywords at once.
You’ll get metrics like:
- Average search volume
- Keyword difficulty
- Average CPC
- Link Strength
You can then export your keyword data.
How to Assess Keyword Competitiveness at Each Stage of the Customer Journey
Why is competitiveness important?
If you know the level of competition for a keyword, you can select the ones that you have a realistic chance of ranking for.
A big part of it has to do with which stage of the customer journey you’re looking at.
As you progress down the marketing funnel, keyword competition increases. By this standard, commercial and transactional keywords will be the most competitive.
That’s not to say that informational keywords aren’t competitive because they are.
But that’s the objective way of looking at keyword competition.
In truth, deciding which keywords to target requires more than simply looking at their competitiveness.
What resources do you have at your disposal? What marketing strategies will you be using? What are your objectives?
These will all have an impact on your keyword choices.
Let’s say that you don’t have a sizable budget to invest, and you want a purely organic strategy.
You may not be able to compete for commercial keywords in a paid campaign, but you will have a chance at the informational keywords.
Or, if your goal is audience-building, there’s no need to target these transactional keywords.
Does that mean your marketing efforts won’t influence conversions? Of course, it will!
What you do at any stage of the customer journey has a trickle-down effect. It will impact your conversion rates. It simply means your marketing cycle will be longer.
And that’s okay.
The bottom line?
The keywords that you target are all up to you, your resources, and your business objectives.
Conducting keyword research is way more nuanced than marketers have it made out to be.
If you want to create the type of content that drives leads and converts customers, it’s important that you take into account the end user.
Their search intent and the way they navigate through your marketing funnels make all the difference.
Get acquainted with that, and you’ll have no problem attracting and converting the type of audience that fuels your revenue goals.