Determining Searcher Intent
Where do they end up? - most likely your competitor. Even you have relevant information, products or services on other pages, chances are that they user won't be sticking around. Especially if your page appears to be complex and getting to the right page turns out to be an uphill battle. What is going to happen is that the bounce rate of your site will go through the roof. Not good.
The concept of "searchers intent" will help you optimising your site and landing pages and must be an integral part of your keyword strategy.
We distinguish between three main query types: Navigational, Informational and Transactional queries.
We refer to navigational queries if the intent is to surf directly to a specific website. Of course a user could simply type in the URL to go directly to the site, but perhaps some people find it more convenient to access a site via search engines or do not know the exact URL.
Traffic Value: Low if a user didn't search for your brand/site. If, however, the visitor planned to navigate to your site the traffic value is high as there is a good chance that it will lead to a conversion. Perhaps, worth noting concept of micro and macro conversions - it often takes some time till visitors decides to purchase a product or service from your site. Your customer might have seen an ad, or read one of your newsletter previously and decided to finally make an purchase.
Threats: Make sure you rank on #1 for your very own brand name. Yes, we came across sites that do not rank very well for their own brand name. The danger is that users access other sites and perhaps convert elsewhere.
Opportunities: Perhaps you add keywords and brand names of major competitors who receive a great number of navigational queries. If you manage to rank one or two spots below the site the user meant to access and provide a tempting description you may get the user onto your site. If they find what they are looking for they may even convert.
Informational queries cover the majority of search queries made on the net. They are usually non-transactional in nature as the visitors simply want to get informed. However, they might lead to a transaction in future. An examples of non-transactional query would be "Weather forecast London" or "Golden globe winners 2012". If users, however, are searching for "fashionable shoes" it might lead to a future transaction. In this case the visitors to your site simply want to inform themselves of what is fashionable. In this scenario, they would fire a number of queries to narrow down their options and eventually make a purchase. For example:
First Query: "fashionable shoes"
Why? - We simply want to know what's in. Perhaps we are not so young anymore but are planning to go to a party and want to be hip! - (speaking out of experience).
Second Query: "fashionable formal shoes"
Why? - The term "fashionable shoes" returned too many random results and we didn't want to dig any further. Also, we suddenly remember that we are going to a club with dress-code. Sneakers are apparently not allowed.
Third Query: "Buy Saint Laurent shoes"
Why? - We read somewhere that Saint Laurent Shoes is in and we saw a few pictures - and we like what we see. We got the information of a blog and there weren't any prices so we fire a sort-of transactional query in form of an informational query to get a feeling for what the damage is going to be - so to speak.
Fourth Query: "Cheap fashionable designer shoes"
Why? - Well, We figured that £600 for a shoe is a bit overpriced, so let's settle for something less expensive, to do so we search for cheap designer shoes that are in.
So by now you get the idea - users can easily navigate around in the web - easily gather all the information they need. Unlike in the brick and mortar world (high street) the user can easily compare prices, quality and any other factors that influences his/her decision on where to buy. So there will be a lot of "googling" before the user fires a transactional query.
Last Query: "zappos buy hugo boss evimio shoe red"
Why? - Well, we have found what we are after. In previous queries we found that Zappos has exactly what we were after on this occasion. Of course, the last query could have been a navigational query "zappos men shoe" or going directly to the URL. As mentioned previously - bear in mind the concept of micro and macro conversion.
Traffic Value: High if you are supplying information. For Wikipedia the conversion would be if visitor finds the information they are after. They are not selling anything per se. If you are selling services or products the traffic value is slightly lower compared to a website handing out information only. Users are just gathering information and chances are high that users are visiting competitor websites too. So they might not be converting straight away. Again - remember the concept of micro and macro conversions - the emphasis is on "not straight away". The fact that you were able to represent your product and services is a micro conversion as the visitor might returns and convert.
Threats: Without keeping an eye on competitors and not offering an appropriate all-round package your offering might not be attractive enough for visitors to ever return and convert.
Opportunities: Develop a strong brand. Informational keywords are multi-word keywords and it is usually easier to rank for those than for major and highly competitive keywords. So you get potential customers on your site. If your landing pages are optimised in a way that it is attractive to the visitor (product, service, price, layout, design, logo, etc.) the user will remember your site. Some might not be converting this time but there is a good chance that they return to your site when they need another "shoe" or whatever you are selling.
Yes, you guessed it - the user has made up his/her mind. Remember that not a transaction or conversion does not have to be of financial nature. If you are offering trial period of your product and a user signs up to it then this counts as transaction/conversion. Another example is filling in a contact form and getting in touch with your company - your Sales team will certainly welcome the lead and it has been defined as a conversion within your sales department.
Traffic Value: Super high. This is what you want.
Threats: Make sure that landing pages are optimised. If user has difficulties to find the information, product or services you might lose them. For an e-commerce shop it is important the funnel - process from placing the product into the basket till payment has been completed - is as simple as possible, so users do not drop off at some point.
Opportunities: You've taken the opportunity. Yay!
How to use this information in your keyword strategy?
Be sure that you maximise traffic value. Of course it would be great to rank well in every single respect and for all keywords that are in some way relevant to what you have to offer. In the real world however, and especially when your site went online just recently you have to make a compromise - in fact you have to be strategic.
Perhaps the first step, before anything else - choose a brand name that makes sense, sounds good and is not a major keyword in your industry as you will have troubles optimising towards navigational queries. If you have your brand name make sure you optimise towards it. No link building necessary really - it's more a matter of well-thought on-page optimisation.
The interesting thing with search queries and user search flow is that people tend to gather information using multi-word keywords. And we know that it is usually easier to optimised towards long-tail keywords. Great - make use of it by making sure you got the right content, information about product, service or whatever else you offer on your site. You get the drift ? A new site with little authority won't rank for major keywords in the short term. Research for informational and transactional keywords as these can help you to get your site going in the short run! - do this whilst chasing for the prestige keywords. Of course this all comes in handy when you are planning upcoming PPC campaigns.
How to use this information in your site-clinic strategy?
Once you have drawn up a sound keyword strategy - make sure landing pages and its content are optimised. Once you are in a position of having keywords ranking on the front pages of search engines you do want them to stay.