Paid Search Marketing

Commercial Intent: How to Find Your Most Valuable Keywords

By Dan Shewan June 30, 2014 Posted In: Paid Search Marketing Comments: 0

High commercial intent keywords are like invitations from prospective customers. They beg you to tempt them with your wares. They tell you, loud and clear, that they have money in their hands (or burning holes in their pockets), and they want what you’re selling right now.

The intent of the keyword should affect how you target it. For example, if someone is clearly in the “early research” phase of shopping, the keywords they use will have less intent – maybe something like “do I need a lawyer?” You can target that keyword with a content piece like a checklist. Content marketing is all about getting in front of the customer early and making a good impression. Maybe later on, he’ll come back when he needs you.

However, if someone definitely does need a lawyer, they might use a high commercial intent keyword like “workers compensation lawyer san diego.” That guy is more likely to be a hot lead, and this is a perfect use case for PPC, because you can be sure your targeted ad is right at the top of the search results, and you’re willing to pay to make sure you get the lead.

Commercial intent keywords Futurama meme

In today’s post, we’re going to look at what high commercial intent keywords are, why they’re so important, and how you can identify them for your individual business.

What Are Commercial Intent Keywords?

There are three basic types of search query:

  • Informational – searches performed to answer questions or learn something
  • Navigational – searches performed to locate a specific website
  • Transactional – searches performed to buy something

Obviously, commercial intent keywords are only relevant to transactional searches. If you think of keywords as signals from prospective customers, keywords with commercial intent are the most promising. Just like Fry above, prospects searching using commercial intent keywords are just waiting for you to shut up and take their money. But what kinds of keywords can be considered to have high commercial intent?

Examples of Commercial Intent Keywords

Although there are many commercial intent keywords, some are “stronger” than others.

Firstly, there are two main categories of keywords with high commercial intent: “buy now” keywords and “product” keywords. Let’s take a look at what this means and how they differ.

‘Buy Now’ Commercial Intent Keywords

This category of keywords signals that the prospect, as the name implies, is ready to buy something right now. They’ve made up their mind to buy, and they’re looking for an attractive offer that meets their expectations.

Commercial intent keywords Buy Now button on keyboard

“Buy now” keywords include terms like:

  • Buy
  • Discount(s)
  • Deal(s)
  • Coupon(s)
  • Free shipping

Each of these keywords signifies that the prospect has already made their decision to purchase, and is just looking for offers to sweeten the deal.

The first keyword, “buy”, is the strongest, as this is a prospect’s pure declaration of intent to part ways with their cash in exchange for whatever you’re selling. The others are also strong buying signals, but also indicate that the prospect wants or expects you to differentiate yourself from your competition in the form of incentives.

‘Product’ Commercial Intent Keywords

The next most valuable commercial intent keywords are “product” keywords. Although these keywords typically convert highly, prospects may be more hesitant to purchase immediately than those using “buy now” keywords.

Commercial intent keywords product barcode

“Product” keywords include:

  • Branded searches (brand-name goods)
  • Specific products (“iPhone 5c” etc.)
  • Product categories (“summer dresses”, “insect repellant”, “beach accessories” etc.)
  • Affordable
  • Best
  • Cheapest
  • Comparison
  • Review
  • Top

Some of these keywords will be more valuable than others, depending on the nature of your business. For example, branded and product-specific keywords are savagely competitive, but convert very well. Although “comparison” and “review” keywords may not seem as strong as some of the others, these keywords can still convert highly as the intent to purchase is still there – the prospect might just make you work harder for the conversion.

When creating a list of product keywords, it’s important to note the distinction between lead and product searches. For example, in the lawyer example above, the prospect isn’t looking to “buy” a lawyer, but hire one. This means that although the prospect is considered a hot lead, the potential customer probably still needs to call the business to discuss their situation further. For these reasons, “best” might be considered the strongest product keyword for a service-based businesses like a workman’s comp attorney (as well as “free consultation”). Product searches, on the other hand, can be completed entirely online and focus solely on a specific product, so product keywords such as “affordable” and “cheapest” are likely to be the most effective (and highly competitive).

Why Are Commercial Intent Keywords More Valuable Than High Search Volume Keywords?

Some businesses spend thousands of dollars to maximize their visibility. This is all well and good, and high traffic is always a good thing, but if the vast majority of your visitors aren’t buying what you’re selling, it might be time to reconsider your approach.

Commercial intent keywords Los Angeles freeway gridlock

Unless you’re one of those ad-supported clickbait sites like BuzzFeed, high traffic keywords aren't worth much unless they’re driving conversions. This isn't to say you shouldn't go after big keywords with less commercial intent, but it makes more sense to target these keywords with organic content that is higher up in the purchasing funnel.

On the other hand, high commercial intent keywords are best suited to paid search campaigns, for a few reasons:

  • Paid search ads get you placement at the very top of the page
  • You can make tweaks and adjustments to optimize for cost per click, cost per lead, cost per conversion and other metrics
  • Ad types like Shopping Ads are highly attractive to searchers with commercial intent, and and tend to get the clicks from people who are ready to buy

One Size Does Not Fit All

Now, you might have looked at the list of “typical” high commercial intent keywords above and thought, “None of those apply to my business.” If this is the case, it’s time to sit down and think about your business and your desired conversion outcomes.

If you operate a service-based business, “rent” or “hourly rate” might be among your highest commercial intent keywords. In addition, it’s worth considering what action you want your ideal customer to perform after clicking on your ads. Are you running campaigns primarily for the purpose of lead generation? If so, “free trial” might be a high commercial intent keyword for your business.

When it comes to keywords with strong commercial intent, one size definitely doesn’t fit all, but how do you go about identifying these keywords in the first place?

How Do I Identify High Commercial Intent Keywords For My Business?

There are several ways you can begin to identify high commercial intent keywords, regardless of what kind of business you run or your desired conversion outcomes. Let’s take a look at a couple of them.

AdWords Keyword Planner

Unsurprisingly, the AdWords Keyword Planner is one of the best ways to identify commercial intent keywords.

First, log into your AdWords account and access the Keyword Planner from the “Tools” tab. Then, select “Search for new keyword and ad group ideas” from the list.

Commercial intent keywords AdWords keyword planner tool

Now, enter your product or service in the search field. For this example, I used “iPhone”, a fiercely competitive product-specific keyword. After a moment, you’ll be presented with a graph of search volume trends (notice the spike in September last year when the iPhone 5c and 5s were announced), but you’re looking for the “Keyword ideas” tab.

Commercial intent keywords iPhone keyword suggestions

This is where you’ll be presented with a list of suggested keywords – and where you can identify the high commercial intent keywords you’re interested in.

In the following figure, notice how “buy iphone” has by far the highest suggested bid? This is because it’s a very high commercial intent keyword, and competition for it is intense.

Commercial intent keywords AdWords iphone keyword recommendations

The other highlighted suggestions are all high commercial intent keywords. The keyword “cheap iphone” has almost twice the average monthly search volume of “buy iphone”, yet the suggested bid is significantly lower. (Though someone using this keyword has intent to buy, the click is going to be worth less since they're looking for a bargain.) Also notice the ratio of average monthly searches to suggested bid of other high commercial intent keywords such as “iphone for sale” and “cheap iphone 4”.

Google Analytics

Another way you can determine which keywords are driving conversions is by using Google Analytics.

First, access Google Analytics and open the “AdWords Keywords” report from within the “Acquisition” section (Acquisition > AdWords > AdWords Keywords).

The resulting table will show you your top-performing keywords, and how they relate to your conversion goals. Let’s take a look.

Commercial intent keywords Google Analytics report

  • Your top 10 (by default) keywords are displayed in the far-left column
  • The goal you wish to measure against can be changed via the drop-down menu circled in the figure above
  • The three columns beneath the goal you’re currently viewing correspond to the percentage of visits that converted (column one), the total number of conversions (column two) and the monetary value of those conversions (column three)

Note that if you do not have monetary values assigned to your goals, all values in column three will be zero.

Commercial intent keywords Jackie Chan confused

So, what does all this mean? Well, first of all, your top-performing keyword might not necessarily be the one that resulted in the most conversions. In the figure above, the first keyword in the list drove the most traffic (by a considerable margin), but the third keyword actually had the highest percentage of sessions that resulted in a conversion.

Now that you’ve figured out how your keywords impact actual conversions, ask yourself – how many high commercial intent keywords are in your top 10? If you don’t see any, it might be time to start adding some of these keywords in your AdWords account. Even if your top-performers are doing well, how much better could your conversion rate be if you targeted high commercial intent keywords as well? Of course, this will likely have an impact on your budget – as we saw in the “iphone” example above, high commercial intent keywords often have a significantly higher suggested bid and CPC, so be sure to bear this in mind if you choose to throw your hat in the ring.

Show Me The Money

Commercial intent keywords Tom Cruise Jerry Maguire

Targeting high commercial intent keywords can result in dramatic improvements to your click-through rates and offer you an excellent opportunity to focus on what really matters – conversions. Add some high commercial intent keywords to your AdWords account and get ready to shut up and take their money.

AdWords Performance Grader




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