Balancing Volume, Competition, And Intent To Find The Right Keyword

By Benjamin Brandall | @benjbrandall | Head of Content Marketing at Process Street

SEO is a skill which many train for years in order to crack some magical use-all formula to get their posts ranking on the number one spot in Google. Whilst Google Ads can bring in a fantastic amount of targeted traffic, organically ranking for the right keywords can see insane amounts of traffic (and even conversions) come into your site because the audience was already interested in your page.


Although it isn’t going to bring results as quickly as a PPC campaign (and you can even use these methods for PPC), you can’t go wrong with a good old organic traffic campaign running alongside your ads.


You might despair (as I have a fair number of times) when you put time and effort into ranking for completely the wrong term. To combat this, you need to employ a keyword research process which has the perfect balance of volume, competition, and intent.


Put it this way, anyone with an internet connection can hop onto Google Keyword Planner and search for the volume and competition behind a keyword they think might be useful. However, if the audience searching that term doesn’t have the right intent, you could well end up harming your site more than you help it.


For example, a low intent could mean that your page’s bounce rate is high, as the audience wasn’t interested in sticking around for very long. Alternatively, the page might rank well, but the product you’re attempting to sell could get little to no attention at all, making your efforts for nought.


So, how do you find the perfectly balanced keyword? Well…


Give Volume Context


Whilst it may seem counter-intuitive, the highest volume keyword isn’t always the best choice. Not only will you likely have a far greater pool of competition to rank for the top spot, but the audience for that keyword will be unfocused.


Long-tail or niche keywords have a more direct intent behind them. For example, “online marketing tools” will have a far more targeted audience than just “online marketing.” The former will bring in potential customers for a marketing tool, whilst the latter could be searching for anything from a brief explanation to a comprehensive list of tips and tricks.


Judging both of these examples by volume alone, however, will give you a false positive. With 60x the search volume and both being “medium” competition, it’s very tempting to go for the gold. However, as previously stated, doing so will garner an audience which could be wholly uninterested in your particular page.


The lesson is to frame the volume of the keywords you research in the context of your content. Judge how likely a particular keyword is going to result in engaged users, along with the value of your content. If your content is anything less than stellar, you shouldn’t be looking to aim for the top keywords, as you’ll have a much harder time ranking due to disinterested (and unfocused) viewers.


Waver Competition Based On Quality


Whilst the competition (or “difficulty”) of a keyword shouldn’t be taken lightly, there’s more room for flexibility than many seem to state. It’s true that the higher the competition, the harder it is to rank, but you need to once again consider the quality of your content and the resources you’re willing to put into ranking it.


Like with volume, if you have a piece of content which is head and shoulders above the results currently ranking for a keyword, the reported difficulty means a little less than “always go for the bottom end.” This is once again down to audience engagement (a page which holds your audience is held in higher regard by Google) and the intent of users searching for any given term.


Keyword competition can also be less of a barrier if your site already holds a decent amount of influence. For example, if you’re able to easily generate links through guest posting or inter-linking on your own site, you’ll already have a slight boost to your chances of ranking on the top spot. If your social media accounts have many followers, consider the number of shares you will receive and the ground it can cover on mediums like Twitter and Facebook.


As with volume, you also need to frame difficulty in the context of the resources you’re willing to put it into ranking. A higher quality piece of content will be worth putting more effort into, and so difficulty once again becomes less of an issue.


Constantly Relate Back To Buyer Intent


Once you’ve sussed up the volume and difficulty of your top candidates, it’s time to frame everything in terms of the buyer intent behind each term. As already mentioned, buyer intent is exactly what it says on the tin – the intent behind a person who’s searching any given term.


Intent will relate back to your ultimate goal with the content you’re aiming to rank. If the goal is to raise awareness for a particular product, judge how likely a user searching your keyword is likely to be interested. If you’re building out an email list, take a while to think about whether the audience is going to be interested in hearing what the rest of your site has to say.


Admittedly, there’s no general rule for judging the intent behind any keyword. Usually, a long-tail keyword will have a higher intent behind it, but you’ll still need to make an educated guess. Search Google to see what kinds of sites are currently ranking (and whether they are relevant to your content), take a look on Quora to see what questions are being asked, or even boot up Buzzsumo to scour the most popular articles for the keyword.


This is the true art within your marketing processes as you can’t go entirely on numbers and statistics. Much like traditional marketing, you need to have a feel for your topic and learn to make the best call. If you think that a broader term has sufficient interest, you may well end up ranking for the long-tail keywords anyway.


Nonetheless, keeping context and content in mind when assessing keyword volume, competition and intent will go a long way to making sure that your efforts will bring in the highest volume of users targeted towards your specific needs. All you need to do now is take the leap and give your keywords the attention they deserve.