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Keyword Research: Why Mapping Searcher's Intent to the Buyer's Journey?

In Google’s earlier days, the search engine relied heavily on text data and backlinks to establish rankings through periodic refreshes (it was called “Google Dance”).

Over time, Google search has become an extremely sophisticated machine with a plethora of algorithms designed to promote content and results that meet a user’s needs.

To a certain extent, SEO professionals are typically judged by a combination of :

  • Rankings in SERP
  • Search volumes.
  • Organic traffic levels.
  • Onsite conversions.

That’s because clients want to rank higher, see their organic traffic increase and, by association, get leads and make more sales.

On SEO’s side, when we choose target keywords, there is the tendency and appeal to go after those with the highest search volumes, but, to truly deliver on the client’s expectations (leads, sales), it’s essential to consider search intent and not only search volume.

Search intent (or user intent) is a key part of the equation that is easily overlooked when content is produced. It’s great to be on the first SERP for a highly searched term but if the content is not irrelevant as to satisfy searcher’s expectations, then it won’t make it any higher, and potential traffic gains will be allotted to competitors results.

When considering the intent behind the search, content producers can envision the desired outcome for the searcher’s experience. It also encourages the healthy habits of

  • performing some competitive research researching, to analyze what’s already working (the best, if it’s #1 in SERP, relatively compared to the rest of what the web has to offer)
  • conduct an in-depth (rather than superficial) topic research, to browse the full spectrum of what information is available about the topic, and pick what’s necessary, but do better than whoever is currently ranked #1 in the SERP.

Finally, you will make a real difference for having researched and studied the user intent ONLY when it’s paired properly with the proper search journey stage. Indeed, the association of user intent and search journey gives a way to understand the why of the search, behind simply the terms that users search for.

To gain this valuable context, it’s important to map keywords to stages of the buyer’s journey :

  • Information,
  • Decision,
  • Buying stage.

There exists different terminology for each stage, the important remains to understand the progression from one to another through the search experience a visitor undergoes.

Nowadays, Google Search uses AI and advanced data to determine what stage users are at when they searching for something, based on their search history. You are not Google, nor an AI, instead, you can ask yourself the following questions :

  • Are they looking for more information about a problem they are facing?
  • Have they already identified this problem, and are now ready to compare different solutions to decide what’s best for them, in terms of a solution?
  • Have they decided on the best solution for them and are henceforth looking to take action (buy, sign up, hire, etc…)?

To apply this learning to your SEO strategy, it’s recommended to learn how to conduct keyword research to create content that matches a searcher’s journey stage.

Understand keywords in the context of the Search Journey

While you do your keyword research, try to categorize your keywords by type based on the stage the user is likely at whenever they are searching for that term.

The three main types are:

  • Informational searches or “Know” keywords
  • Navigational searches or “Go” keywords
  • Transactional searches or “Do” keywords

Now, let’s see what each type is in more detail.

Informational keywords

They correspond to the 1st stage of the buyer’s journey. It’s when users are aware that they have a problem, and intend to “know” more about, to find a solution. Navigational keywords tend to be semantically intuitive words that lead them to informative content.


  • “Do I need a real estate agent”
  • “Should I consult a lawyer”
  • “Real-estate agent in Geneva”
  • “Best real estate agent in Geneva”

They are specific and used by searchers to find a specific brand, product, or service. Users are already aware of the options and now are trying to make a decision. These searches may contain terms that are more specific, less intuitive that user has been exposed to during the informative stage, such as acronyms, jargon, etc…


  • “relocate.inc real estate agent reviews”
  • “James Brayton law firm”
  • “relocate.inc real estate firm”
  • “directions to relocate.inc firm”

Transactional keywords

They match the last stage of the buyer’s journey, once a searcher has done their research, visited results, explored their options, made a decision and is ready to take action in some form (buy, sign-up, call, contact, hire, etc…).

These terms tend to include:

  • “apply”
  • “buy”
  • “discount”
  • “where to contact”
  • “schedule appointment”

Google may then show them content that is more transactional to urge users to schedule a call, submit an application, or buy a product.


  • “bob johnson free consultation”
  • “call bob johnson law firm”
  • “book appointment relocate.inc agent”

Map Your Keywords to Each Stage

You should categorize your keywords based on the three keywords types outlined above. It will help you better identify what kind of content to create around each term.

In doing so, you can also be confident that you are drawing in users at each stage of the buyer’s journey. It will help you avoid creating solely informational or navigational content, and miss out on the “more conversion-ready” traffic sourced from the transactional keywords.

Adapt your content to each stage of the Search Journey

Having Search Journeys in mind, SEO pros, content writers and website owners can create content that is more aligned with what users are really (and implicitly) searching for.

Matching content to each stage of the buyer’s journey will help them reel in users from each stage, in particular:

  • those looking for informational content,
  • those looking for navigational/commercial content,
  • those looking for transactional/action content.

Adapt content to informational keywords

“Informational” content typically takes the form of blog posts that aim to help users learn something or solve a problem.

They usually target more question-based terms and want to be your “ultimate guides”, “how-tos”, and “listicles” (list-articles).

Examples of Informational content are blog posts like:

  • “How to Know if You Need a Life Insurance”
  • “15 Ideas for Remodeling Your Living Room”
  • “Why You Are You Still Gaining Weight with Crash Diets”

Adapt content to navigational keywords

Navigational content draws in visitors that are searching for a particular brand. Therefore, this content can target branded terms, but also terms related to the industry, the type of business, or the category of product.

Examples of Navigational content are :

  • A Contact Us page that targets “[brand name] directions” or even just the brand name itself.
  • Commercial content that target terms like “best law firm in Paris” or “trusted family lawyer in London” with an optimized service page or landing page.

When doing SEO for businesses, ideally, brand names should rank. Focusing also on Commercial terms will draw in users that are looking for a certain type of business rather than a specific brand.

Adapt content to transactional keywords

Transactional content is the content that attracts the visitors that are most ready to take action (i.e buy). This is typically a content you have less of, as you are likely to have one or a few sales pages only.

For online stores (e-commerce), this type of content is particularly important so you should optimize your product pages for terms like:

  • “buy [product]”
  • “buy [products] online”
  • “[product] discounts”

This type of content suits very well for A/B testing as the expected action is unambiguous. Optimize this content for conversions to increase sales.

Final words

If you are simply targeting keywords to match intent or answer user questions, you could be missing out on conversions. Instead, adopt a holistic view of your buyer’s journey and focus on every step of your funnel.

Categorize your target keywords and creating content that matches each stage of the buyer’s journey, you have the opportunity to attract users that are:

  • Only looking for information.
  • Still weighing their options.
  • Ready to take action.

Set conversion points at each stage and move visitors down your funnel.

~ Thanks for reading ~


By Alban Leandri

I am an engineer with a soul-devouring passion for sciences and the digital space. With experience in startups and technology companies, I'm always keen to face new challenges, improve my craft and share the love :)

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