Understanding Search Intent

This week Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) came up with yet another great question set titled “Understanding Search Intent.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: If you could only use one word to describe why PPC campaigns are successful, what would it be? Why?

  • Data. – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
  • Relevance. – Chris Haleua (@chrishaleua)
  • Targeting. – Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem)
  • Need. – Nate Knox (@nateknox)
  • Relevant – we’re serving up what the audience wants on a silver platter! Often in their own words. – Heather Cooan (@HeatherCooan)
  • Scalability. – Josiah Colt (@_kingjosiah_)
  • Can ROI count as one word? – Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
  • Demand-fufillment. – Jeremy Brown (@JBGuru)
  • Relevance. – Eloi Casali (@Eloi_Casali)
  • “Enhanced!”… jk… Flexibility! – Gil Hong (@ghong_af)
  • Pull (marketing) – we’re giving people what they want, not forcing it on them. – Aaron Levy (@bigalittlea)
  • “Targeted” because they are strong in targeting. – Onur Dogan (@honurdogan)
  • Quick. Why? It is the fastest way to get conversions. – Ganesh Acharya (@ganeshjacharya)
  • Segmentation. Bucketed KWs, ads, search intent. – Jesse Semchuck (@jessesem)
  • I choose relevance because everything from account setup to getting the conversion is all about relevance to the users’ intent. – Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
  • Structure. Or if I’m cheating…. structure,data,demand,targetting. – Laura McDonald (@lauramcdonald0)
  • Control. – Janine Monico (@JanineSEM)
  • Analysis. – Tyler Purcell (@tylerpurcell)
  • Add me to those voting for “relevant” as my one word. – Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)
  • Measurable. – Sean Evanko (@sevanko)
  • Controlled. – Ganesh Acharya

Q2: How does the term “search intent” play into your PPC methodology and subsequent training?

  • Holy grail of PPC. – Ganesh Acharya
  • Majorly – tons of wasted budget potential if you are throwing loosely relevant phrases in without considering intent. – Timothy Jensen
  • Huge. It’s the key to achieving relevancy. – Cassie Allinger (@CassieAllinger)
  • It’s a translation game. “What are they looking for?” And I test answers until I see marked improvement in performance data. – Heather Cooan
  • Helps to distinguish good/bad keywords without having to spend loads of money to test. – Luke Alley (@LukeAlley)
  • Determines which kw bids should be valued higher or lower, on whether users are ready to convert or just research. – Gil Hong (@ghong_af)
  • It provides the right context for clients to understand PPC strategies. – Nefer Lopez (@Nefer_L)
  • It’s why we focus more on queries than keywords. What does the user want, EXACTLY? – PPC Associates (@PPCAssociates)
  • If as PPC specialists we aren’t thinking about search intent than we aren’t doing our jobs correctly. – Matt Umbro
  • It’s crucial – a make or break it kind of factor. Search query reports are invaluable in seeing what really drives searches. – Jason Manion (@JasonManion)
  • It’s at the core. And being able to understand “Search intent” you have to truly understand the industry PPC campaign is in. – Bryant Garvin (@BryantGarvin)
  • It determines what and how we do it. – Stephanie Cockerl (@nextSTEPH)
  • Managing “search intent” involves query mining to push all keywords driving conversions for a product type. – Chris Haleua
  • Keywords should be relevant to the users intent (navigational, informational, transactional) & match to your content. – Kristina Nette (@KristinaNette)
  • Stage of buying cycle or down the sales funnel. Issue or pain the person doing the search is currently experiencing/eliminating. – Thomas Rasinen (@Rasinen)
  • Intent is huge, but tough bc most queries don’t have intent attached. Use copy/LP/SQ to weed out what you don’t want. – Aaron Levy
  • Without search intent there are no campaigns. PPC without it is wasted spend. PPC isn’t an industry of hunches, it’s of data. – Jesse Semchuck
  • Even search queries only tell a partial story. Qualifying ad copy is still important. – Jeremy Browen
  • Search intent is key in PPC. It drives keywords, bids, ad & lp copy. Knowing intent leads the rest of your work. – Michelle Morgan
  • It’s also why long tail keywords often convert much better than the really broad keywords. – Jason Manion
  • Search intent builds the whole methodology – ad copy, call to actions, landing pages and KPI’s you should be targeted on. – Laura McDonald
  • Search = Intent. Understanding the exact intent can be difficult and keyword combinations (+/- keywords) can mean eveything. – James Svoboda (@Realicity)
  • Customer profiling is a large part of search intent. Use tools like Quantcast to help determine your audience. – Jesse Semchuck
  • Any bait with ads can be bundled with “search intent”. But a conversion is product of relevance. – Ryan Govindan (@ryangovindan)
  • Intent guides how we resonate w/ users at different touch points in the buyer journey. – Jennifer Vickery (@JennVick)
  • When you break down raw search query reports by the products they actually sell, actionable suprises will almost always appear. – Chris Haleua

Q3: How as advertisers can we better put ourselves in the position of our searchers before crafting campaigns?

  • Actually doing some searches yourself! (in ad preview of course). – Gil Hong
  • PPC centers around trying to know exact search intent. The closer we get, the better we do our jobs. – Tyler Purcell
  • If you know how to read it several ways, the SQ report can teach you. – Theresa Zook
  • My favorite response – “Use Your Brain” – Actually think about who the searcher is and what they are looking for. – Jeremy Brown
  • Not sure if any PPC specialist manage to create a campaign that triggers only one keyword from the account. – Ryan Govindan
  • Whelp, we can search. We can look at search history and reactions in data. We can use personas to identify who is searching. – Heather Cooan
  • Getting as much information out of our clients as possible. They can provide great insights into customer intent. – Michelle Morgan
  • Identifying the pain points our client’s solutions address helps create campaigns that resonate. – Jason Manion
  • Search suggestions are killing signals about intent. By making it easy for users, SEs are making it harder for ppc. – Lisa Sanner (@LisaSanner)
  • Put yourself in the role of the consumer and start shopping. – Sean Evanko
  • You can use tools like What Runs Where or SpyFu to determine what demos your competitors are targeting and what the KWs/ads are. – Jesse Semchuck
  • Qualitative research! Get out there and talk to your clients’ current and past customers. – Jennifer Vickery
    • How do you do this efficiently? Seems like it may not be worth the time/effort. – Luke Alley
      • To cut down on time, generate a “mini-discovery” doc of ?s that a client can help distribute to customers. – Jennifer Vickery
  • Do KW searches and analyze both Organic and PPC listings, it can help you understand some of the intent. Organic results have been years in the making. PPC listings are often more random based on (broad) Keyword Matching. – James Svoboda
  • Look at organic search data for the site. – Timothy Jensen
  • Check post-click behavior in analytics. moving around site = top of funnel (or bad lp). Moving to login = navigational etc. – Aaron Levy
  • Clients “should” understand product and target users better than anyone. Aren’t tapping into their knowledge = not doing job. – Bryant Garvin
  • Going beyond Personas to understand motivating factors, intent, pain, specific issues related to the product or service offering. – Thomas Rasinen
  • Always ask “what don’t you want to be found for” & “what might someone search for & confuse you w/ what they are really looking for. – Matt Umbro
  • Client discussions, it’s more than SEO data. Although the PPC data can help in SEO. Understanding the motivating factors. – Thomas Rasinen
  • Mitigating negative keywords is a must! – Gil Hong
  • Identify negatives early on. – Tyler Purcell
  • As a side note, always remember to be extra proactive with your neg KW research when using broad/modified broad. – Matt Umbro
  • Also, do searches for targeted location, not just YOUR location. SERPs very greatly by region. Also Search Suggest does too. – James Svoboda
  • Think about synonyms. An ad for sales coaching on ‘+sales +coach’ will show for ppl wanting sales on coach purses. True story. Similar note. ‘+sales +trainer’ will show on “trained monkeys for sale”. – Jason Manion
  • Also, do sample searches for the keywords you want to bid on! See the actual results that come up! – Matt Umbro
  • Our PPC clients are very large to small and local. Often they have goals besides conversions – like 1st page and credibility. – Thomas Rasninen
  • Definitely, arguably just as important as normal keywords. Negatives seem to be completely ignored by many. – Laura McDonald
  • Geo-location can also play a big role too! lots a businesses that have similar names but different services/products. – Gil Hong

Q4: Why is it important (if you believe it is) to break out ad groups with variations of one keyword for example, why would you create separate ad groups for “buy running shoes” vs. “running shoes on sale”?

  • Uh”¦.search intent? – Michelle Morgan
  • Why offer a sale if you don’t have to? – Theresa Zook
    • The sale might not actually be a real “sale” but rather a discount off MSRP…but searchers can think it’s a sale. – Matt Umbro
      • True, but the intent for the one search is low price. The intent for the other is more variety/selection oriented IMO. – Theresa Zook
  • Well for one you might have different landing pages. Also diff ad groups could help QS. And might signify diff intent. Just to clarify: I do ad groups for QS only if it makes sense otherwise, not JUST for QS. – Melissa Mackey
  • The ROI on intent can be siginificant. Obviously selling something at full price is more profit then selling it on sale. – Gil Hong
  • If you have the LP, always create separate ad groups for coupons vs. general brand search (ie: lowes coupons vs. lowes stores). – Matt Umbro
  • Generate a “Mini-discovery” doc of ?s a client can distribute to customers: Qualitative research at it’s best! – Thomas Rasninen
  • 1. Volume. 2. Ad Copy. Either is justification enough for a different ad group. – Jeremy Brown
  • One has “buy” in it the other “sale” I need break out to stuff the ads with the keywords for QS. – Bryant Garvin
  • For organization’s sake. Different kwds, different intent. – Stephanie Cockerl
  • Those two *might* have different intentions. Everyone loves a sale but only one person clearly stated they’re looking for discounts. – Michelle Morgan
  • It helps with ad writing/CTR/QS to have specific keywords in your ad group ads. – James Svoboda
  • Message match. – Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
  • Makes sense to show the “sale” person only sale shoes, and show they other everything. At least until data proves otherwise. – Michelle Morgan
  • Ad copy bolding, budget control, data clarity, nitty gritty LP/ad copy testing, increased relevance/visibility/QS/etc. – Heather Cooan
  • Definitely on coupon terms. Those are a different type of brand query with lots of competition and higher CPCS. – Jeremy Brown
  • One has money to burn the other is on a budget? – Bryant Garvin
  • The more closely targeted then close knit the ad groups the better. Learn root keywords + secondary KW’s and correlations. – Thomas Rasinen
  • With Enhanced, new reason – extensions, specifically sitelinks. – Lisa Sanner
  • Landing Pages (destination URLs) can also vary by keyword & intent. On Sale intent doesn’t always = the same buy intent. – James Svoboda
  • If i could physically do it, id have one keyword per adgroup. Back to A1, Relevance. – Eloi Casali
  • Ppl are talking abt Ad Group breakouts for QS reasons. Am I the only one who rarely looks at QS? – Theresa Zook
    • I would agree that search intent still trumps QS. Ultimately though the further segmentation should boost QS. – Matt Umbro
    • If by rarely you mean only looking at/working on QS of 2 or lower, then yea. – Gil Hong
    • QS is less relevant now that Google bumped many non-brand 7s to 10s awhile back. – Jeremy Brown
    • Nope, the vast majority of the time, I don’t even remember QS exists. – Michelle Morgan
    • You are not alone. QS is at the bottom of the totem pole for me after ROAS>CPA>Conv Rate>Bounce Rate>CTR>Avg Pos. – Chris Haleua
    • It’s a vanity metric in the interface. I think about it a lot, but don’t stalk it. – Aaron Levy
  • Depends on the situation, but KW’s with ‘sale’ should have different ad copy, call to actions and possibly landing pages. – Laura McDonald
  • Users search intent differs by just one word difference (i.e sale, cheap), so your approach should too. – Laura McDonald
  • W/ Enhanced, new reason – extensions, specifically SITELINKS – which are performing very well for us! – Thomas Rasinen
  • Not only to target based on intent, but also so you can align bids w/ ROI. Set lower bids for lower value kw themes. And to utilize awesome ad exts. on the ad group level. Use offer exts. in sale ad groups or competitor ad groups. – Jennifer Vickery

Q5: What are some common themes you utilize in your ads and why? For example, do you use dates to represent urgency?

  • If it pertains to registering for an event, of course I use dates. – Stephanie Cockerl
  • Putting expirations for special offers is a great CTA and puts a timeline on your ad testing. – Gil Hong
  • No dates, but call to action always. – Tyler Purcell
  • Call to action in the headline. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it NOT help. – Aaron Levy
  • Questions. I like to ask questions in the headline. – Elizabeth Marsten (@ebkendo)
  • Create urgency, use symbols if applicable, CTA, include keywords when feasible. – Melissa Mackey
  • Themes based on interest, dates and times drive conversions. – Thomas Rasinen
  • I like having good solid stats. Also trust indicators, guarantees, “free shipping”, benefits – anything short and powerful. – Jason Manion
  • Appeal to consumer emotions (vanity, greed, envy, urgency). – PPC Associates
  • Show Don’t Tell. Don’t say you have a ‘Great Selection”, show me by saying ‘400+’ More. – Jeremy Brown
  • Offers, USP’s, CTA’s & above all making the ad copy relevant to search query. It all leads back to well structured ad groups. – Laura McDonald
  • A good way to weed out people looking for a bargain is to say something like “prices start @$99”. – Matt Umbro
  • Totally depends on intent & product/service. Dates for perishable services, touting certs for professional servs. – Jennifer Vickery
  • I try to elicit a visual. Use emotion. Words like “ideal” or “perfect” are good. – Robert Brady
  • Specific details over vague generalizations when possible (price points, technical specs, etc.). – Timothy Jensen
  • I use the word FREE a lot. Free resonates. Adding a $2 free item on a $80 purchase makes twice as much in increased conv rate. – Jesse Semchuck
  • In ecommerce text ads, showing prices can really help conv rates. Might hurt CTR, but you only get clicks that might convert. – Jason Manion
  • I love using ® and â„¢ in ad copy nothing to do with intent. I just like them. – Bryant Garvin +++
  • Put it in the 2nd person. You, Your, etc. – Tyler Purcell
  • Try to elicit a visual. Use emotion. Words like “ideal” or “perfect” and “Your + KW” are good w/out an image. – Thomas Rasinen
  • I always like to test posing a question in the headline. Seems to capture the user’s attention. – Jennifer Vickery
  • Let’s not forget EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!! – Aaron Levy
  • Also, try to write at least 1 ad in every ad group that can utilize the long headline…such a great eye catcher. – Matt Umbro
    • I’ve seen fewer of the long headlines lately. Google doing domain bump-up instead. – Jeremy Brown
      • Good point, why it’s also important to use caps in your display URL. – Matt Umbro
  • It’s really easy to sound unauthentic w/ ?s, but addressing the reason a user is searching like “Repairing Burst Pipes?” – Jennifer Vickery


More PPCChats

Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next #PPCchat on Tuesday at 12 noon Eastern, 9 am Pacific and 5pm in the UK. Same Chat time, same Chat channel.


Check out the PPCChat Twitter list to see and connect with all current and prior participants.

• Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
• James Svoboda (@Realicity)
• Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)
• Aaron Levy (@bigalittlea)
• Bryant Garvin (@BryantGarvin)
• Cassie Allinger (@CassieAllinger)
• Chris Haleua (@chrishaleua)
• Elizabeth Marsten (@ebkendo)
• Eloi Casali (@Eloi_Casali)
• Ganesh Acharya (@ganeshjacharya)
• Gil Hong (@ghong_af)
• Heather Cooan (@HeatherCooan)
• Janine Monico (@JanineSEM)
• Jason Manion (@JasonManion)
• Jennifer Vickery (@JennVick)
• Jeremy Brown (@JBGuru)
• Jesse Semchuck (@jessesem)
• Josiah Colt (@_kingjosiah_)
• Kristina Nette (@KristinaNette)
• Laura McDonald (@lauramcdonald0)
• Lisa Sanner (@LisaSanner)
• Luke Alley (@LukeAlley)
• Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
• Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem)
• Nate Knox (@nateknox)
• Nefer Lopez (@Nefer_L)
• Onur Dogan (@honurdogan)
• PPC Associates (@PPCAssociates)
• Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
• Ryan Govindan (@ryangovindan)
• Sean Evanko (@sevanko)
• Stephanie Cockerl (@nextSTEPH)
• Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)
• Thomas Rasinen (@Rasinen)
• Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
• Tyler Purcell (@tylerpurcell)

Making the PPCChat Intent Understandable with Streamcaps

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe; WebRanking SEM Manager in Minneapolis, Minnesota, #PPCChat Streamcap Grabber, SEO Blog Author. Connect with me @PaulKragthorpe, and Google Plus.

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One Response to Understanding Search Intent

  1. […] it’s core, QS comes down to what we discussed a few weeks ago in Understanding Search Intent. – Matt […]

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