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DMI Daily Digest

The Keywords That Count, How to Target Them and Why You Should

Whether you reach your audience through AdWords or organic search, the keywords you pick for your search engine marketing campaign have a huge impact on your response rate, costs and results.

From match types to buying intent, search keywords come in a huge number of variations and types. Understanding the different types of keywords and how each can affect your results will help you optimize your campaign and reach the people that truly matter to your business.

If you use AdWords to generate traffic, picking the right keywords can be the difference between a highly profitable campaign and a money-loser.

If you use search engine optimization, your choice of keywords can be the difference between a lucrative website that ranks for high-value keywords, and months of time spent on keywords that simply don’t convert.

Below, we’ve covered the basics of keyword planning, from selecting keywords that drive traffic to understanding the difference between informational, product-focused buying and obviously non-commercial keywords.

Whether you’re an SEO aiming to further optimize your work or an AdWords advertiser looking for a quick and simple way to improve your ROI, read on to learn about which keywords actually count, how to target them and why you should.

Commercial intent and its effect on keywords

The AdWords Keyword Planner is an invaluable resource for any search marketers, whether for organic search engine optimization or PPC.

It only has one weakness: while it will tell you the exact number of monthly searches for every keyword you can think of, it won’t tell you which keywords have strong commercial intent.

Commercial intent is the money factor of any keyword. It’s the closeness of the keyword to a transaction. Keywords with strong commercial intent are more likely to produce leads or sales than keywords with weak or no commercial intent.

For example, pretend you own an e-commerce website that sells leather belts. Of the keywords listed below, which ones have strong commercial intent?

  • “Best leather belt under $100”
  • “Leather belts free shipping”
  • “How are leather belts made?”
  • “Leather belts free samples”

The first two keywords - “best leather belts under $100” and “Leather belts free shipping” have obvious commercial intent. The first is a product-focused keyword, while the second is a buying keyword. We’ll explain these specific keyword types in a moment.

The third and fourth keywords are keywords with little or no commercial intent. The third seeks to learn more about how belts are made, making it an informational keyword, while the fourth is seeking out free samples of our product and is unlikely to convert to a real purchase.

Now that you’re familiar with commercial intent, let’s categorize these keywords and explain how each requires a slightly different approach.

Product-focused keywords

Product-focused keywords relate to a specific product type or model. In our list of four example keywords above, there’s only one product-focused keyword: “best leather belts under $100.”

People that search for product-focused keywords are usually in the process of comparing several different products in order to find the best one for their needs. Product-focused keywords usually share a few common features:

  • They seek a comparison between products, like “best leather belts”
  • They seek information about a specific product, like “h&m leather belt”
  • They search for a specific category of product, like “cheap leather belts”
  • They search for a product review, like “leather belts reviewed”

As a general rule, people that search for product-focused are similar to retail shoppers that ask for information about a specific product. They’re interested in buying it and they might convert into a customer, but they need more information to seal the deal.

Targeting product-focused keywords is fairly simple. For keywords that relate to a specific type of product, send users to a product information page. This way, they’ll find the information they to determine if the product is a good fit for their requirements.

For comparison and review keywords, create content that compares your product to others in its category. These searchers are seeking a fair, unbiased comparison -- if you can provide it, they might convert into customers.

Buying keywords

Buying keywords have the strongest commercial intent. People that search for buying keywords are the online equivalent of shoppers that walk into your retail store, pick up a product, check its price tag and immediately take it to the counter.

In short, they’re the people most likely to become customers. They’re also the most competitive audience in both organic and paid search, with a plethora of ads above the fold and strong SEO metrics for most of the organic listings on the first page.

In our list of four example keywords above, there’s only one buying keyword: “leather belts free shipping.”

Buying keywords usually generate the highest conversion rates, since the people searching for them are at the final stage of the buying process. They’re also the most expensive via AdWords and almost always the most competitive in organic search.

Targeting buying keywords is fairly straightforward. Since this audience is ready to buy, your job is to create the strongest offer for each searcher’s specific needs. This could mean:

  • Offering free shipping
  • Selling your product at a discount
  • Providing a free bonus item on checkout
  • Running a promotional deal

Since CPC bids for buying keywords tend to be quite high, conversion optimization can play an important role in helping you produce a profitable campaign.

Buying keywords are an essential component of any search campaign, whether paid or organic. You’ll typically generate the majority of your sales from buying keywords, with product-focused keywords usually coming in a close second place.

Informational keywords

Informational keywords are keywords related to the why, how or what of a product. People that search using these keywords usually want to learn more about a specific aspect of a product, or a process that the product relates to.

In our list of four example keywords above, there’s one informational keyword: “How are leather belts made?”

Other informational keywords related to our example could include the following:

  • “Belt leather types”
  • “Blue suit brown leather belt”

All of these keywords share one common feature: they’re about finding more information. In our first example keyword, the searcher wants to find out how leather belts are made. The second is about the types of leather used in belts, and the third seeks to learn if a brown belt matches with a blue suit.

These keywords aren’t directly commercial, but they do have some commercial intent. Since the search keywords are related to a specific product, these searchers are likely to have some level of interest in the product they’re researching.

The best way to target informational keywords is through your blog. Craft blog posts that answer each common question and deliver the information searchers are looking for. Once the searcher reaches your website, give them a compelling reason to subscribe to your email newsletter.


Informational keywords won’t turn into sales immediately, but they’re still valuable. Nurture these leads over the long term through email marketing and they can turn into fantastic promoters and loyal customers.

Noncommercial keywords

Noncommercial keywords are search terms that are unlikely to ever produce a conversion. The strongest denominator of a noncommercial keyword is the word “free.”

People that search for noncommercial keywords are typically looking for free giveaways, offers and other promos. Only a tiny percentage of these searchers will ever become customers, and the vast majority will never produce a single sale.

If you sell a digital product, you’ll also see words like “torrent” or “free download”, or in the case of software, “cracked” in Google’s suggested keywords. These are the classic noncommercial keywords - keywords that are more likely to hurt your revenue than help it.

If you’re running an AdWords campaign, most noncommercial keywords belong in your negative keyword list. For organic search, these keywords aren’t likely to hurt you, but can result in some wasted time on dead-end leads and tire-kicking customers.

Building a balanced search campaign

Noncommercial keywords aside, every keyword counts, and a balanced search campaign will include a mix of buying, product-focused and informational keywords.

The key to building a balanced campaign is ensuring that each keyword you target sends users to a relevant landing page:

  • Buying keywords should send users to product landing pages that have been optimized for the highest possible conversion rate.
  • Product-focused keywords should send users to product description pages or product comparison articles that provide the information they’re searching for.
  • Informational keywords should send users to blog posts, guides, articles and videos that provide the answers they’re seeking.

One of the most common search marketing mistakes is treating each commercial keyword type as identical, and directing buying, product-focused and informational keywords all to the same landing page.

When every keyword type send users in the right direction, you’ll be able to generate profitable results from all three commercial keyword types. Send all traffic to the same landing page and you’ll win over one audience, but at the expense of the others.

Improve your campaign by targeting the right keywords

Keywords are the foundation of any effective search campaign, and selecting the right ones to target is essential for success.

Whether you’re building a new campaign or optimizing an older one, group your keywords using the four categories above and you’ll gain more control over your traffic, find it easier to generate more conversions and produce a campaign that generates a much stronger return on ad spend.

Transform your career by learning how to create, manage and implement advanced search marketing strategies using AdWords, PPC, display & remarketing techniques.