As a marketer, it can be a daunting task to ensure your web pages rank on Google. At times, it’s difficult to even know where to start. You have web pages you’re working with – but you need to figure out how to make them more visible to more of the target audience. It all starts with keyword research. 

In this article, we will explore the 3 pillars of organic keyword research: search intent, keyword difficulty, and SERP analysis. Let’s get started!

What is Organic Keyword Research?

Organic keyword research refers to the process of discovering optimal keywords for your organic online search strategy. Essentially, It’s all about finding the best possible keywords to use when optimizing a website’s landing page. The term “organic” is used because the research is designed to help the site rank on the organic (non-paid) section of Google. 

Organic keyword research could also be referred to as “SEO keyword research” or just simply “keyword research”. In contrast, keyword research for the ad section of Google is often referred to as paid keyword research or PPC (pay-per-click) keyword research. Overall, organic research should play a key role within your overall SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategy.

The 3 Pillars of Effective Organic Keyword Research

The categories outlined below play a key role in the keyword research process. These three pillars should act as a guide to your keyword research, in order to choose the best keywords possible. They should help ensure your SEO strategy and SEO goals properly align with each other.

1. Search Intent

Understanding search intent starts with understanding the mindset behind the individual performing the search. When someone needs something online, it typically starts with a keyword search. The keyword search intent can be divided into four different types: informational, navigational, transactional, and commercial.

  • Informational: the intent to learn more about a specific topic, product or service. (ex: how to choose the best lawyer)
  • Navigational: the intent to find a specific web page. (ex: law on DUI’s in Kansas)
  • Transactional: the intent to make a purchase decision and then buy a product or service. (ex: hire a lawyer)
  • Commercial: the intent to learn more about a product or service before making a purchase decision. (ex: family lawyer vs divorce attorney)

When performing keyword research, it’s important to know the type of search intent that is connected to the keyword. From there, you should align your target keywords with the associated web page. For example, if you want to rank for an informational keyword, consider optimizing a blog article. If you want to rank for a transactional keyword, optimize your product or service page.

In all, understanding the four different types of search intent keyword types can help you better understand how individuals search. It can also help you as you explore and select different keywords for your campaign strategy. Your budget, relevance, and online authority will also determine which types of keywords will work best for your campaign.

Understanding the Industry

In addition, it’s important to understand the industry when considering search intent. Industry knowledge means putting a focus on the “niche” or what sets them apart from their competitors.

Most SEO keyword strategies are fairly straightforward. But when campaigns aren’t so cut and dry, getting into industry research helps you understand what the company does and what the campaign needs to succeed. Recognizing the target market for each campaign is a crucial concept that can make or break a campaign experience.

Once you’ve researched the industry and discovered the search intent for potential keywords, it will help shape your keyword research strategy. 

2. Keyword Difficulty

If you’re in the world of business, competition is almost always a factor that plays a part in your strategy. Just as you have in-person (direct) competitors, it’s likely you have online competition as well. Competition on search engines looks a bit different, and it’s often more difficult to compete against.

When it comes to keywords and an SEO strategy, you will likely compete against other websites other than your direct competitors. This includes websites like business directories (Yelp, YellowPages, TripAdvisor) or large ecommerce websites (Amazon, Target, Walmart). In turn, this makes ranking at the top of search engines more difficult. This is where keyword difficulty comes into play.

Keyword difficulty is the metric that points to how much effort it would take for your website to rank for a certain keyword. It is commonly used by automated SEO tools like Ahrefs or SEMRush. To give you an idea, a keyword like “best SEO company” has a “74%” keyword difficulty with a “commercial” search intent. A term like “how to use google search console for keyword research” has a “43%” keyword difficulty with “informational” search intent.

Checking keyword difficulty will help set the parameters for what types of keywords fit within your strategy. Your target keyword difficulty should depend on your industry, domain, and budget. Selecting keywords with a lower keyword difficulty will increase the chances of your web pages ranking higher on search engines.

The Role of Search Volume

Along with search intent and keyword difficulty, keyword tools will also often provide search volume. This is a rough estimate of how many times a specific keyword is searched on Google each month. High volume keywords – keywords that are searched the most on Google – aren’t necessarily always the best options.

For local companies, it will likely make sense to target zero search volume keywords as part of their strategy. For larger corporations looking to rank for national keywords, take search volume into consideration. Typically, a higher search volume with a lower keyword difficulty will reap the best results.

3. SERP Analysis

SERP (search engine result page) analysis refers to the process of inspecting Google result pages to find out more about the ranking websites. It plays an important role in organic keyword research as it gives you an idea of competition and search intent. 

Once you explore and pick out a few potential target keywords, perform a quick SERP analysis. Simply type in the keyword on Google search and look at the results. Here are a few things to consider as you inspect:

  • Types of ranking websites: Look at the top 10 results and check out the type of company. Is it a business directory? Is it a large ecommerce site? Or, is it smaller, local competition? Typically, it’s easier to rank on SERPs where there are similar sized businesses that aren’t overcrowded with large competitors.
  • Local or national results: When you perform the search, do you see a local map pack? A local map pack consists of business profiles that typically appear above the organic search results. Or, do you mainly see national results (no local map pack) targeting a wide, national audience?
  • Ranking competitor content: Dive in a bit deeper and evaluate the actual content on the ranking websites. Typically, ranking websites will mean that Google found the site relevant, trustworthy, and helpful. Analyze the content that you can use when shaping your content ideas and strategy. It’s important to never duplicate any content.

The answers to these questions will help you as you determine your SEO strategy. It will help you find the best keywords that will create opportunities for your website to rank at the top of search results.

The Importance of Relevant Content

SEO campaigns control their destiny with relevant content. In the digital marketing arena, you may have heard “content is king.” In this context, an important addition to this phrase is “relevant content is king.”

We’ve all seen sites with an amazing web design. But sometimes it’s hard to find the information you’re looking for, so you leave quickly to another site. Often, searchers can’t find information because there is little to no relevant content. If there is content, it’s usually too general to answer any of the searcher’s questions, which leads to a missed opportunity.

Searchers go to Google with a question in mind, and they look for answers to those questions within the SERPs. The relevant content on your site can answer their questions – helping you rank higher. Content is also the most natural way for companies to rank and succeed.

Remember, Google wants to show the best possible results to its users. With the right keywords, you’ll have a well-oiled machine.

Start Improving Your Keyword Research Strategy with Boostability

The three pillars of organic keyword research (search intent, keyword difficulty, and SERP analysis) can work together to kickstart your SEO campaign. Use these pillars to perform effective keyword research – this can lead to better online visibility and more leads for your business.

If you are a company looking for ways to expand your digital marketing efforts, reach out to Boostability today. Our mission is to help small businesses achieve success online! Learn more about our SEO partner program and how it can improve your client’s online visibility.


Maja is the former SEO Manager for the marketing team at Boostability. After graduating from the University of Utah with a degree in Marketing, her focus has been on expanding her knowledge and skill set in SEO. Prior to joining the corporate marketing team at Boostability, Maja gained experience working at several digital marketing agencies in Salt Lake City, focusing on SEO strategy development and fulfillment, as well as client account management. Working closely with clients ranging from small businesses to enterprise organizations, she has managed and executed SEO strategies for over 20 different company websites. Outside of work, Maja loves to go on hikes with her husband and dog, play volleyball, bake and cook, and try new restaurants throughout the city (she considers herself a fry-connoisseur).