How to describe the process of keyword research? Consider this. Have you ever found a shirt, pair of shoes, or another item that defines you as a person? When I look for shirts or shoes (or anything else, really), there are three things that I focus on: price (who doesn’t?), longevity, and wittiness. It’s hard to find these kinds of items that you like and partially define you. Then, finally, you find the proverbial Holy Grail that gets you excited – even giddy.

This is a perfect metaphor for the keyword research process← just as you look for specific items, Google does too. There are three main things Google looks at to determine keyword relevancy: keywords, SERP intent, and relevant content.



Before you can choose a keyword, you need to understand your client’s industry. Industry knowledge means putting a focus on the client’s niche or what sets them apart from their competitors.

Most SEO strategies are pretty 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 understood the SEO campaign’s needs, you can then start picking keywords. Keyword phrases break down into three stages: browsing, comparing and buying. Through this article, we’ll go through each stage. Depending on your goals, you might want to focus on one or two of these stages when doing your keyword research.


This is the stage most familiar to people. Browsing essentially means you gather information. Browsing phrases tend to be broad and general.

For example, using the search query “running shoes” on Google will give you articles, local stores, shoe brand sites, shoe franchises, and major online shoe shops, to name a few.

Internet searchers use these results to decide where they would like to buy shoes, a brand of running shoes they want to buy, the type of running shoes, and the style of running shoes.


The comparing stage is for “qualifiers.” We define qualifiers as words that describe the product or service offered. Qualifiers can vary — they can be size, location, brand, color, etc.

At this point, Google searches get more refined. The search query “men’s under armour running shoes” will compare all the different styles of running shoes that Under Armour has and where to buy them. These qualifiers help filter or clarify the search results. For example, the qualifier “men’s” weeds out women and kids running shoes. The qualifier “Under Armour” removes all other brands.

The comparing stage can be the start of the conversion process. If the searcher finds the right shoe, at the right price and store, then the conversion completes. Even then, people continue in their refined searches to get exactly what they want. The volume of traffic for comparison phrases will only have an average amount of traffic, with conversions occurring sporadically.

Qualifiers provide a variety of relevant SERP’s where searchers can buy the shoes online at the company’s site, other major retailers, or a brick and mortar storefront. Both will provide the options for the specific qualifiers. 


Buying phrases are usually longer and specific to what a searcher wants. At this point, the searcher is eager to act. At this point, the searcher has their credit cards out saying, “Please take my money, please!” 

With a buying phase, the search queries will look like “Men’s Under Armour Charged Bandit Size 10 Blue Running Shoes”. 

This phrase has five specific qualifiers that narrow down the search. The SERPs are full of product listings, and the searcher is usually looking for the best price and quickest shipping. 

When using a buying phrase, internet traffic tends to be low, but the conversion rate will be high because of the specificity of the phrases.


SERP Intent

SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page. Consider it like this. SERP Intent is like a retail associate going up to a potential customer and asking what they can help with. Typically, customers respond with either “No, thanks, I’m looking around” or “Yes, can you help me find …..”

The response “No, thanks, I’m looking around” is similar to the browsing or comparing stages. Searchers are looking for general information. In these stages, it’s essential to understand what Google’s SERPs tell you.

The response “Yes, can you help me find …..” is similar to the comparing and buying stages. The searcher has an idea of what they want and know what they are looking to buy. The SERPs will be giving the searcher exactly what they want. Since SERPs come with reviews and BBB ratings, the searcher will have everything they need to make the final decision to act (or buy) on what they are searching for. 

Relevance can also mean seasonal. Here is an example case study of understanding the niche and SERP’s.

I was once working on a campaign that was targeting the keyword “Clinical Research Company Kansas City.” They were ranking on the first page, ranging between positions 1-3 regularly.  However, from January to March, they dropped to rankings 5-8. In April, they quickly jumped back up to 1-3 rankings. However, May to July, you guessed it, they dropped back to positions 5-8 again. 

After researching that time frame, we found that it correlated with college graduation. Graduates were searching for jobs with the search query of “Clinical Research Company Kansas City” and clicking on job listings instead of looking for clinical trials. This swayed Google’s relevance that the searchers were visiting job listings more than company sites during these time frames. 

This context helped the client the trend in SERP relevance and how it could impact their strategy.


Relevant Content

SEO campaigns control their destiny with relevant content, just like George McFly controlled his “density” or should we say destiny with Lorraine in the Back to the Future.

In real estate, they have the phrase “location, location, location,” and in the digital marketing arena, you have “content is king.” I would add a qualifier to this that “relevant content is king.”

We’ve all seen sites built very well. But 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. The relevant content on your site can answer their questions. Content is also the most natural way for companies to rank and succeed. With the right keywords, you’ll have a well-oiled machine.


The three pillars of keyword research (keywords, SERP intent, and relevance) work together to convert customers. If you try to improve your SEO, the SEO of your clients, or convert more customers, start your campaign by using these pillars.