Chapter 4: How to Determine a
Keyword’s Commercial Intent

How to determine a keyword's commercial intent

If you asked me to name the #1 keyword research mistake I see most often, I wouldn’t hesitate before answering: “Not spending enough time on commercial intent”.

In fact, most SEO experts agree that – when it comes to choosing keywords — commercial intent is actually MORE important than search volume.

Here’s a quick story that illustrates this point really well…

One of the first web properties I ever built received over 60,000 unique visitors per month from organic search alone.

Guess how much that site brought in every month.

  • $10,000?
  • $25,000?
  • $40,000?

How about $400?

Yes, that’s four hundred dollars.

Why didn’t the site make any money? Well, when I chose keywords for that site, I focused on search volume…and completely ignored commercial intent.

Which meant that my almost 100% of my traffic came from purely informational keywords. As you’ll learn in this chapter, visitors stemming from informational searches are tough to convert into paying customers.

But there’s good news…

Fortunately — with a little bit of research — you can easily find keywords that buyers use to search.

And when you get your site in front of those people, turning them into leads and sales is a breeze.

Without further ado, let me show you how to find high-converting keywords for your business.

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Commercial Intent: The Four Keyword Classes

When it comes to commercial intent, all of the millions of keywords out there can be placed into one of four categories:

Buy Now Keywords

These are keywords that people use minutes before making a purchase. People searching with Buy Now Keywords may literally have their credit card in their hand.

Here are words that tend to be part of Buy Now Keywords:

  • Buy
  • Coupon
  • Discount
  • Deal
  • Shipping

Real life examples of Buy Now Keywords are “Bluehost discount”, “Buy candles online” and “Custom t-shirts free shipping”.

As you might expect, these keywords convert like crazy. They may not get great search volume, but their sky-high conversion rate makes up for it.

Product Keywords

Product Keywords are searches that focus on a specific product category, brand name, or service. People searching for Product Keywords tend to be a bit earlier in the buying cycle than people using Buy Now Keywords.

In other words, they convert well…but not quite as well as Buy Now Keywords.

Product Keywords tend to include:

  • Review
  • Best
  • Top 10
  • Specific brand name (“Nike” or “Toshiba”)
  • Specific product (“Macbook Pro” or “Samsung Galaxy”)
  • Product category (“Wordpress hosting” or “tennis shoes”)
  • Cheap
  • Affordable
  • Comparison

Don’t be thrown off by terms like “cheap” and “affordable”. Believe it or not, keywords with the words “cheap” in them convert really well.

For example, someone searching for “cheap laptops” has already decided that they want a laptop…they’re just looking for a product in their price range.

Informational Keywords

The vast majority of keywords online are Informational Keywords. As you might imagine, people looking for information don’t tend to convert especially well.

That being said, you can’t ignore Informational Keywords because they make up such a huge chunk of the keywords people search for.

Information Keywords tend to include words like:

  • How to
  • Best way to
  • Ways to
  • I need to

The best way to leverage Informational Keywords is to find keywords that have high search volume and low competition.

Then, get as much of that traffic as you can on an email list. That way, you’ll be the site on their mind as they’re ready to buy something.

Tire Kicker Keywords

Tire Kicker Keywords are searches that are VERY unlikely to convert now…or in the near future.

Here are a few examples words that tend to make up Tire Kicker Keywords:

  • Free
  • Torrent
  • Download
  • …for free

A keyword like “watch The Simpsons online free” is a classic Tire Kicker Keyword. Good luck getting that person to buy anything (or even click on an ad).

On the other hand, keywords like “Buy Simpsons TV episodes” (Buy Now Keyword), “Simpsons DVDs” (Product Keyword) or “How to watch Simpsons Episodes” (Informational Keyword) will convert much better.

Getting Objective Information on Commercial Intent

Here’s the deal:

The Four Keyword Classes usually reflect buyer intent really well.


After all, there’s nothing worse than ranking #1 for a keyword…only to find that you can only generate a penny or two of revenue per visitor.

Here are two quick techniques you can tap into to get objective information on how valuable traffic coming from a keyword actually is.

Adwords Suggested Bid

Adwords Suggested Bid used to be known as “Average CPC” (CPC=Cost Per Click). They quietly changed the term but kept the dollar amounts exactly the same…which leads me to believe the Suggested Bid is simply the average CPC with a new name.

Regardless, the Suggested Bid is one of the few ways that you can see real world data about commercial intent. You KNOW that if an Adwords advertiser is paying $15 per click then that traffic must be really valuable.

And if you rank for that keyword in organic search, you’ll have no issues converting that traffic into email signups, affiliate commissions and paying customers.

Here’s how to do it:


First, login to your Google Adwords account and head to the Keyword Planner:

Head to keyword planner


Click on “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category”

Search for new keywords


Enter a single keyword (or list of keywords) into the field and click “Get Ideas”:

Search for new keywords


Check out the Adwords suggested bid for that keyword…and other keywords that the GKP spits out.

Suggested bid

Just look at the HUGE difference between the keywords in the list above.

The keyword “Wordpress hosting” is a Product Keyword that boasts a Suggested Bid of $31.66.

On the other hand, “Wordpress website” is an Information Keyword.

Because people searching for “web hosting” are very early in the buying cycle, advertisers are only willing to pay half the amount compared to someone searching for “Wordpress hosting”.

As I said, the Four Keyword Classes are a helpful set of guidelines, but nothing beats seeing what the market is willing to pay for clicks. In my experience Suggested Bid is the single most accurate gauge of commercial intent.

Adwords Competition

Adwords Competition is a nice complement to the Suggested Bid. Competition is simply how many advertisers bid on that particular keyword in Adwords.

As you might expect, the more people that bid on a keyword, the more lucrative that keyword is.

You can check the competition by looking at this column in the Google Keyword Planner:

Check competition

There are only 3 levels of competition (Low, Medium and High), so the metric isn’t very precise.

But it’s just another piece of real world data to use when figuring out commercial intent.

You can also check Adwords competition by searching for your keyword in Google and seeing how many Adwords ads show up on the page:

Adwords competition

If you see a ton of Ads above the fold and on the sidebar, you know that you’re looking at a highly-coveted keyword. In other words, it’s a keyword you probably want to target in your SEO campaigns.

But before you pull the trigger, you’ll need to know how competitive that keyword is. That’s exactly what we’re going to cover in the next chapter (Chapter 5). See you there.

Keyword Research: The Definitive Guide
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