Buyer Intent Keywords Study – 85,000 search queries analysed

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    In this study of 85,000 search queries I analysed buyer intent keywords as well as keywords in the other stages of the buying process.

    I primarily wanted to find out

    What percentage of keywords have buyer intent” ?

    Key Findings

    • 92.4% of search queries keywords have buying intent.
    • 7.6% of search queries or keywords don’t have buying intent.

    However, 9.1% of search queries have purchase decision intent.

    9.1% of search queries have purchase decision intent graphic

    OK, Fraser you’ve confused me.

    What the different between buying intent and purchase decision intent ?

    Buying intent is any search query that falls into the 4 stages of the buying funnel.

    • eg: how to, help, need
    • eg: best, top
    • eg: compare, alternative
    • eg: buy, nearest, shop

    And purchase decision intent are the search queries that fall into that bottom part.

    Buying Funnel Visualised

    Here’s how the buying funnel has been historically visualised.

    image of old buying funnel or consumer buying model

    Based on my analysis of 85,000 keywords the buying funnel is more like this.

    image of buying funnel based on research of 85000 keywords by Fraser McCulloch of Platonik

    Which sort of falls into alignment with Google’s analysis of the buying process.

    It’s very messy and competitive in the middle of the buying funnel.

    • 7.6% of queries don’t have buying intent.
    • 4% of queries are top of funnel keywords ie: in the problem recognition stage
    • 77.9% of queries are middle of the funnel keywords ie: in the informational search stage
    • 1.4% of queries are in the evaluation of alternative stage
    • 9.1% of search queries have purchase decision intent.

    Buying Funnel across 17 search categories

    Image of New Buying Funnel across 17 search categories

    At the foot of the graph you can see the 17 search categories I analysed that form the 85,000 total search queries.

    Upon first look of the graph nothing stands out or is particularly insightful.

    However I did notice that people do evaluate and compare broadband and mortgages more than the other categories.

    Both services are vital; not quite life and death but of very high necessity.

    Next, looking at broadband and car search queries they appear to have the highest purchase intent rate than the other categories.

    If you look at the bank, cat and baby columns they all have a high percentage of non buying keywords.

    There’s a few reasons for this :

    • Lots of bank holiday queries in the bank search category
    • Lots of cat meme and gif queries
    • Lots of searches for songs containing “baby” in the baby search category

    Informational Search Query Cloud

    The following is a word cloud based on the most popular keyword modifiers in the informational search stage of the buying process.

    When you put words into a word cloud you get a visual indicator of what is most prominent.

    Image of Informational Search Query Cloud

    So, for example, “calculator” is very prominent because lots of people search for “mortgage calculators” and other searches containing calculator.

    “Best” is very prominent because it appears in searches across all these search categories eg:

    • best cat litter
    • best coffee machine
    • bet gaming chair
    • best carpet cleaner
    • best car insurance
    • best broadband provider
    • best bread maker
    • best sports bra
    • best time to book flights
    • best bicycle lock
    • best alcohol free beer
    • best business bank account
    • best baby changing bag
    • best apple crumble recipe
    • best apple watch
    • best advertising agencies london
    • best mortgage rates

    Since informational searches account for 77.9% of searches you can use some of the most prominent words in the count to guide your content strategy.

    At the informational search stage focus on topics about

    • Brand + products
    • Brands + services
    • Product Types
    • Service Types
    • Colours
    • Sizes
    • Shops

    At the informational search stage also focus on search topics that include these keyword modifiers

    • For
    • Best
    • Top
    • Ideas
    • In
    • Calculator
    • Recipes
    • Free
    • Parts

    ps: since I can’t research every topic my results will not be completely representative.

    However search queries containing “calculator” and “free” have appeared prominently whenever I do client research in other topics.

    Research Methodology

    Ahrefs keyword explorer tool was used as the data source for this study.

    The first 5000 UK phrase matched keywords for selected keywords were exported and dropped into Google Sheets for analysis.

    I chose a selection of 17 popular consumer and business seed keywords.

    85,000 keywords is not a representative sample of the 7 billion daily searches on Google.

    I’m not sure even 850,000 keywords analysed would change the insights from this research.

    Then a list of keyword modifiers were chosen and assigned to each stage of the buying process funnel.

    Eg: if “how ” appeared in the search query that keyword would be assigned to the problem recognition stage of the buying process.

    Likewise if “compare” appeared in the search query that keyword would be assigned to the evaluation of alternatives stage of the buying process.

    Then I manually reviewed all unmatched results and assigned the keywords to each stage to the best of my knowledge.

    Manually matching keywords took me 3 ½ days of work.

    Buying vs non buying keywords

    For the purposes of this research there are either buying or non buying keyword searches.

    Someone searching “cat memes” or “cat gif” has no buying intent.

    So these would be “unmatched” or non buying keywords.

    Keywords such as “login”and “id” were deemed post purchase keywords and assigned as unmatched non buying keywords.

    So non buying keywords fall outside the buying process or funnel.

    Buying Funnel explained

    The buying funnel or the consumer buying process model has been used by marketers for decades before Google even existed.

    The model helps to understand the steps and searches that consumers make before, during and after a buying decision and also which keywords to target.

    The model helps a business or brand understand what the user is searching for and where and how to show up in front of these users by either serving relevant content or adverts.

    Google published a 95 page paper to try and decode purchasing behaviour only to conclude that ““People are doing what they’ve always done.” 

    This study concluded that 60% of shopping queries are upper funnel searches.

    You have to go back to 2007 to find that 80% of queries are informational in nature; split almost equally between navigational and transactional queries.

    I used the Wikipedia definition as criteria for each stage of the buying process.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buyer_decision_process

    Here’s how each stage is defined and the keyword modifiers. 

    Problem recognition stage

    At this stage the user recognises the problem or need is with a particular product, service or situation.

    The modifiers used for the problem recognition stage are shown in the image below.

    image of Problem recognition stage keyword modifiers

    Informational search

    The user researches the product (service or brand) which might solve the recognised need.

    The modifiers used for the informational search stage are shown in the image below.

    image of informational search stage keyword modifiers

    Evaluation of alternatives

    The consumer evaluates the searched alternatives.

    Generally, the information search reveals multiple products for the consumer to evaluate and they understand which products might be suitable.

    The modifiers used for the evaluation stage are shown in the image below.

    image of Evaluation of alternatives stage keyword modifiers

    Purchase decision

    The user has found a solution, product, service to solve their problem, explored alternatives, options, pricing now they are trying to make up their mind before deciding to buy.

    The modifiers used at this stage as shown below.

    image of Purchase decision stage keyword modifiers

    ps: there’s a bias towards UK retailers since the research is based on UK search queries.

    There’s a 5th and 6th stage to the buying process that I’ve omitted; the purchase and post purchase behaviour.

    Finally

    The following word clouds were created using keywords at the informational search stage for each keyword.

    The word cloud displays the top 100 most frequent words each category I researched.

    Apple Informational Search Query Cloud

    image of Apple Search Query Cloud

    When you examine the top UK informational search queries containing “apple” you see what is most prominent.

    • iphone
    • watch
    • store
    • cider
    • vinegar and so on.

    Advertising Search Query Cloud

    image of Advertising Search Query Cloud

    When you examine the top 5000 UK informational search queries containing “advertising” you see what is most prominent.

    • Facebook
    • Agency
    • Free
    • Agencies
    • For
    • Online
    • Marketing
    • London

    Baby Search Query Cloud

    image of Baby Search Query Cloud

    When you examine the top UK informational search queries containing “baby” you see what is most prominent.

    • Clothes
    • Boy
    • Girl
    • Monitor
    • Shower

    Bag Search Query Cloud

    image of Bag Search Query Cloud

    When you examine the top UK informational search queries containing “bag” you see patterns, trend and topics emerge about what is most prominent.

    • sleeping
    • bean
    • clutch
    • leather
    • cabin
    • tote

    Bank Search Query Cloud

    image of Bank Search Query Cloud

    When you examine the top UK informational search queries containing “bank” you see what is most prominent.

    • We see top brand names
    • account
    • online
    • number
    • banking
    • business

    Beer Search Query Cloud

    image of Beer Search Query Cloud

    When you examine the top UK informational search queries containing “beer” you can see how prominent keywords containing festival are.

    Other stand outs are :

    • Craft
    • Ginger
    • How
    • As well as a few supermarkets who sell beer

    Bicycle Search Query Cloud

    image of Bicycle Search Query Cloud

    When you examine the top UK informational search queries containing “bicycle” you see what is most prominent.

    • Helmet
    • Wheel
    • Shop
    • For
    • Best
    • Repair

    Book Search Query Cloud

    image of Book Search Query Cloud

    When you examine the top UK informational search queries containing “book” you see what is most prominent.

    • World
    • Jungle
    • Appointment
    • Driving
    • Test
    • Log
    • How
    • New
    • And
    • Mormon

    Bra Search Query Cloud

    image of Bra Search Query Cloud

    When you examine the top UK informational search queries containing “bra” you see patterns, trend and topics emerge about what is most prominent.

    • Sports
    • Strapless
    • Size
    • Push
    • How
    • And
    • Nursing

    Bread Search Query Cloud

    image of Bread Search Query Cloud

    When you examine the top UK informational search queries containing “bread” you see what is most prominent.

    • Recipe
    • Pudding
    • Banana
    • And
    • Free
    • How
    • Butter

    Broadband Search Query Cloud

    image of Broadband Search Query Cloud

    When you examine the top UK informational search queries containing “broadband” you see what is most prominent.

    • Deals
    • Phone
    • Sky
    • Virgin
    • And
    • Best
    • Fibre
    • Test
    • Vodafone

    As I mentioned early topics such as bank and broadband are dominated by major brands until most other topics in this research.

    Car Search Query Cloud

    image of Car Search Query Cloud

    When you examine the top UK informational search queries containing “car” you see what is most prominent.

    • Insurance
    • Hire
    • Park
    • Sales
    • Parts
    • Near
    • Check

    Carpet Search Query Cloud

    image of Carpet Search Query Cloud

    When you examine the top UK informational search queries containing “carpet” you see what is most prominent.

    • Cleaning
    • Cleaner
    • How
    • For
    • Shops
    • Red
    • Remove

    Cat Search Query Cloud

    image of Cat Search Query Cloud

    When you examine the top UK informational search queries containing “cat” you see what is most prominent.

    • Food
    • Litter
    • Rescue
    • Black
    • How
    • Cafe
    • Flap
    • Breeds

    Chair Search Query Cloud

    image of Chair Search Query Cloud

    When you examine the top UK informational search queries containing “chair” you see patterns, trend and topics emerge about what is most prominent.

    • High
    • Gaming
    • Office
    • And
    • Dining
    • Ikea
    • Leather
    • Swivel

    Coffee Search Query Cloud

    image of Coffee Search Query Cloud

    When you examine the top UK informational search queries containing “coffee” you see what is most prominent.

    • Table
    • Machine
    • Best
    • Shops
    • Costa
    • Bean
    • Cup
    • And

    Mortgage Search Query Cloud

    image of Mortgage Search Query Cloud

    When you examine the top UK informational search queries containing “mortgage” you see that the word calculator is extremely prominent.

    As are

    • Rates
    • Interest
    • Buy
    • How
    • Much

    And of course lots of brand names.

    Conclusion

    I hope this research was insightful.

    Whilst search queries at the problem and evaluation stages are only a small part of the total search queries they still represent huge traffic potential.

    Also, just because you get traffic from purchase intent queries does not necessarily people will buy.

    Likewise, a search at the informational search stage can very quickly result in a purchase.

    The only true way to understand purchase intent is to get inside the mind of consumers, which is impossible or work at Google; they know more than anyone else.

    Here’s the full set of data used if you wish to analyse or use yourself.

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