If you’ve been around the site for awhile, you know that I use Microsoft’s Online Commercial Intent tool to determine whether a keyword has good buyer intent – something that’s critically important to determine when planning an affiliate marketing niche site.
Or, at least, I used to use it, until Microsoft pulled the plug on the tool 🙁
No one’s quite sure if its disappearance is temporary or permanent, but since most of the major keyword research tools on the market have pulled the option from their search results, it seems likely that we’ll be without this tool for some time. And that means that we need to find a new way to determine the buyer intent of our target keywords.
But first, the obligatory segway on why determining buyer intent is so important (or, at least, why it’s so important to me)…
Building affiliate marketing websites isn’t easy. There are a lot of different steps that go into it, from researching your niche and keywords, to building the site, crafting content, promoting it and testing different products/positioning as the site grows. Even if you’re lucky enough to be able to outsource some or all of the aspects of site production, you’re looking at committing at least a few hundred dollars to complete all of these necessary tasks.
So why would you want to waste all of this time and money on keywords that people aren’t searching for when they’re getting ready to buy something? Perhaps it’s easiest to illustrate this with an example…
Say that I build a website around the keyword phrase, “free information on building decks”, while you build a website around the keyword phrase “buy Nikon Coolpics 350”. When someone enters my keyword phrase into a search engine, do you think they’re getting ready to buy something or are they just looking for free information? Compared with the keyword that you’re targeting? I think you get the picture 🙂
In general, buyer intent refers to how likely it is that the searcher is actively looking for a product or information to purchase. In the past, Microsoft’s OCI provided a pretty good estimate of how strong the buyer intention of a particular keyword was, but in its absence, we’ve got to come up with some other methods. Here are some of the ones I’ll be using:
Buying Related Keywords
The biggest difference between the two sample keyword phrases listed above is the modifier keywords – “buy” versus “free”. Clearly, the “buy” keyword modifier indicates a greater commercial intent, so when I’m analyzing a list of keywords, I’ll look for this and related keywords to determine buyer intent.
For example, “purchase”, “shop”, “download”, “compare” and “reviews” are all keyword modifiers that indicate to me that a visitor is close to making a purchase decision.
Product Specific Keywords
Another interesting thing about the sample “good” keyword phrase listed above is that it contains a product specific keyword – “Nikon Coolpics 350” (and yeah, I made that up, so don’t shoot me if it’s not an actual product model).
Now clearly, this method of determining buyer intent isn’t going to be 100% accurate, as someone searching for this sample keyword phrase could still be in the investigation stage of the decision making process. However, I think we can safely assume that because the visitor has already selected particular models to research in more depth, he’s past the point of simply thinking, “Hmmm… Maybe I’ll buy a camera…” From here, we can use persuasive copy and product reviews to convince him that the Nikon in question is the right camera for him.
Again, this isn’t 100% accurate (not that Microsoft’s OCI ever was…), but the number of Google Adwords advertisers that are actively bidding on a particular keyword phrase can be a good indication that it’s a profitable keyword. After all, PPC is expensive, and if these marketers weren’t seeing a return on their investment, they’d quit targeting that particular keyword.
Not that I’d base a decision to build a site around a keyword phrase based on this info alone, but if I were selecting between two keywords, I might give preference to the one that has more Adwords advertisers.
Market Samurai’s SEOV
After eliminating Microsoft OCI data from its keyword research tool, Market Samurai (free trial at the link) introduced a new formula called “SEOV” – or “SEO Value.” Basically, Market Samurai generates a value based on the amount Google Adwords advertisers are willing to pay for the keyword, multiplied by the estimated traffic a site ranked in the top Google position could expect to receive.
I’m not in love with this formula, as I think it takes the wrong variables into consideration. Case in point – the keyword “car insurance information” has an estimated average CPC of $18.03, even though there’s nothing in my mind that suggests people searching for that keyword phrase are looking for anything more than free information.
But then again, I’m not nearly as smart as the people who run Market Samurai when it comes to SEO and keyword research, so I’m definitely going to keep an eye on how closely this metric correlates to my successful websites.
So these are some of the factors that I’ll be using to determine keyword buyer intent in the absence of Microsoft’s OCI tool – can you think of any others? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!