How to Find the Real Treasure That Lies Beyond Keywords

beyond keyword search

Say you’re an online marketer. Perhaps you’re a small business owner with a website. Maybe you’re just a blogger looking to get more readers. Chances are you’ve heard about keyword research.

This process is similar to the quest of Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade. You’re looking for something of great worth (the Holy Grail) along with a lot of other people, some of which are quite unscrupulous. The implication is that only one party can possess the Holy Grail and they spend the entirety of the movie fighting over it. In the end, their fighting causes the Holy Grail to be lost.

This is often how online marketing feels. You and all the other websites are searching for keywords with high search volume (the Holy Grail) which you can rank for, despite the efforts of unscrupulous people (spammers). You work really hard and just when you think you’ve found the Holy Grail, it slips from your grasp and is lost (Panda, Penguin, manual penalty, etc.)

What if during your search for the Holy Grail, you could actually find other, equally valuable treasure? Treasures that are often overlooked by unscrupulous people and can be maintained? I’m suggesting just such a possibility.

WYSIWYG Keyword Research

For the unfamiliar, WYSIWYG stands for “What You See Is What You Get.” And most keyword research begins and ends with what is seen on the screen. Here are some examples:



Google Keyword Planner:

Looking at the Google Keyword Planner we see that our term “Las Vegas hotels” garners 201,000 avg. monthly searches in the US. That sounds great. However, the competition is high – not so great:

google keyword planner

Most people would scan down the list to find keywords with less competition. The first medium competition keyword we come across is “Las Vegas hotel maps.” Hmmm. Do they want a map of all the hotels on the strip? Do they want maps of each individual hotel? Too hard to tell – so you keep scanning.

The first low competition keyword you come across is “Las Vegas hotel map.” The same keyword, but singular. The next low competition keyword is “map of Las Vegas hotels.”

Huh, lots of people need a map evidently, but it’s unlikely someone would pay for this with Google Maps out there – right?

Going Beyond Keyword Search

This cursory analysis of the keyword “Las Vegas hotels” might be discouraging, but in the quest for the Holy Grail what was overlooked?

In a word: Intent.

If you just look at what someone searched, you’re missing out on the bigger picture. Intent is WHY someone searched. For the keyword “Las Vegas hotels” we don’t know if they’re looking to book a hotel, if they are a website checking their rankings, or if they need a map. However, by looking at the full list of keyword suggestions we do start to see some buckets of intent:

  • Bargain Bookers: These are people whose intent is to get a really good price on the hotel in Las Vegas they intend to book. Searches like “Las Vegas hotel deals,” “Las Vegas hotels cheap,” or “Las Vegas hotel promotions” clarify the intent of this group.
  • Las Vegas Visitors:  These are people who are going to be in Vegas. We don’t know exactly why or for how long, but we know they plan to physically visit. Terms like “map of Las Vegas hotels” or “Las Vegas hotel strip map” show that they need to know the locations of hotels. Maybe they want to find a restaurant or club in a specific hotel or they’re considering the location before booking. But these people show intent to be in Las Vegas.
  • Brand Searchers: These are people who know the property they are interested in. They search things like “Las Vegas hotels Excalibur,” “Las Vegas hotels paris,” or “Mirage hotel Las Vegas.” You know they have a particular property in mind for some reason. Again, intent is manifested.
  • High Rollers: These are a coveted group because it implies they have money. They’re identified by searches like “Las Vegas luxury hotels,” “new Las Vegas hotels,” or “best Las Vegas hotels.”

As you can see, looking more deeply and finding trends in our research starts to tease out additional benefit that can be as valuable as the average monthly volume and competition. But how do we use that insight?

Leveraging Intent

How you leverage intent depends on your goals. Who are you trying to reach? How do you monetize? Let’s consider a couple fictitious sites and how this might help them.

Lenny’s Las Vegas Blog

Lenny is a Las Vegas local. He loves the town and has been around the block. His site will be monetized by ads, so getting people to the site and getting them to stick around and read lots of posts is a priority. Looking at the four groups above, which group makes the most sense for Lenny?

I would say that the Las Vegas visitors group would be his best bet. Not only are some of these keywords the least competitive, they are people coming to Las Vegas. The local expertise Lenny offers would be very attractive to them and even after they’ve looked at his map of hotels, they might be interested in his other posts offering insider tips and tricks.

Luxury Las Vegas Hotels Dot Com

This site focuses entirely on the best of Las Vegas. They have reviewed all the best hotels and even allow you to book through their site. Who are they after?

First, they’re going to focus on the high rollers since that is exactly their market. However, they’ll also focus on the brand searchers who are looking at high-end properties like the Aria. They’ll likely avoid the bargain bookers.


As we can see, if we only focus on the Holy Grail, we can miss a lot of valuable information just sitting on the page. By teasing out intent from our keyword research, we begin to understand not only who is searching, but why they’re searching.

Thus, your precious budget gets committed to the searchers that fit your audience and help achieve your goals.

Treasure Photo via Shutterstock


Robert Brady Robert Brady is Senior Manager: Software, SMB, Strategy at Clix Marketing, a Google AdWord Certified Partner. Robert helps small business owners and large companies just getting started with Pay-Per-Click (PPC) get better results from their PPC advertising.

6 Reactions
  1. Martin Lindeskog

    TJ: Thanks for giving us guidance, so we could look beyond the holy grail of keywords! 😉

    What would your suggestion be for me as an aspiring author, when it comes to do a keyword search on my book topic, tea?

    • Martin, as you look at the keywords look for descriptive terms that reveal intent. There are likely distinct groups that have different needs and as you do the keyword research you’re looking for the intent that matches your target market and for which the book is most helpful.

      • Martin Lindeskog


        Thanks for the suggestions! It got me thinking about how to search and what to cover in my book!

        What’s your favorite tea? 🙂

      • Martin – I’m not a tea drinker (religious reasons). However, I quite like hot cocoa and Stephen’s is one of my favorites.

  2. Martin Lindeskog


    I am sorry to hear that you are not a tea drinker! I like hot cocoa too. I will check out the Stephen’s brand.

  3. Wile keyword research may seem all technical, it still stemmed from people who key in certain keywords when they are searching. In the end it is still about real habits of real people. So if you don’t know a thing about marketing, you’ll not know which of the keywords are vital for converting a sale.