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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:

iSpionage [1]:


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:

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 [2] Photo via Shutterstock