How to build a SEO-intent based framework for any business

Keyword concept word cloud background

This is the fifth part of the series whereby I am turning the wonderful talks into actionable takeaways you can implement in your business. Yesterday’s article was about How to use Reddit for content ideas and to build links. This article is looking at How to Build an SEO Intent based framework for any business. This is by Katie Cunningham.

Katie starts by explaining that sometimes you have to take a step back from very competitive keywords and to look at the user intent and to try and win here. Especially when you’re trying to rank on a budget.

When you’re playing in this space you want to be fighting upper funnel, building your brand in the information and research phrase. This does two things:

  1. If customer has two choices during the commercial stages, you and your competitor but you helped them during the research phrase they are more likely to choose you
  2. Google uses people past search behaviour to determine rankings, while you might rank say 5th for a key term (below the fold) if that person has interacted, Google might push your ranking up to third – going back to point 1, the user now sees you and is more likely to click on your results.

Winning upper funnel is the way to beat the big boys. In an ideal world, the user wouldn’t even do the commercial search, they would just come directly to you as you have built this trust with them by helping them out earlier in the buying phrase rather than just relying upon ranking for the big commercial terms with massive search volume.

I know this isn’t easy to convince a boss or client that this is the correct approach and is hard.

How I normally do this is by doing it on a small scale and showing the benefits, this then allows you to either get by in from management or the client to expand it.

This was a lot easier 2 or 3 years ago as very few SEO’s cared about ranking for the upper funnel – it didn’t convert, there wasn’t a great deal of search volume. I made my first business before selling it on this exact business model. It can still be done, it’s just a lot more competitive now.

How to find the intent

I am going to using Katie’s help and a few tips from myself show you a strategy to help you find the user’s intent keywords to help grow your business / your client business using SEO.

Document Goals:

Without setting out the goals and KPIs before you start you won’t know if it’s successful. This is basic marketing, but it still surprises me how many SEO’s especially but other marketers don’t get do this.

Make sure to get internal stakeholders or clients involved here – you are probably very good at SEO or digital marketing but you probably don’t know the products or services too well. Speak with the buying team, the product owners. Get them to give you as much information as possible and keep them involved throughout – they can be a very good source of information.

Content Audit

What does the site currently have? Does the site already have some pages that might just need tweaking and modify rather than creating from scratch? Do they have duplicate or near duplicate content which is causing an issue with ranking? Before you even go away and start thinking about what content to create, look at whats available and its performance. How are people finding the current pages, what traffic sources are driving people to the pages?

Important here find people’s pain points where are they leaving the site and why. I am guessing if you’re being asked to improve ‘x’ performance whether that be products or services it’s because the client/boss isn’t too happy with the current performance.

It could be a simple case, that they are getting the right traffic there is a blocker on the site stopping them from converting. If you don’t do this step you could go away and create loads of amazing content that ranks but does not convert.

Sometimes it can just be a case of fixing some issues with the site than improving rankings to boost conversion and I have covered it before, it’s sometimes much easier to improve conversion that to improve rankings/traffic.

Keyword Research

Keyword concept word cloud background

Instead of looking for the large search volume keywords which can drive you a lot of traffic you are looking for intent modified keywords.

  • Best
  • Cheapest
  • Newest
  • Safe
  • Reviews

These are just a few, but there are quite a few and each industry and niche will be different.

I like to use something like SearchMetrics to do this, but there are many tools out there or Answer the Public.

Map the Modifiers to the intent stages

  • Informational
  • Commercial
  • Local
  • Navigating
  • Transactional

Which one of the above does the keyword fit into? Each one will require a different writing style and approach.

If it’s in the informational stage, the users don’t want to buy at this point they are doing research, so a guides, reviews comparison are good. If on the other hand, it’s a transactional keyword – then it’s all about sales and why they should buy from you. Usually, they have done the research and know which product they are after.

Also depending what you sell you might not need to consider local. If you sell Laptops online, it doesn’t matter where the user lives so long as you ship to that location. It’s the same products whether they bought it from down the street or the other side of the country. However, if you offer Car MOT then locally is super important. Someone isn’t going to take their car hundreds of miles to get service when there is probably a dozen or more centres in their nearest town which can check the cars MOT. So local will depend in which niche you operate.

Forgot Search Volume

Ok, that is a bit of a misleading title, sometimes when looking at modifiers ignore the search volume, just because the tools doesn’t say there is any search volume, does not mean it’s not there. If you think it’s a logical query then still consider trying to rank for it

Let’s take the car garage example.

Search metrics is saying there is no search volume for “ford focus MOT in Doncaster”. That might be correct there might not be any body searching that, or it could be there isn’t a decent enough volume for the tools to report on it.

A good way to judge is to look at the queries that are driving traffic via Search Console – this was so much easier in GA – but we lost this data about 3 years ago and it’s not coming back.

Map Keywords to URLs

Once you have your keywords mapped out – you then need to work out which page you want to rank for these – sounds simple but again its a stage a lot of people seem to forget. If it’s a new page that doesn’t exist that’s fine, but once you know which pages are going to be used to rank for each keyword you can start to modify the pages to help you achieve these goals.

Then map these URLs to the KPI’s you did in the document guide, so if your boss asks or the client you can say. We have created this page to rank for these keywords to hit this business KPI – a lot of people still don’t understand SEO and think its some dark magic. Simply by reassuring them that you have a plan and strategy in place to hit the business goal then it put them more at ease and they leave you to get on with it.

Finally, make sure you have the correct tracking in place set up before you start. There is nothing worse than going to see a boss or client and saying yeah we did all this great work and your revenue numbers have gone up but we can’t say why because we forgot/didn’t set up the tracking correctly. Data settles any argument. This also should include keyword tracking using which ever is your preferred method for tracking.

Build an Action Plan

Action Plan, Typed Words On a handbook with note book, marker pen and notebook. Vintage and classic background mood with noise

So you have done all the research, the audits, set up the tracking, got he KPIs agreed etc then it’s time to build out an action plan. You can’t target everything at once. You only have limited resources. You will need to prioritise and group. Here i find it easier to group keywords together into themes and target themes at a time. It helps with interlinking content on your site, helps build up your authority in that area, especially in Google’s eyes.

Build an Automated Dashboard

I do this for all our clients, I was a data analyst before I got into Digital marketing, but any report which needs to be more multiple times automate it, actually I try and use this method for a lot for more than just reports, but especially for reports. There are many tools you can use depending on your skills level.

Google Sheets

By far the easiest you can plugin in GA or use something like Supermetrics if you need to pull back more advanced data sets.

Google Data Studio

This is like sheets but makes the reports look more pretty – a little secret. I build my reports in Google sheets and just import the finished reports into Google Data Studio. It looks a little more professional etc.

There are others, but if you’re not used to it, use Google Sheets by far the simplest and you don’t need to know coding.


You have your strategy, you have your action plan and you have your reports setup to monitor. Now go and deliver on them and start doing the report.

This can be used across all industries, sectors and niches.


Please remember these are my takings from the conference and not those of Katie, while I have used his presentation as inspiration and quoted her a few times the words are my own.

Please check back tomorrow to see Size Doesn’t Matter: Great Content by Teams of One by Ian Lurie or check out the full series here.

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