In today’s digital world, consumers don’t want or need you to sell to them. They want you to help them, on their terms. But first, they need to find you.

Research shows 89 per cent of buyers start their buying journey with a search engine. If you’re not paying attention to what potential customers are looking up and when, you’re missing out on sales.

The modern buyer’s journey is a three-stage process:

Stage 1: Awareness. The buyer knows your brand and recognizes it as a trusted name.
Stage 2: Engagement. The buyer understands what your company is about, and who you are.
Stage 3: Conversion. The buyer is ready to take action. This can include making a call, booking an appointment or making a purchase.

For businesses, the engagement stage is critical. This is your opportunity to showcase how you can help — but only if you show up. If buyers don’t find you when they’re doing their research, they won’t consider you when it comes time to buy.

How do you show up during a buyer’s search? By getting the right message to the right person at the right time. This can only happen if you know when potential customers are ready to buy, and then use the right keywords to help them find you.

Ready to buy: purchase intent defined

Purchase intent is about how ready potential customers are to buy.

To determine how close a consumer is to buying you need to know:

  • their demographic and who they are;
  • the content they’re consuming; and
  • where they are finding that information and how they’re accessing it.

This knowledge will help you reach them with the kind of content they want, when and where they want it. More importantly, it will help move them to the next stage in your sales funnel and their buying journey.

Research from Google shows knowing purchase intent is more powerful than demographics in helping you reach more of the right buyers. Marketers who rely only on demographics risk missing 70 per cent of potential mobile shoppers. That’s because when people want or need something, they turn to Google or YouTube.

Think with Google – Why Consumer Intent Is More Powerful than Demographics


Marketers who build their search engine marketing (SEM) strategy around purchase intent are better positioned to respond when customers are considering their options. They show up where potential customers are and deliver content they can use. This is important. Google research also shows that the majority of consumers (73 per cent) want to buy brands that provide useful information in their advertising.

A few SEM basics and benefits

SEM is one of the most cost-effective ways to grow your business. It helps you stand out by using paid advertising such as Google Ads to increase visibility on search engine results pages (SERP). When SEM and search engine optimization (SEO) work together, the impact is even greater. That’s because SEO targets unpaid website traffic and uses keywords to enhance website content for search engines.

SEM allows you to:

  • capture quality leads in real time because of its strong ranking in SERP;
  • optimize your campaign based on reporting and insights; and
  • convert more leads. (Conversion rates are up to two times higher than organic search results.)

Purchase intent keywords: what you need to know

Buyers show their purchase intent in their digital behaviour. For example, seeking out articles on a given topic and increased visits to specific websites are signals someone is researching a specific item or solution to a problem. Getting a handle on purchase intent data is a good way to grow qualified leads. But only a quarter of companies do this.1

Purchase intent keywords (also called commercial keywords) are search queries. They are your first signal that someone is ready and preparing to buy. They vary based on industry and level of intent.


The difference between keywords and search queries

One of the challenges in digital marketing is understanding the nuances of advertising language. The terms keywords and search queries are often used interchangeably. They shouldn’t be.

Keywords are the exact words marketers use to help search engines find companies, products and services.

Search queries are the terms potential buyers type into a search box. Unlike keywords, they are not precise and sometimes only loosely related to what the buyer wants.

Marketers looking to move beyond basic keywords can use tools such as Google Trends or the Google Ads Keyword Planner to help get ads in front of the right buyers at the right time.

Types of search queries and what they tell you about buyer intent
Matching search queries to your ideal customer’s pain points and where they are in their buyer’s journey will help you provide the value-added content and advertising that will help them move through your sales funnel.

There are three types of search query and each points to a different level of intent to buy:

  • Informational: The searcher wants to learn about something or answer a question. For example, “Best strategies to grow your business.” The query can lead to a wide range of results. The searcher is in the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey and early in the sales process.
  • Navigational: In this case, the searcher is more focused and trying to find a specific website. For example, the search query “ABC Company” is navigational because the goal is to get to ABC Company’s site. Buyers are in the engagement stage of the buying journey, researching their options and advancing through the sales funnel.
  • Transactional: The searcher has completed their research and is ready to decide — the final stage in the buyer’s journey. Examples can include specific brand or product names or more generic product categories. These queries have the highest level of intent and in most cases end with a purchase.

Types of purchase intent keywords

Some keywords are more valuable than others. Knowing the purchase intent keywords your ideal customers use will help you target them with the right information or paid ads.

Buy now keywords

This group of keywords signals the urgency and the highest level of purchase intent. The searcher is not only ready to make a purchase, they want to do it now. They’ve done their homework and want to find the vendor who can sell them the solution that best meets their needs.

Examples of buy now keywords include:
● buy
● discount
● affordable
● where to buy

Product keywords

This is the next most valuable category of purchase intent keywords. The searcher has clearly defined their problem and is looking for and researching solutions.

Examples of product keywords include:
● brands
● specific products
● best
● top-rated

Informational keywords

These keywords indicate a lower level of intent than product or buy now keywords. Searchers are looking to better understand a problem or challenge. Or they may be assessing potential solutions. They’re not ready to buy, but what they find using these keywords will inform their decision.

Examples of informational keywords include:
● review
● about
● compare
● how to

The last word on keywords: they’re critical to capturing purchase intent and helping buyers find you. If you’re not using the right keywords, buyers will turn to the businesses that are. It’s that simple and that significant.

Understanding keywords as well as having the time and resources to do the research are essential to capturing leads. Working with an agency to develop the right keywords is one of the best ways to ensure success. Postmedia can help you make high-purchase intent keywords the centre of your SEM strategy.