Here’s an odd problem. The search engines (SE) are getting rid of keywords for SEO, but they’re using keywords for advertising. Both Bing and Google have moved away from keyword-based SEO. Yet Google and Bing use keywords to show ads.

This seems like a contradiction. But there’s a subtle difference based on the user’s intention.

Researchers found there are three types of searches. The difference is based on the user’s intention for the search:

  • Navigational: The user wants to find the site (not information about something nor buy). Therefore SEs provide the authoritative site.
  • Informational: The user wants to learn something (not navigate nor buy). Therefore SEs provide the best information (based on credentials, authority, etc.)
  • Transactional: The user wants to buy/get something.

In the first two (navigational and informational), the keyword is a general indicator for the target. The best answer is only one or two items. Therefore SEs look at the intention (not the keyword) and offer the best answer.

Transactional searches (about 15% of all searches) are generally commerical transactions, which means the companies offer products for sale. So SEs open this space to competition. The user is presented with advertising.

However, it’s not a simple competition of keywords. The naive advertiser thinks keywords are a simple issue: find the right keyword, use it, and the advertiser gets to the top. The process is much more complex than that. The search engines will review his webpage and the page will appear, depending on the type of search and the user’s intent. SEs affect the ranking of ads by applying criteria for quality. Ads with high CTR and well-managed PPC accounts are moved to the top. The SEs also use humans to review advertisers to select qualified authentic merchants. Poorly-managed advertising accounts and low-quality merchants are moved to the bottom. Scams are blocked from the results. The user sees a list of merchant results that has been carefully filtered and edited.

Thus keyword searches deliver two types of results, depending on whether it’s informational search or a transactional search (advertising), but in both cases, the results were not produced by a simple algorithm. In both cases, the results have been edited, reviewed, and selected by the search engines.

What to Do about This

Selecting the right keyword is a small part of SEO/PPC. It is more important to build and demonstrate quality. The search engines want to present the best sites and pages.

For Navigational Searches: Make sure your pages clearly show that your page is the official page for your company, service, product, or person. Include contact information and other criteria (social, reviews, useful information such as photos, etc.)

For Informational Searches: Make sure your pages clearly show that your page offers the best body of information for the general topics for your company.

For Transactional Searches: Review the other merchants on page one. Review the list of criteria for merchants. Go through the process of finding, selecting, and ordering an item from your competitors. Make sure that you either match their quality or exceed it.

Too much SEO is focused on KWs and meta-tags. SEO should be strategic competition, based on building best-quality pages.