Understanding SEM strategy


Guide to understanding Search keywords and how it affect user behavior in Search Engine Marketing (SEM) by Mark Koh

When people talk and teach about search engine marketing they tend to treat the user behavior of the searcher as equal. This means that they mostly look at the traffic and relevancy of a keyword and neglect how users behave. But the amount of traffic does not necessarily correlate with the amount of sales or leads from SEM.

So for example when faced with key phrases such as – ‘wood blog’ or ‘guide to woodworking’ or ‘buy wood online’ – marketers tend to favour which ever search term has the most number of searches and how relevant they are. But even if a keyword or term has a high amount of traffic and relevancy they might not yield a high amount of leads or sales.

The amount of Traffic and relevancy for a certain keyword should not be the final deciding factors in determining if one should engage in marketing that keyword. What should also be considered is the type and category of these search terms because they can determine that behavior of the searcher.

Know the qualities of the keywords or terms.

There are three main qualities that every search term has –

  1. Specificity/relevancy

How specific is that term compared to other searches. How much do users know about what they want to find. For example a specific search term like ‘wikipedia’ often means that a searcher knows actually where he wants to go. A more vaguer search like ‘woodworking stores online’ could mean that a searcher is exploring different suppliers.This affects user behavior in terms of how likely they are to visit other sites or progress through one site.

  1. Marketability

How likely are there to proceed towards a sale. Simply put, how likely are these users going to become customers.

  1. Quantity

How many searches does this query have. Quantity obviously affects how many users are able to see the Ad. But remember this quality only refers to how likely they are to see the Ad, not how likely they are to click through or become a customer.

The three qualities can be simplified in how they affect user behavior –

Specificity/relevancy – How likely they are to click an Ad

Marketability – How likely they are to become a customer

Quantity – How many of them will see the Ad


Know the categorizes of queries that share qualities

Now once you analyze and compare these qualities to all the search terms you are thinking of marketing too, you’ll find certain patterns that emerge within groups of searches. For example search terms like ‘buy online wood’ or ‘online wood store’ have a very high marketability but low Quantity. Terms like ‘How to chop down a tree’ have a high Quantity but low specificity and marketability.

By grouping searches which are similar to each other you will then be able to understand the different aspects of those searchers. And most importantly market to those search categories in a different way in order to maximise the strengths of those type of searches.

For example – For the term ‘Buy wood online’ you would have better results if you created an Ad that goes directly to your wood store or a landing page for your store.

In contrast, for the term ‘woodworking blog’ might not be a good search term to market to since they are less likely to click an Ad to your wood store.

But the opposite might be true if you intend to market your woodworking blog. How you market to a search terms depends on your product as well as what you want users to do. If you want users to buy your product then you would aim for a search term with a high marketability. However if you want users to read various articles on your site then you would aim for a term with a high quantity.

All queries fall under these four categories.

  1. Navigational query
  2. Descriptive query
  3. Informative query
  4. Transactional query


Navigational Query

A query aimed at finding a website. It could be a specific website like Wikipedia or type of content on a website

example – woodworking blog, woodworking store, woodworking videos,

Specificity/relevancy – High

Marketability – Medium

Quantity – Medium


Descriptive query

A query that describes a problem, product, or a website. This query aims to find a source for information online by describing what is inside the content or website.

example – Hard dry wood, Cheap wood delivery, Melbourne lumberjack

Specificity/relevancy – Medium

Marketability – Low

Quantity – Medium


Informative query

Queries with the goal of finding more information on a certain term. These type of queries often start with a ‘How to’ or ‘Guide to’. This type of query aims to find a source for information by trying to describe the title of the content.

example – How to start woodworking, woodworking guide, how to chop down a tree, how to yell timber.

Specificity/relevancy – Medium

Marketability – Low

Quantity – High


Transactional query

A query with the goal of completing a transaction online.  This search usually aims to find a store or shop.

example – Buy wood, Buy wood Melbourne, Buy wood online,

Specificity/relevancy – High

Marketability – High

Quantity – Low


Align them with your customer goals

The final step of forming a SEM strategy is to align the type of search you intend to market to with your customer goals. What actions do you want your customers to complete? Do you want them to buy a product at your store, read your blog and sign up to your newsletter, or treat your website as a source for information?

Then you simply create a marketing strategy that aligns with those goals by using the strength of a certain search term. So if you want lots of users to your site you would target keywords with a high Quantity. If you want people to buy your product you would target keywords with a high Marketability.

So remember –

  1. Know the qualities of the keywords or terms.

  2. Know the categorizes and groups of queries that share qualities

  3. Align them with your customer goals.