Intent Marketing

Differentiating High and Low Intent

By Nadav Shemer
Monday, March 11, 2019

By now, you might be used to seeing the terms “high intent” and “low intent” mentioned in relation to consumer search queries. But what do these terms actually mean? Why does it matter? And how does intent vary between mobile and desktop users? We spoke to Hila Gil, Marketing Team Leader at Natural Intelligence, to find out.

Defining High Intent and Low Intent

Intent marketing is a strategy employed by digital marketers to target consumers with high purchase intent. By targeting high-intent users, marketers can improve the quality and quantity of lead generation and, ultimately, increase conversions and users’ Life-Time Value (LTV).

High-intent keywords generally produce 4x to 10x better conversion rates than low-intent keywords, depending on the industry. Gil says, “These are very fierce competition keywords, lots of aggregators and end brands trying to target users with higher buy in. And while competition is driving up the cost-per-click (CPC) of those keywords, the reward is conversion rate and average order value (AOV).”

According to a Natural Intelligence study of the mortgage market, unbranded search terms, such as “best mortgages,” best home loans,” and “best home mortgage lenders,” have an average CPC of $13.55 per keyword. This is almost 7 times higher than branded terms like ‘Bank of America mortgage rates” or “Chase home loans,” which have an average of $2 CPC per keyword.

Keywords such as “review,” “compare,” and “best” all signify high purchase intent. When a consumer uses these types of search queries, it indicates that they know they need a product but are still undecided as to which supplier to purchase from. It also indicates that these users are in research mode and are looking for more information to help them with their decision, according to Gil.

How do marketers decide if it’s worth paying such big bucks for expensive keywords? Ultimately, each business needs to do their own research to find which keywords are worth the cost. “The challenge is to find a balance between conversion rate and payouts and CPC,” Gil says.

Rules Vary from Vertical to Vertical

The trend toward unbranded search queries doesn’t apply evenly to all verticals. Gil names web-building platforms as a vertical with high brand awareness and therefore fewer unbranded queries. The likes of Wix, Shopify, and Squarespace cornered that market with aggressive online marketing campaigns—and users tend to include these companies’ names in their searches.

Hosting companies are at the other end of the scale from web-building platforms. There are thousands of hosting companies, most of them distinguishable only by minor differences, such as price.

Searches for advanced B2B products, like “VPS dedicated hosting” and “VoIP cloud PBX,” are particularly expensive, according to Gil. When people search for these products, it indicates they have already read reviews or compared the market and know exactly what they are looking for.

In some verticals, users might not need to use comparison words to signal intent, Gil says. In software-as-a-service for example, keywords like “systems,” “platforms,” and “services” have above-average CPC. As long as the keywords are unbranded, it signals low brand-loyalty and intent to purchase from whichever provider makes the best pitch.

Despite these variations between verticals, comparison keywords are often more expensive and are better signals of intent than generic keywords, according to Gil. Even the most expensive generic keywords, like “medical alert systems” or “home warranty,” might only indicate medium intent, she says. Comparison keywords like “best medical systems” indicate higher intent.

Converting Low-Intent Mobile Users into Buyers

Desktop searches are considered better indicators of intent than mobile searches, because consumers use mobile mainly for researching but not for purchasing. This is particularly true for products like online loans and online insurance which require the user to upload documentation. “It’s not the sort of stuff you do on the go,” Gil says.

As Google migrates to “mobile-first indexing,” low mobile conversion rates will become increasingly problematic for online businesses. Google began rolling out mobile-first 2 years ago after observing that mobile searches had overtaken desktop searches, as we noted in a previous blog post. Today, Google ranks half the pages on the web by their mobile versions. Eventually, it will probably apply mobile-first to all web pages.

Gil says the challenge for businesses will be to convert users directly from mobile or get them to switch to desktop before converting.

Fortunately, mobile offers one big advantage over desktop: the call function. Businesses that have call centers can convert users more effectively, Gil says, noting that inbound calls have 10%-40% better conversion rates than web leads. These days, it costs virtually nothing to put a click-to-call button on your business’s website—offering an effective way of converting mobile users into buyers.  

“On desktop, the user needs to pick up the phone, which is inconvenient, or they can fill out a form and wait until some customer-service rep calls them. With mobile, the user can just click on the call-to-action and speak to a rep straight away. When a user makes the call, they’re much more likely to convert on the spot.”

Conclusion: User Intent Matters

High-quality traffic is better than high-quantity traffic, regardless of industry. But what qualifies as high intent can vary from industry to industry. Understanding what signifies high intent in your industry and investing in a strategy to satisfy those high-intent users can be worthwhile in the long run.

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