Keyword Tool: Detecting Commercial Intention

Keywords: Detecting Commercial IntentionSince keywords are so fundamental to Internet marketing, an online marketer is required to determine which keywords are the most relevant to one’s products or services.
However, such research often results in a long list of related keywords. If you are trying to sell a product or service, which keywords should you focus on?
Certainly “Testing” the response rates for specific keywords via PPC advertising is the best way, but what if you knew certain keywords reflected a higher probability for a sale than others, wouldn’t that be valuable?
Microsoft has a free online tool for “Detecting Online Commercial Intention” that helps to sort that out.
Here is how Microsoft describes this Commercial Intention tool:

“Web page searches display two levels of commercial intent: informational and transactional. This tool can detect customer intent to acquire information or to purchase products based on their search queries or recently visited URLs.”

This is a very simple and easy to use tool. However, it is not altogether accurate
, which is problematic for any mathematical and rules-based search query (think of your own Google searches, which are sometimes immediately fruitful, and other times require more work). I have found this tool to rate some keywords incorrectly, relative to their observable commercial intent.
For example:

1) “Motorcycle” is rated at .98
2) “Harley Davidson” is rated at .87
3) “Harley Davidson Road King” is rated at .95
4) “Harley Davidson XR1200” is rated at .63

First of all, let’s just ignore what each of the numbers represent by themselves. They are only useful as comparative references to each other.
Of course a narrower (more specific) search term reflects a higher intent to purchase, since the user is drilling down to a particular product or service, which is the standard pattern for a searcher looking for more specific information on their path to making a purchase.
In this case, a more refined keyword, such as example 3, indicates a higher commercial intent (.95) than example 2 (.87). So the tool is correct.
However, example 4 is observably reflective of a higher commercial intent (a specific motorcycle) than example 2, but the tool indicates a lower intent (.63). In other words, the tool is wrong for example #4.
Even more telling is example #1 which observably represents the lowest commercial intent in this group of search terms, since it is the broadest keyword, but the tool gives it the highest ranking (.98). This is a dramatic failure for the tool!
However, I have used this tool for other searches where the indications were correct. I chose these 4 examples to illustrate that it can be wrong, so it is best used with experience and a fundamental understanding of how keywords work.
NOTE: Since the tool also displays a yes/no user feedback poll, it is likely this tool will continue to become more accurate over time and therefore more valuable.
Further, it should be used with other tools to help determine traffic volume as well (see link below for other keyword tools).
If you have a keyword that shows a high commercial intent with very low search volume, you may want to consider another keyword with high commercial intent and higher volume.
Ideally, you would find some balance between traffic and intent.
In simple terms, if you can optimize your content and/or your online advertising to generate high traffic using keywords that have high commercial intent, you are setting yourself up for more visitors and more sales.
MAY 2011 UPDATE: Alas, Microsoft discontinued this service.
Also, click the following link for more Search Engine Optimization tools.

4 thoughts on “Keyword Tool: Detecting Commercial Intention”

  1. Pingback: Free Search Engine Optimization Tools |

  2. If you are looking for a replacement on the MSN commercial intent tool, I made a free version that you can try out.
    Let me know what you think about it though if you try it out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *