• Search Intent & Why Golf Courses Need to Start Leveraging It

    Kent Ashby  •  August 17, 2018

When someone goes to Google to perform a search, they already have something in mind. They didn’t go there by mistake. They have intent. Whether it’s to research a product, get the latest news, find a local service provider, or see what movies are in theatres, there’s a purpose behind every search.

In everyday life, we all use customer intent in order to provide better service. For example, when a customer walks into the pro shop before you can serve them there’s always some variation of “How can I help you today?”. Each time this question is asked, it’s an attempt to find the intent of the customer. Customer ‘A’ is looking to play a round of golf, while Customer ‘B’ needs a lesson, Customer ‘C’ just wants a bucket of balls, and Customer ‘D’ isn’t a customer at all – it’s a salesperson. Once the intent of each customer is understood, you can assist them accordingly. When people use search engines, there’s a similar exchange. However, it all happens within milliseconds.

Interpreting Search Intent

People use search engines for all kinds of things and in a variety of different ways. Golf is no exception. However, once you evaluate the implicit and explicit meanings behind the keywords that are used to find a certain business or product, search intent starts to become more obvious. To further illustrate this, I’ve included a list of some popular golf course related searches in my area (Orlando). Let’s dissect each one:

KeywordSearch Intent
Orlando golf courses Looking for a golf course in Orlando. We can assume that they are probably looking for somewhere to play a round. However, this person could be a local or traveling into town later on.
golf courses near me Looking for a local golf course, but the “near me” implies that they are not willing to drive far. These people are typically looking to play sooner, rather than later.
Driving range near me Like “golf courses near me”, this keyword shows that this person hasn’t made any plans yet but would like to go hit some balls nearby.
Driving range with lights This person included “with lights” indicating that they want to visit a driving range that’s open later and can accommodate them after dark.
Frisbee golf courses Not looking for a traditional golf course at all, but rather a disc golf facility.
Top golf This is a specific indoor driving range that has a location in Orlando, FL.
Golf clubs near me This could be someone looking for a nearby golf facility OR someone looking to purchase golf equipment.
Top golf courses in Florida The intent behind keywords like this are typically more research/curiosity related, rather than people actually looking for a place to play golf. If the keyword was more local, say "top golf course in Orlando", this is more likely to be someone looking for a golf course to play at.
Indoor driving range This person is looking for an indoor range, which could be caused by the current weather forecast or prefers a facility similar to Topgolf.
Beginner golf lessons It’s clear that this person is likely a new golfer looking to learn the basics.
Golf deals Looking to save on a round of golf OR equipment
Discount tee times Looking to save on a round of golf (think "hot deals", etc)
Golf course memberships Looking to join a golf club

You may be thinking “Kent, that was all pretty obvious. How does this help me?”. We’re getting to that next.

Using Search Intent to Improve SEO

SEO can help increase the traffic your website gets, but that traffic needs to be targeted to yield positive results. Increased website traffic alone is not going to benefit your golf course. However, if your SEO strategy consists of optimizing for the right keywords (based on search intent & volume) you’ll start to see tangible results.

When we take the same list of keywords in the table above, it’s easy to see that not all golf-related keywords apply to every golf course. Also, being more specific with your keyword targeting will help bring the appropriate audience to your website and spearhead your SEO efforts. After all, showing up prominently for for more general/popular searches like “Orlando golf courses” can take several months of work, while more targeted keywords like “Driving range with lights” will be easier to obtain and provide more qualified visitors to your website (that is, if your facility has a driving range with lights). These less popular, yet more targeted terms are called “Long-tail keywords” and are the low hanging fruit in the SEO world.

While there are hundreds of factors that go into a successful SEO program, aligning your SEO strategy with search intent will certainly help bring more of the right people to your business’s website. Try to think about the features and offerings of your facility that make it different and how they might appeal to people searching for “Beginner golf lessons” or “affordable golf memberships”, etc.

Using Intent to Run Better-Converting, Less Costly Search Ads

The ability to understand search intent and react to it is what makes search engine advertising platforms, like Google AdWords, a fan favorite among digital marketers. Just like in the example at the beginning of the article, once the intent of the search is determined, we can serve that potential customer the perfect ad at the perfect time. This results in a hyper-relevant advertising strategy that has yet to be matched by any other platform.

Note: While other ad platforms, like Facebook, can also be cost-effective, they lack customer intent. Think about when you, personally are scrolling through Facebook. Is it ever your intention to make a purchase? No, it's to see what's going on in the world and to catch up with friends/family.

With hyper-relevancy comes better conversion rates, which saves resources (money) and keeps customer acquisition costs in check. Search intent is the driving force behind any successful Search Ad campaign in Google AdWords. By understanding the intent behind each search, you can use Google AdWords to only serve ads to people that are the most likely to convert.

Improving Your Google AdWords Campaigns

As an exercise, let’s take the same list of keywords used in the previous example, but in this scenario, we’re a public golf facility in Orlando that wants to sell more tee times and increase driving range utilization. For this example, our driving range outdoors and does not have lights. We are using Google AdWords to get new customers to call, book online, or come to the golf shop. We have a finite ad budget of $300/month and need to spend it wisely.

KeywordSearch IntentTarget this Keyword?
Orlando golf courses Looking for a golf course in Orlando. We can assume that they are probably looking for somewhere to play a round. However, this person could be a local or traveling into town later on. Yes. This is a perfect candidate.
golf courses near me Looking for a local golf course, but the “near me” indicates that they are not willing to drive far and are looking to play sooner, rather than later. Yes, assuming that this person is within a reasonable distance from the course.
Driving range near me Like “golf courses near me”, this keyword shows that this person hasn’t made any plans yet but would like to go hit some balls nearby. Yes, but limited to the hours of operation of the range.
Driving range with lights This person included “with lights” indicating that they want to visit a driving range that’s open later and can accommodate them after dark. No
Frisbee golf courses Not looking for a traditional golf course at all, but rather a disc golf facility. No
Topgolf This is a specific indoor driving range that has a location in Orlando, FL. No
Golf clubs near me This could be someone looking for a nearby golf facility OR someone looking to purchase golf equipment. Probably not, as conversion rate will likely be lower for this keyword.
Top golf courses in Florida The intent behind keywords like this are typically more research/curiosity related, rather than people actually looking for a place to play golf. No, because this person is likely in the research phase.
Indoor driving range This person is looking for an indoor range, which could be caused by the current weather forecast or prefers a facility similar to Topgolf. No
Beginner golf lessons It’s clear that this person is a new golfer looking to learn the basics. Not in this scenario, just because our focus is on selling rounds of golf, but this could be a great keyword for facilities that can accommodate this person.
Golf deals Looking to save on a round of golf OR equipment Probably not, because the user didn’t specify exactly what they were looking for. We’re likely to get a better ROI by spending our ad budget elsewhere.
Discount tee times Looking to save on a round of golf Maybe. If our course offers special rates or a good twilight deal, this could be a good keyword to target.
Golf course memberships Looking to join a golf club No

While you may be tempted to target all keywords regarding golf in order to get in front of more people, but this will actually hurt your campaign's efficiency. Not only will conversion rates suffer, but Quality Score will go down as well. Quality Score is essentially a 1-10 score that Google AdWords places on each keyword that you’re targeting based on the relevance of the ad, expected Click-Through-Rate and the landing page experience. The lower the Quality Score, the more you’ll pay per click. The higher the Quality Score, the more you save. Google is rewarding advertisers that serve hyper-relevant ads to users based on their intent while penalizing those who take a broad approach to targeting.

When dealing with Search Ad campaigns that have a limited budget (that’s most of them), search intent is your best friend. The one way to almost guarantee a positive ROI is to keep a tight ship, making sure to only target keywords that are directly in line with a singular goal, not a handful. Taking a “blanket” approach, while it may get your golf facility in front of a lot of eyeballs, will leave you with less desirable outcomes.

The Right Place at The Right Time

At the end of the day, understanding search intent allows businesses to do something that’s coveted; be at the right place at the right time. Whether you’re using a platform like Google AdWords or just trying to find the right keywords to target for SEO purposes, it’s always best to let search intent be your guide.

121 Marketing has leveraged search intent to help golf facilities across North America run successful ad campaigns and achieve their business goals, whether it be to sell more rounds, increase junior golf program attendance, or anything in between. For more information about the golf course marketing services we provide, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or fill out the form below and we’ll send you a brochure.

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