- What Is Search Intent?
- Types Of Search Intents
- Why Is Search Intent So Important?
- How To Boost Your Ranking With Search Intent
- How to Optimize Your Website for Search Intent
- Wrapping Up
Creating high-quality content that appeals both to people and search engines is tough these days.
With more brands competing for the same keywords, audiences becoming pickier and spoiled for choice, and search engines becoming smarter, getting organic traffic seems to be getting harder and harder.
Today we are going to take a look at an underestimated and often overlooked ranking factor: the search intent.
Everyone is so busy with figuring out what people are searching for they don’t stop to ask ‘why’? Why do they search for a certain keyword?
I mean if you think about it a lot can go wrong if the ‘why’ behind a search query is not determined correctly. It can lead to lots of pages with useless content, lots of pages with absolutely no visitors, ranking loss, lost customers... The list goes on.
So what is the right answer behind the ‘why’?
One word: Relevance.
When your page aligns perfectly with the searcher intent you’re not simply getting the click, but also higher ranking, as Google sees that you satisfied their search.
In this guide, I’ll uncover everything you might want to know about search intent and how to actually optimize your content and your website for search intent.
Without further ado let’s get right into it!
What Is Search Intent?Search intent or user intent is the purpose behind the user’s search.
Simply put, it answers the question of why the user is doing a search, to find information or to buy something?
When someone’s typing “buy Louis Vuitton bag”, it’s obvious that the user wants to buy a Louis Vuitton bag, not to find information about bags or the brand Louis Vuitton, they simply want to purchase a bag by the brand Luis Vuitton.
Case in point when you type it at the search bar, you see a SERP full of online stores, which offer you Louis Vuitton bags.
Another example, if I type in “what is SEO”, it means I want to learn something, not to buy a product, or attend a course, but to find information. And as a business, your job is to create content that would exactly match this intent.
Now let’s find out what types of intents exist out there.
Types Of Search Intents
InformationalWith informational intent the user predominantly wants to find information, learn about something. The keywords they use when trying to find information, generally include but are not limited to words such as “how to”, “what”, “why”, “when”. An example of an informational search can be “who is the president of Angolia”, “how can I learn programming fast”, “Leonardo da Vinci art”, etc.
NavigationalWhen it comes to navigational intent users want a specific website or certain website’s page but find it easier to search it on Google than type the URL, or maybe they don’t know or remember the exact URL. Anyway, the search queries include branded keywords and some examples of these queries are “Meta”, “Twitter login”, “The Washington Post”, etc.
TransactionalThe golden boy of the bunch transactional intent directly shows an immediate wish to make a purchase meaning the user clearly wants to buy a certain product, signup for an email newsletter, book an appointment, etc. In most cases, the user wants to make a purchase and is sure what to buy. Some search query examples are “buy iPhone 13”, “freepik coupon”, “Asos winter boots cheap”.
CommercialCommercial intent is the middle ground between informational and transactional. The searcher is looking for information but not any information. He is looking for information about the product or products he is considering buying in the near future. Most probably, the searcher is looking for reviews, comparisons, best lists to find the right solution. Queries can be like “best protein bars”, “Samsung galaxy s21 review”, “Canon vs Nikon”, etc.
These are the main types of search intent.
Seems pretty straightforward. It’s not.
When you start looking at individual keywords it gets very hard to tell what the user exactly wants, but generally, you can find out what’s behind the search by paying attention to a few key details, which I’ll go into more detail in a bit.
Why Is Search Intent So Important?Now that we know what search intent is and how many types there are let’s see why it actually affects your rankings and overall content strategy so much.
We all pretty much know Google’s main goal is to help users find the most relevant answer to their query. Let’s unpack this, shall we?
What does ‘relevant answer to their query’ mean? Isn’t it simply satisfying their search while taking into consideration the intent behind it?
Think about it, since Google’s goal is to provide its uses with correct information and if you do satisfy their query by targeting their exact search with the correct intent your chances of getting a ranking boost are quite high.
Otherwise, if you have a well-written researched article, but it’s created for the wrong search intent, meaning when your result shows up and people click on it but bounce right off it signals Google you are not satisfying their search. Naturally, this can result in a ranking drop.
So yes, knowing the exact search intent behind your audience’s queries you can choose to target the right keywords and build your content around what people actually expect from you.
What the user wants the user gets, am I right?
How To Boost Your Ranking With Search IntentThe logic behind satisfying the correct search intent resulting in higher rankings is petty clear, the only thing not so clear is how to create more intent-focused content.
Good thing I’m feeling generous today. Just kidding!
Identifying Search IntentSince search intent is all about the keywords, you should think about it during the keyword research/keyword mapping process, right?
At first glance, it can be pretty easy to identify the search intent for some keywords because they contain certain modifiers I’ve mentioned above.
But that’s not always the case, is it?
Especially when you are doing a deep dive into your competitors’ keywords, you can come across some pretty difficult queries that do not have such a clear intent.
Look at this search for ‘WordPress hosting’. You can literally see three types of intents on the first three results for this particular keyword. The first result is very much commercial as it show has a list of hosting services recommended by WordPress. The second result is an article, with a clear informational intent while the third one is a hosting service provider’s landing page with obvious transactional intent.
What’s the verdict?
Luckily, there are a few ways to identify the intent, even if it’s not so obvious at first.
By Using Search QueryOne of the most common ways to determine the search intent is to look at the search query. A lot of queries are just fragments and might have several meanings, but there’s so much to learn even from a couple of words.
Besides, with voice search, we get longer, more logical and sentence-like search queries, so identifying them becomes easier and easier.
Take a look at the words, do they have dual meaning? Are they written in past or present tense, singular or plural form?
For example, when you type “watch clip”, you might refer to clip on watches or you might want to watch a video or music clip. As you can see, the first results are Amazon’s pages, offering clips on watches, but then you can also see some video clips, that have nothing in common with watches. Since the keyword is very broad, Google doesn’t understand exactly what you want but depending on the first result (and second, and third...), we may assume that by “watch clip” people mostly mean clips on watches.
Analyze the suffixes, prefixes, the verb forms, they can also change the meaning of the keyword.
Also, pay close attention to how the search term is phrased. Depending on the words the user uses first, Google can show completely different results.
By Using ModifiersModifiers are words that help you understand the user’s intent. For example, the words ‘buy’, ‘shop’, ‘cheap’ imply that the user has transactional intent and wants to see products/services to purchase. While the word ‘best’, ‘reviews’, ‘vs’, ‘comparison, ‘difference between’ implies that the user wants to compare products.
And with informational intent, people tend to use question keywords, usually long-tail ones to find the exact information they are looking for.
Here is a list of generic modifiers that can help you understand the searcher’s intent better.
By Reading the SERP
When you are unsure about the search intent of a certain keyword, always search it on Google to see what results it returns. Look at the first few results, most likely these match the user’s intent. Google’s trying to bring the most relevant pages, and most probably the first results are the most relevant ones. Find out what problems they are solving, do they offer to buy a product or simply give information about something? Analyze their titles and descriptions, and pay attention to the order of the results.
Besides, look at the type of content. Are they photos, videos or simply articles? Informational search queries usually return a list of blog posts or how-to videos. While commercial or transactional queries return more product pages, images, carousels, ads.
Check the “People also ask” section, you might find something useful. It can give you an idea of a content topic.
However, if you are still unsure after checking the SERP, try looking at the history of your ranking keyword. Google rankings are far from being static and over a period of time, the search can change dramatically as Google adapts to its users’ ever-changing preferences.
You can use Ahref to look at the SERP position history graph under Keyword Explorer.
By Using Google Ads
Ads can also tell something useful about the user’s intent, of course skipping irrelevant ads. Pay attention to what type of ads show up for your keywords, what phrases and words are used in the ad. You’ll get a better understanding of the search intent and the possible transactional intent it has or might lead to.
This is a great example that shows majorly different intent on the ad than the SERP. The ad shows Semrush’s new feature while the rest of the results satisfy an informational intent by offering articles and guides.
By Asking Your Audience
Who knows search intent better than the searcher himself?
After all, you’re making content for your customers and you can easily ask them what they expect from you.
All your SEO and content marketing efforts are dedicated to them. Create some surveys and send them to your customers. Ask about their problems, what kind of content they want, what they expect to see when searching for something, etc.
Mapping Your KeywordsAfter you are done identifying the user intent for each keyword it’s time to map them to certain pages as targeting the right keywords is an essential part of the content creation process.
Now you can map your keywords manually and try identifying the intent for every single one of said keywords in the process.
Alternatively, you can make your life a lot easier and use Keyword Cupid instead.
Can you imagine sorting through a 5k keyword research file? What about a 15k?
Scary, I know.
What if I told you I did a 13k keyword research in a day? Impossible?
It is definitely possible with Keyword Cupid. The tool scrapes the SERP for every single keyword and automatically clusters keywords by intent based on the Google algorithm.
You can rest assured the keywords in each cluster have the same intent because Google said so.
If you are new to KC and don’t know how it works make sure to check out this ginormous Keyword Cupid guide by Leo.
Creating And Optimizing The ContentThe next step is obviously creating the content but your work with user intent isn’t done yet. Whether you are creating new pages for each keyword group or optimizing existing pages you need to pay attention to what type of content is most commonly expected for the said keyword group.
You can usually check the first few results and see what sort of content they have.
By The Content Type
First of all, you need to identify the content type.
Try to search your chosen keywords and analyze the search results. Each search intent implies a certain content type. The common content types are blog posts, product pages, product category pages, landing pages.
When the user has informational intent, they will most probably get a results page full of blog posts. So, if you’re going to write a long-form article, make sure you clearly answer the user’s question.
When the user wants to buy a certain product/service, he/she will see lots of product pages. Here, you should make sure to have clear CTAs on your product page with pepper formatting and good images. Pay attention to the design of your page, make the user experience as enjoyable as possible.
When describing a product, try to build trust and create an emotional tie with your potential customer.
With commercial intent, the search will mostly return affiliate/shopping websites. The user hasn’t made the decision yet, so your job is to convince the user, that they can find the best product because of your expert advice.
In this case, you can create content where you compare products or share some product reviews to help the user make the decision. Focus on the design and performance of your page. Make sure to have clear CTA links for each recommended product.
Finally, regardless of the intent, make sure your content is dynamic and easy to navigate. Add high-quality images, videos, write in a more organized manner and you’ll get the user’s attention.
By Content Format
When you’re analyzing the results page for content types, pay closer attention to the content format. There are many types of blog posts. Some can have both informational and commercial intents. For the informational intent, the common content formats are how-to guides, step-by-step guides or list posts (this could be for commercial intent too). For the commercial intent, the types of formats are comparisons, best posts, reviews, etc.
When it comes to transactional intent, it generally implies one format - a product page. You just need to make sure to write the right title and a good description of the product.
As for navigational intent, you don’t have to create any blog posts or landing pages for it. You just need to have a high-quality SEO-optimized website so that when users search for your brand, they’ll see your website as the first result. Don’t forget to use structured data makeup to take as much space as possible.
By Content Angle
It’s also important to choose the right style of writing. And again, analyze your competitors’ pages, pay attention to what they write and how they write.
Be especially attentive to the titles and meta descriptions.
With transactional searches, most marketers love to use attention-grabbing words like ‘free’, ‘cheap’, ‘fast’, ‘quick’, etc. The same can be said about informational queries. If you’ve been in the industry long enough you’d know each niche has its own set of clickable words that everyone loves to use. A few from the SEO world: ‘skyrocket’, ‘bulletproof’, ‘immediate’ and
My personal favorite ‘overnight’.
All jokes aside, the title is what gets people to click but the content is what gets them to stay and come back again, so make sure to take a close look at the actual content on your competitor’s page.
How to Optimize Your Website for Search IntentWhile looking at search intent from a keyword level is good and all why not take a step further and optimize your website for user intent with the type of content that actually satisfies different searchers’ queries.
Que in SEO silos.
Since I’ve talked about silos before most of you already know that it’s a way of structuring and creating your content so that it covers your chosen topic entirely.
Now let’s think about it, if you go out and take all the keywords you can possibly find on a given topic, analyze, cluster and map them to individual pages and then proceed to write informational articles, resource pages and landing pages with said keywords, seems like you’d be satisfying every intent out there a user can have, wouldn’t you?
Imagine you have a website that sells leather wallets for women.
Now if you collect all the keywords your competitors (and more) are ranking for and start creating structured content on all relevant clusters and tie them together with your commercial landing pages and product pages, you will make each page within that cluster stronger as they feed into each other, which in turn will make it easier for each of those pages to rank and take as much SERP space as possible.
This way your website can satisfy and rank for all sorts of intents your visitor can have because you have content on absolutely everything on that topic they can be looking for, be it information on how leather wallets are made, to what’s the best size for busy moms to what’s the best quality leather wallet under $100 to the best leather wallet for women.
The only thing left to do is accept these searchers with open arms and make their experience on your pages a dream with carefully placed CTAs and helpful internal links.
Wrapping UpThat’s about it.
Hope I could answer all the questions you had and didn’t have on search intent. It’s a fascinating ranking factor and when analyzed and optimized for correctly can have a really nice impact on your rankings. Especially if you do it on a site-wide level.
If you stuck around till the end, thank you, I appreciate you.
Make sure to try out Keyword Cupid and let its clustering magic make your schedule a little bit lighter for some family time.
In the meantime, join the discussion and comment the topics you’d like me to cover next.
See you in the next one.