What is search intent and why it matters

What is search intent and why it matters?

Written by on 15 Dec 21

Filed under: SEO

Not all keywords are created equally. Some aid discovery, others help make a buying decision and a few even help convince people to join your newsletter. Understanding search intent is vital, especially if your goal is to drive more revenue using your website.

 

By optimising your content for the right keywords, you not only increase your website’s search engine rankings but also convert more visitors to customers. And as most small businesses need a few extra clients, getting search intent right is a way to make your website work harder.

 

You’re about to learn what is search intent and how you can ensure your content correct matches search intent.

 

 

What is search intent?

We call the purpose behind every online search, the search intent. Some refer to it as the user intent or audience intent, but we’re going to stick with search intent.

 

At the most basic level, the intent of every online search is to answer a specific question. However, how we ask the question depends on the outcome we want.

 

If we’re looking for information, we might use the shortest possible phrase, such as “Lady Gaga age“. However, if we’re looking for a local Chinese takeaway, our search phrase will be longer, you might “Chinese takeaway in Birmingham that takes American express“.

 

Often, how we ask the question or our search intent, depends on where we are in the buyer journey. Over the years, Google and the other search engines have adjusted their algorithm to better match people’s search intent.

 

All search engines aim to rank pages that best fit the user’s search term and that closely matches the intent behind the search query. Hence, why it’s vital your page matches the user’s search intent.

 

 

The four main types of search intent

Thankfully, there are four distinct types of search intent you need to know and master for your website to convert visitors into clients.

 

#1 Informational intent

The most common purpose of an internet search is informational. You might want to know the date, today’s weather, the news headline or even how often to publish new blog posts on your website.

 

People use informational queries to learn more about a topic and not to make a purchase.

 

For example, if you Google: ‘beagle‘, you’ll see photos of that dog bread, some general stats and the usual search result that provide a wealth of information about beagle dogs.

 

Another example is: “how to reset AirPods“. You’ll see links to videos, images and websites. Google understands that the best answer could be a quick video that explains the steps. However, it’ll also show you an article with images, as some prefer reading to watching.

 

Informational queries typically start with “how to”, “does”, “can I”, “is” and “when”. These are the types of questions we constantly ask ourselves.

 

#2 Brand intent

Consider you want to buy a new TV, you’d likely search for Sony TV or Samsung TV as you might not know the best version of their website to visit (i.e. .com vs .co.uk vs .com/uk).

 

If you haven’t bookmarked Instagram, you might search for it and so the first result should be for Instagram’s website.

 

Even as a small business owner, it’s important that you optimise your website for your brand name. So when someone searches your company name online, you appear first and you’re not lost in the noise.

 

#3 Commercial investigation

If you’re looking at buying a new washing machine next month, you’ll want to research your options. You’ll likely search for “best washing machine” or “Miele vs Samsung washing machine“.

 

These users are not yet ready to buy but are aware they have a problem and know some potential solutions, even if that’s just at the brand level. They are yet to narrow down the options to a few choices.

 

#4 Transactional intent

If you want to buy an item, you might search for it. As the user is ready to buy, they are likely to search for a highly specific keyword based on their research. Google will only show retailers or dealers when you could purchase the item.

 

For example, search for “blue Ford Focus 2021” or “Echo Dot“, and you’ll only see places you can buy the item. You won’t find articles on what the lights on the Ford Focus’ dashboard show about the car’s health.

 

Transactional intent keywords also include “best price”, “discount”, “deal”. Optimising for the brand and product is a great first step. But you can also try to capitalise on offering the best price or a discount for that month. Doing so can help you convert even more visitors to customers.

 

 

How to optimise your content for search intent

By understanding the different types of search intent, you can optimise your website’s current pages and begin to plan a more comprehensive keyword plan.

 

You should have posts and pages that address every step in the buying process, including awareness, discovery and purchase. By considering the search intent of each page, you can help guide the visitor toward purchase.

 

If you only have product pages on your website, you make it harder for visitors to convert as they might have questions about how to best use your product or how it compares to the competition.

 

Of course, you don’t want to optimise a product page for an informational keyword as you’ll likely scare the visitor away. The opposite is also true. You don’t want someone who’s ready to buy landing on a blog post explaining a hidden feature. Instead, they should land on a product page.

 

Let’s say you make hand-poured soy wax candles that you sell online. You could optimise a product page for the keyword “buy Lavender soy candles” [transactional]. You could then write a blog post that’s optimised for “how to use Lavender soy candles” [informational].

 

If someone is thinking about buying a lavender candle but doesn’t know how or where to use it within the home, the blog will (hopefully) answer their questions and encourage them to buy a candle from you. Yet they can still easily use Google to find the product if they are ready to buy.

 

 

How to best research your audience’s search intent

Part of building a comprehensive keyword plan is determining the search intent of each potential keyword and how it fits within your buyer’s journey. If this sounds difficult, you’ll be relieved to know that it’s not.

 

We can cheat. Simply Google the keyword and see what pages are shown in the search results. If Google only shows product pages, you’re unlikely to be able to rank an informational post for that keyword.

 

However, if the results only show “how to” posts and you plan to write an informational article, you’re good to start.

 

Good SEO is about working in partnership with the search engines, delivering content they want to show. It’s not trying to force them to show pages that don’t match the user’s search intent. Thankfully, Google gives us lots of clues to what it wants to show.

 

 

Matching your visitor’s expectation

You want to pay close attention when writing content for your website that matches search intent and the user’s expectations.

 

If a visitor isn’t ready to buy but can find answers to their questions, you are more likely to purchase later. Not to mention getting them to sign up for your newsletter. However, if they are ready to buy but can’t find a product page, you’ll lose them to the competition.

 

By optimising your website for your brand name, informational and transactional keywords, you will be easy to find using any search engine and find it easier to convert visitors to customers. By thinking holistically, you improve the customer experience, making them an excellent source of referrals!

 

And if you need help building your business’s blog and website content strategy, I’d love to help you. Let’s chat!

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