A guide to search intent for SEO

When you're developing an SEO strategy, making sure that your website and the content you creates matches your customer's search intent is essential. In this blog, we'll explain the types of search intent and the content you should be creating.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is one of the most effective ways to drive high-quality traffic to your website. Ranking in the top results on search engines such as Google allows you to attract more people to your website and will drive sales and returning visitors to your business. 

You need to create and optimise content based on relevant keywords to get your brand seen in the search results. But, to really increase your chances of ranking highly and to convince visitors to take action, you will need to optimise for search intent when planning and creating your content.  

Search intent can be overlooked as a ranking factor, but it’s arguably one of the most important factors to consider. 

In this guide, we’ll take a look at what search intent is, why it’s important and how to optimise your content. 

What is search intent? 

Search intent, which is also referred to as user intent or audience intent, is the term used to describe the purpose of an online search. It’s the reason why someone types a query into a search engine. Whilst people searching on a search engine are looking for something, the reason why might differ. For example, they might be looking for an answer to a specific question, looking to go to a specific website or looking to buy something. 

Each type of search plays a part in the online user journey, but they’re part of different user journey stages. 

Why does search intent matter? 

Search engine algorithms are improving every day. Simply making sure a page on your website includes relevant keywords isn’t enough anymore. 

Google’s main aim is to provide its users with the most relevant results for their queries. This means showing the pages that best fit the search term that someone is using and the intent behind the query. 

💡 Learn more about driving traffic to your site through SEO in our blog: 9 top SEO tips: How to drive organic traffic to your website

Search engines can determine the intent behind a search query better than ever before and will only display the content that is most relevant to that query. So, aligning your content to search intent and relevant keywords will help you rank highly in the search results, increase impressions and boost traffic to your website. 

By understanding search intent, you can attract the right audience and people more likely to convert. By matching the searcher's intent, your business can provide them with a solution. And, if you answer their question, they will see you as a useful source of information and will be more likely to use you in the future because you have built trust with them. 

The more specific your content is in terms of search intent, the more users you will reach at various stages of the funnel. From brand awareness to people looking to buy, you can increase your chances of reaching them across all stages by focusing on matching search intent. 

Types of search intent 

There are four types of search intent, and being aware of them can help you see which search queries you will need to optimise across all parts of your website. The type of search intent that a query falls under will have an impact on the content you create and the way you optimise your landing page, so it’s important to know the differences.

Informational queries 

A huge number of searches are for people who are just looking for information. They’re not looking for a specific site or to buy something. They just want to answer a question or learn more about a specific topic. 

Examples include:

  • How to fry an egg
  • What is a crater?
  • Directions to Manchester airport 

As you can see, informational content is usually in the form of a how-to guide, a recipe or a definition and is one of the most common types of searches. 

Google’s understanding of intent now goes much further than showing the results that provide information about a specific term. It knows that people looking for ‘lasagne’ are probably looking for a recipe rather than a dish history. 

Optimising for informational intent 

This is a great way to build awareness and drive customers to the top of your sales funnel. Creating content such as blog posts or FAQs pages is the best way to target these types of searches. 

To rank well for informational searches, you will need to create relevant content that answers questions directly and make it obvious that your content is going to answer that particular question. 

Include the informational word in the content title (who, what, how, why) and place your questions in the headings of your content with the information directly below. 

Navigational queries

Navigational queries are performed by people who are looking to visit a specific website. For example, people who are searching for Facebook probably want to navigate straight to the website. So, when someone searches for your brand name online, you’ll need to make sure that your website can be found.

If your site is one that people are likely to be looking to navigate directly, ranking highly for a navigational term will be beneficial.    

Optimising for navigational intent 

If you don’t yet have anyone searching for your brand name, then you will have to work on digital marketing activities to build brand awareness. Once people start to search directly for your brand name, optimising your content is more about maintenance. 

Keep your NAP (name, address and telephone number) up-to-date on all of your online listings, including your website footer, Google My Business, maps listings and social media profiles. 

Transactional queries 

Many people buy products and services online and browse the internet to find the best brand to purchase from. People who search with transactional intent want to buy something at that moment. They often know exactly what they want to just and want to go straight to a product page. 

They’re not researching anymore, they’re looking for somewhere to buy, so optimising your product pages for these keywords is the best approach.

Optimising for transactional intent 

When optimising your content for transactional searches, you should direct visitors to product or registration pages. These people are at the bottom of the funnel, are ready to buy, and should convert if you get your content right. 

User experience is key to pages that meet transactional intent, and you must provide a clear path to conversion. Use phrases such as buy, deal, discount and purchase to indicate to customers what you want them to do when they land on your page. 

Commercial investigation queries 

Some people are looking to make a purchase in the near future and will research on the Internet. The intent behind their query is transactional, but they need a bit more time and a bit more convincing. 

They’re past the informational stage of researching a product or service and have narrowed their search to a few options. They might be comparing products and brands to find the best solution, giving you a chance to get your brand in front of them and convert them.

Optimising for commercial investigation intent

Someone who is searching for a commercial query is in the decision-making process, so you will need to provide information that will persuade them that you are the right brand to buy from. Case studies, reviews and testimonials will provide the information customers want to see when making a decision. 

Your product category pages can be transactional or commercial. While a visitor might not have chosen a specific product yet, they’re further down the funnel than someone who is looking for a ‘best’ list. 

What are the benefits of understanding and optimising for search intent?

Optimising your content properly and improving search engine rankings will help you to drive more relevant, qualified traffic to your website. Not only will this help to improve conversion rates for your transactional content, it will also boost traffic to informational content. 

Optimising your content for search intent can have the following benefits: 

  • Reduce bounce rates - when you understand the intent behind each search query you’re targeting, the people who land on your page will find the information they want, so they will stay on the page, reducing your bounce rates. 
  • Generate more page views - answering a user’s initial question will make them more likely to engage with the rest of your website, build trust and take action. 
  • Take advantage of answer boxes - answering a question or query well means you’re more likely to appear in Google’s featured snippets, known as position 0, and appear above the first search result. 
  • Wider audience reach - Google knows when multiple queries hold have the same topic and intent, so you can show your content for more queries than just the one you’ve optimised for. 

If you’d like to know more about search intent and how an effective SEO strategy can drive results for your business, why not request a free digital marketing audit from our team? 

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Blog written by

Amy Ward