A Guide To Understanding Search Intent

by | Content Marketing, Marketing, SEO

A Guide To Understanding Search Intent

Your goal as a marketer is to get people to buy. If you sell cars, you want them to select your make and model. If you’re a coach, you want them to invest in your services.

And if you play online, your goal is to drive them to your website and stick around awhile while you motivate them with your content. Eventually, they’ll sign up for your newsletter, or use a form to connect with your sales staff.

That process – if you really work on it – is what SEO is all about.

When you optimize a page with your keywords, write blog content, or even purchase a Google ad, it’s all to drive traffic to your site. More traffic increases your chances of sales. The more you optimize, the more business you’ll have. It’s a strategy that keeps working the more you work at it.

But eventually, you’ll dive deeper. Your basic keywords won’t be enough. You’ll start to look deeper into what makes people buy. That’s where search intent begins.

What Is Search Intent?

Search intent asks the question: why. Why are people searching in the first place? What does their search mean? What are they searching for? What kind of answers are they looking for? Are they searching for specifics? Do they want something that isn’t included in the phrase they type in?

That’s how search intent came to be. Google recognized that people type in different words and phrases depending on the results they were looking for. They’d type, type again, refine their words until they got to where they wanted to be.

And since Google wants to deliver the pages that fit a search result best, they focus in on this process. Does their ranked results give you exactly what you’re looking for?

The Different Types Of Search Queries

When people search, they type words or phrases into the search engine bar to pull up results. They come in three distinct types.

  1. Navigational – this is a query that is typed in with the intent of finding a particular site or page. For example, if you’re looking for a YouTube video, you may type that along with specifics of the video you are looking for. Facebook and YouTube are the top ranked search terms in the navigational search type.
  1. Informational – this is where people are looking for information, not a specific site. This is where single words are often the starting point – golf, trucks, vacation – and they quickly refine from there. They want to learn, explore, or simply be entertained.
  1. Transactional – this is where people are intent on completing a transaction – they have a goal in mind. They may type in brands or product names – 2019 Toyota RAV4. Or they may stick with something more generic – teapot. The intent is clear. If they type in “best Italian restaurant Portland”, it’s pretty obvious they are looking for a place to go for dinner.

They can also further expectations depending on what they type within their search queries. When they add words like buy, coupon, deal, or discount, the focus of their intent goes up.

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How This Impacts Your SEO Strategy

Most marketers look at the three types of search intent and immediately head to the transactional as their focus. After all, the entire purpose of being in business is to complete the sale. Why not target people that make that the sole purpose of their search?

While that might work in the beginning, smart marketers realize there is an evolutionary process to the purchase process. Customers come in many different ways.

Just because someone isn’t ready to buy, doesn’t make them any less important. Someone can be your raving fan and not make a purchase from you … today. They may have different needs, but they LOVE what you do. And so they tell their mother/brother/best friend all about you.

That’s why it’s important to give your SEO strategy a full circle approach. That’s why it’s important to ensure you have all kinds of content online, to give people a variety of ways to connect up with you.

Navigational Queries

Navigational queries have true intent. Someone knows your products, services, or company name, and are looking specifically for you. Even the smallest of companies have raving fans. And if someone remembers even a sliver of who you are and what you do, it’s important to come up in those queries so those searchers can find you.

Google recognizes that when you’re specific, you have a definitive answer in mind. So it wants to give you exactly what you’re looking for. It’s even gone to the point of reducing the results from its standard of ten results down to seven on the first page. If you have specific content, it’s best to play that up and create specifics just for those brands and terms.

Informational Queries

Informational queries are one of the hardest categories to play in because intent is vague at best. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be working to fill it with quality information. Wikipedia is an expert in this field. Yet it still leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to giving people exactly what they want. Which is where you come in. This is where you can become an expert in your own field.

  • Write blog posts filled with high quality content. It’s a perfect way to provide useful information to your prospects and customers to help push them to the next level.
  • How about creating how-to videos? This can be perfect in service businesses where a lot of your clients start out in DIY mode before calling in for help. Think plumbing. Think remodeling.
  • Step by step guides are also a perfect thing to build into your site. This gives your readers a reason to trust what you have to say.
  • And don’t forget infographics. It’s one of the easiest ways to go viral depending on what you have to say.

Transactional Queries

Transactional queries are the bread and butter of business. This is where your highest ROI comes into play.

This is where you can make a lot of money using Google AdWords. By ranking well under the terms people are typing into the Google bar, you can pay to be at the top of the list. The more you learn how well this works for your business, the more you’ll use it as a top strategy in your marketing plan. It’s a very cost-effective way to drive traffic and sales to your website.

So what’s your strategy? How well does search intent play in the way you market your business online? If you have any questions about building this into your online marketing plan, let us know.

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