Why do people search? Search intent is the thought behind the user’s search.
Every time someone pulls up a search bar and types in a word or phrase, they are looking for something specific. What ranks determines what they click on, or if they head back to the search bar and try again.
Let’s say you’re in the mood for pizza. If you type “pizza” into the search bar, a variety of results may appear. One may be for a pizza recipe. Another might be for a local pizzeria that delivers. Still another is a link to a frozen pizza company touting why their product is best.
None of these meet your requirements. So you head back to the search bar and type “pizza restaurants near me.”
Finally, the results you’re looking for.
Diving Deeper Into Search Intent
When you know what people are searching for, you have a greater chance of giving them what they want. Someone who wants a great pizza restaurant has little desire for a frozen pizza. The closer you can get to delivering results that match their search, the better your chance of success.
Yet people don’t think like a marketer. Instead, you have to understand how users think when they type into the search bar. To make sense of search intent, let’s start with the four main types:
- Commercial – people are researching services or comparing products
- Informational – people have a specific thought or question in mind
- Navigational – people are looking for a particular web page or geographical location
- Transactional – people are ready to take action or complete the sale
Keeping this in mind, you can build your content using keywords that fit the reasons why people are searching for what you do.
Why Search Intent Matters
Why pay attention to search intent? Because Google cares.
Every time a search is performed, Google tracks the results. What are the user’s next steps? If they click, back out, and move to another, Google asks the question: why? It slowly matches keywords and key phrases with results that satisfy what users are looking for. That’s how it continues to refine results over time. User experience is everything.
As a marketer, your primary goal is to get your content in front of more eyeballs. Higher views mean potentially higher results.
But creating content without direction can be a shot in the dark. The more you can refine your content, the better chance you have of being ranked for what people are looking for. If your pizza restaurant offers both sit-down and takeout, for example, having specific content that will attract both users’ searches will increase your traffic and your business.
How this feeds into your SEO and content marketing plan is by marrying what users want with what Google is looking for. If you connect the dots between the two, your content will move up the rankings and have a better chance of being seen by people looking for what you offer.
This is all about relevance. If you give a user what they want, create the content that’s meaningful to users when they land on your site, there’s a greater chance they will stick to your information and won’t back out looking for more relevant results.
What SERPs Tell You About Search Intent
Google search results have changed a lot over the years. Today’s search engine results pages (SERPs) look nothing like they did even a few short years ago.
Depending on what you search for, a variety of results may appear at the top of the results page.
- Shopping ads will be transactional in focus, hoping to entice a sale.
- People Also Ask or the Knowledge Panels on the right side of the search results are informational, hoping to give you results to explore.
- Reviews and comparisons will be commercial in focus, helping to narrow down your intent.
- Ranked content often lists breakdown results, hoping to give you a more narrowly focused result to meet your goals.
As you create a content strategy, the easiest way to figure out what your user wants is by performing the search yourself. Type your keyword into Google and scroll through the results. This is what Google currently ranks for that particular search term. How close is it to what you offer?
Can you improve on the result?
Google Wants Relevance
At this point, you might be thinking: How does Google know? How do they know what page to rank based on what the user types into the search bar?
It comes with millions of interactions. They analyze every result and how people interact with SERPs.
When you type something and don’t get your desired results, you back out. You may move down the page and click on other things until you find what you’re looking for.
You might further refine your search, clicking and moving as you go. Google tracks it all. It ties your key search term to the result that satisfied your needs.
It tracks this over and over again and gives weight to the sites that gain in popularity.
What do people want? A great user experience.
The more you dig into what a user wants and provide them with the content they are looking for, the better your chance of moving up in ranking.
You can do this by paying attention to the way a user reads.
- Create great titles that bring users in.
- Limit pop-ups or eliminate them altogether. Especially on mobile devices, it’s a top reason people back out of a site.
- Make your content readable. Small fonts and little white space can be intimidating to a reader.
- Use subheadings to break up your content. It helps people move easily through your site. And find what they’re looking for quickly, which can make them click and move deeper into your site.
- Use graphics, images, and videos to complement your content.
- Analyze your content over time. Pay attention to the statistics using Google Analytics, watching your bounce rate and making changes to give people more of what they’re looking for.
Building a Stronger SEO and Content Strategy With Search Intent
A lot of weight is put on SEO and content strategy as you’re building your online presence. Yet before you build your first campaign or write your first blog post, it’s a good idea to first dive into what your users really want.
Search intent can give you clues into what your customers are looking for. And getting down to the heart of what they want opens the door for you to be able to deliver the experience that will keep them on your site.
That’s how you convert a searcher to a customer, and hopefully convert that into a sale.