What is Search Intent in SEO?

Google has been consistently improving its search algorithms and search quality to satisfy user intent. Ensuring effective and sustainable SEO results means your content should fit with the audience’s search intent if you want your business to be converting all that juicy traffic into real paying customers.

So what exactly is search intent, and how does it help improve your SEO campaign and results?

In this post, we’ll break down how Google defines search intent and how you can optimise your pages to answer your audience’s burning questions.

What is Search Intent?

Search intent (aka user intent or audience intent) describes a particular search query’s underlying purpose or intention. It is the reason why a user performs an online search about something.

Search intent typically revolves around questions such as:

  • Are you searching for an answer to your question?
  • Are you looking for a particular website?
  • Do you want to buy something online?
  • Are you looking for information online?

These search queries typically mark the first step toward the user conversion journey. But more often than not, they follow a different path with distinctly varying stages.

Understanding the distinct user intent is crucial since spending resources for your SEO strategy is pointless if you can’t provide what your audience wants.

Why is Understanding Search Intent important to My Business?

Your depth of understanding of user intent will affect your website’s ability to rank well for its target keywords. Ultimately, it impacts whether users are pleased with your content and whether it best serves what they were looking for.

Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines elaborated on user intent as Know, Do, Website, and Visit-in-person queries (which we’ll break down in the next section). These are distinct from each other and should generate different SERPs.

Imagine yourself as a motorcycle owner looking to understand how the vehicle works. You open Google and ask this query, but all you get from the SERPs are websites trying to sell you motorcycles.

As a business, you can prevent such frustrating user experience with search intent incorporated into your SEO strategy as a business. You can even improve your SEO and page ranking by determining which search intent is relevant to your industry and target audience.

What are the Common Types of Search Intent?

When looking for information about your business, users tend to use informational keywords in their queries. If they’re interested in your products and become potential buyers, your visitors may use commercial keywords on Google.

Once they’re ready to purchase on your site, customers use transactional keywords to look for products to buy.

However, people often confuse search intent keywords with one another. Here, we’ll break down the four types of user intent and how they influence Google SERPs.

Informational intent

Informational search intent often describes interest in learning more about a topic or business. It can be simple and specific (“How to brew arabica beans?”) or complex and broad queries (“Different properties of every coffee bean variant”).

But if Google thinks a search query has quick and concrete answers (Age, scientific name, dates, etc.), it may use featured snippets and other SERP features, so users don’t have to click any websites.

Navigational Intent

Navigational user intent covers all search queries looking to find a website, business, or physical location through the search engine.

Local search and visit searches often fall under this category since the intent is to get the user somewhere, whether to a website or a physical store.

When searchers use navigational intent, they already have a place or product in mind. That means you don’t need to put much effort into trying to sell new products when targeting navigational user intent.

Moreover, Google’s local packs and knowledge panels are helpful for navigational intent since they deliver information to users as fast and efficiently as possible. Thus, satisfying navigational user intent will go a long way for local businesses planning to attract physical buyers.

Commercial Intent

Commercial search intent overlaps with informational intent since it seeks information about a topic. The only difference is it focuses more on products or brands and usually takes place before a customer makes a purchase decision.

These are keywords that your readers use when researching your product. Therefore, you should nail commercial intent to facilitate your audience’s buyer journey and take advantage of their interest in your products/services.

Product comparisons and reviews are the most common types of commercial search intent. Other examples include:

  • Product specifications
  • Demo and review videos from reliable sites/sources
  • Third-party pages that give in-depth information about your product or service

Transactional intent

Transactional intent is, by far, the most valuable search intent of the given examples. The previous examples often set the buyer’s journey from curiosity. However, transactional user intent evokes the objective of purchasing a product, signing up for a subscription, or visiting a store.

Common examples of this type of user intent include “Buy wedding ring” or “Eyeglasses for sale Sydney.”

Most transactional search queries are direct and obvious, making them an excellent goldmine for leads and conversions. But if the user’s intent is confusing (can be transactional, informational, or commercial), then Google SERP may include several features (knowledge panel, local pack, or People also ask).

Doing so lets users get more information about the product or complete a purchase, depending on which result matches their actual intent.

Benefits of Using Search Intent to Target Your Ideal Customer

You should already know about the different types of user intent and how they influence a customer’s buying journey. Once you understand how these intents differ, you can optimise your SEO to satisfy them and reap the benefits of search intent for your business.

Those benefits include a better conversion rate, improved engagements, and increased organic traffic, including other SEO improvements such as:

  • Increase in page views: Content that satisfies user intent is most likely to earn engagements and clicks
  • Minimal bounce rates: If you can put everything a user asks for on your website, they’ll most likely stay and interact with your pages longer.
  • Nail Google Featured Snippets: You’ll significantly boost traffic and trust value if you can win over a few featured snippets. Keep in mind that people usually see position 0 as the most trustworthy page since it directly answers their query.
  • Expand your audience reach: Once Google interprets relevant queries into a single topic and search intent, it will rank your page into relevant keywords as an authority on the topic.

Additionally, optimising your web pages to satisfy user intent will help you:

  • Speed up keyword research by focusing on terms relevant to your business and target audience.
  • Create new and refresh old content to optimise content and page structure for UX and SEO.
  • Improve your ranking by building content that Google sees as valuable and relevant to your target users’ search intent.

Investing in search intent optimisation lets you take advantage of these perks. But while you understand your audience better than anyone else, having an SEO specialist on your back will help you nail the technical aspects to execute your efforts.

How to Optimise for Search Intent

Understanding the type of search intent relevant to your business is the first step to uncovering the buyer journey that fits your needs. Here are some time-tested tips to reinforce your SEO strategy and leverage user intent throughout your content.

Optimise Content for User Experience

Google interprets content quality by measuring user behaviour metrics during the entire session. It doesn’t want users to hop across search results and will treat a page as high-quality if visitors stay on that page and navigate throughout the site.

For your page to rank well, it must satisfy the intent and provide an excellent user experience (UX) so people won’t bounce off once they click. That means optimising page speed, keeping your word count on point, and improving all other aspects of UX in general.

Here are some quick tips that we’ve verified to impact the user experience for all content types positively:

Use Subheadings to Organise Content

Subheadings help Google analyse your page structure and provide a faster reading experience for users who want to skim through your content.

Minimise Popups and Display a Clear Close Button

Google and users frown at popups as they hinder user experience and are usually scammy promotions. But if you need popups on your site, we suggest using only exit-intent popups.

Optimise Font Size

A well-written and high-quality content won’t pay off if it’s tough to read. While this isn’t solely for search intent, optimising font size for legibility can help keep your readers from bouncing off your site.

Refresh Existing Content

If you have existing pages that are slowly falling off the ranks or aren’t driving traffic to your site, consider updating or improving those content.

Addressing content decay to boost SEO and satisfy user intent takes significantly less time and resources than developing a new page from scratch.

List Down and Answer “People also ask….” Queries

In many Google SERPs, you’ll notice a feature where Google displays relevant questions under a People also ask header.

Look closely and notice that the queries listed in the box are related to the main query. This feature is a goldmine for search intent info as the listed queries are common questions Google users have relevant to the topic.

When user intent matching is executed correctly and with a professional Sydney SEO agency, you’ll walk away with a deeper understanding of your audience and well-optimised pages that best fits what your customers are looking for. Ultimately, this practice results in increased sales and revenue for your products or services.

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