If you are trying to convince your audience to do something on your website (make a purchase, subscribe, signup, etc.) then you should know that SEO alone may not be the best answer to rank on Google.
Since the introduction of Google algorithms like Hummingbird and RankBrain, the purpose behind each query is analyzed to show corresponding content to the searcher. This purpose is known as the search intent, and it is one of the most important Google ranking factors in 2023.
In this article, we’re going to learn everything about search intent and its importance to SEO as well as how to optimize content for it.
What is Search Intent
Search intent (a.k.a. searcher intent, user intent, or audience intent) refers to the purpose behind a search on the internet. When someone is searching for something, there is a reason that determines the intention of the user. It can be to learn something, purchase something, get more information, etc.
To put it in simpler words, as Joshua Hardwick from Ahrefs said, “the search intent is the why behind a search query”.
Importance of Search Intent to SEO
The importance of search intent to SEO is because search intent reveals valuable information. It reflects the searcher’s position in the conversion and sales funnel.
When you know the reason why users search for something and end up reading your content, you can optimize it to convert users into potential customers. The search intent helps you convert your audience and sell your product or service.
For this reason, search intent is a supplementary concept for search engine optimization and helps to create content that meets users’ needs. Also, by targeting a specific search intent in your content, Google will likely rank the content for that search intent.
Types of Search Intent
To understand users’ intent, first, you have to learn the main four types of search intent and their corresponding identifiers (or keywords).
Each of these types reveals the position of the searcher in the conversion funnel, helping you to write content aligned with their purpose, thus turning them into potential customers and making more sales.
Informational search intent refers to the audience who are looking to find information and learn something. The search query can be a question or a phrase that seeks information about something specific.
For example, the reason for queries like “what is the capital of Turkey” or “how to cook chocolate chip cookies” is to find more information like the name of a city or a recipe to cook something respectively.
This can also include information about physical businesses like address, email, phone number, and working hours. Google does a great job answering this type of search intent with rich result snippets
The most common keywords used in informational search intent queries are:
- What (what is a griffin)
- Who (who is the Twitter founder)
- Where (where is grand canyon)
- When (when is the next solar eclipse)
- Why (why half-life 3 won’t come out)
- How (how to install windows)
- Guide (garbage disposal maintenance guide)
- Example (passive and active sentence examples)
- Learn (learn python)
- Tutorial (photoshop beginner tutorial)
- Ideas (office design ideas)
Informational search intent can be a phrase too like “Bitcoin future analysis” or “clacking noise from car engine” which aimed to find information about the subject of the query. Therefore, there might be no specific keyword in the query at all.
The commercial investigation is a type of search intent in which the user has decided to make a purchase but is searching for more information like reviews, comparisons, varieties, and which product/service is the best.
For example, the user is searching for “iPhone 14 pro vs. iPhone 14 pro max” to see what is the difference. Another example is “best hotels in Paris city center” where the user is looking for the best option.
Commercial investigation keywords include the followings:
- Best (best restaurants in Antalya)
- Top (top domain registrars)
- Review (Lenovo G480 review)
- A vs. B (Dewalt vs. Milwaukee)
- Comparison (Samsung A20 and M20 comparison)
- Variety – looking for specific colors, sizes, models, etc.
This search intent shows that the searcher is down in the conversion funnel and has already decided to purchase, but depending on the scope of the search, it shows how close the user is to make a purchase.
For example, if the search is broad (brand name or product category) the user wants to learn more about the product before deciding which brand & model to go for. On the other hand, if the search is narrowed down to a model or variety, the user is very close to making the purchase after doing the research.
Transactional search intent is when the searcher is in buying mode and wants to purchase something. At this stage, the user probably knows exactly what product or service and what model to buy.
Transactional search intent tells us that the user is at the narrow end of the conversion funnel and is ready to take action (purchasing) and is looking for the price of the product/service, best deals, discount coupons, or simply a website to place an order.
Here are some examples of transactional intent:
- Buy Peugeot 508 windscreen wiper
- Namecheap domain discount coupons
- Cheap Linux hosting services
Generally, we can say that search queries with keywords like price, discount, cheap, coupons, and buy are carrying transactional search intent.
Navigational search intent is search queries submitted by people who are looking to find a specific website or a specific page within that website. It’s very simple. For example, a search query like “Twitter” or “Sony website” will show the corresponding websites on the search results page.
Furthermore, searching for “Trello signup” or “Netflix pricing” will show you the page within the website. This is also a good way to find the official website of a bank or other financial services which helps you avoid phishing traps.
Almost all navigational search intent queries are handled by Google itself. Google will show all the information including the website and even the official social profiles of the brand right on the search engine results page. It is the link to the website as the first result plus information about the brand in the rich snippet section (Open Graph Information).
Navigational search intent doesn’t have any specific keyword like the other three types. Search queries that often include brand name, product name, or service name followed by website or page name are considered navigational.
Also, on many occasions, navigational search intent might involve a broad query aimed at finding a website. For example, if one searches for “job opening” or “full-time remote job”, the intent is to find a company with a job opening published on their website.
How to Optimize Content for Search Intent
Any SEO strategy without paying attention to the search intent is not going to work out its full potential. The website and content will rank but the conversion rate is often low, mostly because the content is ranked for specific intents that can’t answer the audience clearly.
Therefore, search intent should be taken seriously, even before selecting a niche to run a website as well as every time you want to start writing new content.
Here are some suggestions on how to optimize the website and content for search intent.
Purpose & Result
It all starts from the stage where you are looking for a niche to create a website around it. Your niche is the purpose of your content and the result is the goal each content seeks when it is read by a user.
Some niches might not necessarily be about selling a product or service. It is purely for informing the audience and teaching a thing or two about the niche. At this point, if the purpose of the website is clear, a search analysis shows you what search intent is used most for keywords you are about to write content about.
On the other hand, the goal that the content is seeking to achieve should be aligned with the searchers’ intent. If the search intent is informational, the topic and the content of the article should provide information. If it is commercial, the audience expects to read a review or comparison or simply take a look at the list of best options to choose from.
So remember that search intent analysis goes with niche selection and topic research for content. It is an ongoing task for the latter because you always add content to the website.
Own Your Brand Search
A part of the brand awareness campaign is to make your website and social media profiles the first results whenever your brand is searched. It is essential, especially for companies and businesses to own their brand search.
To achieve this, you should have a good “about” page on your website telling the story of your brand, website, or you. In addition, having active social media accounts on popular sites helps achieve this goal.
Google business profile also helps your website have specific rich results snippets showing various information about the business right on the search engine results page.
The information like website URL, company logo, address, phone number, working hours, etc. answers many informational and navigational search intents.
When we talk about keyword research and keyword optimization, everyone thinks it’s just looking for keywords for the topic we’re about to write content on. The truth is keyword optimization is also for search intent. That is why I included keywords for each search intent in this article.
However, keyword optimization for search intent is a little bit different and easier. While you include the overall keywords throughout the content, search intent-specific keywords work best when they are placed at the main title and subheadings.
To find more keywords for the search intent you’re providing content for, you can check my article on the best keyword research tools. There are some examples that provide questions and queries based on the main keyword.
One of the key elements in the success of search intent targeting lies within the structure of the content or the way different elements were put together to form an article.
The standards of SEO-optimized blog posts don’t change here, but a few elements become crucial for each search intent. If you include them in the content, it will help the user experience to a great extent and boost ranking as a result.
First, you should check if the main title and subheadings reflect the search intent. This is done by including keywords associated with the search intent. For example “How to Install WordPress” or “What is WordPress” is clearly written for informational search intent because of keywords like “How” and “What”.
Another example is “WordPress vs. Drupal” or “An In-depth Review of Grammarly Service” which implies the content is for commercial search intent.
Second, including various forms of media and tables helps the user to get what (s)he is seeking very fast. For example, data charts, tables, infographics, and images can help address many search intents.
The product specifications table is perfect for transactional intent, comparison data charts are helpful for commercial intent, and infographics and images add value to content with informational search intent. On a DIY step-by-step guide, showing images on how to do it on each step is a great way to engage the audience into reading your content thoroughly.
And last, place links that increase conversion as well as your revenue as an affiliate website or a business selling products or services. This works for all search intents. For example:
- Informational Intent: A post about how to make an alarm clock with affiliate links for every tool and component required to build the clock.
- Commercial Intent: A list post of the best 5 3D printers for MVPs with affiliate links to corresponding sellers.
- Transactional Intent: Placing a “Buy Now” button on the content. This is mostly for businesses selling products directly.
Note that I didn’t include navigational search intent in the examples above. This is because navigational search intents are almost always handled by Google rich results and rarely audience visit a website to find the link to another.
Search intent is the purpose behind every search query submitted to search engines by a user. There are four different types of search intent including informational, commercial, transactional, and navigational intents. Search intent is an important part of SEO optimization since it reveals the user’s position in the conversion and sales funnel. It’s crucial to shape the content aligned with the search intent and to increase conversion rate and ranking on the Google search engine.
If the user is looking for information or looking to learn more about something, the content should do exactly that. If users are trying to make a decision on which product to buy, a list post of all available options answers their needs. And if the user made a decision regarding the exact product or service, providing more information helps them finalize the purchase and become a customer, especially if you are the main seller of that product/service.