Search Intent: Understanding User’s Intent for SEO Success
By: Dileep Thekkethil
Updated On: March 9, 2023
You may have already come across the term search intent quite a lot by now because the whole SEO arena is talking about it.
If you ask me why we should do SEO, my answer would be to get the attention of the users who are looking for the information, product, or service that you offer. This is essentially what search intent means.
Think of a scenario where you get a lot of visitors to your site and none of them stays long or takes the action that you want them to.
I’ve come across many website owners who complain about the users not converting into leads and sales.
9 out of 10 times, these websites were not optimized for the user’s intent, and all that they focused on was to generate organic traffic by ranking for the maximum number of keywords. That points to a poor keyword research strategy.
Recently, a product-based website approached me complaining about their blog page ranking for some of the keywords that they wanted to target for a particular product. The biggest concern of the store owner was that the blog is getting a lot of traffic but none of them is making the purchase.
This a classic example of a user intent mismatch, which could have been avoided if the keyword intent was taken into account.
In this case, the users landing on the blog may or may not have the intent to buy. If they do, on identifying it’s a blog, they will bounce off because the page fails to meet their search intent.
Before you go in-depth into the concept of search intent, here is a podcast we did with Harmony Huskinson, Local SEO expert at Portent where she talks about the importance of search intent and how websites should take advantage of it.
What is Search Intent?
There is always a specific reason or purpose why people search using a query. They may be looking for information, a review, or trying to buy a product. The search intent can therefore be defined as the purpose behind any search that happens online.
If users find a page that doesn’t match with the intent, they click the back button and look for something else. This is exactly what search engines like Google do not want.
Google has over time trained its ranking algorithms to understand the search intent of each keyword entered on search. This makes sure that the pages displayed to the users are aligned to fulfill the intent.
So what does this mean? Essentially, it means if you have a web page that fails to fulfill the real intent of the target audience, Google will not rank the page on top of SERPs.
In some cases, pages that don’t match the user intent may rank initially. However, over time, Google will reduce the rankings of such pages by looking at user engagement.
Broadly speaking, there are 4 types of search intent:
Types of Search Intent
Based on the reason why people perform a search, there can be four types of search intent, and your specific product page, blog, or homepage must be optimized to match these.
1. Informational Search Intent
A majority of the search that happens via search engines are for informational purposes. Most of the time, people use the internet to search for facts and information.
Whether it’s a student looking for study material or a regular person checking the weather outside, it all comes under the ambit of information search.
The pages that show up for informational search queries are usually the ones that answer the query of the users.
Most of these pages will provide more details to help the person understand the topic better. That’s why Google and other search engines provide different types of content – images, videos, and web pages within the results they display.
For example, if you are doing a search to learn “how to cook a turkey”, you can see that the first few results are from Recipe sites, and then you will find a video.
You won’t find the result of a restaurant selling turkey delicacies for this search query because the user’s intent is not to buy online or dine out in a restaurant but to learn how to cook it.
2. Navigational intent
While people using information search queries don’t mind visiting any website providing the information, navigation intent is on the flip side.
These are search queries entered by people who know the specific site they want to visit. For example, people who search for Twitter, Instagram etc.
If you are getting more visitors from navigational search queries, this means that your brand is making an impact within the target audience.
However, if you are a small business owner who has just started out, optimizing the pages for navigational search may not be a good way to go ahead because the chances of people using such queries are slim.
For example, the navigational search term “Amazon Prime Video” now has a search volume of 18.5 Million
This keyword has a great potential to drive a lot of traffic because people are searching for it online. 99% of the time, people using this search query want to land on the Amazon Prime dashboard.
So, if you are trying to optimize a page targeting this keyword, there is very little chance of that page getting any traffic. Here are the reasons:
- Google will not rank your page on top
- Users will not click any result beyond the first three in the SERP
Be it any user who searches using a navigational query, they are the least likely to click on another website even if it’s ranking on the first page of SERP.
3. Transactional/Buyer Intent
If you are an e-store owner, your website must aim at attracting users with transactional search intent.
When a user types a transactional intent query in search it is an indication that the person has made up their mind to buy a product or service.
If you do a simple search for such queries, for example, “buy iPhone 12 pro” or “buy m1 MacBook”, the results for these queries are always product pages.
Any other kind of page, a blog or a product review, will not surface for these kinds of queries because search engine algorithms know what the intent behind the search query is.
What this also means is that, if you are an affiliate website owner or a publisher who writes reviews for products and services, targeting these keywords will be a futile attempt. What they must focus on is to rank for keywords with commercial intent.
4. Commercial Intent/Consideration Intent
Your focus must be to rank for keywords that are in the consideration stage. The consideration stage is when users know about the availability of different solutions but is still confused about which one to choose.
The word “best” is most commonly used when doing such searches. Try searching for “Best Windows Laptop 2021”.
As you can see, the top three results are from websites that help users make a decision about choosing the best laptop of their choice.
Most of these sites have an affiliate link within the content that redirects the users to the seller’s website.
A user with consideration intent needs vital information that can help in zeroing down to a particular product. So, make sure that you include these details.
Considering that Google launched the Product Review Update, if you want to rank higher for commercial intent keywords, the content must fulfill these basic requirements.
- Get the content written by an expert.
- Don’t depend on the peripheral content provided by manufacturers. Do a hands-on review with your personal experience of using the product.
- Based on the kind of product you review, try to include important features, such as the performance if your product is a laptop.
- Make sure to add a section that speaks about how the product you are reviewing stands out amongst the top competitors.
- Most products have advantages and disadvantages. Don’t skip both; this shows you are doing an impartial review.
- If the product is an updated version, compare it with the previous version you used and inform the users how different it is now.
- Also, tell the readers why they should buy the product and the USPs that they must consider before making the buying decision.
- Try to identify the beneficiaries of the product. Not all products are beneficial to all people, so help the right audience take an informed decision.
Intent-Based Keyword Examples
You may have already noticed that I’ve mentioned a few words that are commonly used while doing specific searches based on intent.
Here is a list of such words that often accompany the keyword phrase that can help you define the real intent of the users.
Informational Intent Phrases
- I need to
- How to
- What is
- What are
- When is
- Who is
- Best ways to
- White paper
Transactional Intent Phrases
- Free trial
Commercial Intent/Consideration Intent Phrases
Optimizing Content for User Search Intent
Let’s now come to the core reason why user search intent is important for your business.
The Internet is loaded up with millions of pages with content. We know content is called the king, but if you are a website owner, consider the user as the king instead because your success depends on whether the users are satisfied with what you offer.
That’s why businesses use a funnel-based strategy to move potential customers through different stages before they reach the final page where they find the purchase option.
For each of these funnels, they use different types of content that fulfills the users intent.
- Informational intent content is used while publishing blog posts, which usually is considered as the first point of interaction.
- Consideration/Commercial intent is used when writing reviews and while making comparisons with the top competitors.
- Transactional Intent is used when creating content for the money pages or the product page where the users can purchase.
- Navigational Intent is used when you know that people are using your brand name to search. Most of the time, a navigational search query is used by potential customers or recurring customers who are reconsidering your website once again. However, if you are in the publishing business, the growing number of navigational intent queries can be considered as increased brand awareness.
Driving Quality Leads Using Search Intent
Driving leads to your website is important. However, it isn’t always about the number of visitors because the quality of the leads resulting in conversions is what ultimately matters. Be it sales win or committed user engagement that your website targets, ensuring lead quality is crucial.
Here is how search intent can help you drive qualified leads to your website.
Address User Needs
When you match the user search intent, you give relevant answers to a query which means you succeed in fulfilling user needs. If you can provide the audience with what they are looking for in relevance to your niche, you obtain more relevant leads.
Be A Go-To Source
Neither the user nor the search engine likes being redirected to multiple, irrelevant web pages on the internet.
Instead, they are more fond of one landing page that is on point. If they get all the information in one place, users are likely to spend more time on your website.
This signals search engines like Google to rank your website higher, which, in turn, boosts your online visibility making it easier for your target audience to find you.
Establish Yourself As An Authority
When you concentrate on addressing user queries and craft your landing pages and content accordingly, you earn the confidence of the users. This helps you to position yourself as an authority in your field, allowing you to draw quality leads to your website naturally.
Plus, when the search engine notices such high user engagement, it will push your website up in the SERPs. This way, you can boost the credibility of your website, and you will be counted on as a reliable source of information in your industry.
Increase Brand Reputation
Your brand is your identity. When you feature high-quality content that matches user intent, you can build a robust reputation for your brand in the digital space. With growing brand value, attracting qualified leads should be a cakewalk.
You cannot possibly overlook user search intent unless you want your sincere SEO efforts to go in vain. Indeed, having an keen eye for user search intent is a smart way to drive qualified organic traffic to your website and witness maximum conversions.
Planning a content strategy without considering the user search intent as one of the essential factors will not result in success.
This is especially true for new businesses that are yet to build a strong brand name/ brand awareness.
Moreover, Google displays its search result based on the intent of the search query. Failing to satisfy the user search intent will reduce your opportunity to rank for prospective search queries thereby affecting your online visibility drastically.
With millions of content on the internet, it is easy for users to move on from one site to another in a matter of seconds if their search intent isn’t satisfied with a particular query.
Besides understanding the importance of user search intent, it is necessary to analyze and determine the type of user search intent you want to satisfy through your content, as it will help you choose user-engaging content topics for your site.
For all this to happen, your website and its individual landing pages must be optimized for search intent.