Do you sometimes feel like Google knows more about what you want than even you do? We’re not even sure if this is tongue-in-cheek, but chances are that it does. With developments like artificial intelligence (AI), search engines are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
Back in the day, being visible online was all about keywords, and that often led to site owners overusing keywords to try and manipulate Google and other search engines in their favor (a.k.a. keyword stuffing). But no one wants to be served content that sounds like a long shopping list of synonyms. Search got smarter, and understanding search intent became a fundamental part of SEO. Today, keyword stuffing has been replaced by search intent optimization.
Search intent (or keyword intent or user intent) is the term used to describe the purpose of a user’s online search. In other words, what are people hoping to find when they type a query into Google, and why? Search intent can indicate the user’s stage in the buyer journey—are they ready to buy or just looking for more information?
Most search queries fall under (or are a combination of) four main types of search intent:
- Navigational: The user already knows the brand, product, or website name and searches specifically for it, e.g., “ActiveCampaign segment builder”
- Informational: The user is looking for information on a certain topic, using keywords to guide their search; such as “how to start with SEO”
- Transactional: The person is online looking to actively buy, typically with a specific item in mind. They might also use terms like “review” or “best” to help inform their decision, e.g., “best pizza in Holly Springs NC”
- Commercial: The user is looking to learn more before making a purchasing decision. Their searches might include words like buy, purchase, deal, or discount
Search intent is a critical ranking factor. After all, Google’s aim is to rank the pages that provide the most relevant answer to a search query. If you understand what Google deems relevant and what your buyer is looking for, you’ll be able to create more targeted content to match their demands and increase your chances of success. For example, if someone is looking for information, you don’t want to serve a sales-oriented product page, but a more informational blog post.
Here’s how this plays out. Say I search for “small business marketing strategy” as I’m planning out a marketing strategy for my business. Which of these two search results seem more likely to get my click?
- Business Services > Marketing Strategy
- Figuring out what matters: A framework for sustainable digital marketing
Although the first page is technically a better match for the exact query (both include the words marketing strategy), the second link is a better match for my stated intent: to find resources that will help me create a marketing strategy for my business.
Benefits of optimizing for search intent
- Helps put your website in front of the searcher and increases your chances of gaining a customer
- You can create more relevant content that better meets your target audience’s wants and needs
- Improve your website’s search engine ranking
- Provide a better user experience by giving your prospect what they want
Tips for attracting traffic with each type of search intent
It’s important to understand your audience and their search intent in order to create content that’s effective in attracting and engaging them. Remember the four types of search intent listed above:
- Informational content helps users educate themselves
- Commercial content helps them make more informed buying decisions
- Use transactional and navigational keywords to help them find you quickly when they’re ready to buy or convert.
Search intent optimization is the process of developing content designed for each type.
When someone searches for your company name, you want to be the first result on the page. If you’re not currently at position one for your brand name in your area:
- Make sure that your site is being indexed properly
- Create a Google Business profile and keep it up to date
- Get your business listed in local directories
- Get listed on Yelp, Yellow Pages and Yahoo Local
- Make sure that your page title tags and meta descriptions include your brand name
- Make sure your social media profiles explicitly state the name of your business
- Consider running PPC ads for your company name
People usually search with informational intent when they’re at the beginning stage of the buyer’s journey, so targeting this kind of intent helps you bring in more traffic and improve your website’s ranking.
- Ensure your website is easy to navigate, well-organized, and helps people find information quickly and easily
- Include keywords that are relevant to your topic and answer the questions people commonly ask online
- Provide valuable content (like a comprehensive blog, guide, or eBook) that meets the needs of your audience
- Use calls to action (CTAs) that match your prospect’s search intent and their stage in the customer journey
If people are looking to buy one of your products, you’ll want to lead them to your sales pages or a frictionless landing page experience with a simple CTA, e.g. Shop Now. Another tip for optimizing for transactional search is to use structured data markup—code that tells search engines what type of content you’re serving. Structured data can help search engines better understand the purpose of your page and potentially help your content rank higher in search results.
Commercial intent searches often involve the terms like best, top, vs, comparison, alternatives to, and review. Basic keyword research using these phrases should allow you to find the correct keywords to target for your industry. When writing content, remember that readers doing this kind of research are comfortable enough to dig into the details.
Here are some examples of content topics that address commercial intent:
- Curated lists of the best products in a specific category
- Review roundup of the top alternatives to an industry leader
- List of services or stores in a geographic location
- Side-by-side comparison of two similar products
- Detailed review of a specific product
Hopefully, this blog has given you the information you were looking for on search intent optimization. Even if you didn’t come here with transactional intent, we’d like to let you know that you can find that option here too. Brighter Messaging can help with all elements of your SEO strategy, so please get in touch if you’d like to speak to an expert.
We know that a lot of small businesses don’t know where to start when it comes to SEO, so we’ve created a free eBook: 5 Things Your Small Business Can Do Right Now to Improve SEO, and you don’t need a web developer’s help. In this free eBook, we focus on five actionable things that you can do right now to start improving your website authority and moving up the ranks, even with limited knowledge and expertise.