Every second, Google processes more than 40,000 search queries, or 3.5 billion every day on average. That’s a lot of people looking for different things, asking questions, seeking answers, getting informed, and making decisions. But how can you know what your audience is looking for? If only there was a way to get into their heads and read their minds to find out what this is and how you can steer your content strategy toward it. Well, it turns out there is and it is called “search intent”.
Search engines such as Google are very smart and today they are more than capable of providing user with the content that he or she really wants. However, it wasn’t always like this. When Google Web Search was launched 19 years ago, it was a completely different game. The primary focus was on text data, backlinks and a lot of keywords. It didn’t matter if your content was actually useful and relevant to the audience.
That changed, however, and in 2015, Google introduced machine learning into its algorithm. What this basically meant was that Google stopped just reading content verbatim, it began to understand it. Google now began to understand what people are searching for and more importantly why. It started to understand search intent.
Types of Search Intent
As you can see, the definitions of search (or user intent) looks very simple, but don’t let that fool you. Search intent is anything but child’s play and you will need to understand it well and get to the bottom of it if you want to be able to create the content that your audience needs at the right moment.
There are four types of search intent and they all highlight what the user wants at that moment. These are:
Informational searches are the most common on Google. A person searching for “how tall is Boban Marjanovic?”is making an informational search. Informational searches do not imply a commercial intent as the user is just looking for some information on a topic they are interested in. They are not looking to make a purchasing decision.
Another type of search intent is the navigational query. Just as the name suggests, they are used when we want to get to a specific page or website, but don’t know the URL to it. So, we use the search engine as a sort of a sherpa to guide us (hopefully unharmed) to our destination.
Transactional queries most often signify that the user wishes to purchase something. A good example of a transactional search query would be “buy Chukka boots”.
However, transactional queries don’t have to involve cash or credit. Creating a Gmail or Facebook account is a transactional query and so is searching for a free trial for a course you are interested in.
- Commercial investigation
Commercial investigation queries fall somewhere between purely informational and transactional queries, but are neither. For example, “best bluetooth headphones” is a transactional query since it does not imply purchasing intent, but could lead to it.
How does Your Content Support Search Intent?
Of course, your content will need to support your user’s search intent. Does it? Take a look at your best keywords in Google Analytics and see if they lead your visitors to pages that fulfil their needs.
What does this mean? It means that transactional keywords should lead to transactional pages, informational to informational, navigational to navigational and commercial investigative to commercial investigative.
Let me show you an example. Let’s say your keyword is “buy iPhone 7 Plus”. That is a transactional query. It should lead to a page where the user can purchase an Apple iPhone 7 Plus, obviously. But what if it leads them to a page that speaks of this phone’s specifications like processing power, battery life or camera? Then that page is not transactional, it is informational and the visitor is now in the wrong place.
If you lead your audience to the wrong place with your keyword, you will lose their trust very quickly. Think of your keywords as a taxi driver. When you get into the taxi, you have to tell the driver where you want to go (your location) and the driver should then take you there. If they don’t, you leave the taxi unsatisfied (and probably have a few choice words for the driver). It’s the same thing with your keyword and content. They need to support search intent or the visitor will be equally unsatisfied.
Match Your Content with the User’s Search Intent
If you don’t want your audience to ignore and reject your content, you need to optimize it for search intent. There are four things you need to do here:
- Discover what pages you need to opimize
Maybe you already have some good content, but it doesn’t match the user intent. You don’t have to write anew, just a small tweak here, a quick edit there, maybe change the headline a bit, write a different conclusion and, voila!, your content now matches your audience’s search intent.
- Find out why people come to your pages
Let’s forget for a moment specific keywords that your audience is using to get to your content. It all boils down to these four “micro-moments” as Google described them:
- “I want to know” (when the user is researching, but isn’t yet ready to buy).
- “I want to go” (when the user is searching for a location of a place).
- “I want to do” (when the user wants to make an action, complete a task).
- “I want to buy” (when the user has made a purchasing decision and has his or her wallet at the ready).
Find out what their micro-moments are and you will discover what your audience wants and why they have landed on a particular page.
- Now it’s time to opimize
You know what you need to optimize and you know your audience’s intent. Now it’s time to do the hard work and optimize content for search intent. Remember, you are looking at what visitors, not search engines want, so let that be your guiding light in all of this.
- Measure the effects and adjust some more
Okay, you’ve hit “publish” and… nothing. No change. Nada. Nope. Still the same. There’s something clearly missing here, so be sure to check your analytics and your KPIs after a week or so to see what you did wrong. Then go back to the drawing board and tweak your content again. Do it until it meets the search intent.
When creating content and optimizing it for search intent, you should carefully consider the buyer’s journey. Each type of search query can reveal a whole story about your visitors, including where they are in the buyer’s journey. However, keep in mind that users might not take a strictly linear path and may take detours and shortcuts in their buyer’s journey.
You have to know how users behave. Rand Fishkin from Moz reveals some interesting user behaviour statistics in “The State of Searcher Behavior Revealed Through 23 Remarkable Statistics“. In it, for example, he reveals that 66% of searches result in a click (meaning that 34% do not).
Matching your content with search intent is vital if you want to build trust from your audience. I’d like to know what your biggest challenge in doing this is. Let me know in the comments below and feel free to share this post if you found it useful.