Most people don’t understand how complex search engine optimization is. The process hinges on meticulous planning, where a marketing expert needs to fully understand the target market, competitors, and potential clients. Failing at just one of these areas can bring down the entire SEO strategy, forcing you to miss your mark quite a bit.
Understanding search intent is one of the bigger tickets on the list. The phrase is common during keyword research, determining why a person uses certain search queries on Google. By understanding what the website visitor is looking for in search engines, you can create content that is more suitable for those search terms.
In this article, we’ll talk about different types of search intent and how they can affect your marketing and SEO process.
Why is search intent important?
The audience’s search intent is one of the things we analyze during keyword research. Basically, it isn’t enough to assess search volume and keyword difficulty without understanding what role that phrase plays for our business. For example, you can invest enormous amounts of money into a phrase with high organic traffic and low difficulty, only to realize that this keyword has no commercial value.
If we were to sum it up, here are three reasons why understanding search intent is vital for a specific website:
Improves content strategy
By performing keyword analysis, you can make sure that every article you make satisfies search intent. For example, if Google users are looking for a solution to a particular problem, you can give them the best information possible. Alternatively, if their query has commercial intent, you can create a page with products and services.
Having a good content strategy is important when deciding which topics to prioritize. It can also affect the subsequent processes such as outreach and, specifically, link-building. In the end, you don’t want to spend too much money optimizing articles if they don’t provide any strategic value to your business.
Boosts placement within search results
Nowadays, Google pays close attention to how people react to content. Its algorithms assess metrics such as time spent on a page, pages per website visit, bounce rate, and things of that sort. If people quickly leave your page without interacting with content, which often happens when articles miss their mark, you will be downgraded within search results pages.
Enhances funneling and conversions
Missing search intents for several articles can have a major impact on the overall browsing experience. As people are more likely to leave a page without interacting with it, they won’t purchase your products and services. This, in turn, will also affect overall brand awareness and perception of your company.
Aside from SEO, you also need to determine search intent for other marketing processes. For example, if your landing pages are not suitable for a specific query, this also means that your paid ads won’t convert. The same goes for visitors that come to a web page via social media or after an email outreach.
4 Main types of search intent
We differentiate 4 main types of search intent:
- Informational intent
- Navigational intent
- Commercial intent
- Transactional intent
Each one of these categories serves a specific purpose and can be used for a healthy content strategy. The type of content you need to make based on user intent can vary significantly, where informational keywords are best answered with articles and white papers, while transactional search intent can be fulfilled with product pages.
Here’s a breakdown of all these different types of search intent and the ideal content for each one of them:
1. Informational intent
Phrases that have informational intent are posts meant to answer a specific question or to educate the target audience. The best examples of these queries are:
- How To articles
- Ultimate guides
- Top 10 posts
- White papers
Topics categorized according to this keyword intent have the lowest value for your brand. People who browse these queries are just looking to enhance their knowledge and shouldn’t necessarily be considered your target audience.
However, this also means that informational keywords are easier for optimizing content. They might have high search traffic but not as high a difficulty as companies are more interested in transactional phrases. Because of that, many SEO experts focus on this keyword search intent and use links and funnels to drive visitors to more commercial keywords.
2. Navigational intent
Phrases that correspond to navigational search intent are mainly used when browsing for a specific website, product, or service. Here are a few examples:
- Nike new sneakers
- Best Samsung refrigerator
Keywords that fit navigational intent should be high on your list of topic priorities. As people are specifically looking for your brand, this means they’re prepared to interact with it in some way or another. Keep in mind this might not necessarily lead to sales, but the related search queries are much more lucrative than those that fit informational intent.
Always remember that keywords matching this keyword intent don’t require heavy optimization. You’ll likely rank on top of search engines for each one of these phrases just because you have the commercial rights to a particular brand name.
3. Commercial intent
Keywords that belong to the commercial search intent category are vital during the product discovery stage. People browsing these keywords understand they have a problem and are looking to solve it with a specific product or service. These are the most common types of articles you might find in the Google search engine pertaining to this search intent:
- Vs. articles
- Best Of
- Review posts
- Top 10
The search results for these queries are littered with posts that analyze different products. They compare features, prices, and other characteristics, helping users make a purchasing decision. In terms of commercial value, they’re higher ranked than articles with informational search intent, although trailing behind transactional keywords.
4. Transactional intent
Transactional search intent refers to queries where a buyer has already made up his mind and is ready to purchase from a website. Articles that fit this search intent include some of these words:
Keywords with transactional intent are the best, but usually the hardest, to optimize. As they have the highest commercial value, everyone’s trying to rank at the top of search engines for these terms. The top results are littered with product pages and major sites like Amazon, AliExpress, and eBay.
Search intent and sales funnels
Before we share some secrets that will help you analyze search intent, it’s worth explaining the relation between user search intent and different stages of the buyer journey.
Basically, when a person is making a purchasing decision, they don’t do it outright. The process is quite complex and occurs throughout several different phases, where a person is slowly introduced to the market and available products. According to most authors, the buyer journey consists of the following:
- Awareness stage (top of the sales funnel)
- Interest stage (middle of the sales funnel)
- Decision stage (middle/bottom of the sales funnel)
- Action stage (bottom of the sales funnel)
During the awareness stage, a person realizes they have a problem that needs to be addressed. They will read various articles, like Ultimate Guides and How To posts (informational search intent). Although they’re far away from making a purchase, they’ll slowly get acquainted with the market and its participants.
At this point, a potential customer is showing interest in a specific category of products and services. They use queries that fit commercial intent, browsing for the best products on the market. They might read posts like Best Of or Top 10 to get acquainted with the most popular brands.
At this point, the buyer slowly transitions from commercial search intent to transactional intent. As they have a better understanding of the available products, they can limit their search based on prices, features, and a few other parameters.
As the last stop, customers go through the action stage, where they use a specific keyword to buy a product or visit a particular brand using a navigational or transactional keyword. After visiting a particular product page, they will commit to a specific solution.
How to determine search intent?
Just by following everything that has been said so far, you should be able to create high-quality content for specific search intent. Most article formats and types correspond to specific user intent, so you can do a fantastic job with these tricks:
Use keyword research tools
You can gain valuable insights by simply analyzing the keyword-related metrics. As mentioned, phrases at the top of the funnel (informational queries) tend to have much lower difficulty. Basically, people are more focused on commercial keywords, so they won’t invest as much money creating and optimizing this type of content.
The phrases at the bottom of the funnel also have much higher CPC (cost-per-click), which you can check in Google Ads and similar tools for PPC campaigns. However, the insights we get from keyword research tools aren’t always on point, as there are sometimes major discrepancies. For example, certain transaction keywords might have a significantly higher search volume than informational keywords.
This is why you need to perform additional analysis.
An even better solution is doing things “by foot.” Check the search results for particular target keywords and go through each one of them, one by one. By simply reading the titles and checking the SERP features, you can determine if the query is more informative or commercial.
Another thing to pay attention to is the media. Pages that rank on the top Google search engine for transactional intent usually have images beside them. On the other hand, informative queries are often filled with YouTube videos that visually show users how certain things can be done.
While checking the search results, you should also pay attention to the number of ads. Highly-competitive, profitable keywords usually feature two to three ads on top of the SERPs. This isn’t the case with informational searches, as companies are unwilling to invest money to rank for these queries.
5 Tricks to optimize content for search intent
After determining the user’s intent, it’s time to create a content strategy that would maximize your marketing efforts. Check out these incredible secrets that will make each one of your web pages more relevant to users!
1. Use optimal type and format
Once you have a better understanding of the search intent, you can decide on the perfect type of web page to create:
- Articles (informative, commercial)
- Videos (informative, commercial)
- Infographics (informative commercial)
- Product pages (transactional)
- Landing pages (transactional, navigational)
As for format, this mainly pertains to the type of article you’re writing (product pages and landing pages will almost always be the same). Here are a few options you can go with:
- How To (informative)
- Ultimate Guide (informative)
- Listicles (informative, commercial)
- Top 10 (commercial)
- Best Of (commercial)
- Comparisson (commercial)
- Review (commercial)
Although you have some leeway for experimenting when it comes to type and format, it’s best to stick with a tried and tested formula. For the most part, it won’t be that hard to figure out what people are looking for based on search intent and everything you know about that particular keyword.
2. Find the best angle
Not every Top 10 or Listicle article will be the same. Finding the right angle can make the post much more relevant during a specific timeframe and according to current trends. Ultimately, the highest conversion will not only ensure higher engagement but also much better conversions.
Put yourself in readers’ shoes. Aside from answering the basic search intent, provide other information that your readers might benefit from. For example, you can make a comparison table in your Top 10 article, helping the users make their purchasing decisions. Add graphic solutions that will make your post easier to go through and add links to other relevant posts.
Once again, you have some space for experimenting if you wish to differentiate yourself from the crowd. Many users open several articles before they start reading one of them. By offering something fresh and intriguing, you can ensure that readers focus on your piece instead of the competitors’.
3. Visit the top-ranking pages
The common practice when writing articles is to visit top-performing pieces and use their information for your own. Given that these posts already rank at the top of the search results, you can rest assured they’re relevant enough for their algorithms.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should blindly stick to their format, angle, and structure. As mentioned, you want to build upon their formula and add something intriguing that you can’t find elsewhere. We suggest that you share professional opinions, quote other quality sources, and add new sections.
4. Create outlines
Based on all the information you’ve gathered, you can create content outlines for your post. Stick to what other websites have been doing while simultaneously adding your own spin. As mentioned, it’s vital that you add as much new information as possible to increase engagement and make sure that people stay on the page.
Your article should be easy to read, with lots of bullets, number lists, short paragraphs, and sentences. Add images and other visual aids whenever possible. It also isn’t a bad idea to add crucial information on the top to answer the user intent as soon as possible. Additionally, you should also consider adding FAQs found within the Google search.
5. Use content tools
Although you can perform several checkups and analyze the top-ranking pages, it’s still hard to tell what Google exactly expects from this piece of content. So, beyond the basic search intent, you should also include keywords that are relevant to that query.
Use tools such as SurferSEO, MarketMuse, and Frase to boost your content score. This type of content optimization software gives you insights into the anatomy of a perfect page. The platforms create a structure, including headings and keywords, that you need to follow. There are also scores that tell how well you’ve optimized your piece.
Dissecting search intent is easier said than done. While most of us have a general inclination of what visitors are looking for in an article, creating the optimal piece is a tall task. Among others, it’s hard to tell whether you should give the post a unique spin or stick with a tried-and-tested formula.
Whatever the case, we suggest you start by reading this article and following our tips. Put your main phrase in a specific category and find the optimal content type and format. After that, everything else should be smooth sailing.