Do you know what you were looking for when you wound up on this page? That's search intent. It’s like the Internet’s version of Where’s Waldo?
WHAT IS SEARCH INTENT?
Search intent—or user intent or audience intent—is what people are actually looking for when they stumble upon your website. Billions of people use the Internet each day, and everyone has their own reason for doing so. (Cat videos, anyone?) The trick is to think about how the right people might discover your site and design it so they will.
Four Types of Search Intent
There are four main types of search intent:
- Informational intent. Most web searches are done by people who are looking for a specific piece of information. Whether they're searching for the current weather, your restaurant's menu, or information on the history of the dodo bird, you'll want to place this information front and center.
- Navigational intent. When people want to get to a specific website via a web search, navigational search intent is born. If you've ever forgotten whether it's verblio.com or verblio.net and just searched for "Verblio," that's navigational intent.
- Transactional intent. If a user wants to buy something specific and just isn't sure where to make their purchase, that's transactional intent.
- Commercial intent. Think of this as transactional intent's beefy bodyguard. If someone is doing research on broad topics of items in hopes of narrowing their search down, that's commercial intent at work.
Why Is Search Intent Important for SEO?
Part of building a successful site is knowing what your audience is looking for and what your audience actually needs. Understanding the intent of users' searches can make a world of difference when it comes to engagement and retention.
If you know why someone is searching for “adopt puppies,” you can get them the info they need because you know that they'll probably be searching for puppy pads soon, too. Delivering relevant, high-quality search results is the best part about search intent, and it’s the secret sauce to becoming an expert in your field.
How Do You Determine Search Intent?
There are a few tips and tricks that will help you determine search intent, whether you're one person writing a blog or a megacorporation doing a massive content refresh.
- Analyze your keywords. You should be doing this anyway, but take a look at what search intent drives their traffic. Many content optimization tools have this feature built in, but with others you may have to do the work manually.
- Think like one of your users. What is your typical user looking for? What do they want? Make sure that your content is optimized for this type of user.
Use existing search results to guide your content. If you run a search for your primary keywords, what kind of content do you find? Does Google give you an answer box, a map, or a series of related questions? The kind of results you get can help guide the type of content you should be creating.
How Do You Optimize for Search Intent?
Optimization looks different for each type of search intent. In all cases, you should look at existing search results to find out what people actually want when they search for your keywords of choice, but the path splits into four from there.
If you're optimizing for informational intent, your goal is to produce content that is highly relevant to the question being answered. Use informational words (such as "who," "where," and "how") in your post's title. Make sure to answer the question as quickly as possible on the page in order to give your readers assurance that they've reached an expert.
Optimizing for navigational intent means making sure that your business name and contact information are always up-to-date. Also, make sure that your listing on Google My Business is updated, ensuring that your contact information is what appears when people search for your company.
If you're optimizing for transactional intent, the end result should be a product page. You don't want to get this wrong, since a user searching with transactional intent is at the bottom of the funnel, and you want to deliver accurate results. Be clear about what your product does and what sets it apart from the competition, and use clear calls to action wherever possible.
When optimizing for commercial intent, focus on high-quality information that people can use in their research. Testimonials and product reviews are a good idea here, as are comparisons to your competitors.
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