Search intent can be the magic key to bring your content strategy from good to perfect. We at TKD Design often find our clients on the brink of high SERP rankings. Sometimes, they are sitting on incredible content that merely isn’t ranking for their chosen focus keywords. Why? Usually, this is because the keywords and the intent don’t match.
On this week’s edition of Tuesday Tips, we will be going over the different types of search intent, how to optimize for intent, and how to find the best intent for your focus keywords.
What exactly is search intent?
Search intent is the primary goal a user has in mind when using a search engine like Google or Bing. Most times, search engine users are looking for a specific type of answer or type of resource.
To highlight this principle, let’s take the example of web design with three different users searching three different terms. Searching for ‘how to start web design’ has a different intent than just searching for ‘web design,’ which might yield the definition of web design, which is also different from searching for ‘companies that do web design.’ Though they all relate to the same topic (web design), these users likely all have different search intents.
Why is search intent important?
Search intent is vital for a couple of different reasons- search engines and rankings.
Satisfying search intent for its users is the main goal for search engines like Google, making it a requirement for SEO experts. This is because when someone searches for a specific keyword and discovers irrelevant information, that action relays a signal back to the search engine that the search intent is mismatched (meaning your ranking will go down).
Since nearly all search engine’s primary ranking factors are authority, relevance, and user satisfaction, one can see how improving your keyword targeting to match search intent can boost your overall rankings easily!
Side note: If you are unclear about relevance, user satisfaction, or authority and the roles they play in SEO, check out these definitions.
Relevance: If a user finds the information they’re looking for on your site first, it is much less likely to return to the SERP within seconds to find a different result. You’ll notice a lesser bounce rate when your content is relevant to user search intent.
Authority: While the standard measure of a site’s authority is based on backlinks, it is also essential to create a robust internal linking strategy on your website that signals to search engine algorithms that your content is well-rounded, quality, content that will be relevant to user search intent. You can also increase your site’s authority by creating content around topics your brand is familiar with that will appeal to different user search intents. For more on establishing authority with your website, check out this guide!
User satisfaction: This one is crazy simple. Is the content you make relevant to your audience and their search intent? That’s it!
Types of search intent
While there are endless search keywords, there are four main types of search intent:
Searches with informational search intent will come from users looking for, of course, information! They could be looking for something like a how-to 101 guide, or maybe a definition. Informational intent is one of the most common search intents among users, as they can look for answers to a virtually infinite number of queries. Keep in mind, though, not all informational terms are formatted like questions. Users searching for merely “SEO” are most likely looking for information about search engine optimization.
Examples could include ‘how to optimize blog posts’ or ‘what is SEO.’
- Preferential/Commercial Investigation
This kind of search intent typically includes users who are researching and comparing different products with the end goal of making a purchase (not to be confused with transactional search intent, which we will go over later). Before one is ready to purchase something, they will start what is called a ‘commercial investigation.’ This is when users use search engines like Google to investigate products, services, or brands further. This kind of search intent goes past the informational stage of research and usually means the user has narrowed their focus to a few options. Users with preferential intent are often comparing products and brands to find the best solution.
Examples could include ‘SEMRush vs. Moz’ or ‘best web design company.’
Transactional search intent includes users looking to make a purchase, whether it be a product, subscription, or service. Either way, these users usually have a good idea of what kind of product they are looking for. Since the user is already looking to buy, these keyword terms will usually be branded. These users are also usually no longer researching the best product. They’re now looking for a website to purchase it from.
Examples could include ‘web design guide for sale’ or ‘SEO bundle sale.’
This kind of search intent is made up of users looking to navigate to one specific website, and they are using a search engine because it is easier to run a quick search there than to type out the website URL. This user could also be unsure of the URL of this website or be looking for a specific page on that site, like a login page. These searches will usually be website or brand names and may include additional specifications to help users find the exact page they are looking for.
Examples could include ‘Kajabi’ or ‘WordPress login.’
How to determine search intent
Consider using keyword modifiers
Keyword modifiers can help determine search intent. When it comes to keyword research regarding search intent, how should you find these modifiers?
Lucky for you, there is a wide range of trusted keyword research tools out there to use, including SEMRush, Moz, and Ahrefs. These tools have “filter” features that will be most useful here, as they allow you to filter through keywords that include specific phrases and modifiers relating to the possible search intent of your readers.
You can also use the ‘SERP’ feature on these programs to filter focus keywords. Take informational intent, for example. You can filter for focus keywords that rank for things like related questions, featured snippets, and knowledge panels.
Read the SERPs
One excellent method of determining search intent is to research SERPs for the topics or focus keywords you are looking at. To start, type in the focus keyword you’re looking to rank for into the search bar and see what your chosen search engine will come up with. You can then tell by the types of results what a search engine (like Google) deems relevant search intent for each keyword.
How to optimize for search intent
1. Match content type and metadata to intent
Now that you’ve done your research and know which focus keywords you want to target with your blog content, it’s time to optimize your content. You will likely want to start with your pages’ metadata. You will want to update your title, H1, and H2s tags to match your focus keyword target. To boost your site’s click-through rate, be sure to leverage your title tag with some power words.
2. Examine your competition
As with every other SEO strategy, a solid idea is to examine your competition’s current posts and pages. When you find out how your users are finding your pages and why take a look at the top-ranking pages in the SERPs and ask the following questions:
- How are their posts and pages formatted?
- What’s the tone of their posts or pages? What is the goal of the author?
- What kind of points do they cover?
- What are these posts or pages missing that you could add to yours?
Use the answers you yield from these guiding questions to create the most relevant piece of page or post content on the topic.
3. Optimize your content for SERP features
Just like you used the SERP results as clues to search intent, you can also use them to update your pages’ formatting and content to better-fit intent. For instance, if you find your user’s search intent to be finding the ‘top ten best hosting platforms’, make sure your featured snippet contains a numbered list of some kind. Search engines appreciate and reward sites that format for search intent.
When optimizing content to target search intent, keep the following in mind:
- Know user search intent before optimizing post and page content
- When discovering new focus keywords, use specific modifiers
- Look at the SERPs to find optimal formatting for your post or page
- Create quality content every time
Optimizing your page and post content for user search intent is a simple but often forgotten part of SEO. Because it is easy to understand but not easy to employ, we hope that this guide can be a good starting point for optimizing your content for search intent.
By following these guidelines, you will be well on your way to giving your users the content they are really looking for. When you are ready to optimize your site content for user search intent, contact TKD Design!