The answer to “ what is search intent ?” can be distilled to one-word: WHY.

    Why is the most important question you can ask before you start building better content marketing resources for your website. Ask yourself not just why you’re creating the content, but why your audience needs it, why it’s valuable, and  why someone is searching for it.

    Understanding the answers to those questions puts your content squarely in the path of the people who need it (and your product) the most. Being clear about why someone is searching for your solution differentiates wildly helpful, super-optimized, and hyper-converting content from words that simply sit on a page.

    Psst… I’ll let you in on a little secret…search intent might be  one of the most under-utilized but highly-effective tactics in the SEO tool kit . That means if you’re using search intent to bolster your digital marketing efforts and your competitors aren’t, you’ve  almost  got an unfair advantage. ( Except, it is fair . Search intent is a common-sense technique that just so happens to boost the power of your SEO efforts.)

    What Is Search Intent?

    Search intent gives you insight into the “why” behind a search query. In other words, why did the person conduct this search? Are they researching products and want to read reviews? Are they ready to make a purchase? Do they want to learn how to do something? Or, are they trying to find a particular website?

    Why Does Search Intent Matter to SEO?

    Google’s mission  is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

    In short, Google’s entire reason for being is to provide users with the most relevant search results for their query.

    If you want to rank higher in Google Search, you need to create content that’s highly relevant for a specific query. As a matter of fact, search intent matters so much to Google that they dedicated 17% of their  search quality evaluator guidelines  to understanding user intent.  That’s 13 pages out of a 175-page document .

    Google even goes so far as to assert that  intent is redefining the marketing funnel  by pointing out that people no longer follow a linear path from awareness to consideration to purchase. Instead, their focus expands and contracts in unique and unpredictable moments. Every time someone turns to their device for an immediate answer, they’re expressing intent and redefining the traditional marketing funnel along the way.

    Have we convinced you of how invaluable keyword intent is? Great! Time to dive in and learn all about it.

    Four Types of Search Intent

    Chances are, you’ve already done keyword research to establish a solid foundation of core keywords that matter for your business. Understanding search intent keywords is the next step to extending your core keywords into themes that align with specific categories of search purpose.

    Your intent-specific piece of content will send a stronger signal to Google about that page’s concept and purpose. This, in turn, helps Google match what you’re offering with what specific searchers are looking for.

    Let’s take a closer look at the four types of search intent.

    1 – Informational

    The searcher is looking for information. It could be they need the answer to a simple question, like, “How many teaspoons are in a tablespoon?” Or, they could be looking for a more detailed explanation to a question like, “How do I ask for a raise?”

    Although it helps to think of informational search queries as questions, they’re not always formulated as such.

    Other examples include:

    • “Grand Central Stations directions”
    • “Claire Foy”
    • “WFH ergonomics”
    • “Lakers score”

    2 – Navigational

    Someone already knows where they want to go, but maybe they’re unsure of the exact URL, or they figure it’s quicker and easier to have Google return the link than to type the URL into the address bar themselves.

    Some examples:

    • “Zappos”
    • “CoSchedule login”
    • “whiteboard Friday”
    • “Grammarly”

    3 – Transactional

    The searcher wants to purchase something. They know what they want to buy, and they’re looking for the best place to buy it from.

    Example transactional queries:

    • “best price smart desk”
    • “buy iphone”
    • “rei promo code”
    • “bluetooth headphones cheap”

    4 – Commercial Investigation

    This searcher is in the research phase before making a final decision on a purchase. They’re still weighing their options and are looking for reviews, round-ups, and comparisons to steer them in the right direction.

    A few examples of commercial investigation searches:

    • “best desk chair”
    • “hootsuit vs. sprout social”
    • “pet plate review”
    • “best burgers in brooklyn”

    That last example is a local search. It’s common for local searches to have commercial investigation intent, like “coffee near me” or “upper east side realtor.”

    Now that you have a broad understanding of search intent types, let’s dive into how to interpret intent.

    How To Track Search Intent & Interpret It

    Many times, the wording of a query points to the intention behind it, which can help us look at these in the aggregate. For example, the intent of someone who Googles “buy iphone” is clearly to purchase an iPhone (a transactional query).

    Someone searching for “how to make sourdough starter” is obviously looking for instructions on how to do something (an informational query).

    table of seo search intent query modifiers

    Use Keyword Research Tools

    Here’s a step-by-step how-to for using a keyword research tool like  Ahrefs  to apply the modifiers in the table above and filter for keywords with specific intent.

    Using the example of “sourdough starter”:

    1. Type your keyword into the search bar.
    2. Select the “Having the same terms” report option.
    3. Click the “include” dropdown, enter your modifiers and apply to your search filter. (We’re using “how, what, when,” in this example.)
    4. Sort the resulting list by search volume to see the most popular informational searches for “sourdough starter.”
    seo intent definition: example of keyword search with query modifiers

    The same process applies for finding search queries for transactional and commercial investigation queries.

    Put Google Autocomplete To Work

    A quick and easy way to apply search intent principles to see what people are searching for is to take advantage of Google’s auto-complete function.

    seo search intent targeting: screenshot of Google autocomplete for why query
    different types of searches for what queries
    screenshot of Google autocomplete for how query

    Type in a modifier from the table above, followed by your keyword, and watch Google tell you why people are searching for, in this case, “sourdough starter.” Follow the SERP features.

    When you query Google, the search engine results page (SERP) will contain organic results, paid results, and SERP features.

    Some SERP features include:

    • shopping results
    • knowledge panel
    • people also ask
    • related questions
    • video results
    screenshot of Google SERPs features

    A query for “Claire Foy” returns a SERP that looks like the example below: This SERP includes:

    1. organic results
    2. people also ask
    3. knowledge panel

    This is interesting, not just because I’m a fan of  The Crown , but because the SERP features often point to search intent.

    a table of SERP features and search intent categories
    screenshot of Ahrefs keyword search filtered for SERP features

    The table below will give you a  rough  idea of which SERP features correspond to specific search intent. Using these SERP features can help you focus on search intent for your content. For instance, if you’re selling desk chairs, you can use  Ahrefs  to run a keyword search for “best desk chair,” and filter by “SERP feature includes shopping results” to see common queries used by people hoping to  purchase  the best desk chair. I recommend this comprehensive  article about SERP features by SEMrush  to learn more.

    Search Intent Isn’t Always Cut & Dry

    Although the techniques we’ve outlined here are helpful for search intent analysis, you’ll need to apply your own insights to sort through keywords with mixed search intents. Mixed search intent is most common in results for brand searches. For instance, if you Google “iPhone,” you’re likely going to see search results that contain transactional, informational, navigational, and commercial investigation intent because searchers who use that query might be looking for reviews, historical information, a place to buy, or the Apple website.

    If searchers might be looking for your service or product for different reasons, create specific content to target each search intention. Don’t try to create one piece of content that will appeal to people who want to learn about something  and  people who want to purchase that thing. Instead, create one type of content for informational purposes and one type of content for transactional purposes.

    Four Steps to Optimize for Search Intent

    Understanding search intent will dictate the type of content you create. If the keyword has informational intent, you’ll write a blog post. If it has transactional intent, you’ll create a product page.

    Easy right?  Well, yes.
    And no.

    Trying to apply only four search intent categories to billions of web pages makes it painfully obvious that these categories are too broad to apply wholesale to any particular situation.

    So, we need to dive a little deeper to look at SERPs more closely.

    Here’s how:

    1 – Know Your History

    When you’re doing keyword research, you’re looking at a discrete snapshot in time. You’ll need to look at your keyword’s history to understand if and how seasonal, social, or market factors might influence the number of searches on that keyword during any given time.

    For instance, a search for “hand sanitizer” would have most likely had transactional intent before March 2020. Between March and July 2020, you would probably see people running that same search because they couldn’t find hand sanitizer in the store and wanted to know  how to make it  (informational).

    For more on analyzing keyword ranking history, check out the Ahrefs tutorial,  Analyze Google Ranking History for Any Keyword .

    2 – Match Your Content to Search Intent

    After confirming that your keyword has clear search intent, you want to analyze SERPs for that keyword to determine these three things:

    1 – The right  type  of content to create.
    2 – The right  format  to present your content in.
    3 – What  angle  you should take with your content.

    Let’s take a closer look.

    Content Type

    Look at the search results for a keyword and see what type of content is being returned.

    What do you see?

    • blog posts
    • product pages
    • category pages
    • landing pages

    The content types on page one of the SERPs are most relevant to the search intent you’re targeting (Google ranks them highest for their relevance to the query). Follow the lead of your competition’s high-ranking results and choose your content type based on what you see here.

    Content Format

    Likewise, ask yourself what format Google deems most relevant to the search intent of your keyword. When you look at the search results, what ranks high?

    • “how-to” guides
    • step-by-step tutorials
    • list posts
    • opinion pieces
    • reviews
    • comparisons

    This helps you narrow down the format to apply to your content. Are three of the top five results “how-to” guides? You’d be wise to follow the crowd.

    Content Angle

    An angle is the unique perspective you decide to take with your content.

    Assessing the angle of top-ranking pages will give you insight into what matters to searchers.

    example of how Google SERPs show content angle

    For instance, if you Google “how to make waffles,” you’ll see that people are keen on finding out how to make Belgian waffles, perfect waffles, fluffy waffles, and easy waffles. Knowing what searchers value in their waffles will help you choose an angle for your post about how to make waffles. Follow the crowd by targeting highly sought-after angles and add your unique twist to it.

    3 – Learn from the Best

    Creating SEO content involves some trial and error. You create content and watch how it performs, adjust for the next time and then see how  that  performs.

    Drawing inspiration from top-ranking content is one way to bypass time-intensive trial and error. The content you find in the top ten search results for the keyword you want to rank for is likely doing something right.

    Click through to high-ranking pages and learn from them. Are there charts and graphs? Lots of links to related content? A clear structure with easy-to-find info? Embedded videos? Infographics?

    Let’s be clear.  You’re not ripping people off.  Your job is to identify what’s working in high-ranking content and apply those principles to your own original content.

    4 – Know What People Ask

    Looking at the SERP feature, “what people ask” will help you flesh out your content with related ideas that matter to people searching for your keyword.

    example of how Google's people also ask shows search intent

    For example, if we’re creating a blog post about how to make waffles, we might want to include details about making them without milk or how they stack up  (pun intended)  against pancakes for health-conscious breakfast fans.

    Optimize Underperforming Content

    The concept of search intent doesn’t just apply to the creation of new content. Optimizing for intent is a great way to revive older content that hasn’t been ranking well. Dive into your older pages and see how you might improve them by evaluating how well they align with specific user intent.

    While you’re thinking about improving existing content, check out Ashley’s  SEO tips for creating content that gets results .

    Key Takeaways

    Phew! We’ve covered a lot of ground here.

    Let’s sum it up from a 10,000-foot view.

    • Applying search intent  aligns you with Google’s mission  and helping Google help searchers is a win, win, win.
    • Intentionally design your content to  resonate with search intent .
    • Understanding  what  searchers are looking for and  why  will help you meet them exactly where they are with what they need and in the most helpful format.

    Learn more about  Understanding User Intent with Buyer Personas & Search Behavior .

    Need help with SEO strategy, tactics, or  keyword research services ? 世界杯直播网址 is an award-winning  SEO agency . We’re here for you if you are looking to schedule a  free SEO consultation .


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