On-Page SEO

Search Intent

Shahid Maqbool

By Shahid Maqbool
On May 1, 2023

Search Intent

What is Search Intent?

Search intent - aka user intent or keyword intent -  refers to the purpose or objective a user has when entering a specific query into a search engine's search bar.

A user aims to achieve a goal with a particular keyword or key phrase in mind. Your task is to determine what the user wants.

Are they seeking information about a subject or aiming to learn about a specific topic? Do they intend to make a purchase or navigate through the web?

To understand search intent effectively, it is crucial to put yourself in the user's shoes and consider these questions.

Example

When a user searches for the term "cookies", it could refer to either internet cookies or the edible baked item.

The user's intent behind the search may vary depending on whether they are seeking information about internet cookies, looking for a recipe to make edible cookies, or trying to find stores that sell the best cookies.

It is crucial to understand that search engines like Google are capable of understanding the user's intent and providing the most relevant results accordingly.

Types of search intent

We can divide search intent into four main parts.

Informational

An informational search is conducted with the purpose of gaining knowledge or learning more about a particular topic.

These types of searches typically contain question words such as what, when, who, which, how, and where.

For example, a person may conduct an informational search to find out who won World War 1, when President Kennedy was assassinated, or how long the Nile River is.

Aside from questions, an informative search may also consist of main key phrases or words only, such as the United Nations, Seven Wonders of the World, or 2022 US Elections, among others.

These types of searches are aimed at finding general information about a particular topic.

Transactional

A transactional search is performed when a user intends to buy something either online or in person.

These types of searches are made after the user has already made a decision to purchase a product or service and is looking for options or more information before making a purchase.

Transactional searches may or may not contain specific keywords such as "buy," "purchase," "price," etc.

For instance, a user may search for "Buy fuse bead kit online," "Spy camera glasses," or "Sydney to Melbourne flights" as they have already decided to make a purchase and are searching for the best options or deals available.

Navigational

Navigational intent refers to searches where the user already knows the URL they want to visit and is searching for it directly.

These types of searches are made when the user wants to access a specific website and already knows the name or address of the site.

For instance, a user may perform a navigational search for "Facebook login," "LinkedIn signup," "seodebate.com," or "Dolce & Gabbana" when they want to access those websites directly without having to go through a search engine.

The intent behind navigational searches is to reach a specific website or URL, and the user already knows where they want to go.

Commercial

Commercial intent refers to searches made by a user who is still in the process of making a buying decision.

These types of searches are made when the user is investigating their options and considering different products or services before making a purchase.

Commercial intent searches may involve looking for reviews or opinions from other people, comparing prices, or comparing features of different products or services.

They may also include local search intent, such as looking for restaurants or stores nearby.

Examples of commercial intent searches include "Best cellphone companies 2023," "Restaurants near me," and "iPhone 13 reviews."

These types of searches are critical in the decision-making process and can ultimately influence the user's final buying decision.

Search Intent

Purpose

Examples

Informational

To gather information on a topic

How to make pizza dough, Who won the Oscar for Best Actor in 2021

Transactional

To make a purchase or conduct a transaction

Buy running shoes online, Pay electricity bill

Navigational

To locate a specific website or URL

Facebook login, SEODebate

Commercial

To research and compare products or services before making a purchase

Best smartphones under $500, Car rental services near me



Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines and search intent

Google's Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines distinguish between four types of search queries: "Know," "Do," "Website," and "Visit-in-person."

These categories are slightly different from the commonly used informational, transactional, and navigational categories.

  • "Know" queries refer to searches where users want to get information about a particular topic, which corresponds to the informational intent. Examples of "Know" queries include "What is the capital of France?" or "How to make a cake?"

  • "Do" queries refer to searches where users want to perform an action, which corresponds to the transactional intent. Examples of "Do" queries include "Buy a new laptop" or "Book a hotel room."

  • "Website" queries refer to searches where users want to visit a specific website or URL, which corresponds to the navigational intent. Examples of "Website" queries include "Facebook login" or "SEODebate.com"

  • "Visit-in-person" queries refer to searches where users want to visit a specific physical place, which is not covered by the traditional categories. Examples of "Visit-in-person" queries include "Restaurants near me" or "Gas stations in my area."

How does Google know about the search intent?

There are several ways that search engines like Google can determine the intent behind a user's search query.

  • One way is through the user's location. For example, if a user searches for "mobile shop" without specifying a location, the top results will show nearby shops based on the user's location.

  • Google's third-party quality raters also play a role in evaluating search intent. These raters provide feedback and recommendations to Google, which conducts tests to improve the search results based on their evaluation. While the third-party raters do not directly affect the rankings, they indirectly facilitate the evaluation process.

  • Popular searches also inform Google's algorithm and help determine the searcher's intent. The most popular results for a particular phrase will appear at the top positions, and the most accurate query may be answered in featured snippets.

In short, search engines use a combination of factors to determine the intent behind a user's search query and provide the most relevant results.

Role of search intent in SEO

SEO is all about improving your website's rankings and driving more traffic. However, achieving these goals is not possible without a solid understanding of search intent.

Understanding and optimizing for search intent can have a significant impact on your website's bounce rates.

Bounce rate refers to the number of visitors who click on your website's URL but leave without finding the information they need.

Aligning your content with search intent can reduce bounce rates and keep visitors engaged on your website.

Creating content that meets the needs of your audience can also help establish your website's credibility and reliability with both users and search engines.

This is the essence of SEO. By optimizing your website for search intent, you can improve your rankings, reach featured snippets, drive more traffic, establish greater credibility, and ultimately, gain more authority in your industry. 

How to execute it?

You need to carefully execute this important step in SEO. Here are a few ways to apply search intent. 

Keyword research

Keyword research is a critical first step in SEO and can be conducted using various tools.

When conducting keyword research, it is important to consider the search volume and relevancy of the keywords to your services.

Opting for low-volume keywords with low competition can be beneficial, but it is essential to strike a balance between search volume and competition. If the search volume is too low, your SEO efforts may be unsuccessful.

Another useful tip is to focus on long-tail keywords. These keywords are more specific and less competitive than broader keywords.

Searchers are often precise in their queries, and using long-tail keywords can improve your rankings if your content aligns with their search intent.

Analyze the SERPs

To ensure that your content aligns with user search intent, it is essential to analyze the SERPs and your competitors' websites.

One method for examining the SERP involves searching for a variety of related keywords on Google to determine if they should have separate pages or be consolidated into a single URL.

Moreover, it is essential to check the SERP to see if there is a dominant type of intent or multiple intents.

Observe any unique SERP features, such as Knowledge Panels or featured snippets, to gain an understanding of how Google interprets the keyword.

It is also important to take note of any definitional URLs, such as Wikipedia.

To further understand the SERP, examine the titles of the content that ranks and determine if there is a common format.

For instance

  • do product pages, blogs, listicles, or step-by-step tutorials dominate the search results?

  • Is the content tailored to a specific audience or broad?

  • Does it address a particular industry or location?

Examining the top 10 search results can offer valuable insights into the competitive environment and assist you in crafting content that differentiates itself and corresponds with user search intent.

Marketing research

After selecting targeted keywords for your website, it is crucial to identify your competitors.

You need to be specific about the competitors who are also competing for traffic using the same keywords.

Comparing the traffic of each site and analyzing the variance in search intent can provide valuable insights for your keyword selection.

By analyzing your competitors' websites, you can identify their strengths and weaknesses and learn from their SEO strategies.

Understanding their approach to content creation, link building, and keyword targeting can help you refine your own SEO strategy and gain a competitive edge.

Go through and update the old content

As a webmaster, SEO is an ongoing process, and you must remain consistent in your efforts to maintain a high-ranking website.

This is because search engine rankings and their criteria often fluctuate over time.

To keep up with these changes, it is crucial to update your website's content regularly and apply SEO techniques where necessary.

This may involve updating keywords, optimizing meta tags, and improving your website's overall user experience.

Staying up-to-date with the latest SEO trends and techniques is also critical for maintaining your website's ranking.

This may involve keeping an eye on algorithm updates and industry best practices and adjusting your SEO strategy accordingly.

Conclusion

Search intent is the key to achieving better rankings and driving more traffic to your website.

Conducting thorough research on search intent is necessary not only for improving your rankings but also for creating useful content for your audience.

It is important to focus on organic rankings, which are achieved through a deeper understanding of search intent.

Rather than relying on tricks or shortcuts, it is better to become noticeable to search engines and users through high-quality content that aligns with user search intent.

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