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The Complete Guide to Search Intent (or Keyword Intent)
“What is search intent?”
Well, friend, I’m glad you asked because search intent is your ticket to more leads, sales, and revenue.
Let me explain.
The internet has redefined the traditional marketing funnel—because of the amount of information literally available at their fingertips, people no longer adhere to a linear buyer’s journey.
The new buyer’s journey is a looping, continuous cycle, with liquid starting and ending points. Consumers want to do their own research, and they use that research to make informed purchase decisions. If you want to convert more customers, you need to provide content for every single stage of this new looping buyer’s journey, and you can do it by optimizing your content for search intent.
Stay with me, and I’ll break down what search intent is, how to provide content for each type of search intent, and how you can optimize your website content to get higher in search results and boost traffic to your website.
What Is Search Intent (or Keyword Intent)?
The search intent definition is the consumer’s intent, or real meaning, behind Google searches—the “why” of the keywords. It’s also known as a commercial or buyer’s intent. Over time, Google’s algorithms have identified four main types of search queries:
- Know query, where the user wants information about something. Ex:
- “What is commercial intent?”
- “How many planets are in the universe?”
- “Why is Jon Snow so moody?”
- Do query, where the user wants to take action on something. Ex:
- “Buy new iPhone”
- “Best emergency plumber near me”
- “Christmas presents for people I hate”
- Website query, where the user wants to go to a specific website or webpage. Ex:
- “Wells Fargo login”
- Visit-in-person query, where the user wants to find and visit the physical address of a location. Ex:
- “Closest Trader Joe’s”
- “Bed Bath and Beyond near me”
- “Liquor store within walking distance” (hey, we all have our days…)
Now, within those queries, Google identifies a few different interpretations when deciding which search results to spit back out:
- Dominant interpretation: What most users mean when they type the query. Not all queries have a dominant interpretation.
- Common interpretations: What many or some users mean when they type a query. A query can have multiple common interpretations.
- Minor interpretations: These are interpretations that few users have in mind.
Here’s an example:
Someone types in “HVAC companies” into Google:
- Dominant interpretation: This user wants to book services with an HVAC company near them
- Common interpretations: The user wants directions to the nearest HVAC company
- Minor interpretations: The user wants to learn what an HVAC company is
Google’s RankBrain and Search Intent
Google built its current algorithm around RankBrain, a machine learning (AI) algorithm Google uses to help sort and improve the search results. It bases search results based on past performance of specific searches. Backlinko condensed it pretty well:
In short, RankBrain tweaks the algorithm on its own.
Depending on the keyword, RankBrain will increase or decrease the importance of backlinks, content freshness, content length, domain authority, etc.
Then, it looks at how Google searchers interact with the new search results. If users like the new algorithm better, it stays. If not, RankBrain rolls back the old algorithm.
What I’m saying is that Google is very good at determining search intent, and if you’re struggling to figure out the intent of keywords, you can get an inkling from the other search results for that query.
How to Dominate Search Intent SEO by Focusing on Keyword Intent
If SEO is the practice of getting your website higher in search results, search intent SEO is the practice of optimizing your content to match the most common commercial intents associated with your target keywords.
So, how do you figure out the most common keyword intents related to a keyword? You take cues from Google.
Google’s algorithm is designed to provide you with the best and most common answers to your search query. How it does this is by looking at a wide variety of ranking signals to determine the type of content other users with the same query have found helpful.
Let’s take a look at the example from a recent Moz Whiteboard Friday with Rand Fishkin:
A user types “damaged furniture” into Google. Google first identifies a few different keyword intents that searcher could have:
- They could possibly want to buy new furniture to replace the damaged one
- They could possibly want to visit a company that fixes furniture
- They could possibly want to learn how to repair furniture on their own
Google is going to produce results based on historical data and ranking signals that best match the most common intent and most “helpful” answers to serve that intent.
Here’s a rule of thumb: the higher up a piece of content is in Google search results, the more common the intent it’s answering. This intent-to-position ratio is your golden ticket to writing content that ranks.
For example, in the search results for “damaged furniture,” we can see that the top results correlate with the intent “I want to buy new furniture to replace the damaged one.” That means the dominant interpretation Google has seen is, “I want to buy.” Therefore, if you want to rank for this search term, you should address that specific need.
Think of a search term you want to rank for. Now, Google it. Look at the type of intent the results answer. Now, re-frame your content to answer that specific need. There; you’ve successfully optimized for search intent SEO.
How to Incorporate Search Intent Optimization Into Your Content Marketing Strategy
Your best bet is to figure out what people search for when they have the highest commercial intent—commercial intent being a strong intent to buy something—for your product or service. If you have access to your Google Search Console, navigate to “performance” → then to your top-converting pages → then filter by “queries”:
If that’s over your head, you can usually get by with making content targeted to these high-commercial-intent keywords:
- Purchase-related keywords, e.g., “buy,” “RFP,” “packages” or “quote”
- Branded and competitor terms
- Contact keywords like “contact,” “call,” or “request”
- Comparison, cost, and pricing terms like “reviews” “how much,” or “cost of”
- Location-specific keyword modifiers like city, state, or zip code
When you can connect the dots between the answers Google gives and the buyer intent it correlates to, you can not only rank better, you can also offer better versions of your product or service. If you need help with search intent optimization, we’re absolute pros at it. You can contact us here!
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About The Author: Blue Corona's Editorial Staff is determined to help you increase your leads and sales, optimize your marketing costs, and differentiate your brand by passing on our tribal knowledge. The team vigilantly stays on top of the latest in digital marketing, bringing you the top insights with expert commentary. Want to see something on our blog you haven't seen yet? Shoot us an email and our marketing team will get to work.
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