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What is Search Intent? A Quick Guide

You want to convert users into customers. You’ve loaded up your website with keywords, calls-to-action and loads of amazing advice. Yet your rankings haven’t budged.

Organizing the content on your website so that each page answers the question your target audience is asking is one way to address search intent. In this article, we’ll explain what search intent is and how to optimize your content for search intent.

What Is Search Intent?

Search intent, also known as user intent or audience intent, is an SEO term for the purpose of a search. In other words, search intent is the reason why a user searches a specific word, phrase or question.

For example, when you search for “how to cut a pineapple,” do you want a 1,000 word explanation of the history of the pineapple, or do you want a step-by-step tutorial explaining how to cut a pineapple?

Odds are, you just want to cut your pineapple. When users are confronted with a history lesson about pineapple, they’re quick to leave the website. The rate at which users exit your website is called the “bounce rate.”

That’s why it’s so important to design your pages and blog posts to answer the user search intent clearly and quickly. Understanding search intent helps you format, organize and optimize your website.

Is Search Intent an SEO Factor?

In short, yes. All SEOs should consider search intent when trying to improve rankings.

Now here’s the whole story.

Since the beginning, Google has worked tirelessly to match users’ search queries with the best possible answers. That’s the core of what Google does—and they do it well. After all, most users choose Google over Bing, Yahoo! and other search engines.

In response, SEO experts try to answer the most common, popular and relevant search queries in an effort to get in front of as many eyes as possible.

Relevance is the heart of Google’s success as a search engine. Your website’s SEO success depends on it, too. That’s where search intent begins and ends.

Types of Search Intent

Not all searches are created equal. Just like the customer life cycle, searchers are in various stages. They might be learning about a product, shopping around for the best version of it, or making a decision to purchase.

You want that searcher to decide on you, so it’s important to address all stages of search intent. Here are the four types of search intent you’ll need.

The “Know” search Intent

The Know, or Informational search intent means that the searcher is looking to expand their knowledge on this topic. The searcher may have only learned about the topic recently and wants to learn more. This searcher isn’t ready to buy, but if you answer their questions thoroughly, you’ll make an excellent first impression.

Content that answers informational search intent includes how-tos, tutorials and FAQs.

Examples of informational searches include:

  • “What is a pineapple?”
  • “SEO”
  • “best beach for surfing”
  • “world open scores”

A variation of the know intent is a Know-simple where there is one answer such as a footbalk score, the time or a country flag.

The “Do” search Intent

This is where your content begins to read more like ad copy. Why? Because transactional search intent means your searcher is ready to buy a product. They’re now looking for the best deals and most reliable company from which to buy.

Content that answers this search intent includes relevant landing pages and product pages.

Examples of transactional search intent include:

  • “cici’s pineapple juice 16oz”
  • “Iphone charger cheap”
  • “friars hockey tickets”
  • “Dell inspiron laptop deals promo codes”

A variation of the Do intent may be directed at devices, such as “Turn on kitchen lights” or “OK Google call mum”.

The “Website” search Intent

These are search requests by searcher simply looking for a website. They may not rememebr the correct name, or the full domain name. It may also include a product search with the brand name included. “Marks and Spencer men’s socks” for example.

The “Visit In Person” search intent

These queries are very location focused and might include ‘near me’ or ‘closest’ in the full search query. These searches often trigger the Google Maps feature in the SERP. Some search queries have implicit locations requirements such “pizza” which is likely to require some location-based answers. In some cases Google may deliver website and location-based results and there are always cases where it’s almost impossible for Google to know what the requirement is. Consider “Apple store” for example.

3 Best Practices to Optimize Your Webpages for Search Intent

So, how do you optimize for search intent? You now have tons of information. It’s time to put it into practice. We’ll tell you how.

Target Keywords with Clear Search Intent

If you have a little bit of keyword research experience under your belt, you already know you should be matching the keywords you create your content around with the keywords users are searching.

The best way to improve your rankings with search intent is to start by using keywords with a clear search intent instead of a mixed search intent. Long-tail keywords often have a clearer search intent than one- or two-word keywords (and they tend to be easier to rank for!).

For example, let’s say you want to target searchers in the informational search intent group. You’re selling pineapple juice and want to demonstrate your authority on the tasty fruit.

Should you target “pineapples” or “how to cut a pineapple” for your next blog post?

People searching “pineapples” could be looking to buy them or learn more about them. Because it’s so vague, the first page of the SERPs has a mix of search intent types. Some articles explain the history of the pineapple while others outline its health benefits.

Because the search intent is unclear, Google displays a wide range of results to accommodate as many searchers as possible.

On the other hand, the SERPs for “how to cut a pineapple” exclusively deliver step-by-step guides and videos on the subject.

Takeaway: Long-tail keywords tend to have clear search intent, one factor that makes them easier to rank for.

Optimize Your Content Format, Type and Angle

Now that you know what keyword you want to target, your next step is to determine what approach you want to take.

As we discussed above, your content type depends on what type of search intent you’re targeting. For informational searches, listicles and ultimate guides are excellent types. For commercial investigations, you’ll want to create review and comparison pages.

Once you’ve nailed down the type of search intent you’re targeting, make sure you format it well. Most users skim, so creating clear headings and using bold to highlight important information will help keep your reader on your website.

Lastly, your angle is your answer to the presumed search intent and can also be a tool for standing out in the SERPs. What can you guess your searcher wants based on their query?

We can usually assume people want things fast and easy. So, if other top articles in the SERPs targeting “how to cut a pineapple” are using the modifier “fast,” you might stand out by using the modifier “easy.”

You can also use modifiers to draw in your ideal audience. Let’s say you own a high-end pineapple juice brand. Does your ideal customer want to do things fast and easily, or do they want to do them perfectly? “How to cut a pineapple perfectly” might best appeal to your audience.

Use Competitor Analysis to Your Advantage

Competitors are awesome. Not only do they challenge you to be the best small business owner or SEO you can be, but they do a lot of your work for you.

You can fill in the “format, type, angle” blanks by seeing what the top ranking SERPs are doing. Simply search your target keyword and examine the first two or three results.

We know these pages are ranking well. What type of pages are they? How do they format their content? What’s their angle?

Using this information, you can get an excellent idea of the search intent that’s winning the SERPs for your topic.

Takeaway

Understanding search intent is the core function of all search engines. Google has excelled at matching searchers to the information they’re looking for, whether it be a how-to tutorial or a product page.

Your best bet for ranking higher in the SERPs is to master search intent. Using these tips, you’ll walk away with a better understanding of how niche and relevant your content needs to be.

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