What Is Search Intent in SEO & How to Optimise for It

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Are you trying to gain more visibility on Google or just trying to get a good understanding of how search engines work? If so, this article is perfect for you. It’s crucial to understand how people use search engines and the intent behind their queries

Questions like what is search intent and why is it so important are among the most frequently asked when it comes to search engine optimisation (SEO). It is important to understand and apply certain SEO tools that increase the chance of ranking and help to give a company and its products or services more visibility. 

These days, the user takes centre stage. Search engines try to understand what the users want to achieve with their search queries. Therefore, search intent is an absolutely essential tool in a successful SEO strategy. It is crucial to know how to determine it and, more importantly, how to optimise your pages for search intent.

Let’s dive deep into it!

What Is Search Intent?

Search intent, also known as SEO user intent, can be described as the intention of a user to start a search query. It starts with entering a keyword into a preferred search engine like Google, YouTube, or Bing. The search intent is about figuring out what the person is looking for, whether it is finding information, a certain product, or exploring a special topic.

By profoundly understanding how the target audience uses the search engine and analysing the true intent of the user behind their search, content can be adjusted to target important keywords more efficiently.

For example, when someone searches for “healthy ice cream,” they might be looking to buy some or just exploring their options. They could be comparing different brands to see which one to purchase. Or, they might be looking for recipes to make their own healthy ice cream at home. This shows us there are different reasons why people search: some want to buy, and some are just looking for information.

Why Is Search Intent Important for SEO?

The goal of search engines is to offer the most relevant search results to their users. Content that does not meet the user’s intention will not be displayed on the search results pages. That means that you have to create content that specifically aligns with the true intentions of the target audience to be the most relevant result for a certain query.

Google is a prime example of the significance of search intent in SEO. It prioritises displaying results that closely match what people are looking for. To rank highly on Google, your content must closely align with the users’ intended searches using specific keywords.

Moreover, knowing the true reasons and needs of your target audience can help you to target the right keywords. With that, search engines can analyse your content as most valuable.

With the example of “healthy ice cream”, Google results show articles that list, review, and compare healthy ice cream brands or recipes for making your own healthy ice cream at home. 

GA’s Google Search, January 2024

When you want to sell healthy ice cream and rank high on your product page, it is important to know how Google categorises keywords. In this case, you would not be able to rank with the keyword “healthy ice cream” in the first place, as Google defines it as a commercial or informational keyword and not as a transactional one.

The Different Types Of Search Intent

When it comes to search intent in SEO, it can be categorised into four different types:

Informational Search Intent

Informational search intent means that the user is looking for information on a topic and wants to learn something. It can be determined by questions containing words like what, who, where, when, why, and how. The best and most effective type of content for informational queries is a blog post.

Examples:

  • Why do we have different time zones
  • What is SEO user intent
  • How to fix a bike tyre

Commercial Search Intent

Commercial search intent occurs when the user is researching a product or service and is at the stage between looking for information and being ready to make a purchase soon. Therefore, they mostly use specific terms like best, comparison, or reviews. It can be difficult to rank for commercial keywords with a product page, as they often include independent pages that review or compare products and services.

Examples:

  • Best hotels in London
  • Good smartwatches
  • Healthy smoothies

Transactional Search Intent

Transactional search intent shows that the user wants to complete a specific action, like buying a product. With this, they are making clear that they are ready to purchase a product or service. But it can also mean that they would like to download a program or sign up for something.

Examples:

  • Electric toothbrush price
  • Download Adobe Acrobat
  • Train tickets London

Navigational Search Intent

Navigational search intent is often branded and is achieved when a user is looking for a specific brand’s website. That means they already know what they are looking for and want to find the page with its products or services easily.

Examples:

  • Avianca flights
  • Zara pants
  • Burger King

How to Determine Search Intent

To determine a search intent, you first need to know your target audience. This includes their demographics, behaviour, habits, interests, and lifestyle. The better you understand them, the more effectively you can integrate any keywords and content into your SEO strategy.

By knowing your audience, you can now use this knowledge to target the right keywords. Creating a list of keywords related to the types of search intent and the needs of your consumers will help you find out how your targeted audience is specifically searching. This will also help you understand the search journey of the audience and the stages at which you can reach them.

Additionally, you need to analyse the SERPs for your targeted keywords to find out which topic-related content pieces are already ranking and what is the current search intent behind it. Also, competitor’s well-ranking content can give you a huge insight into what the user intent is and how it is addressed.

To always be on top of evolving search intents, you need to use the right tools for it. Tools like Google Analytics, Google Trend, SEMrush, and Ahrefs will help you obtain detailed keyword analysis, site traffic, topic popularity, and community trends.

How to Optimise for Search Intent

To make sure your content matches what people are searching for, a good strategy is to look at what’s already doing well in search results. The goal is to create similar but original content that fits what users want to find without copying anyone else’s work.

Let’s go back to our ice cream example. Have a look at the top search results for “best ice cream.” The results already tell you some information about the search intent:

GA’s Google Search, January 2024
  1. Content Type: Analyse what is the dominant content type in the search results when you type your targeted keyword. Mostly, it can be a blog article, a product page, a landing page, or a category page. For the example of “best ice cream,” we can see that the dominating content type is a blog post. That shows that users mainly want to see reviews, comparisons, and opinions of others when they type this keyword into the search bar.
  2. Content Perspective: The perspective of the content reveals what users prioritise during their searches and can also be characterised as the unique selling point of the highest-ranking pages. Taking “best ice cream” as an example, the prevailing perspective is the current location (in this case, Valencia), indicating that the users are primarily interested in finding the best ice cream near their current location.
  3. Content Format: The top-ranking content also shows the user’s most desired content format. This may include step-by-step tutorials, lists, reviews, comparisons, and more. In the case of “best ice cream,” lists, guides, and opinion pieces predominate. These formats offer multiple options for comparisons, ultimately aiding the consumer’s decision-making process. 

What Is Keyword Intent?

Keyword intent, or keyword search intent, is just another term for search intent and refers to the intention behind a specific keyword. Keyword intents can be categorised into informational, navigational, commercial, and transactional. Some keywords clearly show certain user intent, while others cannot be put into one specific search intent category and are thus classified with a “mixed intent.”

For example, when the user types “apple tree” into the search engine, it is not yet clear if the search intent is commercial, transactional, or informative. The search engine will then include more than one type of search result to meet all the user’s intents and needs.

Conclusion: Search Intent as a Main SEO Trend?

Understanding search intent isn’t just beneficial for SEO; it’s essential. This guide has walked you through what search intent means in the world of SEO & beyond and how you can fine-tune your strategies to align with them. 

Whether someone’s looking for “healthy ice cream” to buy or make at home, recognising the varied motivations behind search queries is key to delivering content that satisfies and ranks.

As the user is centre stage, it is vital to know which type of search intent fits best, to study Google’s top-ranking results, and to differentiate what content the user is expecting to achieve.

Let this insight into search intent drive your SEO strategy forward, making your content more visible and impactful in the ever-changing digital world.

For more professional advice on effective SEO strategies, get in touch with GA Agency and take your company to the next level.

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