Search engines like Google give much more importance to search intent than anything else when tabulating the results to a searcher’s query. Search intent is the reason behind the words people use in their search query; it’s what they want to attain from this search.
As you type in a phrase or a few words in Google, it tries to figure out your search intent using historical data and patterns it has figured out over the years. Then it compiles all the webpages and ranks them based on various factors fed into its algorithm.
Search engine optimization has always been the key to ranking well in SERP, but now Goggle is smarter. It uses artificial intelligence to show the most relevant results for a search query. So finding optimal keywords and using them a bunch of times will not account for any success.
People search for many reasons. They may need information about a topic, a product, place, or person, or they may search because they want to buy something or hire someone. Google has learned to understand what people mean when they type a particular word in the search bar. That’s why it shows different results when you search “butter chicken” and “butter chicken near me.”
When you wish to improve the ROI of your content marketing efforts, you must optimize your content for search intent behind your target keyword. Choose the right keyword with high search volume and low difficulty but make sure your content is focused on answering the searchers’ query instead of worrying about keyword density and placements. When your audience likes your content, it spends more time on your website and shares it with others, which boosts your SEO and increases your visibility.
Four Types of Search Intent
People search the internet for different reasons, but we can categorize all searches into four broad groups. Andrei Broder was the first to introduce the concept of search intent in 2002. He categorized search intents into four groups, informational, navigational, transactional, and commercial.
Informational queries make up almost 80 percent of all search queries. Most people on the internet are looking for information on a topic of interest or looking for answers to specific questions. The keywords with informational intent may be in the form of questions or short phrases such as apple juice, keto diet basics, or Apple CEO.
When you write “apple pie” in Google, it understands the informational intent and gives your recipes, a knowledge card on the right, and the People Also Ask panel further down. It means you need to create relevant content for keywords with informational search intent. Typically, informational content is in the following forms.
- Blog posts
- Step-by-step Guides
- How-to articles
Your content must provide direct and helpful information to the user’s query. Creating high quality and simple content can direct traffic to your site.
The navigational search intent refers to the searches in which the users know what they’re looking for but don’t know their exact location. They may not know the same URL of the website, page, or online store they seek.
Navigational searches are usually about branded keywords. Google understands the intent and leads them to the desired destination. Searches in this type will come in the form of the following queries:
- Product/Service Name
- Brand Name
- Login pages
- Landing Pages
Optimizing for navigational search intent is fruitful only if you rank for your own brand. It will be nearly impossible to rank for a navigational keyword intended for another website. For example, you cannot rank for apple because Google knows most people searching for apple mean apple.com. That’s why it shows apple.com in the search result instead of information about apple fruit.
You can use the following content types to optimize your site for your branded keywords.
- Product/Service Pages
- Product/Service Reviews
- Landing Pages
If your site offers specific brands, you should create content around them to optimize for them.
The transactional search intent is when searchers are in buying mode. These queries depict readiness to make a purchase. In this case, users know what to buy but don’t know where to get them from.
Most transactional searches use the following keyword modifiers:
- Buy/Where to buy
- For sale
- Direction to/Location of
- Near Me
Optimizing for these queries is crucial because they have a high chance of delivering a return on investment. You can use the following content types for transactional searches.
- Product Pages
- Sales Pages
- Free Consultations
- Live Demos
For transactional search intent, it pays to optimize for local search as Google aims to offer a personalized user experience based on the searcher’s location and demographics.
The commercial search intent refers to queries that users make when they’re deciding whether to buy something or not. Users with this intent are in the process of making a final decision for their purchases.
Searches with commercial intent typically have the following keyword types:
- Comparison between two brands
- Best products
- Product 1 Vs. Product 2
- Review of a specific product
- Customer reviews
After informational reasons, most people search the internet with commercial intent. With so many identical choices and an abundance of brands, people rely on the content to weigh their options. Creating compelling content for related keywords can help users make their final decision and buy from you.
What to Look for In the SERP
The search engine result page (SERP) is the page with results to your queries. Identifying the search intent is the first step before you can optimize your content for appearing in SERP. Luckily you don’t need any complicated tools or algorithms to do that. You can guess the search intent by analyzing the SERP.
Elaborating on our previous example, if you’re a restaurant that wishes to rank for butter chicken, you need to target the keyword “butter chicken near me” instead of “butter chicken.” SERP shows that since most people who search for “butter chicken” are interested in its recipe, Google shows results with recipes higher than restaurants and ready-made butter chicken products. Hence, it will be next to impossible to rank your restaurant for this term.
Depending on the search query, SERP can include the following items:
- Organic Search Results
- Featured Snippets
- Video Results
- Knowledge Graphs
- Paid Google Ads Results
SERP features depend on a range of factors, including the browsing history and location of users. Therefore, for a given keyword, a person in California may see slightly different results than a person in New York. However, if your business isn’t location-specific, you can learn the search intent for your required keywords quickly through SERP.
Look at the SERP Features
SERP features giveaway a lot of information about the search intent. For example, if the SERP shows ads for the keyword you’re considering, it shows that most people who search for this word(s) are looking to buy immediately.
Following are the most common SERP features associated with the four search intents.
- Informational: Image packs, video packs, knowledge cards, knowledge panels, news pack, featured snippets, and related questions.
- Transactional: Ads at the top or the bottom of the SERP, local pack, and shopping results.
- Commercial: Ads, featured snippets, related questions, and video packs.
- Navigational: Site links, Twitter results, news pack.
Assess the Ranking URLs
Since some SERP features overlap for different search intents, you should visit the ranking URLs and assess their content. Observe their layout, visuals, and content angle they take. Is their content informative, commercial, or transactional in nature?
Also, note if they’re adding listicles, checklists, quotes, or social media snippets to their content. Sometimes the keywords can have a mixed intent, and you can find that out by analyzing the ranking URLs’ content.
Look at the DA of the SERP winners
When you’re assessing the SERP, it’s vital to take into account the domain authority of the top SERP results. You can find out their DAs by installing a free Moz or Ahrefs bar. Checking out the DA has two benefits. If the ranking websites’ DA is much higher than yours, it may be difficult to outrank them. In that case, you can try a keyword variation that has ranking websites comparable to or lower than yours.
Secondly, if a ranking website has high DA, it may be ranking in the SERP on the behest of its overall authority and not because it’s meeting the search intent. That’s why you should not rely on only one or two websites to guess search intent, especially if they’re high authority websites.
How to Fulfill Search Intent
Fulfilling search intent is the primary goal of the search engines. So, if you wish to rank high in the SERP for a given keyphrase, you must optimize your content for the search intent related to those keywords. Here’s how you can optimize your content for search intent.
1. Generate a Catchy Title
Generating a catchy title is an excellent way to start optimization. Your title tag is the first thing people see when they scroll through the SERP. Make sure the title shows the audience what they’ll get when they click on the link. If your title reflects the search intent, it will grab the searchers’ attention and drive traffic to your website.
List down at least 3-5 title ideas you can think of, and then choose the one that’s the most suitable. You can also ask your colleagues for their opinion.
2. Put the Most Important Info At the Top
Make use of the inverted pyramid format when organizing information on your content. Place the most important information at the top of your content and explain the rest as you go.
When people search on the internet, they’re looking for answers or solutions to a problem. Make sure to give them their answer as early as possible once they land on your page. If they don’t find their required information quickly, they lose interest and head back to Google. It can increase your bounce rate and negatively affect ranking.
3. Be Succinct
People today don’t have a lot of time on their hands. They require a quick and to-the-point answer to their query. So, make sure to cut all the fluff out of your content and be succinct as much as possible.
Research indicates that the attention span of people is becoming shorter. If an article doesn’t get to the point immediately, people lose interest, click back, and try another SERP result. Giving concise and brief answers to the questions also improve your chances of being selected in Google’s featured snippets. Getting highlighted in a featured snippet can get you about 8% more clicks.
4. Add Scannable Headers
Make sure the headers throughout your content use keyword variations and words that show the reader that you’re on topic. Cover the subject in depth so the readers get the answer to their initial question and other questions that may arise in their mind as they read along.
Use H2s and H3s with headers that indicate what the subsequent sections are about under them. This allows the readers to choose the sections they want to read and which ones to skim over. Headers also remove long walls of text and make the long article manageable.
5. Leverage Multimedia
Using multimedia is an excellent idea to catch users’ attention and give them their required information in the ways they prefer. Some people consume written words better, while others understand concepts through videos, images, and interactive media better.
The type of multimedia you use also depends on the search intent. Assess the ranking content and notice what kind of content is predominant in the SERP winners. If they use many images, videos, or charts, and tables, you should follow suit.
6. Provide Actionable Instructions
Make sure your content is simple and give a stepwise solution to the users’ queries. People use the internet to find answers to their problems. Give them that solution in such a way that they can apply them in their life instantly. Your instructions should be to-the-point and practical, telling your readers exactly how they can solve their problem.
When you provide a valuable solution, people spend more time on your page as they implement or take note of the steps you lay down. It increases the dwell time of your page, which is a strong ranking factor.
7. Add an Actionable CTA
Many content writers neglect the importance of a clear and strong call-to-action (CTA), which suits the search intent as well. CTAs are not only for inviting the readers to buy from you or subscribe. A CTA can be as simple as asking your readers to share the blog or comment if they try a solution.
CTAs for keywords with informational intent can direct the readers to other related blogs that may move them down the funnel. You can add CTAs like ‘contact us’ or ‘book an appointment’ for the transactional content. It’s essential to match CTA to search intent, or else you may annoy a person looking for info by sales-focused CTAs or direct a person with buying intent to an informational blog and lose a potential sale.
Google has been evolving through all these years and can understand users’ search intent more accurately than ever. Google rewards any content that fulfills the search intent and provides its audience helpful content. With so much valuable content available online for free, it’s incredibly crucial to understand search intent and nail it if you wish to top the SERP and win a dedicated following.