Every time someone opens Google and types in a phrase or question, they’re doing so with a purpose – with intent.
Their search intent, simply put, is the reason they are running a search. They could be looking to buy a house, searching for a recipe, translating a phrase or even hoping to find some cute cat gifs.
Google has fine-tuned its algorithm to a point where it is exceptionally adept at predicting user intent. For example, when you type in ‘pumpkin soup’, it knows you’re not looking to purchase soup, or for a general information page about pumpkin soup – it instantly provides pumpkin soup recipes.
The combination of user intent and Google’s understanding of intent creates a space for marketers and small business owners to optimise their websites accordingly.
The four types of search intent.
There are endless possibilities for searches, but they all fall into one of four categories.
Navigational intent is when users type something into their search bar looking to visit a specific website. For example, if you type in ‘Yellow Pages’, it’s likely you’re en route to Yellow Pages.
Informational intent is when a user makes a search looking for information. This is an extremely common type of search, and covers everything from looking up recipes to finding the address of their closest bank to looking for information about how to code.
Transactional intent is when a user runs a search with the intent of making a purchase. Perhaps they are searching for a birthday present, buying groceries online or booking movie tickets. They have already decided they want to make a purchase, they just have to carry it out.
Commercial intent is when a user runs a search in order to research products or services they wish to buy in the near future. They do have transactional intent, but they still haven’t decided which brand or product to buy. This could be the research stages of purchasing a new car or looking for which local SEO service provider is best for their company.
How to optimise for search intent.
With a solid base knowledge of user intent, business owners and marketers can optimise their website and content in order to capture audiences looking for information, products or services they provide.
To start, consider the keywords most closely related to user intent. For transactional searches, this will commonly include the words ‘buy’ or ‘purchase’, whereas informational searches are more likely to include questions like ‘how to’ or ‘where is’.
In recent years, local search has become increasingly prevalent. The number of users searching for local places by including the keywords ‘near me’ has grown 150% faster than comparable keywords without ‘near me’. This offers a valuable clue for users’ search intent and local optimisation.
You can therefore optimise your specific pages to best match these keywords and answer the search intent.
Another tip is to look at what is ranking well for certain search terms. How are your competitors answering intent in a way that you are not? Note that it won’t always mean more information – users searching for a pumpkin soup recipe don’t want to read 1,000 words of backstory about the history of your family recipe, so a simple recipe without the fluff will likely answer this search better.
Finally, put all your focus on improving the user experience. If a user visits your landing page expecting information about the benefits of vitamin D but finds a transaction page where they can purchase tablets, that’s not a good experience. They will bounce back to the search results page, and when enough users bounce away from your page, Google can drop your ranking in favour of a page with a lower bounce rate. In short, always deliver what you promise, and do everything you can to avoid turning searchers away as soon as they arrive.
Search intent is one of the most pertinent actions you can take when optimising for search engines in 2020. The SEO team is on hand to help you navigate search engine optimisation and improve your result page ranking, so you can enjoy more views, more engagement, and more conversions.