Search Intent in SEO. How to Understand Users?

Search Intent in SEO. How to Understand Users?

SEO we knew a few years ago and SEO we know today are two completely different concepts. In the third decade of the XXI century when we constantly compete to improve organic website traffic, everything is about search intent, otherwise called user intent. Discovering this element is the key to understanding users’ expectations. On the other hand, preparing “answers” that match these expectations is a recipe for improving web sessions and conversion rates. Learn how your website can benefit from search intent!

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Proper content optimization and the ability to understand the search intent of potential recipients are the keys to being ranked high in Google. Why? Google algorithms have been appreciating websites that correspond to search intent and context. The search engine is more and more efficient at detecting important information related to shopping or informational queries.

What’s more, if users find a website that’s of interest to them, they’re likely to spend more time on the page which translates into increased web session duration. This is also important SEO-wise.

What is user search intent? How to benefit from the knowledge and customer path while creating website content? Keep reading to discover answers to all these questions.

What Is Search Intent SEO?

Search intent is the objective or reason why users enter specific queries in Google and look for information.

To understand search intent as accurately as possible, Google first ranks websites that best match the search term and are likely to help users achieve their goals.

Google has always strived to improve the quality of the organic search results delivered to users. User intent is the next activity that should fulfill the objective. Since the introduction of the Hummingbird algorithm in 2013 (which ensures proper quality of the search results) and since the implementation of the Rankbrain algorithm in 2015 (which analyzes data and tries to guess user intent), meeting search intent is an absolute #1 priority for Google and a factor that affects your website position.

How Does The Google Algorithm Work In A Nutshell?

In 2019, Google’s algorithm update, BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) caused havoc in search intent and long-tail phrases. It’s smart enough to understand the intent of a user typing “spaghetti bolognese” into the search engine. Google knows that people want to get the recipe, not the history of the dish.

search intent in practive example

Interestingly, Google is more eager to provide users with videos and photos instead of blog posts if they ask “how to”. In this case, the algorithms assume that a video tutorial is more convenient to watch and the steps presented this way are easier to follow.

example of google algorithm following search intent

A similar phenomenon can be observed with queries asking about store opening hours. Google robots provide users with information about several grocery stores located in the immediate surroundings, assuming that they want to find an open place in the area. In order to get to know the opening hours, exact location, or contact information, users don’t even have to leave the browser window – the answer to the question is at their fingertips.

search intent addressed in serps

Google algorithm also analyzes the dwell time, meaning the time that passes between the moment a user enters a page straight from the search results and returns to the SERPs.

This metric allows robots to evaluate the quality of the result associated with a given query while verifying the bounce rate and the average length of a user’s session. Based on this, they determine whether the search intent of the query is satisfactory and meets user expectations. The longer the dwell time and the lower the bounce rate, the better your Google position.

Search Intent SEO – How To Understand Users?

The entire communication and relationship development is based on getting to know your audience. Effective SEO activities, related to search intent, are based on understanding your potential customers, knowing and analyzing your marketing personas. If you determine the expectations and knowledge gaps of your recipients, you’ll encourage people to stay with you for longer.

Remember that each user is different, therefore, when creating content matching given search intent, make sure that it meets the expectations of each user persona type.

To understand the needs of your customers, identify the decision-making process behind the purchase and determine the path the user needs to cover to interact with your brand. Products that carry significant financial risk or whose purchase involves a lot of commitment will require more detailed information – articles, photos, descriptions, reviews. Less complex items should be described with the use of interesting facts, photo galleries, videos, or inspirations.

If your website answers the maximum amount of potential questions and queries, there is a huge probability that Google will assign it to given user search intent.

The 4 Most Popular Search Intent Types

When doing keyword research and selecting phrases you want to do SEO for, it’s worth categorizing words into four popular search intent types. Of course, they don’t comprehensively address search intent, but they’re a good cornerstone for planning your content strategy.

1. Informational / I want to do

The query “how to make a cheesecake?” probably means that users are planning to bake a cake. To do so, they need specific information about ingredients, steps or tips. They don’t want to learn who invented the cheesecake or what’s its price at the nearest confectionery. Queries can include words and phrases such as “how,” “what is,” “best ways to,” “why,” or “definition”. You can benefit from the potential of these phrases by preparing step-by-step instructional videos or expanding the content of the FAQ section.

2. Navigational / I want to reach

It reflects a user’s need to reach a specific website. A user typing “facebook” into Google is most likely hoping to enter the Facebook landing page. On the other hand, by searching the phrase “facebook John Smith”, people want to access the profile of this particular person. To benefit from this intent, describe your website accordingly (e.g. by using headers).

3. Transactional / I want to buy

The phrase “iPhone 11 store” can mean that a potential customer wants to buy an iPhone and is looking for a store to finalize the transaction. Transactional intent is based on phrases like “store”, “buy”, “order”, “discount”, “cheapest” combined with product names and the city where the purchase is to be made (if it’s a brick-and-mortar store, not an e-commerce business).

4. Commercial / I want to know

This type of search intent is related to product opinions, information or reviews. Such phrases are e.g. “the most energy-efficient washing machine” or “the best mechanic Jersey”. In this case, queries may include words like “opinions”, “reviews”, “how does it work” as well as “ranking”, which allows the customer to select the best offer. It is worth taking advantage of this format when preparing your website content.

Search Intent vs. Customer Path

Search intent is closely related to the concepts of customer journey and sales funnel. A website visit starts the user’s adventure with the brand and subsequent activities are determined by the quality of page content. Recognizing the initial search intent does not only provide users with answers to their questions but also helps to plan scenarios of the further website journey.

Skillfully prepared content can change initial interest into conversion.

Sales-wise, commercial and navigational phrases are the most profitable. In this case, you’re dealing with users who have gone through a certain decision-making process and know exactly what they’re looking for. In order to attract their attention, make sure that product descriptions are comprehensive and the website makes it possible to place an order or contact a company employee. Provide attractive photos that will encourage users to finalize transactions. If you want to learn more about designing effective product specifications, check out our entry “How to write attractive product specifications?”. Here, you can find tips that will help you prepare your site for potential customers who are almost decided to make the purchase.

Transactional and informational intent requires more work. Content created for the latter type may never lead to conversion, as users will leave the page as soon as they find the information they are interested in. However, they’re likely to remember your site which will have a positive impact on your brand recognition.

In the case of the first group, content should make you stand out from the competition and resolve any doubts. If your content is as appealing to humans as it is to Google robots, it’s possible that users who obtain information will also convert. It’s good to complement the process with internal linking, which will lead the user deeper into the site and present e.g. tutorials showing how to use the product/service.

The last stage of the customer path, loyalty, also requires proper content planning. If users are already familiar with your brand because they made a transaction, they may want to learn more about the post-sale aspects. Here again, the ability to use informational search intent should come in handy. Selecting phrases related to product usage will help you create content tailored to the needs of returning customers.

How To Optimize Content For SEO With User Search Intent In Mind?

1. Prioritize. A strategy is a key to each marketing activity. Choose the most important products, services, or blog posts your SEO is supposed to focus on. Decide whether you are going to start with a content audit and modification of old blog posts or whether you’ll implement the rules only for newly created content. Take care of headers (H1 – H6), titles, meta, and image descriptors.

2. Make sure that the specific tab or landing page encountered by users meets the goal and is in line with the search intent of your audience. If necessary, tweak the functionality or content of selected subpages. However, before you start modifying keywords, make sure which ones generate a lot of organic traffic and conversions. Don’t rely on intuition, but on specific data.

3. If you run an online store, optimize product descriptions by referring to the queries entered by users visiting a given subpage of the store. Complement product tabs with links or company blog post fragments and tutorials that discuss related topics.

Content marketing seo optimizations

4. Look for unique, long-tail phrases used by your potential customers. Find useful suggestions in Google Search Console and Google Keyword Planner. Tailor them to search intent associated with a given action on your website. Don’t saturate your product pages with “artificially” applied phrases that aren’t related to search intent and don’t have any context. The algorithm will know that you’re trying to trick it and manipulate the content, which will negatively affect the credibility of your website.

5. Monitor the rankings and visibility of your competitors‘ sites. Compare the results. Analyze content posted by other similar suppliers. Monitor your position in Google with the use of SEMrush or SEMSTORM.

6. Discover the customer journey. Take care of UX, i.e. user experience. Refine your website navigation. Improve the visibility of CTA buttons.

7. Take care of font size – 14 px is an absolute minimum nowadays.

8. Conduct surveys and ask your audience about the type of content they want to find on your website. Promote your texts via newsletter or social media.

What Types Of Content Correspond To User Needs And Support Search Intent SEO?

  1. Q&A (questions & answers)/FAQ – the most popular questions and answers
  2. Reviews & opinions
  3. Summaries and rankings
  4. Specifications with detailed and comprehensive product descriptions (with additional graphic and video content, e.g. infographics or tutorials)

What Should You Do To Meet The Requirements And Preferences Of Your Content Recipients?

The answer may seem trivial, but… Just get to know your audience. Analyze phrases that lead users to specific subpages and types of interactions they inspire.

If website users search for information, provide it in an accessible form (lists, tables, infographics). If they want to make a purchase, offer a range of crucial sales incentives and help them click “buy now”. In all cases, make your website attractive, and don’t forget that a real person is on the other side of the monitor. Usually, that person reaches your website for a specific reason, not because of having too much free time.

Taking care of search intent SEO means additional impressions and leads, better brand recognition, lower bounce rate, and ultimately an improved Google position.

If you plan to outsource SEO activities to an external agency, make sure that it understands your recipients and business objectives. Your goals can be met more easily with effective user search intent SEO.

Do you want to learn more? Are you looking for support with your website visibility and search intent? Reach out to us! We’ll be happy to tell you how understanding your users’ needs can help you achieve your business goals.

Junior SEO Specialist - Joanna

Junior SEO Specialist

Asia odkryła świat SEO latem 2020 roku. Od tego czasu zajmowała się copywritingem, tworząc artykuły branżowe. Zafascynowana tematem optymalizacji dołączyła do Delante jako Młodszy Specjalista SEO. Studiuje Globalny Biznes, Finanse i Zarządzanie w warszawskiej Szkole Głównej Handlowej. Interesują ją nowoczesne modele biznesu, digital marketing oraz UX. Wolny czas przeznacza na podróże, odkrywanie Indie Rocka oraz aktywny udział w życiu swojego ukochanego Koła Naukowego Negocjator.

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