The Importance of Optimising for Search Intent

We take a look at what search intent optimisation is and why it is important in getting your website seen and directing users to the right place.

What is search intent?

Search intent (also known as user intent or audience intent) is the term used to describe the purpose of a user’s online search. Search intent aims to understand why a user has inputted a particular keyword and what sorts of results they expect to see in response.

Google states that its mission is to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” As such, it is crucial that the top ranked pages fulfil the users’ search intent with quickly accessible useful information that satisfies a user’s search. Google even published a report called ‘How Search Intent is Redefining the Marketing Funnel’, which clearly shows the importance they have placed on search intent in recent times.

As such, you must consider search intent in order to ensure the success of your content. By understanding the search intent of your audience, you can make sure your content fits what the audience is looking for and is relevant to their query.

Breaking down the main types of search intent

Identifying what category your content falls under can help inform what type of content you need to create and what it must include. These categories also help Google provide the most relevant results for a search. So, let’s break down the 4 main search intent categories:

Informational intent

Informational searches are conducted by people looking for information. These users have a specific question and want to know more about a certain topic.

Commercial investigation

These are searches made by people who have the intention of buying in the future, but are using the web as a research tool to find out more information before they purchase. Commercial investigation can also include location-based searches, as users may look for ‘the best restaurants in X location’, for example, which falls under commercial investigation.

Transactional intent

These users are searching with the intent to buy something. Usually, these users already know what they want, and are just looking for the best place to buy it from.

Navigational intent

People searching with navigational intent are looking for a specific website. For example, someone searching for Twitter usually wants the top result to be the website, rather than information about the website or articles related to it. These users already know what they are looking for.

Understanding search intent

Now that we have broken down the four main categories for user intent, how can you understand the search intent for your keywords? 

Firstly, consider the language that is used. Informational searches can consist of words such as ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘who’, ‘where’, ‘why’, ‘guide’, ‘tutorial’, ‘ideas’, etc. Conversely, navigational intent searches can include brand names, names of products or names of a service. 

For commercial investigation searches, common words may be ‘best’, ‘top’, ‘reviews’, ‘comparison’ and for transactional searches terms could include ‘buy’, ‘order’, ‘purchase’, ‘price’ and ‘cheap’. 

It is useful to Google your search terms and see the variety of results that they produce. By trying different modifiers of keywords, you can ascertain whether they bring up different types of results, which can inform how you create your content and the language you use.

In addition, looking at SERPs can help you understand the type of content Google is serving for your particular keyword or phrase. Google SERP features can include shopping results, videos, featured snippets drawn from webpages and map results, among others. Depending on the intent of the search, Google will show different SERP features and this can help you determine search intent, alongside which content formats were found to be helpful for users. 

Optimising for search intent

Search intent should inform the content you create. It can be helpful to understand the search intent of your content before you allocate your keywords, as you should ensure that the page you’re optimising answers the search intent for your targeted keyword. 

There’s no point writing a long and detailed informational blog post based around a particular keyword, if the people using that commercial keyword are actually looking for a service or product page! Equally, if people are searching for information, don’t try and push a product page on them.

It can be hard to determine search intent in some cases but, as we mentioned earlier, you can use the current search results for particular keywords to give a direct insight into what people are looking for in their searches (and what Google is rewarding). You can also analyse your competitors to see how they are using search intent to inform their content.

Additionally, you can look at featured snippets for particular keywords, which allow you to assess the type of content style and format that Google rewards for your keyword. For example, someone conducting a commercial investigation may look for comparisons, lists or reviews, and these might be displayed as a featured snippet.

Finally, think about user experience when optimising your content. Make sure your landing page fits the search intent of your audience. Limiting popups, using bullet points or clear steps, adding subheadings, and including images, videos, or graphs where necessary, are all great ways to help users find the information they need easily – and Google will reward these!