Understanding User Intent and SEO
Without considering user intent & SEO, a great piece of website content is unlikely to rank highly on search engines. Here's why.
With the wrong audience, the best joke in the world isn’t going to get a hearty laugh from its listeners. Similarly, without considering user intent and SEO, an amazing piece of content on your website is unlikely to rank highly on search engines. Understanding user intent and the importance of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), is a crucial part of the success of any business.
What is User Intent?
User intent, also known as search intent, is the primary goal a user has when they type their query into the search engine. Usually, the user is searching for a specific answer or resource to help them with their query. If the user finds the information they were looking for on your site, they’re less likely to pop back to Google and try a different result - so if the user stays put, this usually means you have satisfied the user intent for that particular search query.
When drafting content for your website, there’s a few questions to ask before getting started. Is the user looking for a quick answer to a question? Are they searching for a specific website? Are they searching online because they plan to buy something or need help with which product/service to go for? All these questions will help you figure out why a user might want to arrive at your page in particular.
The different types of search intent are informational, commercial, navigational and transactional, and it’s important to understand the difference. Many of these are part of the user journey online, meaning a user can sometimes search for more than one type and on more than one occasion before reaching their desired outcome.
Why is Search Intent Important for SEO?
Satisfying Search Intent is one of Google’s number one goals. If you take a look at the image below of Google’s latest ‘Quality Rater Guidelines’ - a quick ctrl+f search for ‘user intent’ brings up 315 results.
When a user searches for a specific term and finds irrelevant information in the search results, that sends a signal back to Google that the intent is likely mismatched. So if your aim is SEO success, Search Intent needs to be a big part of your approach.
The more specific your content is to the search intent, the more users you can reach across different stages of the buyer funnel. Search intent often aligns with where users are in the marketing funnel - from users who are yet to discover your brand, to those looking to convert, a focus on search intent will massively increase your likelihood of reaching them with your content.
A good understanding of search intent can help us to:
Conduct effective keyword research by targeting search terms, aligning with the needs of your business and audience.
Create content that answers user questions and structure pages in a way that is both user and search engine friendly.
Increase website traffic with users who find your content relevant to their query.
Rank higher by creating content that search engines understand to be more relevant and valuable to their users.
Search Intent Types
Search engines have worked hard to be able to determine the search intent of the user. Google wants to rank pages that match the users search term, as well as the search intent behind the search query.
For each of the different search intents, search engines know a lot of information to help the most relevant pages rank the highest. In an informational search, the search engines understand that users searching for ‘Apple products’ are probably looking for the tech company and not a packet of Granny Smiths. Or if you type in ‘post office’ you are most likely searching for one nearby, and not the history of post offices.
However whilst search engines do understand search intent to a certain degree, it is super important to ensure your specific piece of content fits the search intent of your target audience.
The four most common search intents are summarised below:
Not surprisingly, this type of search intent is when the user wants to find out information about a certain topic. For example, searches like ‘how much sugar is in a creme egg’ or ‘champions league scores’ are intended to give the user information quickly.
Users searching 'cheap earphones' or 'occasion dresses' into their search engines usually have the intention of purchasing an item or service, and tend to have a good idea of what they’re looking for. Users are searching with transactional intent when their intent is to purchase something before they put their phone or device down.
Searches like 'BBC Weather' or 'Twitter' signal that the users are trying to get to a specific website they have in mind. In the situation of navigational queries, the search engine is used as a quick stepping stone to the website destination.
Before making a purchase, users start their commercial investigation. The user is searching for a specific product or service, and hasn’t made their final decision yet. Examples include ‘italian restaurants Belfast’ or ‘best broadband deals’.
Determining Search Intent
Search intent is often easy to determine from the wording of the query itself, which helps while conducting your keyword research. There is an abundance of useful keyword research tools such as SEMRush, with filter options such as search intent, monthly search volume, the search trend, and the difficulty to rank highly for certain keywords.
When you have found the keywords/search query you want to expand upon, it’s a good idea to take a look at the highest ranking results from your competitors for an idea on how to structure your content. If they are on the first page of the Google results, their content is likely to satisfy search intent.
Using certain tools, you can also filter keywords by using the SERP (Search Engine Results Pages) feature. However, if you don’t have a tool that does this you can take a more manual approach and use a search engine directly. If you type the search term/keywords into Google, it’s likely that the SERP will be a very good indicator of the search intent.
Google tends to show certain SERP features more or less frequently, depending on the search intent of the search query. That means we can use the SERP feature presence (or lack thereof) to figure out the search intent of a query. For example:
Although this is a rather self-explanatory example, the SERP result confirms that this search term has informational intent, so you would then draft your content with this at the forefront of your mind.
The above example is known as a featured snippet, which is one of the many SERP features Google sometimes shows. Other SERP features include:
With the assumption that you're intrigued with the Eyekiller example, you can check out the blog from the featured snippet here.
Whilst Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines may always be changing, the user and the intention of their search queries will always remain one of the keys to the success of your content. So if you want to improve your ranking and see real results, search intent and SEO is definitely a reliable place to start.
Remember you can always rewind and optimise your existing content with search intent and SEO in mind, to improve your ranking. Better late than never!
Need some help implementing SEO and search intent within your business?
Get in touch with the team today and we can help you get to grips with what your customers really want.