As bloggers, it's really important for us to understand search intent, so I wanted to spend some time talking about what that is.
But before we talk about search intent, let's stop and think about what search really is. Pretend you aren't a blogger–you're just a regular person using the internet. Why do you do the internet searches that you do?
At their very core, internet searches are questions. If we have the most relevant content, it will be one of the top results on the search engine results page. In fact, our post may be highlighted as a featured snippet or one of the other SERP features.
Here are some questions that I wanted to have answered recently.
- Is John Cusack married? Don't tell my husband I did that search!
- What Police song starts with “Fifty million years ago, You walked upon the planet so?”
- How does electricity work?
- How do you calculate percent increase in Excel?Where is the closest Wendy's?
The “why” behind a search query is called search intent. User intent or keyword intent are other terms used for it. Why am I searching for this?
Types of Search Intent
There are four types of search intent.
- Informational Intent – Do I want the information to satisfy my curiosity or to give me instructions for something I need to do?
- Navigational Intent – Am I simply trying to go to a specific website?
- Transactional Intent – Do I want to buy something?
- Commercial Investigation – Am I doing some research for an upcoming purchase I plan to make?
Let's dig into these types a bit more.
- Informational – The searcher wants information.
Some of the questions have simple answers like John Cusack's marital status or the Police song that starts with “fifty million years ago.”
Other queries have more complex answers like Excel formulas or how electricity works.
Informational searches may start with phrases such as “ways to,” “how to,” or “what is.”
- Navigational – Navigational searches are when a person knows exactly where they want to go, but it's easier to type in a search rather than the actual URL.
For example, I might type “Amazon” into the search bar instead of typing “Amazon.com” into the address bar.
I can never remember the URL of Google's pagespeed insights, so I always type “pagespeed insights” into the search bar.
I might search for “Facebook login” if I can't remember the URL.
- Transactional – Transactional queries are done when someone is ready to buy. This is a commercial intent type.
One of my go to transactional queries is “Papa John’s pizza coupon code” when I’m ready to order a pizza. Some people will search for “free shipping on ipads” or “cheap Nike shoes.”
Transactional queries usually mean we're ready to buy.
- Commercial Investigation – We tend to use commercial investigation searches when we know there's something we want to buy, but we haven't made a decision about the exact item.
For example, I might search for “most durable wrestling shoes” if I'm looking for some wrestling shoes that will last through my son's entire season. If the wrestling shoes product pages talk about the durability of the shoes, I'm more likely to click on that.
If I’m buying a new dishwasher, I’ll be looking for “best dishwasher” or “most quiet dishwasher” or “heavy duty dishwasher reviews” depending on what my needs are.
Why Search Intent is Important
So, why is Search Intent important?
Let's stop again and think about search engines like Google.
What is the product that Google search is providing for us? They want to give us the most relevant results to answer our question.
Think about what would happen if Google wasn't giving us the answers to our questions. We would probably look for another search engine to use.
So, meeting the intent of our searches is good for Google's business.
What are the benefits to us for meeting the user's search intent? If your blog post doesn't meet the needs of the searcher, you won't get traffic.
Example of Content Not Meeting Search Intent
Let me give you an example. On my Cub Scout Ideas blog, I wrote a post about the Boy Scouts of America's medical form. I explained what it is and why it has to be completed every year.
According to Google Search Console, I have lots of impressions for the specific term “BSA medical form,” but I have very few clicks.
After reading the articles on the first page of organic results, I realized that this is not the type of content that the target audience wants. They want the web page where they can print the form.
If you want to write a post about certain target keywords, but the search results are showing something else other than what you want to write about, then you probably won't solve the searcher's problem.
Benefits of Meeting Intent
Meeting search intent (or intent optimization) is a good idea for several reasons.
- Our posts are more likely to rank higher.
- They're more likely to be in featured snippet.
- Our click through rate will be higher.
- Our bounce rate may be lower.
- Matching a searcher's intent will build our authority. The next time they have a question about our topic, they'll remember our site and visit it again because we have high-quality content.
Why Bloggers Should Consider User Intent Before Writing a Post
None of us wants to write a piece of content that doesn't get traffic. But if your post doesn't match user intent, your post likely won't rank and you won't get traffic.
Because of this, determining search intent should be an important part of your keyword research.
How to Determine Search Intent
Sometimes that's pretty easy like John Cusack's marital status. I want to know that just for general information–I promise I'm not going to call him up and ask him out!
Let's take another one. Why do I want to know how to calculate a percentage increase in Excel? Because I'm working on a spreadsheet and need to use it.
It's more difficult to determine the search intent for other queries. For example, if I search for Apple, am I looking for Apple the company or apple the fruit?
What about the search term “pizza?” Do I want to know the closest pizza restaurant? Am I looking for a recipe to make homemade pizza? Or do I want to know how and when pizza was created?
So how do we determine intent when we have a search like this?
The best way is to search for the term in an incognito window to see what results Google gives us.
That's because Google spends a lot of time and money refining their algorithm so that they can return the results that people want. In most instances, they also have the benefit of a searcher's browsing history.
For example, if I've been searching for the terms “fruit” or “pies,” then I search for “apple,” I'm probably searching for the fruit.
If, instead, I've been searching for things like “phone” or “tablet” before I search for “apple,” I am most likely looking for the company.
That's not to say that Google always picks the correct search intent, but it gives us a place to start.
So, let's look more closely at the search results.
Review the search snippets and the top ranking pages to see what they have in common (or don't have in common). If they are all very similar, you can be reasonably certain that that's what the searcher's intent was. If the results are mixed, then you have a few potential intentions. This will at least narrow it down some for you.
If you have mixed results or you want more confirmation that the blog post you want to write will meet the searcher intent of your keyword, there are a few more sources you can look at.
First, take a look at the “People also ask” section. As you click the down arrow to see the results for these questions, more questions will be displayed.
Next, review the related searches section at the bottom of the search results page. These may help you confirm that you're on the right track with your blog topic.
You may also want to click the tab to see the image results for your query.
And don't forget to check the ads that are shown. Because advertising isn't cheap, most companies want to make sure that the ad they're showing is for something that will meet the searcher's needs. Take advantage of the research they've already done.
So, the next time you fire up your keyword research tool (Keysearch is my favorite!), remember to consider the intent of each item on your keyword list. In fact, make it one of your best practices.