Did you know that every query that you search for on Google needs to travel on average 1,500 miles to a data center and back to return the answer to your question?
This journey begins well before you do your search. The first step of that journey is crawling and indexing content from the web. As a marketer or a business owner, you want the whole expedition to end up on your website.
To reach this goal, you need to learn to read people’s minds. It sounds a bit cheeky, but that’s what search intent optimization is about. Well, more or less.
What is search intent?
Search intent (or user intent) is a term that SEO specialists use to describe the purpose behind a user’s search. They may aim to find an answer to their question, visit a specific website, or buy a product – their intentions are infinite.
Nowadays, search engines like Google are sophisticated enough to recognize the intent behind one’s search and provide adequate search results. This is something that you need to bear in mind while creating content for your website.
In this article, we’ll teach you how to identify different types of search intent and optimize your content accordingly. Let’s start from the basics:
How to identify search intent
There are four main types of search intent and it’s important to distinguish them. The below image briefly explains each type.
Informational search intent
Have you ever heard about the Japanese green tea called matcha?
No? That’s great as we’re going to learn a bit about it while exploring different types of search intent.
Yes? Then try to remember the time when you came across the word for the first time.
So, you probably heard your colleagues chatting about the fantastic matcha latte they had at Starbucks, or you just spotted the unknown term while browsing social media.
Out of pure curiosity, you type down “Matcha” in Google to understand what all the fuss is about. This is what you will see:
The first search result comes from Wikipedia, and it answers the question you had in mind – what is matcha?
In case you want to explore the topic further, Google suggests some related questions that may come to your mind, like what matcha tea does for you or whether matcha makes you poop. 😃
When users are looking for educational content like this one, we call it an informational search intent.
An informational query can be as simple as a single word (e.g., “matcha”), or it can take the form of a question (e.g., “What is matcha?”).
Depending on what you’re looking for, an informational search can contain phrases like “the best way to,” “how-to,” or “why.” These kinds of queries are the most popular ones.
If you want to optimize your content around informational search intent, it’s best to work on in-depth guides, checklists, or articles containing tips. Bonus: add a FAQ section to your landing pages and direct curious users right to your offer.
Navigational search intent
So, you already know what matcha is, and you feel like you want to try it out. You ask your colleague Jessica, who also happens to be a huge matcha fan if she recommends any matcha brands. She casually says “Encha Matcha” and gets back to her tasks.
You whisper “Encha Matcha” like an echo and search for it on Google. You aim to reach a specific brand. Most probably, to check their website and products. And here’s what you’ll see:
Google navigated you right to Encha’s website and suggested some pages from their site that can also interest you.
This kind of search query is called “navigational.” It’s used when people wish to go straight to a specific website or page.
If you want to optimize content around navigational search intent, your best move is to focus on branding. Make your website a priority: launch landing pages for all your products, services, and other offerings. Optimize each page using your brand name or product names in strategic positions: main headings, subheadings, or meta descriptions.
Commercial search intent
Back to our matcha journey: you’re already well-informed about what matcha is thanks to performing an informational search; you also know a bit about one matcha brand as you performed a navigational search and found the brand’s website.
But we all know that Jessica has really poor taste. That’s why you want to find out about some different matcha brands.
You may look for “best matcha” or ask Google which matcha you should buy. And Google has your back:
Here are some reviews of the most popular and high-quality brands of matcha powder. Google understood that your search intent is commercial: you’re close to making your buying decision, but you haven’t decided yet on a specific product.
Commercial queries may also contain phrases like “How to choose the best…” or “…discount codes”.
To optimize your content around commercial search intent, create product listings. Compare similar products or services, and put yours in the very first position on the list.
Transactional search intent
Now’s the moment when your research has come to an end. You not only know what matcha is, but you’re also well-acquainted with some of the best matcha brands on the market. You definitely have chosen the one that you want to try.
It’s time to share your transactional intent with Google. Whether your search query is the product name itself, “buy+product name,” or “product name+discount,” Google already knows that you want to buy Kyoto Dew Matcha:
Search engines recognize your transactional search intent and display actual product pages. Just browse for the best price and delivery option, and you can finally buy your very first matcha green tea!
To optimize your content for transactional intent, make sure that you have a dedicated page for all of your products and services. Conduct detailed keyword research to identify valuable keywords matching your offerings.
5 ideas for identifying search intent
While creating content for your website, it’s crucial to consider search intent and optimize your blog posts, product pages, and the front page accordingly. If you don’t do so, people will feel dissatisfied, and they’ll quickly bounce off your page in search of the answer to their question.
But how can you identify what’s on their mind? Here are some quick ways to learn what the search intent may be:
1. Study the top Google results
Your very first step is to check the top search results ranking for your main keyword or keywords. That’s the easiest way to find out what Google’s algorithm thinks the searcher is looking for.
Have a deeper look at the top ten results. Identify the type of content that ranks for the keyword of your interest: are these guides, case results, reviews, or product pages? Scan the texts and try to find similarities.
Don’t allow yourself to be misled by gut feelings. Although your intuition may be right in many cases, Google has data from trillions of searches – that’s a solid basis for accurate user intent estimation.
2. Use autofill options and related searches
When you type down a keyword into the search bar, the search engine will automatically suggest options related to your query.
Another option is to check the related searches that Google suggests at the bottom of the result page. These suggestions are generated automatically based on Google’s algorithm.
Both autofill and related searches are simple hacks that will give you a broader understanding of what users are looking for.
3. Monitor social media
Social media platforms like Facebook, Quora, or Reddit are sheer goldmines of knowledge. Monitor social media discussions that raise niche-related topics. You’ll quickly notice that there are questions that get asked regularly.
Conclusion? You can find out what users intend to learn right from the source itself and create content that concisely answers the core questions.
4. Track your competitors
To step up your SEO efforts, you need to start thinking about tracking your competitors. Let’s say you’re marketing a graphic design software, and you want to rank for the “graphic design software” keyword.
Your competitors rank on the first page of Google for this keyword, yet all these results are software listings from their blogs. If you want to rank for “graphic design software” as well, you need to create a similar piece of content instead of ranking your feature or solution page.
To better understand what kind of queries your competitors rank for, use SE Ranking. Just enter your competitor’s domain and get insights into all keywords that they rank for.
What’s more, you can also track their SERP features like featured snippets or “people also ask” features and use this knowledge to refine your content and stay ahead of the curve.
5. Use “people also ask” box
There’s one more section on Google that you can use to identify search intent; it’s called “people also ask.” Whenever you search for a keyword, Google suggests questions that people interested in the topic usually ask. For example, wanna-be gardeners typically wonder what they should plant or what is the easiest thing to grow:
How to optimize content around search intent
Now, as you know how to identify search intent, it’s time to optimize your content accordingly. Search intent optimization can significantly improve your position in SERPs and help you outrank the competition. In the end, over 63% of marketers don’t optimize content around search intent regularly. Take this chance and make search intent-oriented content your competitive advantage.
1. Find the right content format
Depending on the user intent you want to address, you need to decide on the most suitable content form.
In the case of informational search intent, it’s best to work on in-depth guides, checklists, and articles containing tips. These types of content will satisfy users’ thirst for knowledge.
To meet navigational search intent, you need to optimize your product and feature pages. Make sure that the product name is mentioned in strategic places like the main heading or meta description.
It would also help if you focused on product and feature pages in the case of transactional search intent. Just make sure to include all transaction-related information: price, shipping details, available sizes, etc.
If you want to refine content around commercial search intent, create product listings. Compare similar products or services, and put yours in the very first position on the list.
2. Map your content ideas
Content mapping is a method of organizing content in a way that you can clearly see how each piece strategically supports your customers. It helps you better understand all stages of the customer journey and, as a result, meet the needs of your audience.
While preparing your content map, make sure that every piece of content relates to a given search intent or intents. Having a clear understanding of the purpose of your content will help you prioritize tasks and prepare texts tailored to your potential customers’ needs.
3. Use long-tail keywords
If you want to meet a particular search intent, it’s best to use long-tail keywords. These keywords contain more than three words in the search query, and they perform exceptionally well in search results. It’s because they’re less competitive than single or two-word queries.
Long-tail keywords are perfect for optimizing content around commercial search intent. For example, if you offer services as a car accident lawyer, you need to focus on keywords such as “car accident lawyer” and create content around this keyword. Here is a good example from Mission Legal Center that created a separate page about car accidents and blog posts around car accident cases.
4. Use latent semantic indexing (LSI) and synonyms
While optimizing content around search intent, it’s essential to pay attention to the issues of synonymy and polysemy.
The term polysemy refers to the coexistence of many meanings for a single word or phrase, e.g., a crane can refer to a bird and a piece of construction equipment. In turn, if many words have the same or almost the same meaning, like tool and software, it’s synonymy.
These two phenomena play a vital role in the process of optimizing your content for search intent. For example, if you sell furniture, make sure that the product page of a new sofa can also be found when people search for a “couch.”
The process of identifying synonymy and polysemy is called Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI, for short). Thanks to LSI, you’ll be able to identify any relationships between your brand’s key terms and solve the issue of synonymy and polysemy.
5. Implement structured data
If you want search engines to understand you, you need to learn to speak their language. Structured data will help you with that.
Structured data is a way of describing different parts of your site using Schema.org. This tool will help you change your content into code, and in turn, indicate the most important pieces of information to search engines.
This is especially important for optimizing your content around commercial, transactional, and navigational search intent. Thanks to Schema.org, you can indicate essential information about your products, e.g., color, brand, or price.
As a result, search engines like Google or Yahoo will be able to display your content as rich snippets like this one:
6. Optimize meta descriptions and title tags
Title tags and meta descriptions are frequently either omitted or left in the automatically generated form, and that’s a mistake.
Meta descriptions and title tags are bits of HTML code, and search engine robots can read them. What is more, these values are usually displayed whenever the page appears in search results.
That’s why it is important to strategically include facts and keywords in the title tags and meta description and help the search engines understand what search intent you’re addressing.
The meta description doesn’t need to be written as a sentence; it’s also a great place to include information about the page. For example, product pages can include critical bits of information like price, country of origin, or manufacturer name. That’s especially important in the case of product or feature pages that address navigational search intent.
7. Survey your customers
Running a customer survey is another great idea that can help you identify where you can add value. If you have a decent customer base or social media following, you can easily organize a survey.
One good idea is to use Instagram Stories features such as quizzes or polls. You can use the collected data to create content that meets informational, commercial, navigational, or transactional search intent.
If your business is new or small, and you don’t have a large audience yet, you can use free platforms such as Answer the Public to identify related queries for your SEO efforts.
8. Measure your success
To reinforce your search intent optimization, it is crucial to measure the success of your marketing efforts. Analytics data can help you not only take your first steps toward analyzing search intent but also figure out what works well and what doesn’t work for your campaign.
For advanced web analytics, you can use Finteza or Google Analytics to evaluate traffic quality, analyze each page of your site, create a funnel of page events, and optimize your conversions. The best thing about it is its performance visualization that allows you to view all traffic losses, bounce rates, session duration, and gather relevant data for a comprehensive analysis.
Pick up your ticket today
Search intent optimization is a crucial part of any SEO strategy. Study the top Google results and take advantage of different tools that will help you identify the user intent; it can be informational, navigational, commercial, or transactional.
Finally, craft your content according to your potential customers’ needs and provide the value they’re looking for.
Irina Weber is an expert on Content Marketing. Irina is an experienced content marketing supervisor and brand manager at SE Ranking. After working in content marketing for enterprises and startups for more than 8 years, she wants to exchange ideas and share information learned with other content marketing experts. You can find her on Twitter @irinaweber048.