How To Use Search Intent: A Beginner’s Guide to More Effective SEO

Understanding search intent is an important process in getting your website ranked on search engine results pages (SERPs). This is because Google ignores content that doesn’t meet the expectations of searchers. If you want to create content with searchers in mind, you have come to the right place.

Search intent is the main idea or purpose behind a search. The best way to identify the search intent behind a query is by researching the first three pages of the keywords you want to rank for and classifying a query under the four main types of search. 

This article will help you understand search intent and show you how to use it in your content creation process. Let’s get into it.

Why Is Search Intent Important to Rankings?

You need search intent because your website is built for a targeted audience – not you. Every content creator’s goal is to publish content that their audience truly cares about. And the only way to create exactly what your audience wants is to understand, identify and optimize the search intent behind your keywords..

Imagine searching on Google for a query: “how to perform a search engine optimization (SEO) technical audit.” And then you click on a page ranking on the front page of your query, only to get hit by blocks of text defining SEO and content marketing. Disappointing right? 

That’s exactly what your target audience will feel whenever your content fails to meet their search intent. 

There is no better way to create valuable content that users and search engines will love than satisfying the purpose of a query. Searchers expect nothing but straight answers to their questions. No fluff, no jargon. 

The reason why search intent is important in your SEO strategy is because it helps you:  

  • Create quality content: If you know what your audience are looking for, you will create valuable content to satisfy their intent.
  • Reduce your web page bounce rate: A site bounce rate is the number of visitors who leave a site after viewing just one page. If search intent can help you create better content, then it surely will reduce your bounce rate as searchers navigate to other relevant pages on your site.
  • Boost your ranking on search result pages: Search engines like Google display only the best content that matches the search intent of a query. So learning search intent is your sure ticket to getting your content on the top result page.
  • Convert your web traffic into solid leads: When you create content that always meets your audience’s needs, you have a chance of converting these visitors into leads interested in
  • Build your website authority: Mass producing quality content over time makes Google and your audience recognize your brand voice and associate you as a leader in your industry.

Note: Understanding search intent brings positive SEO benefits to you when your content is well structured and free of grammatical errors. Poorly written content will hurt your ranking and turn readers away.

Understanding the Search Intent Behind Keywords

Performing keyword research goes in sync with understanding search intent. Keyword optimization helps search engines discover what your page is about while search intent helps you discover what your researched keyword really means and what your audience expects from you.

The first step to understanding search intent is to know the five stages of the searcher’s journey on your site: 

The Five Searchers Journey

There are five stages of a search journey. Every stage determines the kind of query people search for and how well they know about the query. These stages include.

• Pre-awareness stage: Searchers who have a problem but are not motivated to search for a solution.
• Awareness stage: Searchers who start to feel a sting of their problem or concern and make an effort to understand it.
• Consideration stage: Searchers who know enough about the source of their problem and are looking for the best solution for the problem.
• Final decision/purchase stage: Searchers with a fixed solution in mind search for a specific solution type. This stage of a journey has already taken every factor into consideration before buying.
 Loyalty stage: The searcher is accustomed to a specific brand. They search for the product or services of their preferred brand and shun other alternatives.

Types of Search Intent

There are four main types of search intent behind every search query, each shows how users search online and what they expect from a result.

  • Navigational search intent
  • Commercial search intent
  • Informational search intent
  • Transactional search intent

Navigational Search Intent

 This is directional-based search intent where users search for queries seeking direction to a specific brand home page, a product page or a location Most users looking for answers to their queries with navigational intent usually have a brand in mind or are already at the buying stage of their search journey.

The traffic value for navigational keywords is usually high and pretty expensive because the big players in your industry typically contend to rank for these terms.

To utilize navigational search properly, you should optimize these keywords for the landing page, contact page and business profile page. Online directories also present results for some directional-based searches.

Examples of navigational search terms:

“Spotify home”

“Google docs sign in”

“Best eatery near New Jersey”

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Informational Search Intent

Informational intent answers the “what,” “how,” “why” and “when” search query. The information users seek could be an in-depth guide, a quick one-off answer or a search for trivial entertainment.

Informational queries make up over 75 percent of the entire search query on the internet. This is because people rely on search engines to deliver accurate answers to their questions.

Ranking for informational search queries brings enormous traffic to your site and increases your site authority. There are also ranking opportunities for new websites focusing on informational searches with low competition.

A free tool like Answer The Public and the People Also Ask (PAA) sections on the front result page are gold mines for gathering information-based words related to a search.

Examples of informational search terms:

“When is the world cup starting?”

“How to make a cup cake”

“What is the weather today?”

“Why people hate my website?”

Commercial Search Intent

Commercial search intent aligns with people in the consideration stage of their search journey. The searchers here are looking for the best possible options before making a buying decision. This type of intent is best satisfied by creating comparison content, showing reviews and case studies to help searchers make better buying decisions.

Examples of commercial search terms include:

“Best laptop for programming”

“Semrush vs Ahref”

“Beautiful cities for tourists”

“Amouage perfume reviews”

Transactional Search Intent

Transactional searchers are looking to take a specific action. Transactional intent doesn’t confine to users purchasing a product or service alone, the action could also involve email sign-ups, webinar sign-ups or an ebook download. The searchers here are in the process of becoming a customer.

Examples of transactional search terms include:

“Cheap website audit tool”

“Buy MacBook air”

“Cookbooks on amazon”

“Netflix subscription purchase”

“Google search central email signups”

How To Determine The Search Intent from Keywords

There are three things to consider when matching the intent behind any keyword or query you want to optimize: 

  • The content type
  • The content format
  • The content angle

Content Type

Searchers have a preferred content type they’d love to consume while searching online. The content could be a blog post, a white paper, an infographic, a video or a landing page. The easy way to determine the suitable content type for a query is by checking for the content types already at the top result page of your keyword.

Content Format

The content format applies to blog posts and product pages. The main video format on SERP is YouTube so there isn’t any need to discuss that here. The most common blog format includes how-to guides, step-by-step tutorials, listicles and product reviews. Another content format you will often see on page zero of a search is the rich snippets content shown by Google.

Content Angle

The content angle focuses on the structure and context of the content. Some search queries are suitable for searchers in the awareness stage of their journey – what is SEO – while some queries are for searchers looking for advanced information – how to use search intent in SEO. 

The importance of matching the angle of a query is to cut out the fluff and meet the searcher at their level. 

How To Optimize Your Content to Match Search Intent 

Identifying the search intent behind a keyword is just one piece of the puzzle, you need to also optimize every element of your web page to align with the search intent too. Here’s how to do it.

Create a Meta Tag That Matches Your Content 

Your title tag and meta description should briefly explain the entirety of your content. Optimizing your meta tags to contain your keywords helps Google identify the purpose of your page easily. It also informs your audience about the content on your page, even before clicking.

Pay Attention to the Questions On The “People Also Ask” Box

Google’s result page is a gold mine for discovering keywords and understanding the search intent of a query. One easy way to tap into this opportunity is to observe the related questions asked on the PAA part of a SERP.

Cover the related PAA questions related to your topic in your H2 tag or frequently asked section of your blog post.

Focus on Quality Over Quantity 

It is useless to understand search intent if you don’t care about creating quality content for your audience. Sometimes, quality is mistaken for quantity. A blog post can be over 7,000-word count and have low quality. Quality here means you have covered the necessary information your audience needs from that keyword and cut out the rest.

When creating content, consider these questions:

  • Why does this matter?
  • Can I back my claims up?
  • Is the content vague?
  • What action do I expect my audience to take after consuming this content?
  • Is there anything missing from this content?

Asking these hard-pressing questions will help you create content that will be valuable to your audience.

Identify the Type of Search Your Keyword Belong To

We saw the four main types of search intent and a few examples of each one. You should label the type of search for every keyword you want to optimize. Informational search intent will require listicles, how-to guides, white papers or videos. Transactional search requires a landing page. Commercial search is mostly optimized on product pages and advertorials. While navigational search needs a contact page, Google business profile or about us page.

Understand, Identify and Optimize Search Intent To Rank at the Top Result Page

You need to learn how to understand, identify and optimize the search intent behind any keyword or query. Gone are the days when people published irrelevant content that could appear on the front page of search results, without even thinking about the main purpose of their content. Now, matching the search intent of your primary keyword is a must, not an option.

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