Search intent. A term you might know if you have a website or work in online marketing. If not, you should know it.
Because it's good for Google when there's a match between your users' search intent and the content on your website. In other words, a match can give your website better rankings in search results. So read on to learn more about search intent - and how you can use knowledge about your users' motivations in your SEO strategy.
If you need to condense SEO into one tangible definition, it's simply about getting websites found for the keywords your target audience is googling.
But it's one thing to be found on a particular keyword - it's another thing for a website or webshop to deliver what users are actually looking for.
If your visitors are looking for a hairdresser but are greeted by a website selling hairdressing scissors, they will click away very quickly (well ok, maybe not at the time of writing, when hairdressers are closed and many are therefore forced to give it as self-taught hairdressers).
In other words, there must be a match between search intent and search results.
In SEO and SEM, search intent is a user's intention for a search. Is the user looking for information? A product, service or solution that can meet a need? Or a pair of white Air Force 1 shoes in size 43?
For example, if your users are looking for a pair of white Air Force One in size 43, a blog post on how to make rubber shoes won't match their search intent.
So search intent is about what Google users are looking for - and not least where they are in the customer journey. Have they planted a need they don't yet know how to meet? Or do they know exactly what they're looking for?
In other words: What is their search intent?
To answer that question, you can usefully distinguish between 4 types of search intentions.
Commercial Investigative Search
OK, now you know the 4 types of search intents.
But why are they important to know? And why should you tailor your landing pages to specific search intents?
First of all, because Google always strives to present users with the best content. That's why the search engine algorithm is scarily good at understanding search intent. For the same reason, irrelevant search results will get bad rankings in search results.
In addition, tailoring your keywords to your customers' searches improves their user experience. This will increase your chances of generating sales.
Therefore, it's a good idea to think about the type of search you want to target when you create SEO on your website.
Do you want to communicate and give good advice - and in this way create top-of-mind awareness with potential customers to equip them to buy from you when they are further along in the customer journey? Or do you want to convert your users into customers on their first visit to your website?
The answers to these questions determine whether your landing pages rank well for certain keywords - but also your conversion rate.
Because if you try to force a sale down the throats of users who are really just looking for information, they're very likely to leave your site again.
Conversely, are you trying to lecture 100% ready-to-buy users about a product they've researched from end to end - without offering them a solution to their needs? Then they're sure to click through to the next best web shop or contact form at your nearest competitor.
That's why you need to know the search intent behind your keywords - and not least adapt your content and landing pages accordingly.
In some cases, the search intent is quite obvious. Users googling 'white Air Force One in size 43' or ''Samsung Galaxy S21' are hardly interested in reading Wikipedia articles on rubber shoes or mobile phones.
Other keywords are more ambiguous. These are typically broader keywords, which can have both information-seeking and commercial-investigative motives behind them.
For example, take a keyword like 'dental technician' - who uses it? Are they users who need a dental technician? Or are they users who want to train as a dental technician?
Are they information-seeking or commercially investigative users? There are several ways to find out.
As mentioned, Google is frighteningly good at understanding users' search intent. Therefore, the first and simplest way to understand the search intent behind a keyword is simply to Google it - preferably in incognito mode, to avoid caching and search history giving misleading results.
Here I have googled 'dental technician'.
The first 5 search results all show informative pages describing the education as a dental technician. This suggests that Google is prioritising information-seeking searches over this otherwise somewhat ambiguous search.
If we scroll down further, dental technicians start to appear in the search results - in other words, these are search results that target commercial users who need a dental technician.
So Google is telling us that you might not get to the top of the search results by trying to hit commercially researched searches - but that you can easily get into the top 10 and thus onto page 1.
This gives us the following equation:
And you can try to hit more than one search intent.
On the other hand, are the search results almost or completely dominated by informative results? Then you probably shouldn't bet on being found on commercial results - and so on.
Still unsure about your users' search intent - or just want to dabble a bit more with SEO? Then tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush are your best friends (they require a subscription, which I highly recommend investing in if you want to work seriously with SEO).
Both platforms have really good keyword tools that can tell you about the questions related to specific search terms, among other things.
You may notice that the majority of questions related to the search term 'dental technician' are clearly information seeking.
And you can easily transfer that knowledge to other search terms. For example, try searching for the following search terms in either Ahrefs or SEMRush keyword tools, and assess whether they are information-seeking or commercial research.
If you've ever been involved in sales or marketing, you may have come across the term "customer journey". The term covers the "journey" your customers go through from initial need to purchase, and can be roughly divided into 4 stages:
The customer has become aware of a need and is beginning to research a solution or product that can meet the need.
The customer begins to consider the possibilities of getting his or her needs met.
The customer is ready to buy - and now just needs to be convinced that your company is the right one to do business with.
The customer has already bought a product or service from your company - but now needs to be convinced why they should buy from you again.
And what does that have to do with search intent?
As the astute reader may already have noticed: that the 4 stages of the buying journey correspond more or less to the 4 search intentions.
Or to put it another way - users in:
And why is this coincidence worth noticing?
Because your knowledge of the customer journey is an indispensable tool for targeting your landing pages and keywords precisely to your users' search intent.
Create landing pages for the awareness stage. For example:
In other words, you need to target users who may not be ready to buy yet - but who could be in the long term. For inspiration on how to reach users at the awareness stage, read my post on why it makes sense to write blog posts.
And no, you shouldn't expect a high conversion rate by targeting users at the awareness stage. On the other hand, you'll be top of mind on your visitors once they become more purchase-ready - and thus have generated you a potential customer.
Blog posts and guides are a good way to target information searches
Create landing pages for the consideration stage. For example:
In other words, you need to target users who know roughly what they want - but want to explore the options.
Create landing pages for the decision stage. For example:
In other words, you need to target customers who know exactly what product will meet their needs - but who just need to be convinced to buy from your company.
Create landing pages for the retention stage. For example:
In other words, you need to give your existing customers a reason to remain your customers.
Great - you've done your keyword analysis, mapped your keywords to different search intents and created landing pages with content that hits the right spots in the customer journey.
So now it's just a case of sitting back and resting on your laurels? No, not quite. SEO is a dynamic quantity, so you should constantly check whether your content is hitting the desired search intent right on the head - and optimise if it's not.
This is where Google's Search Console and Analytics tools can give you invaluable insight into how your users are interacting with your search results and landing pages.
In Analytics, for example, you can look at metrics like bounce rate and average session duration. A short session duration and a high bounce rate can be an indicator that your content does not meet the desired search intent.
On landing pages that target more commercial search intents, you can also look at conversion rates. If it's very low or zero, your content is most likely hitting the mark in terms of your users' search intent.
Finally, you can look at your click-through rate in Search Console. If it's very low, it also suggests that your meta-titles and meta-descriptions are out of sync with the search intent.
Whether you're a generalist or a marketing specialist, our SEO specialists have put together some great advice for you on our blog.
Learn more about SEO in Webamp Academy.