Search intent, also known as audience or user intent, is defined as the purpose of a user’s search.
With Google Hummingbird, Google RankBrain, and BERT algorithm adjustments, the search engine can interpret search intent and display results that meet that search intent, often through rich snippet results like the Answer Box and Knowledge Panel.
Keyword intent can also describe keywords used by potential customers and leads at various stages of the conversion funnel. Since people look for, process, and use search results differently based on their ultimate goal, understanding and optimizing for search intent is hugely important for SEO.
Now that you know why search intent matters for SEO, it’s time to start optimizing for it.
The first step is to understand the different types of search intent. There are four types of search intents you must take into consideration.
Informational searches are the most common type of searches that users conduct. The basis of these search queries is to learn about a certain subject or topic. These search queries have the largest search volume because people constantly look for information.
These searches occur in the discovery phase of searching. People are looking for content-rich pages that provide them with answers to their questions. These pages are expected to be easy to skim so users can get the important information quickly.
When users conduct navigational searches, they are looking for a desired page or website. These users know which company or brand they seek, but need help getting to a specific product or service page.
Users typically search with the brand name in their query, along with the product. For instance, someone may search “Keurig coffee makers at Target.” They know they want a Keurig coffee maker, and they know they want it from Target, they just want to navigate to a page with Keurig coffee makers to find the right one.
When you look at the search results for navigational searches, the search engine results pages (SERPs) focus on home pages and product pages for specific websites.
Transactional searches have the most commercial intent. People use phrases like “price” or “sale” because they’re ready to buy. People will specifically search for products and attach these keywords to find the product that fits their query best.
The SERPs are typically commercial pages, which include product and subscription pages. You’ll rarely ever see informational pages, as these users are beyond the research stage and ready to convert.
Commercial searches are a mix of informational and transactional searches. These are informational searches that have transactional intent. People want to make a purchase, but they are looking for information to help guide them to the right product.
SEO Benefits of Intent Targeting
Search intent is a huge part of how semantic SEO delivers more relevant search results to users—so better intent optimization results in more relevant and qualified traffic to your website.
This means improved conversion rates for your transactional landing pages, but will also result in boosts to informational pages as well:
- Reduced bounce rates: people are actually getting what they want, so they stay on your pages.
- More page views: Meeting a user’s intent makes them more likely to engage with the rest of your website.
- More answer boxes: Having your content selected for Google’s featured snippets can be a great benefit. It allows your pages to rank in position 0 above the first search result.
- Wider audience reach: One of the great things about intent optimization is that Google is smart enough to interpret multiple queries as having the same topic and intent. That means it will show your intent-optimized page for a lot more queries.