Good website SEO is about attracting the right traffic.
To do that you need to understand search intelligence and algorithms and meet the needs of your customer.
Balancing search intelligence and customer needs is called ‘search intent’.
And in this article I explain how you can use it to enhance your SEO and boost your marketing efforts.
What is search intent?
Search intent is the reason someone types a query into a search engine.
It’s their ‘Why?’
Why are they searching for weather reports?
Why are they searching for car insurance?
Why are they searching for unicorns pooping rainbows?
And everyone’s ‘Why?’ can be different.
Let’s use the ‘unicorns pooping rainbows’ query as an example (because it’s the most interesting and fun). Here are screenshots of the results I get.
These results show how varied someone’s ‘Why?’ could be.
They may be looking for a recipe to bake unicorn poop cookies, wanting to buy unicorn rainbow poop books, or needing information about the appearance of unicorn poop. (I don’t want to know why.)
There are four different types of search intent.
- Informational intent – Someone wants more information on a specific topic (e.g. ‘How do flowers grow?’).
- Navigational intent – Someone wants to find a specific website, most likely a brand or company name (e.g. ‘LinkedIn’, ‘Compass SEO guide’).
- Transactional intent – Someone is ready to buy and wants to be taken to a product or sales page (e.g. ‘Buy flowers’).
- Commercial investigation – Someone wanting to purchase soon is in the research phase (e.g. ‘Best flowers’, ‘eco florist near me’).
It’s Google’s job (in fact, it’s their mission) to understand the person’s ‘Why?’ and which search intent category their query falls into.
Understanding the intent means Google only returns the most relevant pages.
But here’s the catch: Google can only do this if the page has been optimized with search intent in mind.
Search intent influences SEO
As a business owner with a trillion and one things to do, why should you bother with search intent?
If you’ve done your SEO right you’ll have a solid list of keywords at the heart of your strategy.
But if you want to use them to their full potential and really rank for your core keywords, you need to learn the subtle differences in how people use these keywords depending on where they are in their user journey.
And so your challenge as an online business owner is to deliver those keywords in the right content at the right time.
In other words…
You need to align your content with what the person is searching for.
For example, there’s no point in getting a blog post to rank for ‘quick flower delivery’ when someone is ready to buy.
They’ll bounce right off the site. You’re better off optimizing a product page instead.
Similarly, there’s not much point in optimizing a product page for ‘fall flower arrangement ideas’ because anyone using that search term is more likely to be searching for information and inspiration.
Here’s what Rand Fishkin, SEO strategist and founder of SparkToro, wrote about search intent:
‘The point in the road where the interests of the search engine and the people cross is known as ‘searcher intent’. And when you understand searcher intent you can better tailor your marketing to suit what people are looking for.’
From a customer perspective, delivering the information they’re looking for establishes authority and helps build trust.
From an SEO perspective, optimizing for search intent makes Google happy, which means it will look favorably on your site and rank it accordingly.
Search intent and marketing
Search intent encourages you to consider the buyer journey.
Of course, understanding buyer touchpoints and creating marketing materials (which we call ‘content’ when done online) for each one is nothing new.
But it’s often forgotten about in digital marketing, where product and sales pages tend to be favored over informational content and brand awareness.
The easiest way to understand what content you need to deliver at each touchpoint in the buyer’s journey—and why you need to cover all bases—is to consider the sales funnel.
A crash-course in sales funnels (and how they relate to search intent)
A sales funnel has three parts: the top, the middle, and the bottom.
All potential customers start at the top, and by the time they reach the bottom they’re ready to buy, sign up or download your product or service.
Each search intent suits a different part of the funnel.
- Top of the funnel – Here they’re looking for information but aren’t ready to buy. Their search intent is to research a topic.
- Middle of the funnel – This is the consideration stage, where they’re using the information they’ve found to compare companies, products, or services and find the best one for them. Their search intent is likely to be commercial investigation.
- Bottom of the funnel – They’re ready to buy/sign up/download. Their search intent at this stage is transactional and possibly navigational.
Navigational search intent isn’t just a bottom-of-the-funnel thing.
It’s also a sign of brand loyalty.
Optimizing content for people searching for you by name helps repeat customers get to you faster.
Discovering your customer’s search intent and creating content
A well-optimized website delivers keyword-optimized content that suits each part of the funnel and delivers on the searcher’s intent.
Finding out what keywords to use for a page so it matches search intent can be as simple as typing your keyword(s) into search and looking at the results.
Is the content mainly informational, transactional, or something else?
You can then use this information to create a content marketing matrix that’s both relevant to your business and optimized for search.
Creating funnel-friendly content that’s optimized for search intent isn’t a five-minute job.
So if you want to attract more of the right traffic and meet your customers wherever they are in their sales journey, get in touch so we can talk about a possible strategy.