Understanding Search Intent

Search engines contain incomprehensibly vast quantities of data, information, and images.

Search engines contain incomprehensibly vast quantities of data, information, and images. When users conduct searches, it is ideal for your website to appear in the top results. This requires your website to contain the information, products or content which users are searching for online. Especially considering that search intent is key to attracting an online audience and maintaining a high rank in Google’s SERPs (search engine results pages).

What is search intent?

Search intent refers to the intention behind a query. The words chosen or specific phrasing of a query are considered and analysed by Google’s algorithm. The algorithm then assesses its index, and produces a ranked series of SERPs based on a multitude of factors. The intent will influence which factors the search engine prioritises, for example, if you were to search “local baked goods”, the word “local” would specify to Google that proximity and location are priorities for this search. If you were to search a more ambiguous query, such as simply “baked goods”, Google may refer you to a mixture of results, such as the literal definition, a list of items that fall under the category of baked goods, and recipes for homemade baked goods.

How does search intent impact SEO?

Understanding audience intent can aid you as a business in your decision-making. People use search engines for a number of reasons, from requiring advice and educational content, to interest in inspirational, visually appealing images. Hosting a variety of content on your website, appropriately positioned and rich in keywords, is crucial to drawing in readers and customers. If you understand what your audience is being drawn to and the intent behind their searches, you can then focus and optimise your content to increase the flow of traffic to your website.

Keywords can be very telling in a user’s search intent. Using words such as “discount”, “buy” or a specific product name can help to refine the intent behind a query. If the query is for information, “how to”, “where can I find”, “why does” or “best way to” will all display very different search results as they each have different requests behind them. For example, “how to” will likely display practical guiding content with a variety of text, images and videos. “Where can I find” may provide results based on geographical location depending on what the user is specifically looking for. Whether this is a restaurant, a place to purchase a specific item or the location of a monument or historic site, the location is the key factor in this search. “Why does” is likely a request for educational content, whereas “best way to” is seeking practical information, similar to searching “how to” but this search query may result in online advice and forums as well as practical visual and textual information.

Commercial vs Personal Intent

There are several types of search intent, but overall they all fall into two categories: commercial
or personal search intent.

Personal Intent

Personal search intent refers to informational and navigational search intent. The internet is a popular location for people to search for information. There is such a wide variety of educational content online, but as with everything the phrasing and keywords used within a search significantly impact the results which will appear in the SERPS. Google has developed its algorithms to have a refined understanding of users’ search intent. For example, if a user were to search “soup” Google will likely understand that the user is likely more interested in recipes, or purchasable soups than information on the history of soup. If the user were also to search for information on DIY, Google provides a variety of videos and images as well as written educational content to aid the users.

Navigational search intent refers to the search for a specific website. If a user is looking for a specific website, such as a specific social media platform like Twitter or Facebook, the search engine will try to display the closest match to the specific website or company name the user has queried. It would be ideal to ensure that your website is the first result to appear if users were to search for the name of your company or website.

Commercial Intent

Commercial intent is a query reflective of the user’s intent to purchase or engage in a transaction. Transactional Intent refers to users who are actively looking to purchase a product or service. It is common that users know what they wish to purchase when they search for it, so if your product or service is what the user would like to purchase it is vital that your webpage be easy to find online. Your product may be perfect, but if it is difficult to find, you will likely lose customers.

Commercial investigative intent is also common, where a user may wish to buy a product and decide to research which specific item they would like to buy. For example, the user would like to purchase a shower. There are many shapes, sizes and colours of showers online for the user to browse. Although this also counts as transactional intent, commercial investigative intent involves a level of persuasion as the user is deciding between a selection of items.

How the product is presented online, how easy it is to find, presentation and positioning of the image and accompanying text all factor into whether a user may be interested in your specific item. Furthermore, your choices of keywords and image positioning impact your SEO overall.

How to understand a users search intent

Understanding and utilising search intent can be beneficial in a number of ways, but how can you access this information?

Google Search Console can provide you with this information. Under “Performance”, click “Search results” on the left-hand side to view your top-performing queries for the past 3 months. The timeframe and parameters can also be altered to provide you with further information, including specific queries and impressions and how many clicks they received. If a specific query interests you, you can select it or enter the keyword manually to gain more detailed data on this query. It is also possible to identify which pages a query was found on by selecting the query and selecting the “Pages” tab. Alternatively, searching individual pages of your website and analysing the query’s attracting users is another option.

An alternative method to harnessing to Google Search Console is by creating a pop-up survey for your website. This may help you to directly learn from your audience how they found your page or product and what they had been looking for specifically. This survey must be short and concise though to ensure it does not impact the user’s experience with your website negatively. Although uncovering information on a user’s specific search intent would be beneficial, maintaining a positive association and relationship with users and readers is the priority overall.

Ensure that your website contains a variety of content and that the content on your website is optimised for both search intent and is reflective of your audience. If you would like to have a discussion about this topic or how we can help you, get in contact and we would be happy to have a commitment-free conversation.