2020 is just around the corner. As we enter the fast-paced holiday shopping season, brands are looking for any competitive edge. At the height of holiday ad preparations, brands are looking for effective, low-cost alternatives to PPC. 

If you want to edge out competitors not just during the holiday season, but all year round, your brand needs to invest in SEO. But that doesn’t mean you should invest in a bland list of keywords. Instead, focus on what really matters for SEO: search intent. 

What is Search Intent? 

Search intent is the “why” behind a search query. Every time someone looks for information on Google, there’s a reason behind it. That’s the search intent: the purpose of a user’s search. 

Search intent has always been part of SEO, but its true importance has been corrupted by strict adherence to a spammy, keyword-first approach. Keywords are important for search intent, but only because these keywords hint at what a user is trying to do. 

Thanks to advancements in search engine algorithms, search engines can deliver uber-relevant search results to users by approximating intent. 

The 4 Types of Search Intent

But not all types of search intent are the same. Every user is a unique human looking for something different. It’s your responsibility as an advertiser to understand the 4 types of search intent and how you can cater to each.

1. Informational 

80% of all Google searches are informational. These are queries where people want to know the who, what, where, how, and why to anything in life. These queries are very generalized and question-oriented. Common informational keywords could be “how do taxes work?” or “who was John Wilkes Booth?”

2. Navigational 

Navigational searches are surprisingly common. This is what happens when users want to navigate to a particular website from a search engine, but don’t know the website URL. These people will search for the keyword “CNN” in Google to find CNN.com instead of visiting the URL directly. 

Someone searching a map on their phone

3. Commercial investigation 

Online reviews affect 93% of customers’ purchasing decisions. It’s no surprise that most customers conduct commercial investigation queries before they buy something. Commercial investigation happens when customers are ready to make a purchase, but need to choose the best option. They’re researching the best appliances and reviews on their soon-to-be new car before taking the plunge. You’ll see keywords like “Chuck’s Pizza vs Domino’s Pizza” and “Bic ballpoint pen reviews” from these users. 

4. Transactional 

The fourth type of search intent is the holy grail for businesses: transactional. Transactional intent is when someone is in the middle of buying something. By this point, they’ve done their research and know the specific item they want to buy. You’ll see keywords like “buy Apple iPad online” for transactional users. 

Why Does Search Intent Matter? 

Why do we even bother with these 4 types of search intent? Isn’t it enough to add keywords to our content without thinking about intent? 

The answer is no. Intent has 3 effects on your business, all of which affect the bottom line. 

1. Give the people what they want 

Search intent is important because it helps brands give users what they want. By writing content on your site that focuses on intent-rich keywords, you’re able to funnel customers through to the right content at the right time. 

Most of your customers don’t want an aggressive sales pitch at the start. Search intent is a tool that helps you see where you can build a relationship with consumers before pushing for conversions. 

2. Google cares about search intent 

If Google cares about something, you need to care about it, too. If you want to show up on the first page of the SERP, you need to go by Google’s playbook. And they’re telling brands to optimize not for a list of keywords, but for user intent. 

Google is saying that intent is the future of SEO. That means it’s time for your brand to get on board and start optimizing for intent first. 

3. Happy users 

In addition to showing the right content at the right time and aligning with Google, search intent keeps your users happy. When you focus on intent, it means more users will find your site through organic SEO. As Google notices users on your site, it increases your SEO rank, improving organic traffic even more. 

Search intent is the key ingredient for better conversion rates, lower bounce rates, and an engaged user base. It’s also a must if you want to score a Featured Snippet. 

3 ways to master search intent

Search intent isn’t easy to master. It’s still largely a manual process that requires research, a knowledge of SEO best practices, and a dash of creativity. Follow these 3 steps to master search intent, rising through the search engine ranks and delighting customers along the way. 

1. Map out your buyer’s journey 

Search intent is most useful when you map it to the buyer’s journey. Through every funnel stage (Awareness, Consideration, Decision), you should prioritize search intent to deliver what users need, when they need it. 

Let’s map these funnel stages to each type of search intent. This will come in handy when it’s time to choose keywords or write content tailored to each funnel stage. 

  • Awareness stage: Informational intent and navigational intent. This makes sense because users are looking for high-level information about your brand. 
  • Consideration stage: Commercial investigation. Users are now aware of your product and do research to see how it compares against other solutions. 
  • Decision stage: Transactional intent. Users at this stage are ready to buy, so they’re searching for purchase-centric content. 

The reason we do this is so we can choose keywords and content that align with each stage and type of intent. You can avoid low-ROI faux pas, like displaying “buy now” ads to users who have never even heard of you before. This is an easy way to make intent second nature to your SEO and content marketing team. 

2. Choose intent-rich keywords 

Once you’ve mapped your buyer’s journey, it’s time to choose keywords that are appropriate for every stage of the journey. 

Choose the right keywords for each type of intent:

  • Informational and navigational: Keywords for what, how, or when are popular here. Users want definitions and meaning here. 
  • Commercial investigation: Users want to see comparisons and reviews right now. Target keywords comparing your brand against competitors, answering FAQ, or displaying reviews. 
  • Transactional: Whip out your high-intent, long-tail keywords here. Phrases like “near me” and “buy now” are popular for transactional intent. 

As you go down the funnel, the keywords will get more specific and long-tail. That’s why top-of-funnel marketing can be more challenging. However, since 80% of all Google searches happen for the top of the funnel, this still needs to be your priority, even if it’s more difficult. 

3. Optimize your content 

Once you’ve chosen your keywords, it’s time to optimize your website for these keywords. You should display a different type of content depending on the user’s intent. For example, blogs are popular for informational users while product pages are popular for transactional users. 

No matter what, you always want to drop your stage-specific keywords into content tailored to every type of intent. So drop in your Awareness keywords on blog posts to target information-seekers or optimize webinar landing pages for Consideration stage users.

The Bottom Line

Unless you have a magic crystal ball, the best way to understand the mind of your search engine traffic is to study intent. Instead of taking a dogmatic, keyword-first approach to SEO, focus on user intent. The traffic will come when you prioritize people’s needs first. 

Of course, it’s impossible to be a mind reader; you won’t be able to see the intent behind every single query. If you’re having a hard time sussing out user intent or how to apply it to your campaigns, give Logical Media Group a ring.

Chris O'Neill

Chris O'Neill

CEO at Logical Media Group

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