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Understanding Search Intent for Effective Keyword Targeting

Have you ever asked someone a question and received an entirely unsatisfactory answer? Maybe their answer was too generic, confusing or there was some kind of misunderstanding that led them to an entirely unrelated topic. When you ask a question, you usually have some idea of the kind of answer you’re looking for. For example, if you ask “where did you get this cheese?” you probably want to know the name of a store. This idea of your ideal answer is search intent.


Sometimes called user intent, search intent breaks down to a simple concept: what are people looking for? And it’s important to Google because it is the search engine’s whole purpose—finding exactly what you’re looking for in 0.2 seconds. So, if you want to boost your Google ranking and end up at the top of results, you need content that speaks directly to the search intent of your chosen keyword.


There are three aspects of search intent to consider when you want to create content around a specific keyword:



The format should match the user’s intent.

If someone searches “Thriller by Michael Jackson” they’re probably not looking for a blog post about how the song rose to fame. They most likely want to watch the Thriller video and Google knows this, so it populates a plethora of YouTube videos at the top of the SERP. The type of content you create should match the user’s intent. Even if you find a keyword with a high search volume and low difficulty, if the format doesn’t match what you intend to create (blog, video, list, eBook, etc.), then you won’t likely see the return you were hoping for.



Answer the question posed by the user.

Your keyword might just be a word or phrase, but odds are it relates to a bigger question users are hoping to answer. The thing to remember here is that people have short attention spans. They won’t comb through 2,000 words and analyze your blog to find the information they need. So instead, you want to make sure the question is answered plainly in your blog post so Google can pull out the relevant information and show it to the user. This encourages them to visit your page because they know you have the information they want.



Supporting information should be relevant and engaging.

Short attention spans can create huge bounce rates if you don’t keep users engaged. So as you craft your content, answer the primary question first, then try to anticipate the next questions and provide those answers as well. This can captivate an audience, keep them on your page and boost your conversions because you’re continuing to provide value beyond (but related to) their initial search query.


You can even go so far as to consider specific audiences in various steps of the buyer’s journey. The more specific content you create, the more users you can reach in every stage of the sales funnel. When you’re speaking directly to your audience about their specific problem or mindset, you’re more likely to increase your conversions because you’ve delivered answers to their questions and solutions to their problems.


So to answer your question “Why is search intent important?”

  • You need the most relevant content to the query to rank in the top search results.
  • Bounce rates decrease when you deliver exactly what users are looking for.
  • Content that considers the buyer’s journey and next steps is more likely to increase conversions.



4 Common Types of Search Intent

A single keyword intent can easily fit into multiple search types, but to make things easier, there are four main categories of search intent. Understanding which category your user intent falls into can help you to better position your content by using helpful keyword modifiers and appropriate formats.



Informational Keywords

Most people using search engines will fall into this category of search intent. They’re looking for information, researching a question or trying to solve a problem. In a nutshell, it’s people performing research.

The most common queries for information search intent are “how to” and “what is” questions, such as “how to change a lightbulb” or “what is astrophysics?” Single keywords and generic phrases are popular in this category and leave you with a good bit of wiggle room to provide relevant supporting information. You could create educational blog posts, webinars, social media posts or any other type of content that matches the search format.

This type of search provides a unique opportunity to rank in the People Also Ask box, which can help boost your Google ranking as well. You can even optimize for featured snippets in your search results if you want to highlight a specific type of information by using keywords in your meta description.



Navigational Keywords

This category is typically composed of users who know what they want. They’re looking for a specific business or website, so they use branded keywords or very specific keywords. In this category, you might see more longtail keywords and lots of company names and business industries. This type of search intent has less opportunity to capture new users unless you fall into the specific category they’re searching for.



Commercial Investigation Search Queries

Users with this type of search intent are typically in the middle of their buyer journey. They are investigating products, brands or services before making a purchase. Depending on where they are in the sales funnel, they could be looking broadly at different options or have it narrowed down to one type of product or one brand that they want to buy from.

Specific keyword targets and detailed search phrases often work best to match this type of search intent. The more specific you can be, the easier it is to market to a specific audience that’s in the stage you want to address, such as awareness or consideration.



Transactional Keywords

When users are ready to make a purchase, they fall into the transactional search intent category. They aren’t searching for products or comparing specs anymore; they’re just trying to find a place where they can buy the product they’ve already decided on. This is where your buyer intent keywords come in—keywords users search when they’re ready to make a purchase.

Terms in these searches often include words like “price” and “cost” as users try to find the best deal. This type of search intent typically yields results like product pages, maps to locations, paid results or reviews. This is a category where you can gain organic traffic by optimizing your product, landing, and sales pages with relevant keywords to attract potential customers who have a buying mindset.



Creating content is a great way to capture organic traffic and increase your Google ranking, but you have to remember to meet the people where they are. Consider your buyer’s journey and craft content that speaks to their mindset and struggles in that section of the marketing funnel. When you optimize content to match specific user intents, you have a greater chance of increasing your CTRs, conversions and customers.


At VCOMP, we specialize in helping businesses optimize their SEO through practices just like this. If you’re interested in how we can help you, learn more about our SEO services and how we can help you match your content to search intent.

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