It’s easy to come up with a big list of possible keywords to target on your website to attract search engine traffic. It’s a lot harder to narrow down that list to the money-making keywords. Understanding user search intent is crucial to fine-tuning your keyword list and creating content that addresses the search intent.
What Is User Search Intent?
The search intent is what the user wants to find or accomplish by typing their keyword into Google.
What Are the Different Types of Search Intent?
There are four types.
1. Informational searches
Informational searches are designed to help people learn. You’re conducting an informational search every time you Google a quick question to find the answer, when you want to try to figure out what your symptoms might mean, or when you go looking for new ways to get better results on the golf course.
2. Navigational searches
Navigational searches are just an attempt to get to a specific website. Someone Googling your brand name is just trying to find your page without having to remember the specific link.
3. Commercial searches
Commercial searches are the first step that consumers take before buying. They’re now researching products and services that might be available to them, or are trying to figure out which products could solve their particular problem.
4. Transactional searches
Transactional searches are the searches users make when they are ready to buy and want to get on with the business of doing so.
Obviously the latter two search intents are going to be the ones that matter most to your business. This doesn’t mean you’ll never try to target the other two keyword types, but it does mean you’ll have to remain aware of what every page on your website and every keyword you’re targeting is ultimately doing.
Determining the Search Intent of Your Keywords
How can you tell?
Google any word on your list. What comes up?
If your competitors are there, that’s a good sign. If you’re looking at a bunch of Wikipedia-style results that’s a good sign that you’re looking at an informational keyword rather than a commercial or transactional keyword.
If you’re going to target informational keywords you’ll generally want to stick to long-tail queries: the types of things that only your expertise can answer, vs. broad, general topics that are going to be dominated by dictionary-and-encyclopedia style results.
You don’t want to bother trying to rank for the term “bankruptcy,” because Google more or less interprets that term as “what is bankruptcy?” You’ll never rank for such a general term.
But if you want to put together some informational pages for the purpose of content marketing you can get a lot of mileage out of drilling down to the long tail. For example, when you get to “Chapter 13 budgets” you start seeing some law firms in the top spots.
Meanwhile, the transactional keyword “free bankruptcy consultation” brings up local search results. You can cluster a lot of content around this single keyword, all while getting customers to take the action you want them to take: i.e., scheduling said consultation.
Search Intent and SEO
Google now cares about search intent more than it cares about any other ranking factor. It wants to know that the pages it’s serving up to users are the exact pages they want at the exact moment they want them.
It’s not even possible to rank for some words when the search intent isn’t right. Even if the content is incredible. Even if you have hundreds of backlinks.
Have a page that’s underperforming? Re-evaluate the search intent of the keywords you’re targeting on that page. Retool the page to be a better match for that intent. You might be surprised by how fast your traffic shoots up.
We will help you with this of course. Ultimately we also want to make sure every new page we write for you is a good match for the search intent of the words we choose. All you have to do is understand why some words won’t be good opportunities for your business, and why that is the case.