keyword intent How Keyword Intent Underpins SEO

When we talk to clients and prospective clients about search engine optimisation, it’s not long before we see them become laser focused on the search rankings in general; often to the detriment of all the other signals out there.

Now rankings are very important but they’re only one part of the jigsaw puzzle, especially when we factor in keyword intent.

What is keyword intent, I hear you ask? 

Well I’m glad you asked…

Interpreting search result pages

Keyword intent (also referred to as search intent) is the actual intention behind a keyword or phrase that’s typed into Google. In other words, what the searcher is looking for and, by definition, where they are in the buying cycle (or if they’re even remotely interested in your products or services in the first place).

Keyword intent tends to be broken down into three broad areas:

  • Informational – these are searches where the user is looking for educational content on a given topic or a solution to a specific problem. We call this ‘top of the funnel’ traffic and generally speaking we create blogs or purpose made guides to attract this content.
    • Example: “how to fit a carpet?”

Most people who make informational search queries are not quite ready to convert. However, just because such searchers won’t immediately be subscribing to your service or buying your product doesn’t mean they’re not worth targeting.

Creating content for informational intent is one way of raising awareness for your business. 

When you provide valuable information through your content, you demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, which Google values highly in its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines

From a user perspective, searchers who find your website through the useful informational content you create will want to keep coming back for more info. Their repeated visits will then increase the odds of a conversion. 

  • Investigative – these are searchers that are looking to compare or contrast various solutions to a problem. These searches often return “best of” or “top ten” or other “listicle” related content. This traffic is towards the middle of the marketing funnel.
    • Example: “what to look for in a carpet fitter”

Investigative intent searches are prime opportunities to nudge searchers towards conversions. They are already in the market for a product or service, but they just need more data to help them decide.

In a sense, investigative search queries are both informational and transactional. Searchers are looking for information to make the right transaction. 

The content you create for such searches has the same benefits as informational content; you establish credibility in the field when you present helpful facts and well-reasoned thoughts on the items searchers are comparing and contrasting. 

  • Transactional – these are the searches where the intent is clearly about purchasing or acquiring something and tend to return what we like to refer as your “money pages”. These are searchers towards the bottom of the marketing funnel.
    • Example: “carpet fitting service Bristol”

Searchers with transactional intent tend to be specific about what they’re looking for, including brand terms and locations in their search terms. They still want to get the best deal possible, so they also sometimes include words like “sale” or “price” 

Transactional searches are all about conversions, so it’s no longer necessary to write long-form content educating searchers on how the product or service they’ve already done their research on works. 

Searchers are already willing to spend; your transactional pages just need to focus on serving up the product or service that people googled. A clear call-to-action is key here, with the whole process of finalising the transaction made as smooth as possible. 

Why does keyword intent matter? 

It drives your content strategy — Understanding what searchers actually want from the keywords they use allows you to tailor the content on your website to the desires of your target audience. 

If you know that your audience is looking for information on smart heating systems and you install them, then it’s unlikely you’ll get anywhere by pushing them to your service pages. Instead creating content with step-by-step guides that carefully walk them through the process will far more likely get you this traffic than trying to make your service pages capture all of it.

Studying keyword intent lets you create specific pieces of content that caters to where searchers are in the sales funnel. You can build content that targets searchers who aren’t aware of your brand, as well as searchers who are primed to make a purchase.

It captures leads — Searchers who discover your website through a whole ton of content that matches their informational search intent are all potential leads. 

By always giving searchers the relevant information they are looking for, sometimes before they even know they’re in the market for your product, they are far less likely to go elsewhere when they do come to make a purchase. And the longer they stay on your website, the higher the chance you can turn them into a customer.

It builds your brand — Consistently providing relevant information to searchers helps build your website’s reputation as an authority on whatever subject you are making content for. 

Answering questions and addressing needs with content that people find helpful, insightful, or just valuable in general will make your website a trusted source of information. This trust can then extend to everything else your brand has to offer. 

People will be more likely to spend time on your site, try out your products and services, and become more familiar with your brand.

It boosts your rankings — Google cares about search intent as serving up content in its search engine results pages (SERPs) that matches what the user is looking for, as it’s paramount to it providing a good service. 

So if Google cares about it then so do SEOs. 

If Google sees that a searcher who clicked on a search result stays on that web page instead of leaving immediately, that’s a positive signal that the web page provides content that is relevant to the searcher. Google wants its users to find the content they’re looking for, so it rewards web pages that provide that content with higher rankings on the SERPs. 

Conversely, if the content doesn’t match what users are looking for, which Google can tell through a low click-through rate and/or high bounce rate among other factors, the web page gets bumped further down the SERPs.

What is SERP intent?

Our friend Ryan Stewart of Webris in the US, has gone one step further and identified another aspect to this process, which he calls “SERP intent”. This is not the intention of the user, but rather how Google interprets that keyword as defined by what it returns in the search results. You can read more about this on his website by clicking the link above.

One example Ryan gives to illustrate the concept is with the search query “cheap protein powder”. 

The keyword intent isn’t so cut and dry, as searchers could either be researching protein powder brands with a budget option, or they could already be looking to buy protein powder for a good deal. Could be informational, could be transactional.

The SERP intent showcases how both can be true. 

By checking the search results, you can see links to big e-commerce sites selling cheap protein powder and smaller sites reviewing cheap protein powder. Google interprets “cheap protein powder” as both an informational and transactional search query.

Depending on the size and authority of a site, it could either optimise its money pages that offer cheap protein powder if it’s an established retailer, or it could focus on creating informational content weighing the pros and cons of cheap protein powder.

It takes a bit more work to analyse the SERPs and discern patterns, but it’s well worth the effort to break down what searchers intend in comparison to how Google understands searchers’ intentions. 

Doing so allows you to laser focus your content creation tactics for certain keywords.

We can help you find the intent behind your keywords

I like to think of keyword intent as the third dimension in any SEO strategy. Whilst you can create a very detailed 2D plan by researching and analysing all the related keywords in your industry, it’s only when we categorise them by search intent, can we bring that model to life and begin to understand how these keywords fit together in your SEO. 

Should you be optimising one of your ‘money pages’ for a given keyword, or building more informational content like blogs and guides to attract this traffic? Understanding keyword intent will tell you this.

A load of new traffic to your site is pointless, if its intent is completely mismatched with the content you’re serving up. Ultimately this mismatch will hamper your SEO strategy and prohibit you from achieving your website’s potential. 

I’ve only brushed the surface of how keyword intent works here, but as you can see, it’s intrinsic to the success of your SEO strategy. Our free SEO forecaster tool will teach you more about keyword intent and show you how to identify all those really juicy transactional keywords, whilst outlining what kind of revenue you could be seeing by ranking for them.

Or if you’d like to talk to us directly, why not book a strategy call today.