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What Is Search Intent and Why Is It Important?

Oct 27, 2023

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When it comes to search engine optimisation (SEO), understanding search intent is paramount. It’s not just about analysing the words and phrases users key into search engines. It’s about digging deeper to clarify the motivation and rationale behind these searches.

By understanding this underlying intent, you can craft content that aligns more closely with what users are genuinely seeking. This strategic alignment elevates your SEO performance and enhances the user experience, making your content more engaging and relevant to their needs. In essence, optimising for search intent provides a dual advantage. It bolsters your visibility in search results and ensures that visitors find value in the content you present, fostering a better user experience.


What Is Search Intent?

So, what is search intent? In short, when people enter a search query into a search engine like Google, they will generally have a specific purpose in mind. This is search intent, also known as user intent or query intent.

If they are online shopping, for example, they might be looking for a specific product to compare prices or make a purchase. So, if they are not as far down the sales funnel, they might seek inspiration or a more general product guide. They may want to find the answer to their question, research specific information or fulfil some other purpose.

If someone searches for ‘best air fryers’, for example, they are not looking to navigate to a specific product or page. They are not looking to make a purchase (yet) but are more likely to be in the research stage, where they are comparing features and prices.

Some common types of user intent that are relevant to businesses include:

  • Informational intent

The user is searching for some specific information, such as finding out what an air fryer is and how it works. Keywords and queries could include ‘new films 2023’ or ‘What is search intent in SEO?’

  • Navigational intent

Looking for a specific page, such as the login page for their bank or the website of a particular organisation. Examples could include ‘Gmail log in’ or ‘HSBC home’.

  • Commercial intent

The user may be interested in purchasing but may also still be in the research stage. Keywords could include ‘best coffee makers’ or ‘cheap laptops’.

  • Transactional intent

The user wants to carry out a transaction, which usually (though not always) means making a purchase. Examples could include ‘Fiat 500 Nottingham’ or ‘Norton free trial’.

The Significance of Search Intent in SEO

Search engines have evolved a lot since the earliest days of the Internet. Conventional search engines initially ranked results by literally counting how many times the search terms appeared on the page. This led to early optimisation strategies like keyword stuffing, which could result in pages that were not always valuable, relevant or particularly high quality performing well for given keywords.

Google pioneered using more complex algorithms that took other factors, such as backlinks and authority, into account. Google and other major search engines also started considering the context of the words typed into the search box.

Google aims to ‘organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’. A big part of this is presenting results that are relevant to the query made by the user, and this requires a keen grasp of search or user intent.

If the user wants to learn more about how air fryers work but is presented with a list of models for sale, that is not the relevant and valuable information they are looking for at that particular time. Similarly, if they want to make a purchase, they don’t need an in-depth explanation of how convection currents work.

The role of search intent in SEO is linked to this key theme of relevance. It is important to try to make sure that your content, as well as the keywords you target on your post or page is relevant to the search intent of your audiences. Writing appropriate, relevant content and targeting keywords with the right search intent helps Google and other search engines to rank pages more accurately and present the most relevant and valuable pages for their users.

Implications for User Experience

The importance of aligning content with user intent goes beyond pure SEO considerations. Modern search engines have evolved to recognise and reward content that aligns with user intent. This means that understanding and addressing search intent will give a boost to your SEO, but it also means that people landing on your pages and posts via search engine result pages will find content that is relevant to their search.

This can lead to positive impacts like longer page dwell time, reduced bounce rates and increased conversions. SEO is largely about increasing traffic, but there is limited value in such traffic if visitors leave immediately because the content they find is irrelevant to the intent of their search.

Ensuring that your content is finely tuned to match search intent can significantly improve user experience, giving you a competitive edge in the process.

Strategies to Determine and Address Search Intent

Understanding search intent is important, but you also need to develop practical strategies to allow you to determine and address these issues within your content and online marketing.

In some cases, this can be tricky because some queries may overlap in their intent – someone just searching for ‘air fryers’, for example, could be doing a search with informational, commercial or even transactional intent. Some search terms provide more context, and it is easier to tailor content for search terms that include more information, such as ‘What is an air fryer?’ or ‘Best air fryers’.

Some things you can do to help determine and address user intent include:

  • Research popular keywords and phrases related to your topic, using tools such as Google Keyword Planner or Ubersuggest.
  • Look at the top-ranking pages for these keywords and determine what type of content they are and the search intent behind them.
  • Use different types of content, such as properly labelled videos and images alongside keywords, to demonstrate relevance to search intent.
  • Use tools like Semrush, which has incorporated search intent features.

Need Help With Your SEO? Get in Touch Today

It can sometimes be easy to grasp basic SEO concepts but trickier and more time-consuming to implement them effectively.

Maxweb Solutions has a wealth of experience in every aspect of SEO, including determining and addressing search intent. Get in touch today to find out how we can help you boost your SEO and ensure that visitors find valuable, relevant content that improves user experience.

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