May 21, 2020

#FreeAdvice: Search Intent vs Keywords

What is search intent? Why is it so important and how can you optimize for it? Some keywords can have multiple meanings, show up for the right one.

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According to a Search Engine Journal article, in a May Google update, it was found that with search results that have multiple search intents or where the Google favored intent in the SERP was not explicit, weaker landing pages lost rank. This isn’t something new that happened, but it is becoming more and more prevalent. This just solidifies why search intent is so important and why the objective of each page should be very clear. 

For this reason, we decided to go back to the basics when it comes to search intent as a refresh.

What is Search Intent?

Search intent is the reason behind your keyword. What results were you expecting to find after you plugged the keyword into the search bar? For example, if I were to search for “peanut flour”, there could be a few different things I was hoping to find.

  • Where can I buy peanut flour?
  • What are some recipes that have peanut flour in them?
  • What is the nutritional value of peanut flour?
  • How is peanut flour different from regular flour?

There are four different kinds of search intent.

Informational – This is people looking for information about a certain topic. It could be in the form of a question or something as simple as “weather”. Be aware that Google has a sense of what kind of results people are looking for. For example, if someone searches for “tacos” Google will recognize that people probably want to find a restaurant to eat tacos and if someone searches for “how to make a birdhouse” videos are helpful.

Navigational – This is when people are looking to visit a certain website and either do not remember the exact URL or it is just easier to type it into the search bar. Search queries like “facebook”, “amazon” and “yahoo finance” are examples of this kind of intent.

Transnational – This is when people are looking to buy something. Terms like “buy”, “cheap” and “coupon” might be accompanied by the thing they are looking to purchase.

Commercial Investigation – These are users that are not yet ready to buy but are in the beginning stages. People might be searching for different kinds of item models, the “best” of something or looking for reviews.

Why Does Search Intent Matter?

Google wants to bring the most relevant content possible to its users. Their job is to organize the vast amount of information and put the most relevant, accurate and valuable information at the top of their search results. If you are not providing users with what they are intending on finding, you can get lost in these results.

How Can You Optimize for Search Intent?

  1. Check the SERP history of your keyword. Say you want to learn about rock music. Here we took a look at “rock”. You can see that Google is very confused. Rock and roll, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, how to make a rock? This graph shows that there has been lots of rank change throughout the past 6 months for this term. 

So say we were interested in “rock music” and got a little more specific with the term “rock and roll”. Unfortunately, you can see that music is ever evolving and so are the rankings for this keyword.

Now getting SUPER specific with “rock music genre” is probably your best bet. 

  1. Make sure your content matches what people are looking for. If you want to show up for “buy a blue dress” you probably aren’t going to write a blog post. If someone wants to know “how to make spaghetti” maybe a how-to video is best. If it is a topic that remains mostly consistent, a static landing page would be best.
  2. Finally, see what else Google is giving you. What are the questions in the “People Also Ask”? Study the top ranking pages, what are they doing, how is their content structured. 

Keep in Mind

1. It is always changing

Search intent changes just like fashion and fads. Current events can give topics a new meaning such as “corona”. It is always important to revisit the objectives of your pages to make sure nothing has changed.

2. Google does not always get it right

Google may be a very powerful robot, but it can not read minds. If Google is having a hard time determining what people want, it may be best not to use the keyword. Try a more descriptive term.


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