To get your page to the top of the search results, you need to create content that people are actually looking for. That’s why you need to consider search intent before you start writing. Google is getting better and better at guessing what people want or need when they type in their – sometimes cryptic – search terms. So, creating great content means focusing on the search intent of your potential audience. But, what is search intent again? And how do you take it into consideration while creating your content? This post is all about that!
What is search intent?
Let’s start with a quick refresher on the term ‘search intent’. The easiest way to explain it is to think about your own online searches. Whenever you type in a search term you also have a particular intent in mind right? Sometimes, you just want to find some information. Other times, you’re looking to research or buy a certain product right away. And don’t forget those times you enter a brand name because you don’t want to type out the site’s entire URL. We generally distinguish four types of searcher intent: informational, commercial, transactional and navigational. If this is new to you, quickly head over to our SEO basics article on search intent, that’ll make understanding this post a bit easier.
Knowing what search intent your visitor has when it comes to their online search can help you create the content that they’re looking for. Great intent-based content that will increase the chance of them visiting your site, staying on your site and clicking through to your different pages. So, what do Google’s search results have to do with finding out more about the search intent of your audience?
Google tries to predict a user’s intent
Search engines, such as Google, use data to interpret what the dominant intent of a search is. They want to present results that match user intent exactly. And looking at these results can help you understand and match the search intent people have when searching for a certain keyword or keyphrase. Of course, within the four main categories of user intent, there can still be a lot of variation in what a user is exactly looking for. Before we can use the results to create great content that matches search intent, we need to understand how Google tries to determine someone’s search intent:
Search terms with one dominant intent
Sometimes, a search term has one dominant interpretation. Those terms can be very straightforward, like [buy King Louie Betty dress] or [symptoms of diabetes]. For the first term, Google will mainly show pages offering that particular model of dress for sale, or similar dresses by that brand. For the second search term, the results will be filled with answer boxes and sites offering medical information.
But it doesn’t end there, because Google also understands the search intent behind terms that aren’t as literal. For example, whenever people all over the world enter [white house] as a search term, Google will understand that they’re probably not looking for information on painting their house white. They want to know something about the residence of the president of the United States, and search engines show results accordingly.
Search terms referring to several entities
In many cases, people use the same term to look for very different things. For example, take the search term [Mercury]. Some people will be looking for the planet, others for the element, even others for the Roman god of commerce, and a few might be looking for the lead singer of the band Queen. This one word can be used to describe several distinctly different things – also described as entities. The context makes clear which entity a word is referring to. It’s important to be aware of how this works in search engines, so we wrote a post about entities and semantics that can help you with that.
All these searches for the term [Mercury] might have an informational intent, but they’re not looking for the same thing. While it’s difficult – especially with just one word – search engines still try to figure out what their users really want when typing in their search term. So, if fewer people click the ‘mercury-element’ results than the ‘mercury-planet’ results, search engines will deduce that more people want information about the planet Mercury, and alter the results pages accordingly. If we take a look at the search results for the term [Mercury], we’ll see that most results relate to the planet. From that, we can conclude that it’s the dominant intent: most people who type in this term are looking for the planet.