Have you ever gone onto Google and thought ‘let me just type in some accurate keywords’?
Have you ever searched the web for a specific meta description that accurately met your query?
I’m guessing no.
Why not? Because you’re a human.
This might surprise you, but we human beings think differently to search engines. For one thing, we humans don’t catalog every single piece of information we come across in a database. Instead, we tend to think with intent. We have a purpose behind what we’re searching for, and we use the Google search engine to help us fulfill that intent.
What does search intent mean?
About a year ago, Google began figuring out that humans don’t think in single words. We think in questions.
For example, let’s say you live in Orange County, California and you’re considering doing some SEO for your company. You might have a few questions in your head. Questions such as:
‘What are the best SEO agencies in Orange County?’
‘Where are SEO agencies located in Orange County?’
‘How much does it cost to work with an SEO agency?’
Of course, you don’t type any of these questions; you just type the words ‘SEO agency Orange County’.
The Google algorithm today knows that just by typing those four words that you have a specific intent. And it will serve up search results that are location specific and rank the best reviewed SEO agencies.
The four types of search intent
In fact, Google today is smart enough to know that there are four types of search intent. Sometimes it’s known as ‘keyword intent’ or ‘intent-based search.’ Basically, it’s figuring out why you’re typing in words, rather than just searching for the words themselves.
Here are the four kinds of search intents that people have when they search online.
Informational Search Intent:
This searcher has a question that clarifies an uncertainty. These queries will usually start with ‘how to’, ‘what is’, ‘why do’, etc.
Navigational Search Intent:
This searcher wants to know a location and possibly the directions to get there.
Commercial Search Intent:
This searcher has a product or service purchase in mind, and the search helps them make a decision.
Transactional Search Intent:
This searcher is either wanting to make a purchase or complete a specific task (e.g. register for an event)
As you can see, each search can have more than one type of search intent. You might want to buy something, and also know the location where you can buy it. This double intent helps Google to give you map results on the right of the screen as well as the top ranking results on the left for organic results for that product.
How to use search intent to improve your SERPs
If you want to be on the first page of Google for your business, then you need to be aware of the type of search intent your clients have.
Do your potential customers ask a lot of specific questions before they buy? If so, then you need to be targeting the informational intent.
Do your customers know your products already and are looking for a local place to buy? If so, then you should ensure your map listings and google reviews are up to date.
Do your customers want to order online? Offer them a clear way to reach your products and a shopping cart through your ecommerce site.
Ideally, start with the most common intent your customers typically have, and build from there. It is ok to focus on more than one type of search intent, but do it on different pages.The temptation to make your website fit every intent means that the search engines can’t determine what makes your site valuable.
These might seem like simple ideas, but it’s very easy to miss the intent of your customers. Although humans know what they want when they search, the search engines still need to categorize by intent.
If you can match your website to meet these intents, this puts you well ahead of the competition.