It’s tempting for SEO beginners to simplify by finding a set of popular phrases and haphazardly implementing them into their content. However, good optimization doesn’t come from merely attempting to game Google’s algorithms but from a place of empathy for your target audience. Your SEO efforts, from keyword research to content creation to on-page optimization, should not be about stuffing popular keywords into your content. Instead, you need to identify how your target audience is trying to find what they are looking for, and each of your pages should fulfill the specific desires of its visitors. This is what turns clicks and impressions into conversions for your business or website, and thus where the idea of search intent becomes essential.

Searcher Intent and SEO Website Marketing

Before you start planning to create or optimize your site’s content, you need to find out what your clients’ driving needs are and target them accordingly–or avoid phrases that won’t help your organization. For example, say you sell shoes. In your keyword research you might see the phrase “Leather Sneakers” has a high search volume, but if you specialize in a brand like Allbirds or Everlane (who avoid using leather), targeting it may not be a wise choice for your online shoe store. Or, you might decide that you need to create custom content to target it, such as a blog post discussing how alternative materials might be a better choice (as well as more environmentally friendly). 

Deciding if a potential keyword is appropriate for your content may require that you do some research on your Google competitors. An easy way to test if a particular keyword is relevant to your business or service is to give it a quick search in an incognito window. If no competitors or sites similar to your own appear in the results, the phrase might not be worth optimizing for.  Remember to look beyond just the standard search results and consider “People Also Asked” and other rich snippets to understand how Google thinks about the type of intent a searcher typically brings to a query. An understanding of the different types of intent are extremely important for your research.

Search queries can be roughly divided into three categories by intent: navigational, informational, and transactional. (In their quality rater guidelines, Google uses four classifications analogous to these terms: Go, Know, and Website/Visit-in-person, respectively.) Navigational queries are generally used to find a specific webpage, informational phrases help users find information on a given topic, and transactional queries are those where the user is looking to complete a specific online task. Navigational phrases are generally more challenging to optimize for because the user is already searching for a particular, highly-ranked site without much viable competition. Informational and transactional queries will be useful for capturing visitors who do not know about your site or business. However, many queries do not rigidly fall into one kind of intent. Taking note of which type of site appears in the results for a possible keyword will help you understand which of these categories it applies to insofar as Google understands it. Even content designed to inform users needs to provide visitors with a way to directly interact with your business.

Your content needs to be informative, high-quality, and relevant to the intent of the visitor. Users are unlikely to stay on a page cluttered with ads or whose main content is formatted in a single block of text, regardless of how well the page helps them find what they’re looking for. Creating focused, original content that meets Google’s E-E-A-T standards is an excellent foundation, and your pages should provide a properly formatted exploration of a given topic. Keep the scope of your content focused and aim for depth instead of breadth. However, you must also convince a potential customer that you understand their wants or fears and can provide them with the best option for fulfilling their needs. You must go beyond mentioning the benefits of your product and explain why they are useful for a particular visitor. Listing the perks of a particular sports ticket program or floor polish will not help you as much as knowing why a customer wants those things in the first place.

 Lastly, your pages need to encourage users to act on their intent and give them the tools to do so. You should provide a call to action (or CTA) relevant to the needs of the visitor. This is a statement that speaks to the intent of a visitor and urges them to fulfill their specific need. These range from “Open a Checking Account” to “Learn Which Ford Model is Right for You.” Headlines, meta titles, and descriptions are all ideal places to insert a CTA. Your page needs to provide easy access to your particular transactional activity, whether to contact your business or find a shopping page for your product. This could appear on the page itself or (more commonly) in the form of an internal link. 

Search Engine Academy gives you the tools to understand and connect with your audience. We provide courses and lessons on how to best identify search intent and implement that knowledge in your website. Learn more about our SEO training options here.