How To Use Search Intent For Your Business
Optimising for search intent is a crucial part of any website marketing campaign. With 50% of all search queries featuring four words or more, users are becoming far more specific about what they’re looking for. Through search intent, marketers can better capture wider audiences, boost brand awareness, encourage new conversions for the business and even reduce the overall bounce rate of the website. However, with more than 3.5 billion taking place per day on Google alone, capturing this search intent requires carefully-designed strategies for your website and marketing campaigns.
By gaining a full understanding of the types of search intent, webmasters can better determine which their customers are more likely to be looking for. A few small changes in wording can change the intent considerably and with Google’s increasing focus on relevant and in-depth content, not least due to the recent broad core algorithm update, it’s more important than ever to target your content. At Absolute Digital Media, we’re taking a closer look at how to use search intent for your business to give your online presence a boost.
What Is Search Intent?
When any user visits a search engine, they do so with a purpose or goal that they’re looking to reach through the search. This is referred to as search intent and comes into play across all search engines, whether that’s Google, Bing, Yahoo or DuckDuckGo. When users input queries into any search engine, they’ll do so with one of four main purposes: to learn something, to buy/do something, to not buy something, or to navigate somewhere. There are variations on these, however the core ideas are:
- To Learn Something – In these cases, the user wants an answer to a specific question, whether that’s how to do something, where to find something, learning what something is or why something is the way it is.
- To Buy/Do Something – Users who are looking to buy or do something have a set result in mind. They are either looking to make a purchase, or anything like signing up for a service, fill out forms and more.
- To Not Buy Something – As the world becomes more concerned with money and finding the best deals, keywords relating to freebies or discounts are framing an ‘intent’ all of their own.
- To Navigate Somewhere – Those with navigational intent are looking to get to a specific web page. These are typically branded keywords like ‘Facebook’, ‘Amazon’ and even ‘Google’. In these cases, sites that are not the brand from the keyword may rank for the keyword, but not receive much in terms of traffic.
In recent years, Google has increased the importance of optimising a website for search intent. The Hummingbird update, released in 2013, saw Google’s algorithm begin to favour sites that were more relevant to a search query. It carefully calculated what a user was seeking from their search and would match the results in this way. Similarly, the RankBrain update saw Google beginning to use RankBrain as a way to produce the most relevant results for any one query. From these updates, the search engine giant can now interpret search intent and display relevant results for the user more effectively, highlighting the importance of understanding and optimising for your audience.
More recently, of course, they’ve even begun to include the ‘answers’ as featured snippets. These snippets can appear above the core search results and offer a brand incredible visibility, whether through a direct quote from the page or by including them as part of a table, list and more. For this reason, capturing search intent effectively can see your business listed within these snippets and with these snippets stealing clicks from the core results, the importance of adapting for search intent is undeniable.
In terms of content marketing, voice search is changing the way we write content. It all starts with keyword research and understanding the way in which people speak. Generally, when using voice search, people opt for questions rather than short phrases that can easily be searched for. For example, while someone may search for ‘best SEO services’, with voice search they could say “what are the best SEO services?”.
So, in order for voice search to be a success, you should consider the different questions people might ask that are relevant to your existing keywords. Typically, voice search queries will utilise featured snippets as direct answers, but this also provides an ideal opportunity to better understand and capture search queries. If you utilise long-tail, natural sounding keywords, you may be selected by Google’s crawlers as the most concise, relevant and intent-driven answers.
How Do I Optimise For Search Intent?
In order to optimise for search intent, you need to first analyse and predict what your customers will be looking for. As SEOs, we can be guilty of stepping right into keyword research without looking at the bigger picture first, but it’s this initial analysis that can help us determine the best search intent for us to target. Take a look at the SERPs for your competitors and work out what they’re doing; in most cases, you may find that even low-trust pages with poor backlink profiles and who may not be overly powerful, can still rank if they are deemed relevant by Google.
Of course, trust and quality are still extremely important ranking factors, but by taking a look at the first 10 pages ranked for keywords around your business, you can determine what your website needs to look like – then you can fill the gaps with keyword research. With an insight into what your existing and potential customers are looking for when they search, you can more effectively rank within SERPS, capture the consumer’s attention and utilise this to generate traffic and, hopefully, a greater number of conversions.
Once you’ve worked out the intent your customers have, you can then start to adapt, amend and create new landing pages that not only capture this but offer valuable information or ease of transaction. In order to do this, you’ll need to take user experience into consideration while you optimise your on-page content, page titles, meta descriptions and the structured data surrounding your site. Google will look at all of these in order to determine the relevancy of your page for a particular query, so it’s important to ensure consistency.
So now you know what to optimise and why it’s necessary, how do you go about optimising them?
Choose Your Call-To-Action Carefully
Our audiences are more knowledgeable than ever before, so typical call to actions aren’t proving as effective as they may have once been. Standard CTAs, namely ‘learn more’, ‘buy now’ and similar, may be short and to the point, but they aren’t triggering the FOMO (fear of missing out) that has become so vital in marketing. When it comes to search intent, writing good CTAs that trigger this while remaining relevant to your audience’s intent have the potential to produce better conversion rates.
In order to engage your audience, they need to be eye-catching and stand out from the rest of the page not only in design but through the words you choose. Testing out different call-to-actions can help you determine what works best, which can often be done through PPC campaigns on a short-term basis. Some you could try include:
- Don’t Miss Out
- Get Yours Now
- Find Out More
These CTAs lead users to act quickly due to aforementioned FOMO – this effect sees consumers buying something, signing up for newsletters or making accounts simply out of the sense that they need to act quickly before a deal, promotion or product is gone. Tailoring this to the intent of your customers can provide Google with a more concise view of what your web page is used for and therefore rank you accordingly.
A Clear, Concise Design
Most visitors to your website will form their opinion of the page or website in less than a second, meaning that you need to make a good first impression. 95% of first impressions come from a website’s design and usability. A difficult to navigate website that has poorly written or visible content may turn users away before they even come to your call to action, so using effective web design and other visuals is a proficient way to express the benefits your business can provide.
Your design, however, needs to keep search intent in mind. If you are providing users with information, for example, a page that offers quick access to the text enables them to gain the answers they need quickly. An e-commerce site, however, needs to have easy access to the final stage of the conversion funnel – the purchase. Without a clear ‘add to cart’ button or direct purchase form, Google may not immediately realise that your products are for sale and your ranking may suffer as a result.
By enhancing this with search intent in mind, you can truly capture and secure customer retention and loyalty. User experience has become a core practice for web designers and SEOs, so ensuring your website doesn’t fall behind is key to capturing search intent. Easy navigation, layouts that are simple to follow and clear ways to get to the final stage of the conversion funnel.
The nature of your content will differ drastically depending on the search intent that your users hold. For example, if you’re looking to sell products, your content needs to be concise, to the point and provide enough information about the product and how to purchase, without being full of ‘waffle’. Similarly, pages designed to provide a user with information need to be highly informative, relevant, accurate and have a level of authority and trustworthiness to encourage Google to see it as reliable.
Within your content, you can take the opportunity to focus on building trust with your customers and offering them the information and guidance that they need. Whether you’re telling them about delivery costs or explaining through a historical event, the information needs to be of a concise and high-quality nature. One way in which you can do this is through using visual content to enhance your written text. Typically, infographics, videos and presentations and GIFs perform well when it comes to capturing use retention, but stock photos and data visualisations can also work to provide a little something extra to not only capture search intent, but ensure your customers get the information they need.
For those seeking to build further trust, using social-based proof such as customer testimonials and influencer endorsements on your website can set off different emotional triggers that will adapt customers feelings towards your business and encourage their final decision. Compared to non-branded content, branded content has a much higher CTR as it has more authenticity.
Optimising For Different Types Of Search Intent
Depending on the search intent you’re looking to capture, the optimisation you’ll need to undergo will differ considerably. For example, those looking to find a particular website will expect a different result to those looking to make a purchase, and for those seeking information, both of the above could result in a ‘bounce’. While navigational intent is difficult to optimise for as these are typically branded terms, there are plenty of ways to ensure you’re capturing transactional and informational intent:
Transactional Search Intent
Users looking to make a purchase, or not make a purchase, are often looking for e-commerce sites, or those with a list of freebies and deals. In general, the layout of the landing page may not need to differ greatly, but the content within it certainly will.
Those looking to make a purchase will only expect enough information about a product to garner an opinion of its quality, and then a simple and clear purchasing process. Those wanting freebies, however, may be willing to sign up to an email newsletter to get it but will be turned away from ‘buy now’ CTAs and other purchase-related keywords. Common buying keywords within both types of content, however, can include:
- Best price
- Best reviews
- Price comparisons for
- Pay now
Transactional queries expect to find landing pages that enable users to convert directly on the page without having to navigate outside of it, at least no further than a basket or a cart. For this reason, your page should always include sign-up forms and “Add To Cart” buttons, which encourage users to take action quickly and make that final purchase.
Informational Search Intent
Users looking to learn something makeup around 80% of all online search queries and luckily for businesses and webmasters, they can often be captured regardless of the kind of page you have. However, being able to carefully tailor the content to capture both informational intent, as well as transactional or navigational, is a skill and one that may take some practice. Informational queries provide you with the opportunity to acquire leads that may be converted later down the sales/conversion funnel, allowing you with the chance to further establish your brand and offerings in the long-term.
Ensuring that your content is precise and contains plenty of long-tail keywords may be all it takes to capture that search intent, however with the sheer volume of potential topics out there, things could be a little more complicated. Nearly every business will have the chance to take a bit of the search volume through information queries, regardless of whether they’re in business, marketing, fitness, food, health or something else entirely. ‘Question’ keywords are some of the most commonly used in headings and within content and can help Google to pick out your content as a featured snippet.
What Are The Benefits Of Understanding & Optimising For Search Intent?
Targeting your content depending on the user intent can drastically affect the success or operation of your website. If the ability to increase awareness of your brand and capture leads wasn’t enough, intent targeting often generates more page views which can help to increase the overall engagement of your site. Some of the key benefits also include:
Improve Bounce Rates
One of the major benefits of intent targeting is the opportunity to reduce the bounce rate for your website or landing page. As the fourth most important ranking factor on search engine results pages, it’s important to consider what users are searching for and how it is being searched. When they visit your website, they are expecting to find something in particular. Those looking to buy are likely to click away if there’s no clear purchase ability, while those looking for information may be deterred by an abundance of buying CTAs or email sign up forms. If you can capture the intent successfully, however, you can reduce this likelihood.
Reach A Wider Audience
By ranking in Position 0 (also known as featured snippets), you will automatically be eligible to reach a much wider audience. Whether you’re ranking in position 1 in the SERPs or below, your content, whether that’s a paragraph, list, table or even a product, can be visible at the top of the search results in its own ‘box’. Users will often read this information first and while the featured snippet doesn’t often get the highest percentage of clicks, it can steal upwards of 8.6% of these clicks from position 1.
What’s more, while not every page view or click will become a conversion, every conversion begins with a page view. Whether you’re looking to offer information and require users to click through to read more, or you’re selling a new product and want them to make a purchase, carefully targeting your CTAs, content, metadata and more can help you capture attention and generate increased page views.
For more information about how you can use search intent for your business, or about any of our services including SEO, get in touch with a member of our expert team on 0800 088 6000, today.