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More Than a Keyword: Search Intent and SEO For Your Content Strategy

May 27, 2022By Shannon Curley

Topics: Search Marketing, Blog, Searcher Intent

New to the term “search intent”? Here’s a quick real-life example:

We’ve all been there: you’re baking blueberry muffins for the umpteenth time but you just can’t remember – is it two cups of sugar, two cups of flour, or one of each? You drop the search query into Google, click the top link to the first recipe, and… let the neverending scroll begin. What started out as a quick measurement gut-check turns into skimming someone’s life story about picking blueberries on Nan’s farm – link here, subscribe here! – and before you know it, you’re clicking out of the window and saying, “It was probably just two and two.” 

This is what happens when SEO – including increased word count and ubiquitous backlinking – are prioritized above and beyond search intent. And the results can be much worse than a batch of botched muffins.

Good intentions: what is search intent?

According to SEO authority SEMrush, search intent – also known as user intent or audience intent – is the “purpose of a user’s search.” When someone submits an entry to a search engine, what is the result they are hoping to find? 

Although this is a pretty basic definition, there are different types of search intent to consider depending on who is doing the searching and why. Here are the four types of search intent: 

 

  • Informational
  • Navigational
  • Transactional 
  • Commercial 

 

Informational search intent is likely what most people think of, if and when they think of search intent. This is when someone is searching for a piece of information online, such as the date of an historical event or the capital of a country in Europe. My most recent information search, for instance, was “lunch delivery in Providence.” The results were delicious. 

Next up: navigational search intent. This refers to a user searching for a specific site that they want to – you guessed it – navigate to. For example, you might have Googled “Trailblaze Marketing” to find our website. Or, I may have Googled “Grubhub” to order my lunch. May have

The third type of search intent is transactional intent. Transactional intent refers to is an evolution of e-commerce and digital transformation in which a user can search for a product they want to buy – such as to-go containers for leftover lunch – and visit the product page directly from the search results, without having to browse through an e-commerce site such as Amazon, Ebay, or Zappos. Instead, the product – including price, reviews, and “shop now” option – are accessible directly from the search engine. 

Finally, there’s commercial search intent, or, as some folks call it, commercial investigation. This is when someone has the intent to buy something in the future, but wants to explore what options are out there before purchasing. In that respect, commercial intent could also just be called, “product research.” Commercial search intent is particularly common among web users who are interested in buying high-priced items such as dishwashers, refrigerators, or lawn mowers and want to compare the features, reviews, and prices of items in the marketplace before making their final selection. 

So there you have it: informational, navigational, transactional, and commercial search intent … but why do you need to know the difference?

Here’s an example:

Say you are looking at building out your home tiki bar (shoutout to Papi’s Coquito for the island inspiration). The first thing you might do is Google, “home tiki bar essentials.” This is an informational search. In your reading, you might find out that a beverage cooler is key to a home tiki bar success story – so you Google, “best home beverage coolers” – this is a commercial search. 

In your research, you discover that the absolute best beverage cooler on the market is from Arctic Tiki Co., so you drop “Arctic Tiki Co” instead of the search bar and click your way to their website (and complete a navigational search in the process). With your beverage cooler purchased, you make one final transaction: “tiki bar coasters” from page one of the search results. Hang 10, bro. 

In the next section, we’ll talk about how your business can show up for every type of user search, not just one or the other.

Tailoring your content to types of search intent

Think about the example above. Wouldn’t it be great for Arctic Tiki if a piece of their branded content showed up in every type of search? This might include a blog on “home tiki bar essentials,” an entry on an affiliate list of “top beverage coolers,” the top result on Google for “Arctic Tiki,” and of course, an easy, last-minute top result for “tiki coasters” – add to cart, please!   

As you consider your content strategy, it is critical that you also think about search intent, including all four types that we’ve mentioned in this article. 

Here are a few pointers on how to do it: 

 

  • Check off the easy stuff first. This includes making sure your business has landing pages for your products and services; it also includes being registered as a business on Google so that you show up in navigational searches. 

 

  • Answer your audience’s questions. The majority of searches on the web are informational. You want to make sure you have the information that your prospects need to convert. This includes blogs, videos, whitepapers, infographics, and other content types with the purpose to educate and inform, especially with the intention of building top-of-funnel awareness for your brand

 

  • Don’t forget about your keywords. No one wants to be a keyword-stuffer, but if you ignore the algorithm, you’ll never rank. This article from Yoast points out that just as there is searcher intent, there is also keyword intent. That includes keywords like, “buy,” “deal,” or “discount,” for transactional search intent, or “what is,” “how to,” or “define” for informational search intent. 

 

Ultimately, it comes down to being discoverable, useful, and knowledgeable. With those cornerstones, your business will not only be easier to find, but its utility to your potential customer will be that much clearer. 

Making Optimized Searches Personal

At the end of the day (or the search), what your audience really wants is to find what they’re looking for. In some cases, that may be a product or service that your business offers, but in many others, it could be information, direction, or guidance. Whatever it is, you want to make sure that if a link from the web sends them to your site, they are going to get the answers they want – and not just a bunch of targeted, impersonalized keywords. 

Diversifying your content helps make optimized searches personal. From an informative how-to post to a detailed sales sheet with prices and packages, to a video case study showing your service in the real world, designing content that addresses authentic search intent will in turn increase trust in your brand. 

Want to learn more about building an search-optimized and intent-focused content marketing plan? Book a call with Trailblaze today. 

References 

How Search Intent Influences Your Content Strategy

Why You Shouldn't Ignore Search Intent Optimization

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Posted by Shannon Curley

Shannon Curley is a content and brand strategist from Providence, RI who has written about everything from superheroes and dinosaurs to medical innovation, sustainable energy, and tips for traveling with your dog.

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