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How People Search (Understanding Search Intent)

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Written By : Jordan Beaumont

Posted 08/06/2022

The more content you create, the greater the opportunity of making your website rank for important keywords. But to really optimise your content, attract high-converting traffic, and get people coming back to your site, it’s important to consider intent.

Understanding search intent is key. Why are people searching? What are they hoping to achieve? And what actions are they planning to take when they find what they’re looking for? All of these questions matter when it comes to SEO key phrases.

Here’s a look at how search intent works and how it can be used to tailor your content marketing strategy.

Understanding search intent

Rankings, search volume, conversion…..SEO is very much a numbers game. That’s why search intent can get overlooked. In our constant pursuit of metrics, we often discount keywords with low search volume, without thinking about the intent of the user.

However, choosing words with the highest search volumes doesn’t always bring value unless the content is relevant and helpful to the person searching for it.

Google cares about intent, and not considering this in your content marketing will ultimately impact your rankings. If your content doesn’t match what the user’s looking for and they bounce off your site, it tells Google that intent is misaligned.

In this respect, the intent behind a phrase is much more important that its search volume. And by tapping into and understanding search intent, it’s possible to reach the right people at every stage of the sales funnel.

The 4 types of search intent

Before optimising with intent, it’s important to understand what actually drives people to search for things online. Way back in 2006, a study conducted at the University of Hong Kong discovered that at a primary level, there were two main types of search engine users.

The first is someone looking for very specific information relating to their chosen phrase. The other is someone searching for more general information and related topics.
In very basic terms, the first person is ready to buy, download, sign up or convert – while the other is not.

But let’s dig a little deeper…There are 4 main types of intent when thinking about what people enter into a search engine. According to Moz, these are:

  1. Informational intent (“how to boil an egg” or “what is the keto diet?”)
  2. Preferential/commercial investigation (“best website hosting service” or “EE vs Vodafone”)
  3. Transactional intent (“Buy Gucci belt” or “Nike Air Force 1 sale”)
  4. Navigational intent (“Spotify login” or “ASOS” or “Zara”)

By considering what people want from their searches, you can align your content to match their needs, answer their questions, and direct them to the right information/product page.

How to determine intent

Understanding search intent before optimising your content is an important step. One of the best ways to do this is to use specific modifiers in your keyword research. For instance, with informational intent, you can filter by keywords that rank for knowledge panels, related questions, and featured snippets.

You can also research the SERPs. By doing a little research on Google, you can figure out types of results Google deems the most relevant.

The key is to consider every type of searcher. Not everyone is ready to buy, call or sign up. Your content marketing plan has to provide informative, helpful, exciting, inspiring or thought-provoking content for buyers at every stage of the journey.

This means catering for everyone, from those who are in the research phase and those who just want an instructional guide, to those who are ready to add to basket. And most importantly, make sure the content and keywords match up – because relevance is everything!

Need help with your content marketing?

At Identify Digital, we have years of experience in digital marketing, and can deliver amazing content as well as beautiful, functional websites that your customers love.
To chat to a web design and content creation agency that understands SEO and how to improve engagement with customers, call 01924 911333 or fill in our online enquiry form.

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