In order to rank organically, you will need to create content that aligns with user search intent. Search intent is the reason that customers turn to search engines to look for a product, service or an answer to a question and it’s therefore important to create content that reflects what users are searching for.

Based on the type of search query a customer is searching for, we can assess the reason why they are turning to Google to find an answer to their problem. There are four main types of search intent that help us understand the purpose keywords: navigational, informational, transactional and commercial. Depending on the search intent of a keyword, the content that is in the Search Engine Page Results (SEPRs) will differ and can actually help you identify the search intent behind a query. Our guide on ‘What is search intent’ goes into a lot more detail on the different types and how to identify them, however this graph gives you a quick overview of the key characteristics for each type.

Search intent image

The purpose of this guide is to take your understanding of search intent further, and in particular, provide insight into how to optimise existing content and create a successful content strategy using search intent.

We will cover:

What is search intent optimisation?

How can Google understand search intent?

The process of analysing search intent

How to optimise for search intent

How we used search intent to optimise existing content

What is search intent optimisation?

Search intent optimisation is the process of matching content to the keywords and phrases your target audience is searching for online. As simple as this may sound, it might be a little tricky for people who are just starting in SEO and are looking for ways to promote their business online. There are various clues that will help you anticipate the search intent for a keyword but let’s first see how Google understands the search intent behind different key phrases.

How can Google understand search intent?

One of Google’s missions is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Google wants to deliver the most trustworthy and valuable information, whilst continually putting user experience first. To achieve this, Google continues to evolve its algorithms and has taken the understanding of what people mean when searching for words and phrases to the next level. We can see this with the evolution of Smart Shopping into Performance Max, where Google is heavily relying on understanding user search intent.

When a user searches for something online, Google can interpret search intent by seeing how users interact with the search results for that particular keyword. If people do not interact with search results in any way, it will send a signal to Google that the sites ranking for that particular term are incorrect. If you see a page has been downgraded or lost traffic altogether, one of the things to consider is evaluating the quality of your content. In the early days of Google, the search engine relied on keyword density to understand what a page is about. However, Google has become a lot more sophisticated throughout the years and wants to ensure that reliable information is presented to users at all times.

Key terms such as the use of location in a keyword or the questions ‘why’, ‘how’, ‘when’, can help Google understand the search intent and deliver the best possible results to customers. Here is an example:

I searched for ‘tesco address’ - Google knows the location I am searching from and shows me the nearest Tesco stores rather than displaying Tesco’s headquarters address. This is because the algorithm understands that I am most likely looking for a nearby shop and not the Hertfordshire address.

Using this example, we can deduce that when Google is showing Google Maps as part of the search results, we are most likely looking at a keyword with local search intent.

Tesco address image

The process of analysing search intent

Now that we understand why search intent is important, let’s see how we can define it and create content that matches what our target audience are looking for.

  1. Keyword research
    Keyword research is a big part of any search engine optimisation and content campaign. You want to start with research into what people are searching for online. Remember that keyword analysis does not stop with reviewing the search volume of different key phrases. In order to decide whether to target a keyword or not, we need to take it a step further and analyse search intent and competitiveness.
  2. Become your customer
    How you sell a product or a service can be very different to how your target audience buys it. When doing keyword research and writing content, you need to know as much as possible about your target audience. Think about what type of keywords they may use to look for your service or product. Consider whether they will have questions regarding your product or whether they will need information as part of the post sale process.
  3. SEPR analysis
    Analysing the SEPRs is probably one of the most important things you need to do as part of the search intent optimisation process. There is a lot of valuable knowledge presented in the search engine result pages. For instance, the types of search features, ranking content, as well as the type of pages ranking on page one can tell us a lot about the search intent of a keyword. If the majority of pages ranking on page one are in fact blogs and guides, you are most likely dealing with an informational keyword which means that ranking a service or a product page for this term will be unlikely. You can also use the following features to study the SERPS:

    People Also Ask Boxes
    - the People Also Ask (PAA) boxes appear more frequently and can give you an insight into the questions people are asking about the topic you are researching. If you see related searches in the SEPRs, it is likely that you are targeting an informational keyword.

    Related Searches - they appear at the bottom of the SERPs and can give you an insight into what Google considers relevant for your topic.

    Keyword Autofill - can help you recognise long tail variations of your keyword and give you an insight into what people are searching for in relation to your topic.
  4. Competitor analysis
    While you are analysing the keywords you will be creating content for, review whether any competitors have covered these topics and if so, look at the type of content they have created. If your competitors have already created a page on this topic, you need to consider how your content will bring more value to the user.
  5. Content type
    The content type is really important when optimising for search intent. If your competitors are ranking for particular keywords with ‘How to’ or ‘What is’ guides, then it is unlikely you will outrank them with a service page as Google prefers informational content for certain queries. This means that as part of the search intent optimisation process you will need to consider the type of content that matches the keyword you want to rank for.

What are the three Cs for search intent?

  • Content type - referring to the type of content; blog post, landing page, service page, product page
  • Content format - referring to the format of the content ranking on pages one; guides, step-by-step tutorials, reviews, comparison pages, how-to guide, infographics, videos.
  • Content angle - referring to the insight that the top ranking pages bring. For example, is the angle cheap prices and free delivery or luxury products? Ensure that the angle in your content piece matches what is already ranking because it is likely the type of content people respond to.

How to optimise for search intent?

Now that you have an understanding of how to determine keyword search intent, let’s see how we can apply this knowledge and create content that matches what your target audience is looking for.

  • Carry our keyword research and perform SEPR analysis.
  • Match the keyword with the right type of content format.
  • Ensure you create only one page per search intent. Anything more than that can cause keyword cannibalisation issues and you can lose ranking due to the fact that multiple pages will be ranking for a keyword with the same intent.
  • If you are creating content for informational search intent, try and map the user journey. What are they likely to do after they read your content? For example, if I were looking to buy a tennis racket for a beginner and am searching for information on which product will be the best fit for me, it is likely that I will be looking to buy a tennis racket and search for tennis courts to play.
  • Always create content with your target audience in mind. The next section will show you how important this is.

How we used search intent to optimise existing content

Our client operates in the health insurance industry, providing personal and company health insurance. One of the plans offers a virtual GP service, only available for customers who have bought the health insurance policy. The page was initially ranking for ‘gp24/7’ and was getting traffic but the conversion rate was low. When we analysed the SEPRs for that term we discovered that the search intent did not match our content. Furthermore, Google was bringing up Formula 1 ‘related searches’ because of the ‘gp’ part of the keyword, meaning that our page was probably getting irrelevant traffic.

We refreshed the content, ensuring it was aligned with what the client is offering and once the new content was indexed, we saw an increase in traffic and conversion rate. The keywords we targeted might have had fewer search volume but we knew we were driving better quality traffic to the site. As a result, the page received 41% increase in traffic and 218% increase in conversion rate across two months.

Final thoughts

Analysing search intent is essentially understanding why the user is searching for a particular term online. Creating content based on search intent is the process of using the information you have gathered and creating content that matches what your target audience is looking for. Having a strong search intent strategy can help you create meaningful content, increase brand awareness and conversions, increase the authority of your website and increase your organic traffic. Get in touch with us if you are looking to improve your online presence and understand how to create a successful content strategy.

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