Search intent refers to the identification of what a user meant to search for online. Its understanding has become an essential part of marketing strategies to improve search engine performance as well as lead conversion.
Until recently, optimizing a website based on keywords was the goal. Companies focused on dotting keywords into their campaigns and content, but the intent behind those particular keywords was sidelined. However, today, search intent trumps keywords. Before diving into what search intent is, take a look at how search engines and keywords worked before 2019.
How keywords evolved into search intent
Until 2019, when people visited search engines, the results that were displayed depended largely on whether the exact search term used by the visitor was reflected in the content. So, to appear at the top of SERPs, companies, and individuals started overloading content with keywords that people were entering into the search bar. This shortcut was called keyword stuffing. While it bettered rankings momentarily for certain websites, it was a total loss for the one searching because the content lacked depth, expertise, and relevance. It checked a box in the sense that it had the keyword that they had entered. But, did it answer their query? Did they learn more? Maybe; maybe not!
So, prioritizing users’ requirements, Google launched the BERT algorithm in 2019. The focus had shifted to search intent rather than just keywords. What’s more, Google’s latest algorithm update, called SMITH, takes things one step further. It doesn’t replace the BERT algorithm, but builds on it to improve outcomes.
How does search intent work?
With BERT, Google considered the relationship between words in a search query. It also started to look into multiple meanings of the words in the search phrase. In short, the intent behind the search gained priority over the actual words used in the search.
Take stop words, for example. These are short words that the search engine used to previously ignore. However, post the BERT update, Google has started taking them into consideration as they often change the meaning of the search phrase or query. The SMITH model is even more intelligent, as it understands long search queries better than the BERT algorithm, and can also understand entire passages of content, with reference to a whole document.
A focus on search intent means that Google is continually evolving to comprehend a user better and respond more accurately. For example, assume that you want to have pizza for dinner, so you head to Google and search for ‘pizza for dinner’. You click on the first result and it turns out to be a recipe when you’d much rather just order a pizza home. So, you quickly go back and click on another link. This result lists the phone number and address of a local pizzeria. Now, as and when more and more people search for ‘pizza for dinner’ with the same intention, the result page will see a significant change over time with regards to the URLs that are displayed.
Types of search intent
Search intent is of the following types:
The aforementioned example is an informational search. But, if you’re looking to buy an oven, it will be a commercial one if you search for a ‘best 10l convection ovens’ as you’re specifying the features and capacity with the intention of finding a product that you’d like to purchase. Likewise, ‘Netflix login’ is a navigational query, as you’re looking for the specific login URL to be presented to you instead of navigating to it yourself.
The right way to address search intent through content
As a business leader, you are sure to want to rank high on SERPs. To this end, take a step back from conventional approaches and concentrate on creating value for existing and prospective customers. If you can address what your audience is looking for each time they search via smart website content, product descriptions, blogs, and more, Google is going to reward you with better rankings over time. Apart from fulfilling your customer’s needs better, you will also be able to increase the time spent on your website, establish yourself as an authority and build brand awareness.
So, consider the following tips to formulate content that checks all the boxes.
- A keyword can have multiple meanings as per its usage. Create content for all possible scenarios.
- Google’s SERP is a treasure trove of user intent. Use the search results, ads, and even related searches to understand what people are looking for and the top results that are being displayed.
- Update existing or old content to align with search intent, be it informational or transactional.
- Get a better understanding of search intent by regularly interacting with your target audience. Spend time on social media and online forums to identify queries, concerns, or questions that crop up repeatedly. Then, design content that addresses them.
When you optimize for search intent, you can communicate with your target audience effectively and convey how your product or service solves for a pertinent problem in their lives. Not only can you improve your clientele’s online experience and truly serve their needs, but you can also establish your appeal to a wider demographic and steer purchases. The best part? You can achieve all this and more, while furthering your own SEO performance.