In years gone by, all you needed to perform well in Google was to build more backlinks than your competitors and repeat the keyword you wanted to rank for many times.
In 2020, as the search engine’s algorithms have matured, their natural language processors have become more developed and search engines use search intent to help them understand what the searcher is trying to achieve via a query.
Search intent is thus crucial for SEO and content marketing success, as it closely aligns with the well-defined stages of the buyer’s journey.
Why does search intent lead to success?
Better website optimisation for search intent means that more relevant/qualified traffic is being funnelled to your website. This means that you will achieve higher conversion rates on your transaction pages and more informational traffic to pages designed to inform.
Secondary benefits mean your website will experience a lower bounce rate and more overall views as whole.
Search intent can be categorised into three main types:
#1. Informational Search Intent
Informational searches are the most common searches a search engine handles, making up as much as 80% of searches. Informational search terms are primarily used when the searcher is aiming to find information to answer a question. These are sometimes referred to as “know” searches. By definition, these search phrases are general in nature. An example of an informational search is “How many people are there in the world”.
Informational search terms are at the beginning of the buyer’s journey. That is, the buyer is starting to research what they are interested in, without having a definitive conclusion as to what they want. These searches typically display rich snippets from Google such as a knowledge panel, people always ask, etc.
Informational searches are often highly sought after by marketers due to their high search volume, but this can be a bad strategy, for a couple of reasons that are highlighted below. Take the keyword “Running shoes” This search term has over 200k monthly searches:
The issue with targeting informational “know” keywords is two-fold:
1. Too generic – People searching for running shoes are likely searching for the types and brands of running shoes, whether they make a difference to running, etc. At this stage of the buyer’s journey, the searcher isn’t ready to buy, and as such there will be a low conversion rate.
2. Too competitive – As you can see from the image above, these informational search keywords are very competitive (difficult). Unless you are an established brand, with a powerful website, it’s unlikely your site will be ranked for such a broad search term.
Informational keywords are however a good way to establish your brand and let searchers know what your business can offer to solve the searcher’s problem. That is, you are building your website’s presence in the searcher’s mind for future consideration.
If you do decide to optimize your website for informational keywords, phrases that include “What”, “How”, “History” and “Meaning” are good choices to include in your website copy. It’s a good idea to use these questions in the page title, header tags and meta description of your page.
#2. Navigational Search Intent
Navigational (or “go”) keywords are used by those searchers looking for the website of an organization they already know. These makeup around 10% of searches. Navigational searches are considered “Mixed” or partially generic keywords. An example of a navigational search term is the keyword “Facebook”.
Navigational keywords are important for your site’s branding, as it’s important that your website ranks for its own brand. These search terms will drive a lot of targeted traffic to your website and as such, it’s crucial that your website is optimized for navigational or branded search terms.
#3. Transactional Search Intent
Transactional search terms are at the middle or end of the buyer’s journey, where the searcher effectively knows what they are looking for and is ready to buy. These are often referred to as “do” searches. At this phase of the buyer’s journey, the searcher is using specific long-tail keywords in their searches, such as “Nike Pegasus 33 size 10 price”.
Transactional search terms make up around 10% of all searches, but these are without a doubt the most valuable keywords, as they convert at a high rate.
How to optimize for transactional keywords
Pick keywords that have a high commercial/transactional intent and use them on your “money” pages, ie those that you want to rank for that generate leads/sales.
Some sample keywords to include…
For eCommerce sites:
For service or lead oriented businesses:
Physical locations (country/city/state/local area) are also important to include, as locations signify a transactional rather than informational intent.
Ensure landing pages are created and optimized for these transactional terms and allow the visitor, where possible to convert straight from the landing page, by offering a signup form or cart directly on that page.
It’s important to include a clear call-to-action (CTA) on your landing pages, so it’s reinforced the action that you want your visitor to take.
Search intent and the buyer’s journey are critical to understand and implement to achieve success with SEO and content marketing in 2020 and beyond.
Guest author: David Sorauer is the director of Evolocity, a SEO & Digital Marketing agency in Sydney, Australia. David is passionate about helping small and medium businesses succeed online.