As we are moving more and more towards voice search, mobile-first indexing, and machine learning algorithms, search and SEO are becoming more and more… intentional.
At least in the sense that you must focus on the intentions of your market.
If content is to successfully build strong SEO, it cannot be based solely on keywords. The intent of your audience must also be taken into account.
What do I mean by this?
Intention, in search, is the meaning behind a search query and not simply the words used.
Let’s say you are looking for a gym to go to so you type “gym” into Google. Go ahead. Give it a try.
Notice that Google doesn’t give the definition of the word “gym”. It doesn’t give you the history of gyms, or even an alphabetical list of gyms.
No. Google anticipates your intention. It assumes you are looking for a gym in your neighborhood. The first results you see will be the Google local listing gyms near you, then a list of search results for gyms in your area and gym directories, typically listed based on an algorithm of user reviews, link popularity and many other factors.
Google’s mission is, “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
For me the most important part of Google’s mission/vision statement, are the last two words: accessible and useful.
We are constantly moving to more relevant and smarter search results – results that are more and more accessible and useful. Relevancy, accessibility and usefulness depend heavily on understanding the intent of the audience.
To capitalize on relevancy and intent as a marketer, remember these four query types:
Each of these query types can be associated with certain phases of the consumer purchase journey:
Informational Queries – Researching non-transactional information
Informational queries are at the very top of the funnel – the awareness phase. Results are usually broad and informational, with no intent to sell.
Example of an informational query: “Who is the 44th President of the United States?”
And another example: “What is the healthiest fruit?”
The main intent behind informational queries is, well, to get information. Most search results associated with informational queries tend to be direct answers.
Investigative Queries – Researching options
Investigative queries come from consumers with the intention to discover options in the market, or do additional research. In terms of the consumer purchase process, these searchers can be in either the awareness or consideration phases of the funnel. These queries may not necessarily lead to conversions. Indeed, they may not even be driven by any intent to purchase.
These are queries that involve researching specific details. Searchers may be looking for talent, competition or options available in the market.
Examples include, “best laptops 2017”, “top smartphones”, “best grocery store Montreal”, etc.
The intention behind these queries may or may not be to eventually purchase, but what Google does know (or assume) is that the searcher is exploring options. Search results are, therefore, tailored to provide those options for investigation.
Navigational Queries – Looking for something you already know you want
By this phase, the consumer already knows what they want. Perhaps it is healthy fruits (from informational queries) and the consumer now knows the best places to buy them from (investigative queries).
For example, when a searcher knows the brand, product or service, but does not know the URL, they will just type the name into their search or address bar.
For example, when you want to access Gmail, you usually just type “gmail” into the address bar rather than a full URL. Google does the rest.
As generations are getting lazier by the second, navigational queries are becoming more and more popular.
Transactional Queries, are queries that involve an intent towards an action
The action doesn’t have to be money related, it could be a signup, newsletter, phone details, address discovery, getting direction.
For example if you search “Buy healthy food”, then that is a transactional query.
So what can we do as marketers, entrepreneurs, and startups?
We have to capitalize on the searcher’s intent instead of keywords, and capitalize on each query type.
I would recommend using this approach in your future content as well as for past content. Go through your current blogs, pages, and products; analyze the actual intent and value of the content and update accordingly.
The best way to test search intent is Google Search itself. Search the term you have in mind and based on search results, you will be able to categorize it accordingly.
For example, cyclocross bikes is clearly a transactional query, and you can see it from the first three results, as they all have call to actions, pitches, or pricing.
Remember there is no right or wrong search intent queries, the right approach is to match the right queries with your brand and business goals.
If you are an ecommerce site, it is ideal to concentrate on transactional queries and investigation queries, while not fully ignoring the informational and navigational queries.
Intentions can no longer be ignored, they need to be a critical part of your marketing moving forward.