Search intent: how to optimise content for intent to rank better today

Search intent: how to optimise content for intent to rank better today

6 minute read

Search intent: how to optimise content for intent to rank better today

6 minute read

Search intent: how to optimise content for intent to rank better today

Masooma Memon

GatherContent Contributor, Writer
The wrong search intent behind the content you create makes all your hard work useless. After all, it determines each content piece’s purpose and if you aren’t meeting that purpose, you might as well scrap the content itself.

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It’s why keyword intent is such a critical ranking factor. So if you’re serious about ranking on the results pages and driving conversions with your content, it’s about time you pay attention to user intent.

In this guide, we’ll show you what search intent is, exactly how to identify the intent behind keywords, and how to optimse content for intent.

Dig in.

What is Search Intent?

Search intent, also known as user intent is the reason behind a specific search.

Searchers browsing ‘scented candles’ can have different types of search intent, for example. Someone could be looking to buy them (transactional intent), whereas, someone might be looking to maintain one (informational intent).

Therefore, knowing the intent behind the keywords you’re targeting is crucial for writing content that ranks, giving readers their answers, and ultimately, converting them.

By not taking search terms’ user intent into account when strategising content, you lower your odds of ranking high on the search engine results pages (SERPs). In fact, your landing page, blog page – content of any sort – will see a high bounce rate as readers don’t find value in it.

What Are The Common Types Of Search Intent?

Three types of search intent are:

  • Informational intent: When someone conducts a Google search to learn about something
  • Example: ‘best Halloween dresses’
  • Transactional queries: When a searcher wants to buy a specific product
  • Example: ‘buy gifts online’
  • Navigational intent: When a searcher is looking for a specific website.
  • Example: ‘LinkedIn login’

No one type of search intent is more important or valuable than the others; what's important for you is understanding how to meet your audience's intent with valuable content. Here's how.

Understanding Google’s Search Intent

The underlying idea about user search intent is that it’s centered around the search engine giant’s aim of helping its users find the best answer to their queries. So, it ranks content that effectively meets their search intent.

For you, this means that if you’re aiming to improve your SEO ranking, understand that SEO is about optimising for people, not the search engine.

It’s why laying out your customers’ journey is essential to understand what your target audience must be searching for (and what their intention must be based on where they’re in their sales journey). This will help inform your keyword research.

💡 Learn more: Masterclass on Customer Journey Mapping for Adaptive Content Models.

Three tips to keep in mind to come to grips with SEO search intent:

  • Keywords for informational search often include words like ‘how’ and ‘why,’ ‘when,’ ‘where,’ and ‘who.’
  • Keywords for a transactional search often include words like ‘buy’ and ‘cheap,’ ‘best,’ and ‘review.’
  • Keywords backed with navigational intent often include site names such as ‘YouTube’ or ‘[site name] contact.’

Based on this, create content to satisfy the search and rank better. How? Let’s discuss this next.

How Experts Optimize Content For User Intent

Briefly, enter your target keyword into the Google search bar and study at least the top ten ranking pages on the results page to get an idea of the user intent.

Throughout your research, ask yourself: what is it that the searcher is trying to learn from this search?

If the results show blog posts and how-to pieces, you can tell the search intent is informational. On the other hand, if the results show product pages and comparison articles, it’s clear that the searcher has a buying intent.

Optimising content for user intent isn’t limited to strategising content though. It’s important to create content optimised for intent too. To this end, the skyscraper technique of producing content helps.

Essentially, it involves studying the existing content ranking for the target keyword and understanding how you can add to it or make it better to help readers better. This is intent optimisation that content strategists and managers can take over as they create briefs or outlines for their content team.

Writers need to study ranking content too to make sure they’re answering all the questions the reader has.

In fact, Atiba’s SEO Specialist Jake Peterson suggests studying the People Also Ask box around a certain keyword to understand questions people are asking. Peterson explains:

"From there, I’ll pick out 5-10 questions on the topic and insert them in a content piece either through headers or perhaps as an FAQ at the end of the section. This not only helps people who found the page through other means but might help capitalize on people asking questions about the topic in a search engine,"
Jake Peterson
SEO Specialist, Atiba

Meaning: “As of right now you still have to do some manual research and analyse the SERP for a given keyword or key phrase.”

Need to know: Use GatherContent to create template-based briefs for writers. Add embedded instructions to the brief’s sections such as guidelines for writing the headline, meta description, and body copy so writers don’t miss anything.
Example of inline writing guidelines within GatherContent, think of them as instructions embedded where the writing happens

This process that we’ve laid out for you above is how experts optimise content for their sites too.

At Acquire, for example, SEO Specialist, Kevin McReady shares the process:

"There’s no real clear-cut solution to automate this process as the English language has multiple words that mean multiple things."
Kevin McReady
SEO Specialist, Acquire

Here’s how McReady does this. “The first step is to pop the keyword into a search engine and scan the first page to see which type of content ranks highest, then:

  1. Determine the content type that appears most often. Is it a listicle, guide, comparison, case study?
  2. Check the titles that appear as well, if you see a lot of numbers such as ‘50 Proven Ways to Lose Weight’ then the content type would be listicle.
  3. What do searchers want from this piece of content? Are they looking to buy something or learn about something (transactional vs. informative)?
  4. Make sure you write content around the types that appear on the first page, if the intent is a guide, don’t write a list as most people determined (through clicking on other listings to rank them higher) that a guide is their preferred source.”

There’s a similar process that the team at Omnisend follows, Bernard Meyer their Director of Content, shares:

“One easy way to determine search intent is to look through the SERPS for the keyword. Google’s algorithm aims to rank content based on user intent, so you don’t need to do that heavy lifting. Google will literally show you what the user is expecting, whether that’s something image-heavy (like a step-by-step guide), a video, long-form content, or even a sales or landing page.”

For optimising content for intent, Meyer says,

"Once you understand your user intent for the given keyword, you need to make sure your content not only matches this content but is also above and beyond what your competitors are offering."
Bernard Meyer
Director of Content, Omnisend

Since a lot about SEO optimising content is about writing for searchers, Meyer recommends “using useful images, removing filler text, and making the text more readable with bullet

On the same note, SEO Consultant Dan Richardson advises you to give the answer to the search query in the opening lines. “For example, if they search ‘how to stop a dripping tap,’ summarise the answer immediately in the opening paragraph of the article,” Richardson observes.

"For some readers that will be all they need, for those who need more information the rest of the article will explain each step in detail, thus, ensuring that any user visiting the page gets the exact information that they are looking for quickly."
Dan Richardson
SEO Consultant & Digital Publisher

Tools For Search Intent Optimization

Although keyword research tools can help, you’ll find that conducting manual research to understand google search intent is a better strategy.

Other helpful tools include:

  • AnswerThePublic. It helps you by showing all the questions that searchers have related to keywords, therefore helping you plan content effectively.
  • Yoast. It helps with SEO optimising content for both readers and the search engine by showing if you’ve used the keyword(s) thoroughly and ensuring your content is readable.
  • GatherContent. This content operations platform helps plan, strategise, and create content briefs in one platform.
Ready to optimise your content for search intent and boost your rankings? Try GatherContent for free today.

It’s why keyword intent is such a critical ranking factor. So if you’re serious about ranking on the results pages and driving conversions with your content, it’s about time you pay attention to user intent.

In this guide, we’ll show you what search intent is, exactly how to identify the intent behind keywords, and how to optimse content for intent.

Dig in.

What is Search Intent?

Search intent, also known as user intent is the reason behind a specific search.

Searchers browsing ‘scented candles’ can have different types of search intent, for example. Someone could be looking to buy them (transactional intent), whereas, someone might be looking to maintain one (informational intent).

Therefore, knowing the intent behind the keywords you’re targeting is crucial for writing content that ranks, giving readers their answers, and ultimately, converting them.

By not taking search terms’ user intent into account when strategising content, you lower your odds of ranking high on the search engine results pages (SERPs). In fact, your landing page, blog page – content of any sort – will see a high bounce rate as readers don’t find value in it.

What Are The Common Types Of Search Intent?

Three types of search intent are:

  • Informational intent: When someone conducts a Google search to learn about something
  • Example: ‘best Halloween dresses’
  • Transactional queries: When a searcher wants to buy a specific product
  • Example: ‘buy gifts online’
  • Navigational intent: When a searcher is looking for a specific website.
  • Example: ‘LinkedIn login’

No one type of search intent is more important or valuable than the others; what's important for you is understanding how to meet your audience's intent with valuable content. Here's how.

Understanding Google’s Search Intent

The underlying idea about user search intent is that it’s centered around the search engine giant’s aim of helping its users find the best answer to their queries. So, it ranks content that effectively meets their search intent.

For you, this means that if you’re aiming to improve your SEO ranking, understand that SEO is about optimising for people, not the search engine.

It’s why laying out your customers’ journey is essential to understand what your target audience must be searching for (and what their intention must be based on where they’re in their sales journey). This will help inform your keyword research.

💡 Learn more: Masterclass on Customer Journey Mapping for Adaptive Content Models.

Three tips to keep in mind to come to grips with SEO search intent:

  • Keywords for informational search often include words like ‘how’ and ‘why,’ ‘when,’ ‘where,’ and ‘who.’
  • Keywords for a transactional search often include words like ‘buy’ and ‘cheap,’ ‘best,’ and ‘review.’
  • Keywords backed with navigational intent often include site names such as ‘YouTube’ or ‘[site name] contact.’

Based on this, create content to satisfy the search and rank better. How? Let’s discuss this next.

How Experts Optimize Content For User Intent

Briefly, enter your target keyword into the Google search bar and study at least the top ten ranking pages on the results page to get an idea of the user intent.

Throughout your research, ask yourself: what is it that the searcher is trying to learn from this search?

If the results show blog posts and how-to pieces, you can tell the search intent is informational. On the other hand, if the results show product pages and comparison articles, it’s clear that the searcher has a buying intent.

Optimising content for user intent isn’t limited to strategising content though. It’s important to create content optimised for intent too. To this end, the skyscraper technique of producing content helps.

Essentially, it involves studying the existing content ranking for the target keyword and understanding how you can add to it or make it better to help readers better. This is intent optimisation that content strategists and managers can take over as they create briefs or outlines for their content team.

Writers need to study ranking content too to make sure they’re answering all the questions the reader has.

In fact, Atiba’s SEO Specialist Jake Peterson suggests studying the People Also Ask box around a certain keyword to understand questions people are asking. Peterson explains:

"From there, I’ll pick out 5-10 questions on the topic and insert them in a content piece either through headers or perhaps as an FAQ at the end of the section. This not only helps people who found the page through other means but might help capitalize on people asking questions about the topic in a search engine,"
Jake Peterson
SEO Specialist, Atiba

Meaning: “As of right now you still have to do some manual research and analyse the SERP for a given keyword or key phrase.”

Need to know: Use GatherContent to create template-based briefs for writers. Add embedded instructions to the brief’s sections such as guidelines for writing the headline, meta description, and body copy so writers don’t miss anything.
Example of inline writing guidelines within GatherContent, think of them as instructions embedded where the writing happens

This process that we’ve laid out for you above is how experts optimise content for their sites too.

At Acquire, for example, SEO Specialist, Kevin McReady shares the process:

"There’s no real clear-cut solution to automate this process as the English language has multiple words that mean multiple things."
Kevin McReady
SEO Specialist, Acquire

Here’s how McReady does this. “The first step is to pop the keyword into a search engine and scan the first page to see which type of content ranks highest, then:

  1. Determine the content type that appears most often. Is it a listicle, guide, comparison, case study?
  2. Check the titles that appear as well, if you see a lot of numbers such as ‘50 Proven Ways to Lose Weight’ then the content type would be listicle.
  3. What do searchers want from this piece of content? Are they looking to buy something or learn about something (transactional vs. informative)?
  4. Make sure you write content around the types that appear on the first page, if the intent is a guide, don’t write a list as most people determined (through clicking on other listings to rank them higher) that a guide is their preferred source.”

There’s a similar process that the team at Omnisend follows, Bernard Meyer their Director of Content, shares:

“One easy way to determine search intent is to look through the SERPS for the keyword. Google’s algorithm aims to rank content based on user intent, so you don’t need to do that heavy lifting. Google will literally show you what the user is expecting, whether that’s something image-heavy (like a step-by-step guide), a video, long-form content, or even a sales or landing page.”

For optimising content for intent, Meyer says,

"Once you understand your user intent for the given keyword, you need to make sure your content not only matches this content but is also above and beyond what your competitors are offering."
Bernard Meyer
Director of Content, Omnisend

Since a lot about SEO optimising content is about writing for searchers, Meyer recommends “using useful images, removing filler text, and making the text more readable with bullet

On the same note, SEO Consultant Dan Richardson advises you to give the answer to the search query in the opening lines. “For example, if they search ‘how to stop a dripping tap,’ summarise the answer immediately in the opening paragraph of the article,” Richardson observes.

"For some readers that will be all they need, for those who need more information the rest of the article will explain each step in detail, thus, ensuring that any user visiting the page gets the exact information that they are looking for quickly."
Dan Richardson
SEO Consultant & Digital Publisher

Tools For Search Intent Optimization

Although keyword research tools can help, you’ll find that conducting manual research to understand google search intent is a better strategy.

Other helpful tools include:

  • AnswerThePublic. It helps you by showing all the questions that searchers have related to keywords, therefore helping you plan content effectively.
  • Yoast. It helps with SEO optimising content for both readers and the search engine by showing if you’ve used the keyword(s) thoroughly and ensuring your content is readable.
  • GatherContent. This content operations platform helps plan, strategise, and create content briefs in one platform.
Ready to optimise your content for search intent and boost your rankings? Try GatherContent for free today.

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