Use Search Intent to Increase Google Ranking [A How To Guide]
Freelance Copywriter, content strategist and storyteller
Who determines what shows up in search results for a particular query?
Some people say the user. The truth is, Google determines who ranks on SERP.
I was reading an email from Heather Lloyd-Martin, one of my favourite SEO copywriters. She was talking about “UGE”, which means Unrealistic Google Expectation.
Some clients have unrealistic expectations of keywords they should be ranking for?
As an SEO expert, you tell them it’s impossible, but they insist. “Nope, we can rank our product page in the top 10 for best riding lawnmower.” Never mind that the top 10 SERP results are all reviews.
Google has already determined that the search intent behind this keyword is informational. Your product page will NEVER rank on top 10 for that keyword.
You need to learn how to identify search patterns your target audience use when searching for your product and services. You must also understand which keywords are relevant to search intent and those to drop like hot potatoes.
What Is Search Intent?
Search intent is the specific motivation a user has in mind when conducting an online search. It is what the user expects from a search query. Search intent focuses not just on keywords, but on the reason behind the search query.
For instance, someone searching for “what is a backpack” is in the awareness stage of the sales cycle. Google generates information from Wikipedia and other top resources that answer this question.
Notice the absence of product pages?
Conversely, if they searched for “buy backpack in Bushwick”, they are ready to purchase a backpack. They need directions to an online or offline store where they can make a purchase.
This time, the search results are luggage stores that sell backpacks in Bushwick.
The knowledge of search intent helps you understand what your target audience is looking for with a few keywords.
With this information, you can develop a content strategy that targets keywords and the intent behind them.
What Are the Categories of a Search
There are four categories of search queries. They are:
Information is the goal in this search query. The searches are usually question-based. The user is looking to get information, solve a problem or answer a question.
The image below shows a search query for “how to make lasagna in 20 minutes.” Google generated informational results such as video tutorial and blog posts that thoroughly answer this specific query.
Studies have shown
that 80% of all search queries are
informational. Develop content such as blog posts and tutorial videos that
answers questions and guides a prospect through the buyer’s journey.
In a navigational query, the user is looking for a particular website, service or product they already know about.
They search with the intent of going directly to the website or sometimes, a webpage.
For instance, when a web user searches “Buy Fenty Lipstick”, they are specifically looking for Fenty products.
You can’t optimize for navigational searches because the user already has a destination. Instead, optimize your website with branded keywords, so it’s easy for searchers to find your product.
A commercial query takes place before the user is ready to make a transaction. They research a product or service to make a purchase. The user is in the final stage of the buyer’s journey and needs help to arrive at a decision.
A user searching for “Best Toyota Cars” is ready to convert but needs help making a decision. Commercial queries do not always lead to purchase, but they deeply influence purchasing decisions.
I like to refer to transactional queries as your money keywords. These are long-tail keywords a searcher uses when they are ready to make a purchase.
Leading from the previous example of “Best Toyota cars”, the user has narrowed down their options and is now looking to buy a Toyota Corolla in Brooklyn.
Focus your keyword research on commercial and transactional search intent. They may not involve an immediate purchase, but it often leads to one.
Why Should You Optimize for Search Intent?
Google wants to satisfy the intent behind a search query, more than anything else. In his book, In the Plex, user experience expert Steven Levy
“On the most basic level, Google could see how
satisfied users were. The best sign of their happiness was the long click”.
Here are some of the benefits of incorporating search intent in your content marketing strategy.
1. Expand your Reach
Optimizing your content for search intent increases the search visibility of your web pages.
While there are multiple variations in the way web users search for information, most of the queries are related.
For instance, queries like “how to apply makeup”, “slay your makeup” and “face beat tips” are all related. The keywords and searches are different, but the results will be similar.
If you optimize your content for search intent, you will rank for several related web searches and not just keyword-related queries.
2. Increase Your Pageviews
To enhance the user experience, Google displays search results based on their relevance. The more pages you optimize for search intent, the higher you climb in SERP for related searches.
When users consistently find your web pages in search results, they consider you a credible source and go directly to your site in the future.
3. Earn the Coveted Position Zero Rank
is a Google feature that provides search information in the form of a highlighted snippet.
When you run a search on Google, position zero is the result found above all the others in an answer box.
For instance, this guest post I wrote for Jeff Bullas currently ranks position zero for “how to use storytelling in your blog”.
Google strategically places it on top, above paid adverts and organic results. Sites that earn the Position Zero rank have an increased CTR of 32.3 percent
. They also enjoy improved web authority, increased traffic and higher conversion rate.
4. Reduce Bounce Rates
Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who enter your site and leave from the entrance page without viewing other pages on your website.
When a visitor sees your web page, they’re scanning for the vital information they came for. The average web user leaves a web page within 10 to 20 seconds
if they are not satisfied with the information.
If people are leaving your web pages too early, you haven’t answered the question they’re asking.
High bounce rate means your content is under-performing. Optimize your content for search intent to reduces bounce rate and improve user experience and engagement.
How to Leverage Search Intent for SEO?
1. Understand the Buyer's Need
A user conducting an informational query is probably at the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey. Your website content should be structured around the buyer’s need and where they are in the sales funnel.
Do you have a live customer support team to answer questions a prospect may have? They can follow through and provide resources to move the prospect further into your sales funnel.
2. Respond to the User’s Need
Informational search queries cover a broad topic with many results. From questions such as “What is Harrison Ford’s favorite color” to “how to cut an avocado”.
Besides these generic questions, how do you position your website to respond to the user’s need?
You have a higher chance of appearing on position zero if you create content that answers an informational query.
I need to
How Can I
Best ways to
What are the benefits of
If your keyword is “electric oven”, you can optimize for “How Can I Cook a meal with an Electric Oven” or “What are the benefits of using an electric oven.”
Content formats for informational queries include listicles, tutorial videos, infographics, checklists and step-by-step guides.
The key is to work with an SEO copywriter who blends keyword research with search intent and great content that satisfies the user’s query.
3. Improve Your Keyword Campaign
Your chosen keywords should be worth your time and effort. The right keywords lift you to the first page. But if your content falls short, you have higher bounce rates and fewer conversions.
Don’t ignore low volume keywords. Many marketers pursue high volume search with low competition. But competition only considers advertising, not organic search factors like page titles and backlinks.
High volume keywords are very competitive and have multiple purposes. You have a better shot at striking gold with low volume keywords.
4. Optimize Your Product Pages for Local SEO
If you’re an eCommerce store, transactional keywords deliver the most ROI for you. Google prioritizes local results for local search queries
People are looking for stores closest to them where they can book appointments or walk in and make a purchase.
Analyze SERP results to see how your competitors rank for specific locations and mirror their actions.
To attract a qualified prospect, you must understand search intent and provide content that answers questions they’re asking. Google is now user-oriented more than keyword-driven. Focusing on search intent is a better way to drive traffic and increase conversion rates for your business.
(Disclaimer: The author works at Zenithcopy)
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