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As Google releases more and more updates, the search engine becomes capable of understanding intent behind different search queries at an advanced level. This leads to an increased need for online marketers to review their SEO strategy to ensure it aligns with Google's constant updates.
The most important thing you can do right here and right now, however, is to master search intent yourself to target the right keywords, gain more traffic, and reel in more customers.
In this post, we'll go over the fine details of search intent and provide examples to help you identify and capitalize on more opportunities in your niche.
Every search query has an intent behind it. Whether you're looking for information out of curiosity or want to buy something, there's an intent that drives you to search a specific query.
Google understands (and is constantly getting better) at understanding the intent behind a searcher's query. This allows the search engine to supply results best suited for the user, instead of just relying on signals like keywords and links.
To provide better results for our businesses and clients, it's extremely important to understanding the exact intent behind queries and keywords we'd like to target. Without this information, you may be left wondering why your bounce rates are high and people simply aren't converting. (Hint: Google wants to serve the best results, but if you're aren't matching the intent it won't be able to help you.)
Search intent boils down to the purpose of someone's search. If I look up someone's name, I'm likely looking for information about them. But if I add another word at the end of my search, such as "age," "twitter," "book," a deeper intent is revealed.
The two most important intents to distinguish are "informational" and "transactional." In business, these make a huge difference when trying to convert search traffic into leads or purchases because knowing the difference in intent allows you to make changes to your site that help you rank for and convert more traffic from transactional-based search queries.
It might seem simple to distinguish between someone looking for information and someone trying to buy something, but keywords can sometimes be deceiving.
Here's an example: Let's say I'm in the market for a used car, but I don't know exactly which car I want. I turn to Google and search "Best Used Cars." I'm not looking to buy just yet, so landing on a list of cars for sale wouldn't do me much good. What I'm looking for is information on recommended used cars from a high-authority in the automotive industry.
So if you're a car dealer trying to focus on improving your search visibility for used cars, "Best Used Cars" is not the type of keyword to target. Again, this is because the search intent is not aligned with the content you're providing.
In this situation, it'd be more advantageous for you to target keywords like "Used Cars for Sale" or "Used Cars in [City, State]." These keywords show that the intent is to find cars for sale and cars in a specific city. Those users aren't looking for information; they're looking to buy.
Stop thinking about SEO and keyword targeting in these situations and put yourself in the mind of a search user. When you look at a keyword, think about what the results you'd like to see if you were performing that search. Is your site providing the right information, or are you just trying to optimize for more traffic?
Now that you know the basics of search intent and how to identify keywords that fit your site and content, how do you go about creating new content with all of that in mind?
First off, you don't write a single word until you've completely identified the intent you want to target and have a list of keyword that match it. The next step is to outline your content from start to finish to ensure you stick to that intent without deviating.
This means that if your intent is to get someone to buy from you, don't regurgitate information found on your product information pages. You can briefly mention facts, but keep in mind that if someone made it to a product page or another type of lead-gen page, they've likely done their research. Now is the time to take off your "informing" hat and put on your "converting" hat.
And it's the exact same for informational content. If you're giving advice or providing facts, don't use that as a platform to try and sell. This is the biggest problem most businesses have when it comes to SEO content. If users search for information, that's what they want to find. By mixing in transactional content, you're taking value away from the information you've already provided.
You'll find that it's less likely Google will rank this content highly and that building links will be move difficult because the information isn't genuine. Google wants to provide people with genuine information that's not motivated by profit and people want to link to information that can be trusted.
"So what's the point in creating this content?" you're probably asking.
Well, not all SEO content is meant to convert customers. Informational content should link to transactional content, but it's typically the informational content that gets traffic, links, and helps boost the ranking of your transactional content.
You need to start thinking about the buying process in two different ways: research mode and purchase mode. Your informational content is targeted at prospective customers who are still in research mode. They're not ready to buy; they just want to see what's out there and get advice. Once they enter purchase mode, however, they'll find their way to your transactional content and will be more likely to convert because you've properly separated the content.
At the end of the day, each of our situations are different; don't rely on what you see here as the only way to strategize. Instead, experiment as often as possible and learn from the results or lack of results you see.
You won't find a single person in SEO tell you that they haven't learned anything knew because they've seen it all. This field is constantly changing and evolving; the only way to see continuous progress is to take notes, make changes, and keep going.
Originally Published to Wikimotive.com on November 30, 2015.
Navigating SEO is a weekly blog series by Timothy Martell, President and Founder of Wikimotive, that provides advice and insight into SEO for business.