How to handle search intent vs keywords ?
February 6, 2017 Updated : July 4, 2017
As the Google algorithm has evolved, search intent driven keyword research is the way forward for website development.
Keywords in web content
The importance of keywords in web content is not in dispute. Your website content would still need to be driven by what people are searching for. You still need to do keyword research to know what people are searching for.
If you run a house painting business, your website would need to have the keywords “House painting” in it because people would search for it.
It makes sense then to optimize your website for these keywords. But not everyone typing in the words “house painting” is looking for your services. They may even be looking for instructions on how to paint a house.
This is an example of the intent of the search. For someone looking for instructions for painting, to reach your service page is not a satisfactory response. Even if you are the number one page for this keyword, the site visitor will simply bounce away from your page.
If you have, however, created a blog piece or a downloadable instruction manual or even a video that tells people how to paint a house, you would more than satisfy the search intent while also bringing visitors to your website.
The current Google algorithm is working on the semantic search principle. A simplistic explanation is that search engines now look for content that addresses the multiple meanings of any given keyword.
If your website is equipped to handle various intents, it is more likely to be ranked higher. Keywords have value only if they are able to address the intent of the search.
What is search intent?
Why do people run a Google search? This question has become crucial to companies who are looking to build an online presence.
It is no longer enough to know what people are searching for. You also need to know why they search for it. What is the intent of the search; to know that has become the more important question.
Here is a simple example that demonstrates how a majority of people approach searching on Google or other search engines.
Search Query: Italian restaurant on Fifth Avenue
How does a website tackle search queries? The website is optimized for all possible keywords like “Italian Restaurant” and “Fifth Avenue”.
Search Intent: Reservation
Checking wine list
Although any one of these items could have been the intent of the search, a typical web user would start with a simple query and then modify it based on the results he gets.
But if a website on the search engine results page (SERP) displays keywords related to the search intent, the web user is more likely to click that link rather than type a query again.
How can a website tackle search intent? Since a web user may not always type in the intent of the search, the content on the website must be developed to tackle all possible intents of your website’s visitors.
Search intent is significant because most people using the web to look for information are not web development or SEO experts. No one is going to type in all the keywords that you think will bring your website to the number one position on the SERP.
People are more likely to type in a search query starting “What is the price of…”.
Nicole Hess shows us why keyword research needs to change to incorporate search intent. It is a great example to show that your website can have the right keywords and still miss the intent.
By missing the intent, your website may not get picked by Google at all.
Search Query: Plan trip with infant
In Nicole’s search results, the top websites did not even contain the word “infant”. Instead the top results had words like “baby”, “travel plan”, “road trip”.
Google isn’t just looking for exact keywords. Websites that have content that are equal in meaning to the search query are equally eligible for becoming number 1 on the SERP.
As I found when I tried the same search query, none of the top 10 pages had the keyword “infant” in their page titles.
The search engine understands that the intent is to get information or tips on things to do when travelling with a baby. The algorithm is looking for pages that answer these questions.
Plus, note the suggestions at the end of the SERP. The top suggestions are for travelling by car which is what a majority of parents have searched for.
It is very likely that this is what our web searcher actually intended and was going to modify his query after giving a quick run through of the top 10 websites. He sees the suggested search and will click on it.
What does search intent mean for your website?
On the one hand it means that content on the website can be based more on natural language, and on the other it means that the website’s overall performance is also key to how it is rated by the search engine.
Having keywords isn’t enough. The website must have intuitive content that the search engine algorithm recognizes as an answer to the search query. Stuffing keywords cannot work anymore.
Content must be valuable and not just voluminous. Before we work out what kind of content is required, let’s first look at the type of searches that people normally do and the intent behind them.
Types of search intent
The commonly accepted classification of search intent is as follows:
- Navigational Search
- Informational Search
- Transactional Search
Point to remember: A search query is not a keyword. A keyword, says this article on wordstream, is a Platonic ideal of the search query. It is gleaned from all the searches people are running on a search engine.A search query is the sentence or word that a web user types into the search engine’s search box. It may match the keyword exactly or it may be padded by other words. It is essentially what people type in.
Search queries are important because they determine what the search engine will look for in your website.
Navigational search query
This query is when someone types in “Facebook” or “YouTube” into the search box rather than type the URL into a browser. Google will respond to these queries by listing these websites at the top of the SERP.
Below is an example of a navigational search query.
How to target navigational queries?
You have to be a site owner to target navigational queries. A true navigational search query will have clear intent. Your site is relevant only if the user was specifically looking for it.
Although some navigational queries are looking for information on the company, the majority want to be taken to the site immediately. This query likely stems from the fact that people are unsure of the full URL; is it flowersathome.com or flowersathome.net?
The next best thing would be to type “flowersathome” or “flowers at home” into the search box. Thus make sure that you own your website’s navigational query. Your brand and company name should appear in the top organic spot and the top sponsored spot.
Informational Search Query
These are queries that people type in when they are looking for information about something. They want to know how it works, what it is, or how to make it work.
Wikipedia is at the top of the SERP for more than half of informational searches. Type anything into Google that is somewhat generic and it is likely that the first page you get is Wikipedia.
While conversational queries or long queries may not always return a Wikipedia page, you have to understand that Wikipedia remains successful as an information provider because it provides basic information on a wide range of topics.
Given the collaborative nature of Wikipedia content and its maintenance, information is not always be perceived as reliable. Therefore as an expert in your field, your website can be put to work to provide the best information on your subject.
How to target informational queries?
High-quality SEO content that gives valuable information is the best way to target informational queries. If people are looking for “tips for vertical gardens”, you as a seller of vertical garden frames should ensure that you have a blog or a video which provides a list of things to do to maintain vertical gardens.
Some of the content types that best work for targeting informational queries include:
- Blogs with tips and lists
- How-to videos
- Step-by-step guides
- Infographics that succinctly illustrates a concept.
Point to remember: You want to position yourself as an authority figure in your business. Your content must inform. It should not become an overt marketing exercise where you are shoving all kinds of information into a single blog piece.
If you are writing about maintenance tips for a vertical garden, provide a list of tips. If the reader finds your information useful, she will automatically go to your service page or contact us page or at least remember your website for future queries.
Transactional Search Queries
A transactional search query is typically one in which the user is looking to complete a transaction.
Samsung Galaxy s4 buy
<Service provider> Online phone bill payments
Coffee maker purchase online
Used car sell online
Cakes order online
These web searchers are at the business end of the conversion strategy. They are ready to shell out the cash to complete the sale. Local searches like “Denver ice cream shop” are also transactional in nature.
How to target transactional searches?
If you are a seller (or even a buyer, say wholesaler or retailer) then the best way to capitalize on transactional searches is through PPC. Why Pay Per Click you ask, why not organic SEO strategies. Here are some reasons why PPC is better for transactional searches:
- These queries are best suited for generating ROI in paid search. Since people are ready to buy, a sponsored ad will generate a response as much as an organic listing.
- Transactional SERP typically show a lot of sponsored ads which pushes organic results below the fold. Sponsored ads are a great way to ensure that your SEO strategies work to your advantage.
- Google offers options like adding picture of your product in sponsored ads. This means the people are more likely to click on your link.
- When you look at commercial searches only, sponsored ads get the maximum number of clicks, sometimes 50% more than organic results. Many search engines don’t distinguish between sponsored and organic results, therefore to be seen as sponsored is are the way to go.
- To generate leads and drive sales, AdWords is a cost-effective and scalable option to go with.
Of course for driving overall traffic you would need content driven SEO strategies as well, because 80% of search queries on the internet are of the informational variety. Even as a seller, you would find that online presence is boosted by developing a website that addresses informational search intent as well.
Developing content that addresses search intent
One of the findings to emerge with relation to developing content around keywords is that keyword research driven content may not achieve the kind of search results you are looking for.
The content strategy revolving around developing volumes of content for single keywords will not work anymore. Google and other search engines are evolving to become more sentient. A website has to provide its visitors something valuable to read.
Information is no longer about what a website gives, it is more about what a customer wants. If customer wants instructions, if customer wants tips, if customer wants reviews, then all these things must be provided for.
As this article points out, for keyword research to be effective, it must be driven by search intent.
Only if the intent is fulfilled, your website bounce rate will come down.
Creative content strategy
As seen by the infant example, a keyword need not even be present in your web page for it to make to the top of the search results. What is needed is that natural connections be made with a keyword and the natural language that you are using in your website.
If people are searching for rubber boots, nothing is stopping you from using the term “gum boots” or “Wellingtons” to your web pages. These words are semantically connected and Google will be able to rank your page as long as your SEO strategy matches the content in strength.
Therefore get creative with your content without worrying too much about exact keywords. You need to know what is driving searches but Google’s latest algorithm allows you the freedom of natural language content. Make full use of it.
Create memorable user experience with content
A website visitor is more likely to remember your website if they were able to reach your website through content like videos or blogs or infographics – the visual experience is key. Therefore, ensure your content strategy is built around user experience.
- Develop trust worthy content
- Provide facts
- Back up claims with hard data
- Share your statistics to boost customer confidence
- Tell your customer’s story
- Make them part of your content development strategy
- Allow them to share their experience with your product or service
- Give potential customers a way to interact with existing customers
- Share your own experiences – both successes and failures
- Develop content that shares your company’s journey
- Share insights into your business formation struggle and how you overcame them
- Share your success stories
The idea is to create content that develops a bond between your business and your customer. Large corporations need little content – their brands speak for themselves. But even they are now sharing content that puts user experience on the forefront.
As a small business owner, you will also be able to capitalize on search intent driven content strategy. A web development company that specializes in content and SEO strategy is your best option for this.
Specialist companies like Colorwhistle provide turnkey services from development to optimization to marketing which means that we are well versed with how the latest search engine algorithms work.
SEO and content strategies have seen remarkable changes over the years. As search intent becomes a driving force for online success, business owners should partner with web development and strategy experts to glean maximum benefits for their brand and their website.
Keyword research needs to be built around search intent
Your SEO keyword research should encompass not just the keywords identified through a study of the searches that are most common in Google but also understand what people intend by these searches.
Here are 3 simple steps to get you started.
- Examine the Search Engine Page Results for a set of keywords for your product or service. It will give you a good idea about why people are looking for certain things.
- Use analytical tools that are available on Google to understand how competitive these keywords are
- Use these analytics reports to understand what kind of search intent you want to target (for example, informational or commercial)
- Develop your keyword and content strategy based on that.
All in all, we must acknowledge that the significance of keywords in web content has changed and we must adapt our strategies to the changes or be left behind.
Looking for building a website? Have questions about web design partnership? Let us know how we can help you.