Understanding Searcher Intent for the Purpose of SEO
What exactly does SEO do? Parsing the term based on its element, search engine and optimization, we can safely surmise that it has something to do with making the best or most effective use (optimization) of search engines. But who decides what is ‘best’ or ‘most effective’? What criteria are being used for ‘best’ and ‘most effective’? More to the point, how can you tell whether you’ve reached that point or not? To answer that question, we have to start from the very beginning.
To be perfectly blunt, search engines are there for searching. Typing in a word or a set of words (colloquially known as keywords) on a search engine, say Google, will result in a list of results that Google thinks is relevant to the words you typed in. It used be that Google would simply list where your answer can be found but it has progressed far enough that the search engine itself can actually give you an answer directly on the results page fairly reliably.
SEO services work by pushing a particular site or page as far up the results page as possible for certain keywords. The tricky part lies in the choosing which keywords to go for. Too broad and you’ll be faced with a massive pool of competitors. Too specific and you’ll risk missing the bigger picture. Besides, with more than 400,000 words in the dictionary, how would you be able to find the specific string that people are using? The key is understanding searcher intent.
What people ask for when they go to Google
In essence, SEO is about predicting why people are searching for whatever it is they’re searching and using the answer to increase exposure for your company. It’s not about the actual words they’re using but also what each user are attempting to find with those exact words. For example, consider what people are searching for when they typed in the word ‘recover hard drive’. Are they looking for a way to do that manually? A place that offer such services? Or a program that could do that for them?
Google dubs this pattern behavior as micro moments, to describe a behavior in which people turn to search engines to answer whatever life’s mysteries are bugging them in a particular moment. Queries like “why dog sniffs people’s butt”, “where is Queensland art gallery”, “yoga beginner’s guide” and “Ksubi jeans” all reflect different searcher intent, which will be detailed below.
I-want-to-know moments and informational search
This searcher intent is purely informational and represents the main function of the search engine at its most basic level. When my posterior was sniffed by 6 different dogs during a morning jog, this was the moment I had when typed in the dog query from the example above. Queries on your algebra homework, what happened during the North Korea summit, the results for last night’s World Cup game all belong in this particular searcher intent.
I-want-to-go moments and navigational search
This particular searcher intent isn’t just about physical location, this also pertains to moments in which there’s a website you want to visit but you don’t know the specific URL, like when you type in “guardian Australia” in the address bar instead of navigating directly to the site. It’s also not strictly navigational like the Queensland art gallery example shown above. Tourism-related queries, such as “lodging near great ocean road” or “places to visit in Hobart” are a mix between informational and navigational intent.
I-want-to-do moments and how-to search
This searcher intent has a lot in common with the first one but specifically deals in how-to contents. Queries on how to properly braise a duck, clean a pair of leather boots and care for a bonsai falls under this umbrella. Out all of the searcher intent, this is the one that is most often accompanied with videos and images.
I-want-to-buy moments and transactional search
This searcher intent usually acts as the final stopping point for all users, the culmination of all of their previous searches and what most marketers strive for. This searcher intent is usually refers to a specific type of product, like “Ksubi jeans” instead of the more generic “raw jeans”. This searcher intent is usually geographically specific, made in combination with the I-want-to-go moments above for a query like “affogato Albert Park”. If location services are enabled, Google is able to tailor the results without any location modifier although adding specifics will further narrow your results.
SEO strategy based on searcher intent
It should be obvious by now that the searcher intent that has the highest potential for financial transactions belong in the I-want-to-buy moments and naturally, the bulk of your contents should reflect that. Trying to appeal to more than one intent is rarely cost-efficient as it’s usually better to excel in one subject rather than trying to be a jack-of-all trades. The key is to match a certain page of your website to a specific intent.
Aligning the message in your contents to the search intent is crucial. Clicks and visits are devoid of meaning on their own, it’s conversion that ultimately matters when it comes to the bottom line. Define the terms you’d like to target and try to identify the types of content that ranks well associated with a particular term to get a general outline on the type of content you should be creating. Blindly creating contents with total disregard of searcher intent is a fool’s errand.