May 12 2017

Search Engine Optimization and Search Intent

The topic of search engine optimization (SEO) can be daunting when first spoken aloud in your marketing strategy meeting. But when it comes to developing a powerful website that meets your business goals, optimizing a site for high search engine rankings is just as important as maximizing usability and selecting a content management system that is right for your business. More than 6 billion searches* are performed every day, so businesses who have the most success plan their website strategy to take advantage of what searchers are already searching for. Just researching keyword popularity isn’t sufficient. Understanding search intent – or what searchers are actually looking for and why – will put your businesses at a competitive advantage. Explore how SEO and search intent are intertwined, and why SEO isn’t a “set it and forget it” process.

Begin with Strategic Keyword Research

The first and crucial step in the SEO process is keyword research. When beginning your keyword research, it is important to put yourself through the customer journey to understand how they search and what their intent for searching is. Have you ever thought about what questions would bring an individual to look at your site or how they would consider your products and services when they search? This is called search intent. These keywords and phrases help to create intent based optimization on your site.

Four Types of Search Intent

There are four categories for why people search. The first category is an informational search. The individual is searching for an answer to a question or clarity on a subject. For example, a search for “compare HELOC and home equity loan” is a search by someone looking to better understand the differences between home equity options. This searcher isn’t ready to buy, but instead is trying to educate themselves.

The second category is a navigational search, in which the individual has a destination in mind but isn’t completely certain what the URL might be or what might be nearby. In this scenario, the search engine functions more like the white pages used to.

Commercial investigation is a third-type of search. An individual is usually researching or looking for more information on a product, service, person or location. There is an intent to act, although not until they have all the information they need, and the searcher may also perform several searches to get to the result that best meets their needs. An example commercial investigation would be a searcher looking for the best tapas restaurant in Chicago.

The last search intent category is transactional search. Unlike the name implies, the searcher isn’t necessarily conducting a financial transaction, but instead is indicating readiness to make a conversion. Conversions will be different for each business, but it could be creating an account, purchasing an item, or completing a contact form.

Driving Searchers to Your Website

Now that you know why people search, you need to understand how to drive searchers to your website. When planning your SEO strategy, it is important to know your current customers so you can better predict the search intent of potential customers.  To start, consider your demographics. Where do your current customers come from? Are they male or female? What age ranges do they fall within? It’s also important to understand which stage in the buying cycle your target audience is in so that your strategy caters to audiences in all buying stages. Then, you need to craft your website architecture and content strategy to optimize for key search terms.

When someone is searching for a service they are most likely going to begin with broad terms and then narrow down their search. For example, a bank in Missoula Montana might get traffic from a simple search on the term like “banks in Missoula”. From here visitors will narrow down their searches to specific services or locations depending on what their search results are and what their intent was to begin with. Your keywords and phrases should cover all types of searches and all phases of the search process.

Understanding Search Intent Improves SEO Success

Understanding search intent has become increasingly more important because SEO is heavily influenced by this more than ever before. You want your customers to be able to search for answers, products and services on your site with ease.  To make it simple, think logically about the search intent of the customer and follow the journey that a customer would take to find your product or service. For more information or help with your site’s SEO efforts, contact us.

* Source: SmartInsights

  • SEO

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