Search Intent Optimization Guide: Identify and Optimize Content in 8 Steps + Cheat Sheet

Search Intent Optimization Guide: Identify and Optimize Content in 8 Steps + Cheat Sheet

Search intent is the main goal someone has in mind when they search for something on the internet. Most of the time, people are looking for an answer or a resource when they search a query. 

Consider the following four search terms, for example:

– Plushbeds 

– Best eco-friendly mattresses

– Plushbeds mattress price 

– Materials in an eco-friendly mattress 

These search queries revolve around the same subject, i.e., mattresses, but have different search intents. Can you guess the search intent behind each of them?

If you can’t, you don’t need to worry! We’ll tell you everything in a minute.

Read on!

H2: 4 Prominent Search Intent Types

Google ranks your content for a specific keyword if it matches the intent related to those search terms. How does Google know the searcher’s intent behind the terms? Thanks to the historical data accumulated over decades and machine learning, Google’s smart enough to know quite accurately what you mean when people write ‘apple’ vs. ‘apple juice’ in the search bar. 

Experts identify the following four distinct search intents for most queries:

– Navigational

– Informational

– Commercial

– Transactional

four common search intents

H3: Navigational

Navigational search intent is involved when the searcher wants to visit a specific website. The searcher already knows what page he wants to visit. They might as well just type in the exact URL in the address bar, but they don’t because they don’t need to or they don’t remember ‒ Google will take them there.  

Going back to the intro, the first search query, Plushbeds, has a navigational search intent. So, when you search “Plushbeds,” you Plushbeds website as the top result. 

plushbeds navigational intent

H3: Informational

When a searcher looks up something just to find out more about it, the search intent is Informational. It can be as simple as “Elon Musk and Grimes” or as complex as “How does Bitcoin and Litecoin trading work?”

Can you guess which search phrase from the intro has informational intent? Look at the image below:

materials in an eco-friendly mattress informational search intent

H3: Commercial

In a commercial intent, the searcher’s in the market to buy something, but they haven’t decided on a specific product yet, so they want to explore a bit. This category lies somewhere between transactional and informational intent. 

Commercial search intent usually yields results like reviews and comparisons. Let’s plug the second search term from the list in the intro and find out its search intent.

best eco-friendly mattress commercial intent

H3: Transactional 

When the searchers are in buying mode, they use transactional keywords. They already know what they want and are just looking for the right shop or great deals.

Can you tell which search term in the intro has transactional intent? 

Here’s a hint: it has the word ‘price’ in it.

plushbed mattress price transactional intent

H2: How to Identify the Search Intent

Google wants us to shift our focus from search optimization to user experience optimization which also means showing them what they mean when they search. 

But how can you know the search intent behind your chosen keywords? Luckily, everything that you need to know is present in the SERP. 

So, let’s dive in:

H3: Search Modifiers

Modifiers are words that you can add to your search query to modify their search intent. Swapping even a single word in a search query can sometimes dramatically modify the intent and SERP results.

For example, we already know the keyword, ‘Plushbeds,’ has a navigational intent. Now let’s add a modifier to it and viola; the intent changes to transactional.

SERP for transactional keyword intent for 'buy plushbed

Now, let’s modify the search term even more. Can you guess the search intent now?

SERP for informational search intent for plushbeds complaints

Noticed the dramatic change in the results? Can you guess the intent? Tell me in the comments!

Here are some common modifiers that people typically use for different intents:

Informational: Where, what, how, who, guide, tutorial, tips, ideas, examples

Navigational: Product name, service name, brand name

Commercial: Size, color, best, top, comparison, review

Transactional: Buy, purchase, price, cheap, coupon, order

H3: Dominant Content Types in SERP

One of the easiest ways to identify search intent is by noticing the most dominant content types in the SERP.

For instance, let’s continue with the mattress-related keywords. If we search for ‘buy eco-friendly mattress,” we get somewhat commercial intent, as seen in the results. 

But when we search for ‘buy plushbed mattress,’ we can clearly see the transactional intent as most results are product pages on e-commerce sites. 

So, we can identify the dominant search intent related to that query by looking at the content type.

H4: Beware of the Domain Authority

Here’s the plot twist!

When inferring the search intent from the SERPs, you should keep an eye on the Domain Authority (DA) of the websites. Sometimes, a very high DA website can rank for a keyword even though it doesn’t fulfill the search intent. So, in such cases, ignore the odd content types of the high DA site and choose the dominant content type to guess the search intent. 

H3: SERP Features

SERP features are another dead giveaway of the search intent. They are a part of Google’s elaborate plan to satisfy a searcher’s search intent right in the search results. Let’s look at the SERP features associated with different search intents:

H4: Informational

Let’s look at a search query with informational search intent.

We can identify the following SERP features:

– Featured snippet

– People also ask (PAA)

– Video block

Other SERP features associated with informational intent are:

– Image packs 

– News packs

H4: Transactional

Let’s search for a term with transactional intent.

We identified the following SERP features:

– Sitelinks

– People Also Ask (PAA)

– Product pages

– Image pack

Other features associated with transactional intent are:

– Videos block

– Ads block 

H4: Commercial

Let’s see what we find for commercial intent.

We found the following SERP features:

– People Also Ask (PAA)

– Video block

– Image pack

Other features associated with commercial intent are:

– Ad blocks

– Featured snippet

– News pack

– Apps

H4: Navigational

Let’s search a query with navigational search intent.

We found the following features:

– Sitelinks 

– Knowledge graph panel

– Local pack 

– Twitter carousel

Other SERP features associated with navigational search intent include:

– Ads block

– Places

– Image pack

H2: How to Optimize Content for Search Intent

Now that you know how to identify the search intent, it’s time to discuss how you can optimize your content accordingly and provide your audience the exact information they require. 

Cheat Sheet

H3: 1. Right Keyword is Still Important

Writing for search intent doesn’t mean you’re to ignore the keyword. No, you still need to find a keyword with low competition and high traffic. Just make sure that the search intent of the keyword matches the reason you’re creating content. 

For example, if you wish to create informational content, make sure to use the keyword or its variation that has the correct stats and matches search intent. You can use tools like Google Trends, Ahrefs, and AnswerThePublic to find suitable keywords and phrases.

H3: 2. Choose the Winning Content-Type

We already discussed how to deduce search intent by noticing the dominant content types in the SERP. Now we need to make sure that we choose the right content type for our keyword so that we deliver the content our audience expects. If we do that, Google will certainly favor our content over others who ignore picking the right type. 

For example, we searched “how to make panna cotta.”

The dominant content type is videos and recipe posts. So, it means our content should be either one of these or both. 

H3: 3. Choose the Dominant Content Format

When you research a topic, take some time to notice what kind of format is more dominant than others. Based on the dominant results (videos, how-tos, e-book, infographics, articles, etc.), decide your content’s format.

For example, if we search ‘how to fix the car seat,’ this is what the SERPs look like:

There is a proper video fest going on!

You can also find some step-by-step articles, but the top positions are occupied by videos.

So, to have any chance of ranking for this phrase, you should create a video instead of writing a blog post. 

H3: 4. Check the Content Angle

Once you’ve figured out the content type and format, you need to pay heed to the angle SERP winners are using and decide how you can use it and still stand out. The dominant content angle is most probably the unique selling point searchers are looking for. 

For example, let’s search ‘how to make pancakes,’ which has an informational intent.

Can you see the angle? Notice the repetitive words:

– Fluffy pancakes

– Easy basic pancakes

– Good old fashioned pancakes

For transactional intent, let’s search, ‘buy lens online.’

You can see people pitching their cheap prices, discounts, and free shipping because these things get a searcher’s attention.

H3: 5. Reflect Search Intent in Title and Meta Description

Your title is a searcher’s first encounter with your content. When the searcher can see what he’s looking for in the title of your page, he’s more likely to click on it. 

Create a title that contains your seed keyword. Make sure to use the words we discovered during content angle analysis in the title and the meta description. Use keyword variations and really entice the reader to know more about what you’ve got to offer.

H3: 6. Add Scannable, On-Point Headers

About 79% of people scan a page before they read it and they scan it in an F-shaped pattern. So, your headings should showcase the search intent if you want a reader to stay and not bounce back to the SERP. Use keyword variations and topic-relevant phrases in headings and subheadings so that the readers know they’ll get all the related information.

H3: 7. Visuals Should Support the Intent

Compelling visual content can get you 94% more views than your competition and 42% more CTR. Visuals catch the readers’ eyes first, so make sure they support the search intent. Again, analyze the SERP and find dominant visuals ‒ GIFs, stock photos, infographics, memes ‒ you need to add them.

For example, if you search ‘how to wrap boxing wraps,’ the SERP winners have either videos or how-to images, so you should have them in your content too.

H3: 8. Add CTA Relevant to Content Goal

Adding a call-to-action (CTAs) is necessary for conversions. A CTA can encourage your audience to download a file, buy your course, buy a product, subscribe to your newsletter, share your content to their social media, or read more blogs. 

Whatever CTA you add, make sure it’s simple, actionable, and makes sense for the search intent.

For example, let’s analyze the result for a query “food plating ideas’ and look at one of the SERP results. They have a very clear CTA at the beginning of their article, prompting their audience to buy their products. 

Then at the end, there are related articles to encourage readers to stay on their site. This shows a combined informational and commercial intent. 

Now notice the difference in CTA for the transactional query ‘buy aha bha peeling solution.’ 

– Connect with us

– Free Shipping

– Add to basket

Since Google is bent on rewarding websites that provide a better user experience, fulfilling, search intent has become even more crucial for ranking. A keyword is the starting line for a website, but the search intent is the finishing line, so the latter should be the one guiding your decisions about what your content should look like. 

Every keyword, every phrase people use to search on Google has a search intent. If your content fulfills it better than the others, you will see it gradually climbing the ranking ladder and top the SERP results. 
If you have any questions or wish to create content that woos the audience and wins the SERP, feel free to reach out!

Sonia Ahmed

Sonia is a wellness and sustainability writer who helps socially responsible companies establish their brands and reach their target audience. When she's not helping her clients reach their goals, she writes short stories and book reviews at penslipsmagazine.com

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