This is WHY Search Intent is the KEY to SEO and Content Marketing

It seems like the only thing we can count on in the world of online marketing is change.  It makes perfect sense, if we drill down to the base of it:  online marketing is based on technology, and technology – and the way people use it – changes very rapidly.

The Evolution of Ranking

A few years ago, keyword loading was the way to top SEO rankings.  Today, keywords are significant, but search engines no longer look for the richest cache of them.  Instead, search engine algorithms are now “learning” how to understand search intent in order to instantly give each searcher the exact results they’re looking for.

Therefore, in order to keep up with the search engines, we, as online marketers, have to understand search intent just as well, if not better.  Let’s take a look at what search intent entails, and how we can stay one step ahead of the algorithms to land that coveted first page of search engine results.

What Does “Search Intent” Mean?

Content marketers have been familiar with search engines crawling our websites for keywords for some time now, but today’s search engines not only look at the keywords, but how they are used contextually.  The advances in Artificial Intelligence have made natural language processing possible in the search engine algorithms, so that not only do the crawl bots look for the keywords used, but the context in which they are used.


natural language processing

For searchers, this can be a huge benefit.  Instead of wading through pages of related-but-not-relevant search results, the answer they want is directly at their fingertips.

For content marketers, however, this can make the process of getting your online business in front of the right audience seem more challenging on the surface.  However, understanding the different types of search intent can help unlock a greater number of opportunities for marketing your specific content directly to the right audience at exactly the ideal point in the sales funnel where you can have the most meaningful interaction and impact.

What Are the Different Types of Search Intent?

There are three main types of search intent, and each corresponds to a particular spot within the traditional sales funnel.

Informational Search Intent

The first is “Informational” searches.  Those who conduct informational searches are at the very top of the sales funnel.  They are looking for basic information to inform them about options and opportunities related to a specific term.  

In many cases, they may not even be sure what, exactly, they’re looking for.  They are aware that they have a problem or a need, and that a solution is required.  But first, they want to understand more about their specific problem or need, and gain access to a variety of potential solutions.

You’ve probably done many informational type searches, even on a daily basis.  Let’s say you’re interested in a new form of exercise.  You see a few bikers casually ride by your window, and think that looks like a great idea.


informational search intent

So where do you start your search?  Chances are good you start looking for more information about biking, but since you know nothing, you’ll need to start with the most basic, and narrow it down from there.  You are on an informational search.

There are pros and cons of targeting an informational search.  On one hand, if you can get in front of the potential customers before any other site, then you have an amazing opportunity to become their trusted resource for anything related to your products and services.

On the other hand, informational searches are usually very vague, and have a lot of competition.  In the biking example, you might search for something like “best bikes for new riders”.  At this stage of your searching, you actually want to be presented with multiple solutions, so you can learn more about a new topic.

Searchers in the informational stage expect lots of information, and they’re rarely ready to make a conversion at this stage.

Navigational Searches

Next are “Navigational” searches.  The individuals who conduct this type of search are typically somewhere in the middle of the sales funnel.  Unlike the informational searchers, they know exactly what they want, but they don’t know how to find it right away.  Alternatively, they may be willing to explore a variety of solutions that fit within a certain theme.  

In the bicycle example, perhaps in the information stages, you decided that a mountain bike would be your ideal purchase.


navigational search intent

At the same time, you’d like to try out the bike before you buy it to make sure it’s the right fit.  You’d probably search for something like “mountain bikes near me” or even “where to buy This Brand mountain bike”.  You are searching for directions – or navigation – to exactly what you want.

There are challenges for content marketers here, too.  In order to target these searchers, your content and keywords have to fit exactly into the search parameters.  Perhaps you take this opportunity to compare your product to the competition.  Maybe this is the chance for some skyscraper content marketing!

Transactional Searches

Lastly, there are “Transactional” searches.  As the name implies, these searchers are ready to make a purchase, which places them directly at the bottom of the sales funnel.  Chances are very high that the search terms include terms such as “where to buy” or “sale” or “price”.


transactional search intent

For this reason, transactional searches will generally include long tail keywords, such as “sales on This Brand mountain bike”.  While transactional searches only make up about 10% of all searches, the conversion rate is very high for these individuals.

Can I Incorporate Search Intent in SEO and Content Marketing?

It’s a very good idea to pay attention to search intent when optimizing your content, though it may seem impossible to guess at how your content ranks for different stages.  

Take it step by step.  First, look at your current keywords, and check out your current ranking on SERPs.  What queries are you ranking for?  Where do you appear?  Are you providing specific answers to various queries?  Are your target keywords aligned with your ranking?  What other resources are ranking for your targets?  You might need to take some time dissecting your current content in order to understand the ins and outs of how your pages are ranking for search intent.

Next, pick keywords with high transactional value for the pages you intend to lead to direct sales and conversions.  For example, keywords like “buy”, “cost”, or “reviews” are good ways to draw in shoppers who are ready to invest.

If your goal is less to make a sale, and more to inspire your audience to contact you, use those words instead!  “Call”, “Visit”, or “Contact” can be very encouraging in an intentional search.  Your physical location may be important to searchers, too, depending on the products or services you offer.

When it comes to understanding search engines, it may feel like the world is changing too fast.  Instead, it’s just keeping up with the way actual human beings search for the information they need.  By dialing into the stages of search intent, you can understand how your pages and keywords can fit into each stage, and make content adjustments accordingly.


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