Google used to rely primarily on plain text and backlinks to determine ranks in its early days. Google search has evolved into a robust product with a variety of algorithm changes aimed at promoting content and results that are relevant to a user’s needs.  That is the reason understanding search intent in SEO has become super important for SEO professionals.

SEO is a measurable entity.  It is measured on ranking, traffic gained by a website, search volume for a particular keyword, and sales or conversions that take place on the website.  A business owner will want to rank higher on Google and see an increase in their organic traffic that will generate sales and provide them with leads.  These can be achieved by keeping track of the metrics mentioned above.

However, the most important thing that comes before all these measurable entities is the selection of the right keywords. To choose the right keywords, SEO professionals generally tend to look at search volume and ignore to understand the search intent of a keyword. The content should satisfy the user intent as well as be relevant to the search query for it to rank.

Search users can be divided into two categories:

  • Specific – Specific users are those who are precise about their search and do not deviate.
  • Exhaustive – Exhaustive search users are those who research a lot and get into the depth of the topic.

Search engines are continuously trying to improve their understanding of search intent.

Search engines like Google divide the relevancy of keywords into three categories:

  • Fully relevant – Those keywords that match exactly with the search query.
  • Partially relevant – Those keywords whose search intention is not clear but match with part of the search query.
  • Keywords with multiple meanings – These are the queries that do not tell search engines what the user is actually looking for.  For example, queries like “apple”, it can be related to a fruit or mobile device.

To answer such keywords with more than one meaning, search engines follow the query interpretation method.

What is query interpretation?

When a user enters a keyword that does not convey the correct intent of the search or confuses the search engine, search engines try to interpret the meaning of the keyword to provide the best possible results to the search query.  Query interpretation is of 3 types.

  • Dominant type of interpretation – This is the interpretation which the majority of the users mean when they put in a query, something similar to exact match type.
  • Common type of interpretation – This interpretation is when the search engine is not clear about the query.  Search engines try to provide results based on common interpretations that they can make and provide varying results, similar to our previous example of “Apple.”
  • Minor type interpretation – Queries that have less frequent meanings, which are generally location-specific can be termed as minor interpretations.

Now that we know about search user categories, keyword relevancy categories, and query interpretations; it is time to understand the search intent.  Search intent is divided into transactional, informational, and navigation queries.

Transactional Queries

When a user types in a “do” query, they want to take a specific action, such as buying a product or reserving a service. These are crucial for e-commerce websites, as a consumer may be searching for a specific brand or item.  The purchases or bookings are made online, hence the transactional element is present in such queries.  These are called transactional queries.

Informational Queries

These queries are in which the user wants to learn more about a specific topic. Words such as “know” or “know more about” are used in such queries.  Nowadays, these queries relate a lot to micro-moments.  This is because of the use of smartphones with internet connections.  Whenever a user wants some instant information immediately and a search is done with this intent, it is called micro-moment queries.  For example, checking gold or stock rates.  Informational queries can range from simple to complex questions. Product research which is done before the transactional query also falls under the category of the informational query.  Informational queries are given special attention by google because they provide value to customers, whereas transactional queries help businesses.  So to grow your business, it is important to give customers information about your products or services using these informational intent keywords.

Navigational Queries

Navigational queries are brand-oriented where a user wants to visit a specific website to know more about the brand or business.

Other factors which SEO professionals need to keep in mind along with these search intentions are:

  • Featured snippets can help boost SEO.  Appearing in featured snippet does not mean your website will drive a lot of traffic, but it increases the click through rate and introduces you to new users.
  • Understand the buyer journey. It is important to know how a person searches and where they are on their buyer journey.
  • Search intent is not constant, it keeps changing.  As search intent changes, search results also change.  Based on user searches, transactional queries can change into informational and vice versa.  This depends on the situation and the surrounding environment.
  • Machine learning is improving over time, and when combined with other algorithm changes, it has the potential to alter search results pages.

In conclusion, understanding searcher intent is one of the most important aspects of SEO. By understanding what users are looking for, you can better optimize your content and website to meet their needs. Additionally, incorporating user intent into your SEO strategy can help you to improve your rankings and drive more traffic to your website.