From classifying user intent to analyzing SERPs, learn practical steps to optimize search intent.
Creating content that optimize search intent is important to be relevant in the search engine results pages.
A user’s intent is the reason behind their query. Search engines aim to provide results that best satisfy the intent for a particular query.
Here are my tips on optimizing for search intent and improving your content to match what searchers are looking for.
1. Identify search intent
It is important to start by identifying the intent before jumping into optimization. Search queries can be classified into one of the top three types of search intent:
1. Navigational intent: The primary goal is to find a specific website.
2. Transactional intent (a.k.a. commercial intent): The main objective is to purchase.
3. Informational intent: The aim is to acquire knowledge.
If you are working at scale, you can quickly perform this classification using tools like Semrush, Ahrefs, and Sistrix. These keyword research tools automatically include intent classification to help you get started.
In the example above, the difference in intent between people looking to buy Barbie products (with a commercial or ‘do’ intent) and queries related to the movie (with an informational or ‘know’ intent) is visible.
Using these types of search intent to classify queries will set you on the right track. For instance, you might realize that you have a transactional page for a certain query when you could be creating or updating a comprehensive informational resource to better align with user intent.
It is better to start with this information and make necessary adjustments rather than discover it after investing a lot of effort in optimizing a page. This step is crucial as it is not always as apparent as it may initially seem.
2. Put yourself in their shoes
Now that you have learned about intent classification try to put yourself in the shoes of your intended audience.
We have all searched for various types of information, and we know what good search results look like.
Consider what you expect to see and evaluate whether your current page or content meets those expectations. If not, can you identify the areas where it is lacking?
Having a clear understanding of the search intent optimization strategy you are targeting will help you plan your content more effectively. Think like the user you are trying to attract.
3. Review the SERPs
Take a break from using research tools and instead use a search engine to see what is currently ranking for the topic you are trying to optimize for. This step is crucial.
I have often been surprised to find that what I think people want and what is ranking are often different. Sometimes, we can be too close to our products or industries to see the bigger picture.
Take a look at the search results and analyze what is already ranking.
What kind of page is it?
What is the content like?
How does it compare to yours?
You may find that the content that satisfies search intent discusses something you have missed or presents information in a different format.
It may not always be obvious, but reviewing the search engine results pages (SERPs) and identifying similarities in the top-performing pages is worthwhile and can optimize
4. Analyze your current results
Check your current ranking and click-through rate for your chosen query. If your content is not ranking well, it may indicate a search intent issue.
Analyze your engagement metrics, like bounce rate and time on the page. If people are not engaging with your page, it suggests that you have not adequately fulfilled their search request.
To optimize your content, try finding a similar page with better engagement metrics and compare the disparities. This can help you identify areas for improvement.
5. Consider mixed intent
When targeting broad keywords with a high search volume, it’s important to consider the different intents of your audience. For example, if someone searches for an “affordable dog costume,” they are likely looking to make a purchase. However, they may also have additional questions or need more information.
In the search engine results pages (SERPs), you will find a mix of pages catering to transactional and informational search intents. Some pages will showcase products to fulfill transactional intent, while others will provide information to satisfy informational intent.
In this case, you should prioritize the user intent that will benefit you the most. For instance, if you have an e-commerce site, it would be best to optimize for commercial intent as it is more likely to align with your goals.
6. Examine ambiguous intent
Sometimes, the user’s intent is unclear. There can be multiple interpretations of the words they have used in their query, and they have not provided enough information to clarify this. For instance, if we search for “windows,” we may get various results:
The best approach is to focus on satisfying the specific search intent you’re interested in, as search engines cannot differentiate between different intents and may show mixed results. If you want to rank, ensure your page is relevant to the traffic you want to attract and optimize it accordingly. For example, if you’re targeting people looking to buy doors, optimize your page to cater to their needs rather than the film-related results.
7. Use AI to complete the picture
If you’re an in-house SEO working in a small team or want to validate your ideas, why not ask your favorite AI to generate a list of potential search intents for your main topic? A useful starting prompt is: “Ask GPT-4 to provide a list of likely search intents for someone searching Google for [running shoes],” and you’ll receive a list of ideas. This ensures that you’re not working in isolation and considering all possible search intents, even if they may not personally resonate with you but are important to others. It helps you optimize your outline to cover various micro intents, resulting in a more comprehensive and well-rounded page or content piece.
8. Update title tags and meta descriptions to match intent
Using the right language in title tags and meta descriptions can indicate that your content satisfies the user’s search intent. This can help improve click-through rates as searchers can immediately see that your page will provide what they need. Including words like “buy” or “get” for transactional queries and “learn” or “discover” for informational queries can help your result stand out. For example, when looking at the query “how to make a cake,” the top-ranking recipe sites use words like “easy,” “simple,” “best,” or “perfect” in their title tags to capture the right audience for their page.
These words assist in clarifying the search intent, as novice bakers may seek a straightforward recipe, while others may seek a recipe to impress.
9. Use keyword clusters
While you’re researching your search query, take note of keyword clustering.
A single page rarely ranks for just one query, so keyword clustering tools can help create a bigger picture regarding search intent.
For example, if you’re creating