What is User Intent?

Contents

Behind every Google query is user intent. 

With hundreds of thousands of websites to compete with online, and a changing algorithm, it's hard to know how to drive traffic to your website and keep people coming back for more. The most important thing you can do to get your site ranking high in Google’s search engine results, is understanding user intent.

User intent is the one thing that Google’s algorithm looks for above all else.

It’s what you need to focus on if you want your site to rank higher.

User intent is what people are looking for when they search. It's what they want to find when they click on your search listing.

It’s what you need to focus on if you want your site to rank higher.

But first...

What is user intent?

To put it simply, user intent is what a user is looking for when conducting a search query through a search engine. It could be information, an answer to a problem, or a particular product that they really want. That means, if you want your business to be found by potential clients, all your content must be optimized for user intent.

Why is user intent important for SEO?

As normal, no one on Google knows exactly how the pages are ranked. But here's the tip of the Google Webmaster Central Blog.

"Several times a year, we make significant, broad changes to our search algorithms and systems. We refer to these as "core updates." They're designed to ensure that overall, we're delivering on our mission to present relevant and authoritative content to searchers."

No matter how much expertise, authority, and trustworthiness your content has, it won't be rated if you don't customize it for your search intention. If you write for user intent, no matter what or when Google updates their algorithm, you still going to rank for the intent and not based on anything else. Writing for user intent is the single most important thing you can do besides all the technical SEO or off-page SEO. 

Search engines recognize user intent

Yes, they understand what a person's user intent is, which is why they display the most relevant information for every search query. Google now recognizes the context, semantic meaning, and user intent of a search query.

For example, if someone types “buy cars near me” into Google, they are looking for the best place to buy a car.

This is different than someone who types “used cars for sale” into Google.

That person is looking for used cars for sale.

Kinds of user intent

Knowing what user intent is one thing, but understanding the different types of intent is another. Based on the intent of a keyword or a query, you can write content or provide information that caters to that intent. So what are the different kinds of intent?

Purely informational

It's when the search engine is trying to learn more. In other words, the searcher is trying to gather more knowledge about a particular product, service, topic, etc. Typically, they are question-based, such as when, when, how, when, and why. From your perspective, the goal is to define the questions relating to the services and goods you provide. You will then attempt to produce material that addresses these questions or include information that will allow you to explore the website of your company.

  • Search – "cheap student computers" or "quality laptops for students."
  • User Intent – seeking an article that covers the respective topic of the search

Navigational

The searcher is searching for a relevant website. Navigational queries are more generalized queries, with the goal of locating a specific website or web page, and are more frequently than not based on a brand. Navigational query is almost like inserting a complete URL in your search bar.

  • Search – " Wall Street Journal" or " Microsoft Corporation. "
  • User Intent – finding a link to a specific site

Investing & Research phase

Any individuals plan to buy in the (near) future and use the internet to do their research. Commercial queries also go hand-in-hand with transaction searches. This is because a business query always requires research before agreeing to purchase.

As a result, people frequently type in terms such as a review, best or top 5 or compare, purposively to get some background study, such as "2021 Laptop Bag Reviews", what laptop will be the better one? This searcher has a transactional function but needs more time, more knowledge, and more conviction. These forms of search uses are generally referred to as commercial investigative purposes.

Transactional searched

The search engine is searching for a particular service or product. The searcher's goal is to purchase everything he's been looking for. The search results would be e-commerce landing pages that allow users to ask or buy a product or service – not blog posts. A clear example of this is when you type "SEO Audit Tool" in Google. Results for software providing SEO will surface, not information material.

  • Search – "office cleaning supplies" or "gaming devices" or the precise name of a product
  • User Intent – seeking an e-commerce website featuring that product

Queries with multiple meanings

Language diversity can result in many queries that have more than one meaning – Apple, for example, can either be a fruit or consumer electrical goods. Google addresses this issue by categorizing the query with its interpretation, which can then be used to define intent. Query interpretations are grouped into three areas:

Dominant interpretations

This is simply what most users mean when they search a particular query. The dominant interpretation must be clear, all the more after additional online research.

Common interpretations

Some queries can have multiple common interpretations. A good example is [mercury] – which can mean either the element or the planet. In such a scenario, Google provides results that vary in interpretation and intent — not results that fully meet a user's search intent.

Minor interpretations

A lot of queries will also have less common interpretations, and these can often be locale-dependent.

How do I find search intent?

There are several ways to go about this. Here is a straightforward way to determine the user intent around the chosen topic:

  • Begin with a 'focus topic' that relates to the content you want to create and publish.
  • Take a look at its top SERP results. The top-ranking websites for that search are normally those that meet user intent. Note that websites with great domain authority can sometimes be exceptions.

If you simply type in the keyword, you can go through several of the top-ranking articles and understand if it is informational or transactional, etc:

serp result

In some cases, like a broad key term, might provide several different intents.

If you type in "coffee", you'll come across places near you that serve coffee

coffee near me results

Or the definition of coffee:

coffee serp

And coffee benefits information:

serp coffee

There are several reasons why Google serves different matches. But to make it simple to understand, broader terms equals more intent.

If trying to draft articles around a focus topic that doesn't align with that user intent, you perhaps need to make some changes to the content.

Intent mismatch

Not all the time people use the search terms you expect. Take, for example, the hub-spoke model, which is also known as the content cluster model. If you created a marketing article with a focus topic of "hub and spoke model," there is a possibility it would result in an intent mismatch.

Why?

Take a look at the search results in Google. 

hub and spoke model serp

A lot about the "hub and spoke model" relates to transportation and has nothing to do with content marketing. However, there is a way to solve this issue. Change the focus topic to "hub and spoke content model." Doing this would align the content with user intent.

hub and spoke content model.

Fractured intent

Fractured user intent occurs when a SERP contains articles that serve different purposes. On the SERPs, the most popular user intent appears on top, no matter how good your article is. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that your content is designed to rank high on SERPs where the top-ranked articles match the user intent that you are aiming for.

Site architecture and user intent

A user-centric approach allows drafting deeply textured website architecture with closely intertwined content experiences that enable people to access the digital information they want in the order that is most useful to them. With this approach, you offer content based on the visitors' place in the marketing funnel, targeted to their interest level. 

If your visitors know little or don't know anything about your product, transactional content is inappropriate. It would be more appropriate to use an informational content item at this time. And further down the sales funnel — when awareness turns into interest —use a content item to talk more about the value of a product, and still meet user intent.

How to apply user intent to conversion optimization.

Now that you know what user intent is, how can you use this knowledge and transfer it to conversion optimization? Here is what you exactly need to do:

1. Identify the queries that bring users to your site.

Start by understanding the queries that drive traffic. This is a simple matter of analytics and webmaster data. A fast and easy way to get your data is to go to Google Search Console? Search Traffic? Search Queries. 

2. Understand the intent of those queries.

Behind every query is a precise intent. It can be navigational, information, and transactional. 


As you can see from the screenshot above, the first query is "words that inspire trust." That is apparently an informational query. People who search for "words that inspire trust" have information as their intent. This is where I introduce conversion optimization techniques.

  • Find out what the user's intent is;
  • Design a page that provides the information for that intent;
  • And come up with Calls to action (CTA) that meet the user's desire.

So, when the searcher lands on my site, they have the opportunity to access more great information.

3. Keep up the A/B testing efforts

Take time to test everything from your copy, CTA, button size, and placement, etc. The more you test, the better refined your landing pages become — and the more refined they are, the higher the chance of conversion you have.

The bottom line

It is very vital to make sure every piece you draft has both the terms people search for as well as the intent of your audience. Ensure your content or page is information when it is supposed to be. And lead people to your sales pages if they are looking to buy one of your products.