Do you know what your audience's goals are when they go to your website?
If you don't, you're in trouble.
Why? Because if you don't understand their search intent, you can't create content that meets their needs. And if you can't meet their needs, they'll leave your website and never return.
In this blog post, we discuss search intent and why it's the most important element of on-page SEO. We also show you how to use search intent to develop an on-page SEO strategy that helps your business succeed online.
First, let's understand what search intent is in SEO.
Search intent, also known as user intent, is why someone performs a search query on a search engine like Google.
There are four main types of search intent:
- Navigational: The user is looking for a specific website or page. For example, they may type in "ranktracker pricing" into Google because they want to go to Ranktracker’s pricing page.
- Informational: The user is looking for information on a topic. For example, they may type in "what is search intent" into Google to learn more about the topic.
- Transactional: The user is looking to buy something. For example, they may type in "buy shoes" into Google because they are looking to purchase shoes.
- Commercial Investigation: The user is considering making a purchase, but they want to do more research first. For example, they may type in "Nike vs Adidas" into Google because they are trying to decide which brand to buy from.
When you write SEO content, you address both humans and search engines.
When you understand your ideal readers' search intent, you can tailor your content to their needs. This makes them feel seen and understood, and it encourages them to engage with your content, learn more about your products and services, and eventually become a customer.
On the other hand, if your content is not relevant to their needs, they're not going to stick around. They'll leave your website and go to one of your competitors who has written content relevant to their needs.
It's also important to understand search intent from a search engine perspective. Google's number one priority is to provide its users with the best possible experience. This means giving them the most relevant and useful results for their search queries.
Google’s updates increasingly focus on search intent, making it more critical than ever to optimize your content for this purpose. Including keywords related to search intent in your title and throughout your blog post helps ensure that your content is found by people interested in what you have to say.
If your content is not relevant to a user's search intent, Google will not rank it highly in the search results. In fact, your content may not show up in the search results at all.
This is why it's so important to understand search intent when you're writing SEO content. You need to make sure that your content is relevant to what your audience is looking for and that it meets the standards of quality set by Google.
Now that you understand what search intent is and why it's important, let's look at how you can use it to improve your on-page SEO.
There are four main steps:
- Understand your audience, their buyer journey, and their search intent
- Do keyword research and cluster your keywords according to search intent
- Create a keyword map and organize your keyword clusters according to search intent
- Create SEO content while keeping search intent top of mind
Let's dive in.
The first step to developing an effective on-page SEO strategy is to understand your audience and what they need from you at every step of their buyer journey.
Creating buyer personas, mapping their customer journey, and understanding the factors influencing their thoughts, decisions, and actions are valuable for getting inside your ideal customers' heads and creating content that matches their needs.
For example, one of your buyer personas might be a stay-at-home mom looking for ways to save money. She might be interested in content about couponing or frugal living hacks. If you're creating content for her, you might want to target keywords like "frugal living," "best tools for budgeting," or "groupon vs rakuten".
Each of these keywords has different search intent, and understanding your stay-at-home mom persona is the first step to understanding how to create SEO content that gives her what she needs when she needs it.
Once you have an idea of your buyer persona's needs, goals, and pain points, the next step is doing keyword research.
There are several tools you can use for keyword research, such as Ranktracker's keyword finder.
When you enter a keyword relevant to your buyer persona, the tool returns a list of related keywords.
For example, if you enter the keyword "frugal living," the keyword finder returns a list of related keywords, including:
- how to save money
- money saving tips
- frugal living hacks
You can then cluster your keywords according to search intent. In this example, all keywords have "informational" search intent.
When you cluster your keywords according to search intent, you do two things:
- You increase the chances that your page ranks for multiple keywords with the same search intent.
- You tailor your content to the needs of your audience.
Export the keywords into a spreadsheet, and label each keyword cluster with its corresponding search intent. This helps you keep track of your keywords as you move on to the next step.
Once you have your keyword clusters, it's time to map them according to search intent.
A keyword map aims to help you see the big picture. It lets you see how your keywords are related to each other and how they fit into your audience's customer journey and your website architecture.
A keyword map also helps you identify new keyword opportunities. When you see how your keywords are related, you find new ways to target them that you hadn't considered before. This enables you to build on your on-page SEO strategy and content plan and reach your target audience in more ways.
Here's an example of a simple keyword map:
(A simple keyword map that clusters keywords according to search intent. Keyword clustering and mapping help you build on your on-page SEO strategy and create relevant content for your audience at different buyer journey stages.)
As you can see, this keyword map clusters keywords according to the different types of search intent.
Each type of search intent requires a different approach in your on-page SEO.
- To rank for navigational keywords, make sure your website is easy to navigate and that your pages are optimized for the keywords people are using to find them.
- To rank for informational keywords, create informative content relevant to the keywords people are using.
- To rank for transactional keywords, make sure your pages are optimized for conversion and that your website is set up to handle transactions and give a good user experience.
By understanding and mapping out the different types of search intent, you can make sure you're covering all your bases in your on-page SEO strategy.
Once you've mapped out your keywords, it's time to start creating targeted content for each cluster.
Make sure that the search intent of your keywords matches the content you create.
For example, if someone is searching for "best seo practices", they're likely looking for tips and tricks on how to improve their website's ranking in search engines. Their search intent is to seek information, not to pay for services. If you try to hard-sell them your services at this stage, they will most likely click away and find a more helpful page. When this happens, you lose engagement and damage your website's ranking.
As you prepare your content for publishing, check if your blog's title, meta description, and subheadings all reflect the intent of your content. You don't want to rank for phrases with a different search intent than the one your content delivers. If you don't take the time to optimize these SEO components for search intent, a user may click through and then go away when they notice that your material doesn't meet their demands.
Understanding search intent is essential to developing and scaling an effective on-page SEO strategy. By knowing what your target audience is looking for, you can provide them with the information they need while also targeting users with a higher purchase intent.
This helps you improve your website's ranking in search engines and increases engagement with your site. By mapping out keyword clusters and ensuring that your content reflects the right search intent, you create a strong on-page SEO strategy that helps you reach your target audience.
Adriana Stein is the Founder and CEO of AS Marketing, an agency that specializes in creating holistic online marketing strategies for B2B and B2C companies worldwide. Adriana and her multilingual and multicultural team specialize in developing strategies that incorporate various techniques like native-speaker level SEO, LinkedIn content marketing, and marketing automation. She has also shared SEO content marketing guides on Moz and Hubspot. Follow her on LinkedIn for more tips on how to take your online presence to the next level.