I hear a lot about keywords. That’s normal, I guess, with SEO being my primary focus here at Nu. Keywords have always been such an incredibly vital part of SEO, and while I’m not about to say they don’t matter anymore… I’d argue they’re less important than other aspects. One of those being something known as ‘search intent.’
What is search intent?
Glad you asked. It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s the intent behind an individual plugging in a query into a search engine. What are they looking to find? What question are they looking to have answered? If SEO was all about keywords, it would simply be a contest between who could put a specific word on a web page the most times and have it show up in the coveted number 1 spot on Google.
I’d suggest that before you ask how you can get into the number 1 spot, you ask what people actually want when they’re searching that keyword.
Right, but how can you actually examine search intent?
Also a good question. I use a lot of tools for SEO. I use SEMrush to audit sites and help my team hit the adjacent keywords (I can’t preach enough about their SEO writing assistant), while I lean on tools like Screaming Frog for sitemap corrections and proper setup. There isn’t, as far as I can tell, a tool that examines the intent behind a keyword. That means - you guessed it - it has to be done manually. Don’t worry, I’m here for you. Let’s try a couple together.
Open another tab and type in ‘brownies’ with me. What comes up should look similar to this:
The results are all recipes. If I were a bakery that was trying to rank for ‘brownies’ on Google and make some money… I’ll either need to target some different keywords or close up shop. People aren’t searching for brownies to buy them but bake them. They want recipes and walkthroughs. They want help. The intent is to find useful information, not to order a pallet of vanilla ice cream’s perfect partner.
Another tab, if you will. This time let’s just type in ‘tea.’ Ignoring the anomaly that is the first result (The Texas Education Agency??) you should see something similar to what I found:
I got some local tea sellers (I do recommend Angelina’s Teas if you enjoy loose leaf tea and live in the Triad), and then some online retailers. Google thinks I want to buy tea, not make it myself as it did with brownies. Odd, how does it know the difference?
I know, I know. It sounds incredibly obvious. People make brownies all the time, but very few people make their own tea. That must mean...
Can Google read my mind?
...no. But it can read your patterns. And it can read the patterns of other people. It then compiles that information, examines the intent, and then puts out recommendations based on said intent. It’s surprisingly human. Scarily human?
Search intent is what sets search engines apart. How robust is the algorithm? How well can it examine intent and put out suggestions based on the data? How accurate are the data and the suggestions?
What would you do if the recommendations you started getting didn’t make sense? What if you wanted a brownie recipe but the first three pages were ads trying to sell you brownies? You’d probably jump ship and see what Bing had to offer, or maybe even see if you could ask Jeeves as you did back in the day. Google doesn’t want that, so they spend a lot of money ensuring you get the results you want the first time.
How does search intent impact businesses?
You don’t want to target a keyword and try and sell something if people are typing in that keyword to gain information. Google will keep you off the first page and it’s a wasted effort. Each keyword should be examined for intent and then targeted from the appropriate area of your site. Is the intent of the keyword to get help with something? Use your blog to target it. Is the intent of the searcher to buy something? Update your products. You (and Google) want people to find the right page the first time.
Google is already letting you know the searcher’s intent, so take advantage!