Understanding SEO and Search
Organic search visits are vital to your website and are one of your top sources of traffic. There are more than 3.5 billion searches on Google daily, so optimizing your website to rank and attract visitors is vital for your business success.
Organic search is a result of customers looking for a specific type of information on Google, Bing or other search engines and being presented with a series of results that lead them to websites that algorithms have determined have the best answers to satisfy their query. Optimizing your website for search engine queries will lead users directly to your site and eventually end up converting a searcher to becoming a customer.
Traditionally, websites relied mainly on including individual keywords to strengthen their search engine optimization which would enable them to show up on the first page in order to gain customer attention. However, keyword stuffing is no longer enough to rank as Google algorithms have changed and additional factors are now required to ensure inclusion and notice. Along with necessary tactics such as backlinks, establishing domain authority, lengthening posts and more, creating more user-friendly content and understanding how users are searching must be part of optimizing your site to attract potential customers. This is where understanding and using search intent enters the game.
What Is Search Intent
Search intent is the process of understanding what keywords and short and long query structures are used by potential customers during various the stages of the search and conversion funnel.
People search differently depending upon their ultimate goal and understanding and optimizing for search intent is hugely important for your website SEO and your business’ digital marketing efforts.
The 4 Types of Search Intent
Online searches are broken down into 4 different categories, and understanding their differences is the first step in creating powerful content and a digital presence will enable successful ranking and subsequently customer acquisition and retention.
1. Informational Search Intent
Also referred to as a Know search, informational search intent is when users are looking for answers regarding a certain subject. Informational search is when a user is looks for information on a subject that is posed in question form and generally (although not always) includes interrogatives such as How, Why and What. Other words often found in information search intent queries include: guide, tips, find, etc.
Informational search queries are often the beginning of a searcher’s purchasing cycle. This is the time when users are gathering information about they will use along the way.
2. Commercial Investigation
During the commercial investigation search, users are looking for more information with an end goal to do something, such as buy a product or service. During this type of search intent, prospective consumers may be looking for reviews, price comparisons, best of, and similar information that will lead them closer to conversion.
3. Transactional Search Intent
Transaction searching is when the user is intent on making a purchase or taking a specific action. This could be a purchase, however it also may be signing up for a membership, downloading a file, or “doing something.” Vocabulary used in a transaction search may include: Buy, download, sign up, purchase, discounts, or other action words.
4. Navigational Search Intent
When searching for a specific location or website users are using navigational search intent. This could be in the form of a url, hours of operation of a restaurant, addresses, etc that could be local or global. For ecommerce business, it is important to rank well in search engine results pages for your own brand. However, using brand specific keywords in advertising or other non-organic SEO practices may not produce good results.
The Search Intent Cycle
Understanding how to guide your users to your website and keep them connected to your business through their search intent process throughout the sales cycle to purchase is imperative for successful conversion.
Example: Your company sells 3D printers, so you need to include content that would guide users through their search process ultimately leading to purchasing from your website.
The search intent query cycle of a potential customer may look like this:
- What is a 3D printer (informational search intent)
- What can I do with a 3D printer (informational search intent)
- How much do 3D printers cost (commercial investigation)
- Reviews of 3D printers (commercial investigation)
- 3D printers on sale (transactional intent)
- Buy a 3D printer (transactional intent)
- Formlabs (navigational intent)
- Amazon (navigational intent)
When following the search cycle from learning to purchase, you will have numerous opportunities to grab the users attention by answering their questions along the way, thus moving your website up in the search rankings and guiding users to revisit your website. Offering information that helps them decide on making their purchase not only helps your chance of conversion but also builds trust in order to make that conversion.
3 Steps to Optimizing Your Business For Search
Step 1: Do Your Research
Optimizing your website to attract users begins with understanding who your users are and exactly what they want and how they are searching. Knowing why and how a user is searching for something, will help you to build your content to answer their search queries and any related questions they may have in future searches. Covering all relevant topics and questions immediately will prevent users from leaving your website and seeking additional resources elsewhere on the web.
Determining how your users are searching begins with looking for the data. Data-backed insights will give you an idea of what may or may not work, so before creating content employ tools that will help you map out a content plan.
There are a number of ways to determine what your target audience is searching for.
Begin by looking at your current Google Analytics for your website to determine what pages and posts are getting the most attention and research the path and keywords used that are bringing in the most traffic. Ubersuggest is another free tool that will allow you to not only see how your website is working, but you can also easily check on the traffic and paths of your competitors.
Using Google Trends and the Google search bar are a great free resource that will give you information about current trends and how people are searching.
Social media sites such as Pinterest will auto populate the most common search terms and long keyword sentences and are a valuable resource, especially for ecommerce sites.
Paid and free tools such as the Content and Optimizer Tool, Answer The Public,and Keywords Everywhere will give you more detailed data and alternative options that will help you understand how your audience is searching, the words and phrases they are using and how you can adapt your content to connect.
Once you have your data, pair it with an internal investigational search. Ask people. We all make an assumption that the way we search online is the way everyone searches. Your data may show something different, but in addition to data ask your people. Friends, family, peers, employees can sometimes provide insight that is often overlooked.
Step 2: Check out the competition
Before you begin creating your content, it is necessary to know what the competition is doing, this information will guide you in your content creation and allow you to understand what is working and how you can use that to your advantage. Your data and research has given you the insight, pairing that with your competition that is ranking high in Google will give you additional information about powerful content.
Compare how your current content stacks up to your competitors and ask yourself if what you are producing aligns with your competition. If you have a newer website, you may want to explore how you can avoid creating content that will compete directly with your competition, but instead improve upon it and offer more information that your users are searching for.
Step 3: Creating Optimized Content
Once you have identified how your target demographic is searching, have checked out the competition, and you have a content plan that includes a variety of search intent data, you need to insert that information into your website in a way that makes sense and causes users to click on when ranking on Google.
This begins with the information that is shown on Google, therefore the headline and description of every page, post, product etc that is displayed must be optimized for user interaction.
The Powerful Headline
In less than 5 seconds, someone will decide whether or not they want to read your blog post, page, digital content and that decision is based on 1 thing – the headline.
“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” – David Ogilvy
David Ogily’s quote is decades old, but still holds true today. Headlines matter. They matter to your readers and they matter to Google. Headlines are a major part of the perfect blog post and need as much care and feeding as your complete post.
Every good headline – meaning it will attract, convert, and rank – has 3 key elements.
Numbers – Using numbers in a blog post is a great way to get readers to click and share. People know when they see a number in the title, they will be able to scan the post quickly for key information. Odd lower numbers like 5 and 7 work better than even numbers, and a competition search will guide you if you are including numbers in your blog posts title. Ex: If a competitor has a high ranking post that list the “top 5…,” you can attract more attention by creating a listicle name “the top 7, 9, or more.” Only use a number if it makes sense. We love lists and numbers, but make sure the number actually works with the content.
Superlatives and Emotional Words – Using words like best, most, fastest, latest, will attract attention and clicks. Add -est in front of words with one syllable to create a superlative. Ex: great becomes greatest.
Keyphrase That Attracts – Your search intent research has told you what your potential customers are searching for, use this information to create a title paired with numbers and/or power words to grab your users attention.
Example: A quick search for 3D printers with the Keywords Everywhere extension for Chrome gives an idea of how user’s are searching which will guide you in crafting the perfect headline and descriptions.
Note: Sentence case is best to use for headline capitalization. Sentence case is when you only capitalize the first letter of the first word in a heading – like you would in a sentence. Proper nouns are capitalized.
Headlines should be under 45 characters to ensure titles do not get cut off on Google. Insert your keyword phrase in the first half of the title.
Tip: CoSchedule has a headline analyzer that will give you an SEO rank of your headline and suggestions for improvement.
Tags and Descriptions :
Within your content, be sure to use headline tags and that answer search intent questions. The snippets and meta descriptions which are seen directly under your headline on search engine should use additional CTA and emotional keywords related to transactional queries will give your content and website more opportunity to reach searchers, rank on Google, and get clicks.
When you take the time and do the work needed to understand “the why” behind your future customer’s search question, you give your business the opportunity to connect, educate and solve your audience’s problems. This will build a bond and environment of trust that will have them returning again and again.
Keyword research, while still useful, is now only the beginning of creating an SEO optimized digital presence. Search intent gives you the information that will allow you to build a more robust site that will move your site up the Google page rankings and help compete in this digital age.