E-commerce Business

SEO 101: Understanding searcher intent

Nowadays, many strategies and SEO campaigns focus on how to manipulate the search engine algorithm (Google, in most cases) to achieve better positioning.

It’s a trend that I see with some degree of concern.

Yes, an important part of an SEO’s work is to place certain keywords in the right places, make sure that the technical aspects of the site don’t harm your position, and build links to the domain to demonstrate authority; but this, in my opinion, is not the essence of SEO.

I believe that the most fundamental component of the development of a good SEO strategy lies in the understanding of the searcher’s intent.

In other words: figuring out what is it that people mean when they type certain keywords into search engines like Google.

Think of it this way: Google’s primary goal is to deliver the results that best satisfy the user’s search—which will get people to come back to use Google in the future. That means that the primary goal of the SEO professional should be to create the best possible content to answer the user’s questions.

SEOs have a love-hate relationship with Google but, in my opinion, they would get better results if they just help Google instead of trying to manipulate it.

I will give an example of a project in which I am currently working: One of my objectives is to position a page for the search “google tag manager wordpress“.

There are two directions I could take when creating this blog post:

  1. We could write a blog post that defines the terms “Google Tag Manager” and “Wordpress”, as well as why they’re related.
  2. We could write a blog post that explains how to properly install Google Tag Manager in a WordPress site.

Pretty different content, right?

Both of the blog posts above probably have what it takes to satisfy “requirements” or “best practices” of on-page optimization.

However, only ONE of them actually contains what the user is looking for—when people type “google tag manager wordpress” into Google, they want to learn how to add Google Tag Manager to their WordPress-hosted sites.

If I created the first blog post instead and somehow got it to rank first for the target keyword, users would:

  1. Click on the result
  2. Quickly realize that is not what they were looking for
  3. Close the window, or go back to the search results and look for another answer

When analyzing engagement metrics, such as bounce rate and time on page, Google can quickly determine that my theoretical page of definitions is not relevant to the user and will proceed to decrease the position of my page in the results.

This is a somewhat extreme example, but it proves that a simple search intent analysis can be critical in determining the success or failure of an SEO strategy.

When analyzing searcher intent, it’s useful to use a model that groups searches in 4 groups:

1. Informational queries

These types of searches typically don’t have any commercial objective. That is, the user is simply looking for information of interest that will not generate any direct transaction. Some examples of these searches are:

  • “Climate in Paris”
  • “Who is Jess Jones”
  • “What’s the time in New York City”


2. Navigational queries

These are searches that are aimed at finding a web page that the user already has in mind. Navigational searches generally occur when the user does not know the exact URL of a certain web domain or wants to directly find a particular page within that domain. Here are some examples of navigation searches:

  • “Facebook support”
  • “Soar Collective login”


3. Commercial queries

These are searches that have a certain degree of commercial value, but that will not necessarily generate a transaction immediately. It’s the type of searches that users use to obtain relevant information that will help them make a decision. For example:

  • “Best electric car”
  • “Piano teachers”
  • “Cheap smartphones”


4. Transactional queries

Finally, transactional searches are those in which the user has already determined the action he wants to take and goes to Google with the sole purpose of finding the place where to perform the action. As expected, these types of searches are those of highest value for a website, although they are also those that usually have the lowest search volume, so many people with little experience in SEO may not miss them by focusing just on the most popular searches. Some examples of transactional searches are:

  • “Restaurants at the Sydney airport”
  • “Buy plane tickets to London”
  • “iPhone X Amazon”


Starting from searcher intent

Using this grouping model of search types is a simple and quick way to understand searcher intent.

Finally, once you understand what the user wants to find, it’s easier to create a complete SEO strategy based on each of the types of searches that a Google user will make before buying from your business—and in this way generate strategic content to guide users through each stage of the sales funnel:

  • Top of the funnel: Informational queries
  • Middle of the funnel: commercial queries
  • Bottom of the funnel: transactional and navigational queries


Now back to you. Do you already use the search intention analysis in your SEO strategy?

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