Search Intent Optimization: 9 Strategies That Work
You might have heard or not about search intent. After being overlooked for quite some time, now it’s finally beginning to receive some attention. Specialists are naturally developing search intent optimization strategies to upgrade their digital marketing performance.
In this article, we’ll share 9 of the best strategies with you. But before going through that list, let’s talk about what exactly is search intent.
What is search intent?
Search intent is the reason why someone conducts a specific search. According to Google, search intent (also known as user intent or audience intent) is the goal a user is trying to accomplish by typing or speaking a query.
Over the past few years, Google has been improving its algorithm to determine people’s search intent and provide them the content they are looking for. That’s why your page or post must match your audience’s search intent.
To understand what someone is expecting when they conduct a search, it’s important to have search intent divided into different types.
Different types of search intent
Specialists divide search intent into different types. Some make a distinction between transactional and commercial intent. Others take into account whether it’s a local or global search, etc. The truth is essential there are three common types of search intent:
People want to know something. That’s why they are also called “know” queries. Keywords usually contain words like “how-to,” “the best way to,” or “why.” To best answer that intent, you write posts that have lists, for example. We’re all pretty used to that kind of article, and no wonder more than 80% of search intent are informational.
Also known as “go” queries. Users already have a company or page in mind and want to get there. For example, if I write “Google maps,” it’s pretty obvious that my intent is to find that webpage and not, let’s say, read about the story of Google and when they launched the mapping service.
Or “do” queries. Here they want to take a specific action, maybe even buy a product or booking a service. Sample keywords are “buy,” “discount,” “online,” and brand names. Transactional intent is naturally important for ecommerce websites.
Why search intent optimization is important
So you might be thinking, sure, great, what do I care about search intent strategies? Well, you should because paying attention to your target audience’s search intent allows you to:
- Fulfill their needs and therefore keep customers on your page.
- Attract qualified leads to your site.
- Boost your brand awareness.
- Improve your ranking in search engines.
9 Search intent optimization strategies
1. Know where you’re at.
Now that you understand the different search intent types take a look at what you’ve been doing. Have you been using the right keywords for the search intent you want to target? Is it possible that you might have been misleading people?
Assessing search intent is, of course, the number one step to optimize it.
A good way to determine your performance is by looking at analytics. You can use Google Webmaster Tools, YouTube Analytics, Bing Webmaster Tools, or others and analyze the results, particularly bounce rates.
No, not that bounce. But cute.
When you don’t meet people’s expectations, your bounce rate goes up to the clouds because you promise a type of content you aren’t delivering.
Of course, there are many reasons for bouncing or pogo-sticking (when a user enters your site from a SERP and immediately goes back to it). But if only one of your pages has bounce rates higher than average, my friend, that probably is due to search intent.
Addressing your past issues before applying new strategies will prevent you from planning on shaky ground.
2. Consider different search engines
When looking at search intent optimization, it’s a good idea to consider different platforms. Google isn’t your only love interest. Remember Youtube, that place everyone visits constantly? That’s right, Youtube is the second most popular social media platform. So why ignore it?
You should also consider search engines like Binge. Believe it or not, not everyone uses Chrome! Those who have Microsoft Edge have Binge as their default search. So you might want to give it a look.
Think of your target audience and where you’re most likely to find them. Do they care deeply about the environment? Try optimizing for Ecosia, a search engine that plants trees and are getting more recognized each year.
The alternatives are truly a lot: you also have DuckDuckGo, which focuses on privacy. Yandex is used by 45% of Russian Internet users and all our well-known social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook. Yes, that’s right, building a prominent social media presence is part of search intent optimization!
So basically, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Instead of going with Google as your only search engine, pay attention to how you are ranking in other places. Different engines work differently!
3. Address both active and passive queries
Make sure your keywords match search intent both in their active and passive form.
Active queries are searched intent that is explicitly described by the query syntax.
Once you’ve determined the type of search intent, you want to target, use keywords accordingly. Don’t go and put “how to play volleyball” as your keyword if your page doesn’t have some basic instructions and instead only sells volleyball nets. Don’t mislead users.
But also, consider people will appreciate pictures for each step of the list and perhaps a video. This is part of the passive query: the hidden search intent, and you need to draw out from insight.
Someone that searches “places to visit in Paris” expects a list of places to go in Paris, yes, but also photos and maps, among other information.
Addressing passive queries and not just active queries means adding value to your content.
4. Consider SERP features
As we said, videos and pictures are excellent ideas for your content because they respond to passive queries. However, there’s another big reason to use them, and that is SERP features.
If you never heard about SERP features, don’t panic! You’re very familiar with them, believe me. Search Engine Results Page (SERP) lately tend to display more than just the traditional “10 blue links”. In fact, according to SEMrush Sensor data, in February 2021, only 2.91% of Google’s first page results didn’t have SERP features.
These include video carousels, Knowledge Panels, Features Snippets, people also ask boxes, local packs, and Twitter cards, among others.
See this page, for example.
This is a hot topic, and the SERP features take a lot of the first-page space. That’s why they are considered “position zero” and receive a lot of attention from users.
What’s important about them is they are correct and complete responses to people’s search intent. Appearing in the SERP features means you know exactly what people are craving for and how to give it to them.
To get to this Position Zero, you should: post visual content like videos and pictures, make shortlists, go straight to the point, add a FAQ page to your blog posts and write in the same way your audience talks, among other actions.
Moreover, even if you don’t aim to appear in the SERP features, they can be used to inform you what type of content Google appreciates and rewards. Once you know it, be sure to create it!
5. Investigate your competition
Do a little research. Identify the keywords you want to target and see what you find on the search engine results page apart from its features. Do the results align to your search intent? Perhaps the keyword you had in mind matches transactional intent, and you were preparing an informational post.
This is when sticking with the flow is important. Google -or any search engine- displays the results that better meet user’s needs on its first page. As much as you want to write about new horror books written by women (believe me, I DO), if the hype is in the best horror books of all times, your writing should be there too.
It’s possible, however, that the queries are broad and ambiguous, and you come across a keyword with different user intents. For the query [Yale], users may want to visit the official homepage (Navigational intent) or learn more about the school (Informational intent). The SERP will display different results. That’s when you need to decide which intent is more likely than others and optimize hard for that one.
And it’s not only about the topic and the type of intent. Understanding what type of format works best for your topic is key too. What’s your competition tone? Do they make jokes, or are they more formal? What points do they cover? Do they present it like instructions, do they use examples? See what works and apply it to your own content.
6. Work on your angle
Once you accepted that writing about the most recent horror books won’t work and you are focusing on, let’s say, self-help books, it’s time to put a bit of creativity there. See, like in art, knowing how to balance trends and originality is key in marketing.
Investigating your competition allows you to understand what people are craving for and what works so you can do more of that. But you should also put something extra, a different approach that distinguishes your content from others and satisfies a very specific search intent. That’s when you work on your angle.
Ask yourself, what are these high-ranking posts lacking? No one is perfect. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Maybe they aren’t super clear when talking about the self-help genre: do a post about beginners’ self-help.
Just look at the results for “learn Chinese.”
As you can see, they are all about the same topic but still slightly different. To optimize search intent, you need to replicate the best ranking posts but with something extra. Use your creativity to play with the options you have available and find an interesting angle no one targeted yet.
7. Optimize your content (current, existing, all)
Remember, search intent is all about giving your target audience what they need the fastest way possible. The better you satisfy these needs, the higher chances they will stay. So your content has to match search intent.
And when I say your content, I mean your new and your already existing content. Going through your old posts is a must. I know it’s not fun, but sometimes you need to rewrite your post from scratch. Anyway, seeing the great results, it’s worth it!
To optimize your content for search intent:
- Make sure your content matches search intent.
- Provide consistent and detailed information.
- Include strong CTA.
- Leverage internal linking. (Tip: use Link Whisper)
- Link to high-quality pages.
- Add visuals, screenshots, and other forms of multimedia.
- Build trust by sharing research and metrics.
- Include keywords in metadata and headlines.
- Provide clear steps on how to solve a problem.
For example, in this post on how to start a WordPress blog, Aayush included clear and detailed steps, screenshots, and strong CTA, among other things, to deliver quality content and optimize search intent.
8. Optimize for user experience
Always, always, always consider UX. We won’t stop emphasizing it.
In times of comfort, entering a website that’s confusing, ugly, or just slow is a major deal-breaker. The user’s experience on your website should be as smooth as possible, or else they’ll leave and answer their search query somewhere else.
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. It’s hard to see your page with new eyes. You’re, after all, quite biased and might not notice some problems. Try to be objective, though, and see it from a distance.
Here are some things to have in mind:
- Fast loading speed.
- Clean, easy-to-use website.
- Mobile optimization.
- Readable font and light background.
- Subheadings to facilitate skimming.
- Limited pop-ups (don’t annoy your audience).
As you can see in this screenshot from my mobile phone, the website of BforBloggers fits perfectly on different screens, making the user experience pleasant anywhere. Meanwhile, the fonts, colors, and subheadings facilitate a lot of nice reading, and there are almost no pop-ups.
And if you want to be really sure that users have a pleasant experience on your website, just ask! Run surveys to get insight on your audience and A/B test. Take advantage of all the tools available out there.
Adaptation is the last of our search intent optimization strategies. As Google becomes smarter at determining search intent, its criteria will change. You have two options here, whether you curse the algorithm and keep doing things your way or adapt to the changes. But hey, we’ve all been mastering the wise art of adjusting to new circumstances lately.
Plus, search intent varies according to trends and events in the real world like elections, Oscars, economic crisis, and others, so there’s really no way you can put an autopilot here.
Search intent varies in time and space. For example, if you were to search “planes” on Google, the main results will be about airlines. But if the Pixar movie just came out (or Disney just launched Disney Plus), there will probably be many links talking about the film. Moreover, if you live in a Spanish-speaking country, Google will show you cell phone plans because “planes” means “plans” in Spanish. Just look how chaotic these results are:
You get where I’m going? Search intent isn’t universal or static.
These search intent changes are why a post can rank high in one country at a specific time and low in another place and during a different period. Paying attention to changes will help you greatly.
So there you have it. Now you know the main things about search intent, the 3 common types of search intent, and the importance of addressing active and passive queries.
You’ve also seen 9 search intent optimization strategies to improve your ranking in search engines and boost brand awareness. What’s left? Ah, yes, to put it in practice!
But before, tell us, can you think of another way to optimize search intent? Is there something you would add? We’ll love to hear it.
We’re always thrilled to learn more about digital marketing and share it with the community!