Searcher intent is an often overlooked aspect of SEO, superceded by seductive high monthly search volumes shown by the Keyword Planner, SEMRush or other volume indicators. Turning a blind eye to the true intention is a perilous habit, threatening to take you on a long and likely expensive journey targeting keywords that may not prove to be the most prudent to pursue.
Searcher intent is used to describe the objectives of a searcher when using a search engine. Even small variations in wording can have a dramatic effect on the user intent. For example, if someone types searches for ‘creative web design’ on Google, they are most likely looking for website inspiration or examples of great websites. However, if we are to add two letters to the search term and use ‘creative web designer’ the searcher intent has suddenly changed to that of someone who is probably looking for a freelance web designer.
Transactional vs Informational
These are two of the main (and admittedly very broad) categories into which you can define searcher intent. Fairly self explanatory, informational searches are when a searcher is looking for information on a subject whether that be for instant answers or more comprehensive research. Transactional searches are when a someone is looking to purchase a product or service.
Informational and transactional search terms can merge to a varied extent depending on what is being searched for. Think of a sales funnel, the internet has facilitated almost endless research on expensive products. When was the last time you bought something expensive without checking the reviews online? In this case informational content can often lead to a transaction, whereas for cheaper goods the level of informational searches may well be smaller.
Why is searcher intent so important?
The most obvious reason for considering searcher intent is that, on the whole, you want to make sure that your SEO strategy is targeting keywords or search terms that will result in sales. If there are no transactional type search term in your main set of target keywords then you might find that the campaign does not have the same level of ROI as expected. Therefore, making the distinction between a search term that may be informational and one that may be transactional could save you a lot of time and effort.
On the other hand, making this distinction can prove incredibly valuable for wider marketing strategy. In a world when consumers research products online prior to purchasing there is a considerable opportunity for businesses to gain early brand exposure to prospects. As an example, identifying key informational searches made by prospects when in what could be deemed as the ‘consideration’ or ‘research phase’ of the buying process can provide key material for your content creation team. With Google’s Hummingbird and Rankbrain improving the search engine’s ability to understand complex questions and provide relevant answers, baking these informational searches into your content creation strategy is a must.
Through looking at the objective of a searcher via the language that they use to search, businesses are also able to hone in on prospects further. Yes, separating information and transactional search terms in incredibly important not only in identifying prospects that are ready to make a purchase but also in your wider marketing and SEO strategy, but the rabbit hole goes deeper. Just because someone is looking to buy a product does not mean that they are looking to buy a product at any price. Certain keywords may indicate the price point at which that searcher is looking to purchase. A simple example would be Rolex not looking to want to target searches with the keywords ‘cheap’ or ‘fake’ in them.
Use common sense
The vast majority of us are avid users of the internet and as such, you do not need to be an SEO expert to decipher searcher intent. Yes, there may be aspects which might not be as instinctive to you, such as location based searches being more likely to be classified as transactional. The point is that we all use search engines, we all look for products online and probably buy online as well. Therefore, it only takes a little common sense to assess what the objectives of a search term might be, which may have a wide reaching impact on your SEO strategy.