Use Search Engine Results and Smart Keyword Research to Determine Search Intent
As digital marketing consultants, we count on search engines to correctly categorize and prioritize search results based on the user’s intention. Basically, for digital marketing to be successful, we as people need to be able to trust that search engines and their algorithms absolutely and fully understand what any given user is actually searching for and that the respective search engine can and will provide the best possible SERP to match that user’s intent.
In the scope of linguistics, terms and phrases are formed of intentions and extensions. Intentions indicate the semantic definition of a word or phrase, while extensions indicate the objects that the phrase can be credited to.
For instance, the intention of the term “sock” is meant to indicate a piece of clothing we wear on our feet. The extension of this word could be used to identify various characteristics and classifications of socks, including women’s socks, children’s socks, high socks, green socks, low-cut socks and more.
Classifying and presenting the appropriate results for this requires large amounts of data to present the most educated decision about a particular search. For instance, if we employ homonyms to this situation, such as the term “apple,” we will see that search engines are forced to pick and ration out its limited real estate between the Apple brand products and the delicious fruit apple.
This problem is not at all limited to broad-match phrases.
Take for example the search word “interactive dog toys” which has a Google Ads search volume between approximately 10,000 and 100,000. Perhaps when you search this keyword, you already have a specific type of dog toy in mind or a specific idea of what you’re wanting, yet you can’t quite put it into terms. There are quite literally thousands of extensions of interactive dog toys from which to choose.
Search engines determine these search results in a variety of different ways, including utilizing sentiment analysis to web content, extracting metadata from within its product listing ad (PLA), and even examining what competitors may be utilizing as ad copy for the Google Ads.
However, what is the true user intent of this specific search? Are users attempting to purchase an interactive dog toy, or are searchers possibly researching the best interactive toy before purchasing in an actual store? Perhaps the answer lies within the respective search engine itself.
Understanding Search Engines
The main point of this article is this: understanding search intent helps digital marketers adequately understand both the users and search engines.
According to SEO best-practices, content creators should always create articles for users and not for the search engine. That is fact and it is undisputed. However, can recognizing exactly how a search engine prioritizes it’s search results also provide us further insight into our shoppers?
Keywords and Keyphrases let us understand what a user is searching for, though search results, as well as click data, reveal to us what a user actually finds rewarding. In fact, many users believe click-data actively affects search results, and yet this truly makes a lot of sense even if Google won’t confirm it.
Both, Google and Bing offer a distinctive search engine results page (SERP) for queries of varying user intent:
- Featured snippets
- Answer box
- Local 3-pack
Clearly, we recognize that “interactive dog toys” is a very high volume search keyphrase, however, this really provides us no insight into what a user desires. If you view the search results of this SERP, you clearly see a list of the best dog toys, not a product listing ad (PLA), is the number one search result.
Though search engines just may be splitting hairs by rendering search results for both transaction intent and information intent. It also reveals that, more often than not, users are conducting research for this search term.
So what is the advantage of optimizing for intent?
- Raising search rankings on organic SERPs by presenting more relevant results.
- Improving the click-through rate (CTR) of our paid search ads.
- Promoting more on-page conversions for users who land on our site by satisfying their search intent.
- Differentiating between local content and national content.
- Consistently submitting answers which will work their way into the featured snippet-box.
Keeping this in mind, I’m going to outline five separate strategies to acquire more data about search intent to enhance our overall digital marketing performance.
1. Start with Keyword Research
In general, keywords and keyword phrases have four kinds of intent:
Information: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How
Transaction: Purchase and Sell.
Commercial: Directions, reviews, store hours.
Navigation: Branded and page/URL specific.
I suggest utilizing different tools for different types of user intent.
Information Search Intent: SEMrush and AskthePublic.
Transaction Search Intent: Google Ads and UberSuggest.
For organic SEO, begin with a complete and thorough crawl of your existing website using a tool like Screaming Frog or Deep Crawl, to extract a list of keywords or key phrases your web pages are currently ranking for.
You need to leverage your competitor research and the SEO tools posted above to generate a well-defined list of keywords you want your website to rank for. Categorize the keywords by user intent to ascertain what strategy should be applied to create the best results from them.
For instance, a keyword or key phrases with the term “how to,” “guide” and “tips” would clearly imply the user has a need for an informative blog post.
Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns typically rely on broad-tail keywords obtained from tools, such as Google Keyword Planner, which include titles such as “rent,” “buy,” “sell,” or “quote.” Categorize these keywords by intent to create coordinated Google Ads campaigns which target user’s intent on various levels: Interest and purchasing.
2. Extract Metadata from Various SERPs
As I previously said, keywords and key phrases don’t always clearly identify user intent. Utilize search engines to your benefit for additional analysis.
Process each of your seed keywords through a Google search in private mode. Don’t forget to clear your cache so you can get the impartial search results. Analyze the search results for related keyword groups. Doing this will indeed help you to clearly understand why some web pages are outranking other web pages. It will also reveal to you what exactly search engines consider most pertinent to search intent.
For a greater context of what searchers are actually seeking, consider referencing the below resources:
- Google’s Answer Box
- Google’s recommended searches (found at the bottom of every SERP)
- Google and Bing’s autofill feature
These contextual signs will guide you to popular queries within any given industry, thus helping you to discover what topics are most relevant to a user’s respective query. With this incredibly powerful data in your hands, you can then analyze these seed keywords to figure out whether searchers are querying to make a purchase or simply conducting more research.
3. Evaluating the funnel
Keeping this in mind, you should take an analytical peek at your other current marketing channels and then optimize your older web content to better parallel your user’s intent.
Log into your Google Search Console. Now, use the “filter by pages” feature to determine the current Click-Through-Rate of your most top-ranking URLs which are producing impressions. The CTR will give you insight into whether or not your title tags, meta-descriptions, and URLs are meeting the user intent for a respective search.
I contend this also makes a case for incorporating exact-match keywords in your website’s rich snippets in an effort to match user intent.
- Exact-Match key phrases & keywords are in bold by Google
- Searchers actively search for these keywords or key-phrases in Google rich snippets
- A Dynamic SERP will aggregate data from your website that features these exact-match key-phrase terms.
Upon discovering web pages that aren’t producing any impressions, you should circle back and either modernize your keyword research and acquisition strategy or leverage your competitor analysis to learn how your competition is meeting user intent. Often times it simply takes accumulating some clicks from a high-quality link-building campaign and a bit of paid social ad campaigns to convince Google and Bing your web pages are indeed authoritative and relevant to user’s search queries.
You also need to assess your user-behavior flow in Google Analytics and Bing analytics to see what parts of your website users are engaging with after landing on a specific page. Do your internal links add context which satisfies further intent? Does your landing page nurture intent in order to facilitate conversions?
Analyze your website’s historical session times and bounce rates in order to enable and commence conversion optimization strategies which meet the user’s intent and ultimately result in revenue for your company.
In your Google Analytics account, take notice that sales pages should usually accumulate a greater number of clicks for broad-tail keyword searches, as well as have a greater conversion rate. On the other hand, information-content web pages should accumulate a greater number of clicks for long-tail search queries and will certainly have longer page session times, as well as higher bounce rates.
4. Monitor Your Competition’s Google Ads Bids
Regarding your paid search efforts, utilize online SEO tools such as SEMrush and SpyFu to learn what keyword search terms your competition is bidding on in order to get insights on what your competitors consider most important for their paid search campaigns.
Examine your ad copy including any PPC landing pages to understand how your keywords are implemented in page titles, article titles, descriptions, and Call-to-Actions (CTAs). Next, leverage your newfound key phrases and keywords to feed your paid ad campaigns and begin experimenting with split testing to recognize which campaigns are producing the best results. Ad copy which matches user intent typically produces more conversions and doesn’t waste ad budget.
5. Optimize for Native Language Queries
Lastly, if you truly desire to better understand the intent behind query searches, you should also look to the searchers themselves. Pay attention to the language users use when conducting voice queries or typing keywords and key phrases of their own on community forums and social media posts.
Design surveys and ask questions on your social media platforms to extract this data. Just engaging with your consumers will identify the intent behind the search terms and slang they use. You know your customers better than anyone else, so you should be capable of identifying their intent behind most of their searches.
We utilize keywords for practically every aspect of digital marketing. Over the last few years, neural networks and deep learning AI weren’t available to assist search engines to understand the semantic sense and intent behind a user’s search. They simply relied upon backlinks and exact match keywords to trust that their search results were relevant enough for users.