Search Intent and the SERPs: How to Leverage the Search Results to Create a Better Strategy

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Understanding the intent of people searching for your products and services online is critical to creating an SEO strategy that will drive results. In this video, I’ll share how you can use the search results to understand user intent and the types of content and rich features you can target.

Video Transcript: 

To say that SEO has gone through a few changes over the past few years would be a gross understatement. So much has changed in the world of search engine optimization and the things you need to do to attract the right users via the organic search results has shifted as well.

Today, we’re going to be looking at how intent plays a role in adjusting how the SERPs look and the types of content strategies that you need to employ to make sure you attract the right users to your website.

Before we get started, I just want to say, thanks for checking out this channel. If you find it helpful or you’ve gotten some benefit out of watching these videos, please hit the subscribe button below and make sure to turn on the alerts. That way you know each and every time we create new content.

Use the Search Results

All right, let’s get into the impact of search intent on SERPs. The best way to look at this and approach this is to use the search results themselves. We have a number of tools available to us as SEOs and as marketers, but sometimes there’s no better tool or no better research than looking at the search results with our own eyes.

We’re going to take a couple of journeys here as a user might take when they’re looking for a product. Content marketing is a broad term that includes the images and words you create to promote your services and products. Let’s say I’m looking for a CRM and I don’t really know much about it. Where would I start? You know, maybe this broad term here at the top.

As you can see, if you’re targeting this term, there’s a couple of things going on. We’ve got the ad pack at the top, pretty large ad pack. Then we’ve got over here, the knowledge graph. This is pulling information from Wikipedia. As an SEO though, this is ripe with a ton of awesome information that we can use to look at these high-level queries and some of the other information people might be interested in.

We see some images here. There’s more than just one image. There are quite a few, and we can do deeper image search. We’ve got customer relationship management, this entity, as well as the link to the Wikipedia page. We also see how it applies to marketing, so not just sales, but marketing. The prices, the strategy of using them. Somebody might need a CRM manager as administrator.

You can see here right here from the dropdown, I’ve got four sub-targets that I can look at when it comes to CRM or questions that my users may be asking. I also see a ton of different companies that are available to me, and again, people also search for: supply chain management, marketing, business intelligence, human resources. Just the knowledge panel alone on this query is telling me a ton about CRM software and helping me look a little bit deeper.

Right now, I know that I can start to target these when it comes to a search strategy, to make sure that my business might be able to show up here. One thing I see here on the first listing is an FAQ rich feature. Now there are new rules around it. Google is only going to go to show two of these per listing, but as you can see, G2 Crowd has the one here and here’s some of the questions they’ve listed here. If I can get into this listing, I can start to optimize it and maybe put it in FAQ.

I also see the people also ask for, so here’s other content that we can create around it. As we go down the page, we see another FAQ here by TrustRadius. And oh, look at this. We’ve got three on this page. Google’s going a little bit deeper here when it comes to this very broad search.

The intent of the user here, they’re getting some information. They’re just learning. They’re not going very deep. It’s high level. If I’m targeting this term from this high level, I can start to get some ideas here from the SERP. I’ve got a knowledge panel I can target. I’ve got FAQs. I’ve got content questions that I can use to take them from this query into the next one.

As a user, let’s say I’m searching for CRM software. I don’t get what I want, so I want to go a little bit deeper. My next query might be, what is the best CRM software? As you can see here, Google is going to obviously do some auto-complete and give me some suggestions. Small business, free, sales, open-source, but let’s say I’m still not sure about those. I just want to stay broad.

As you can see here, things have changed completely. We’ve got the top four ad pack, but now we also have these new ads over here, which gives us the price of that tool right in and of itself. Lots of Microsoft Dynamics, as you can see.

Now, this is the first listing. The best CRM software for 2020. It’s kind of buried. It’s really hard to really distinguish that this is the first organic listing, but it is. As we go down, we can see the people also ask for. Again, we’ve got the FAQ spots that we can target as well.

We can also begin to look at some of the title tags and things that our competitors are going after as well. And again, we still see opportunities here with FAQ and down here, the people also search for box. Again, this is going to give us some information.

Now, let’s say I’m a user, and I still don’t find what I want here. As a marketer, I know I can start to target some of the different things. Let’s say I sell or resell Microsoft Dynamics. I can use that, but what the user wants to know is how do I choose one? Because now I see there are so many different options.

How do I choose a CRM software? Once again, the listings and the search results have changed. I no longer have the panel over here. I don’t have the knowledge box. I don’t have an ad box. Now this is more of an informational query. The two before, CRM software was a little bit broad, but it could be product-driven. The last one, what is the best is very product-driven, so we started to see a little more product information. Now I’m looking for something more informative. I’m looking for how do I make the right decision?

Here the search results are very different. We see a listing post here at the top. We see some other listings here. It’s much easier to see the organic results. This might be a term that might be a little easier for me to get in, but as you can see a lot of the content is very similar. We’re not seeing any FAQs. We’re not seeing any reviews. We’ve got some people also ask for. This is way more informational-driven, and we’re not having as many opportunities here in the search results.

Searching to Understand

Let’s go to the next step. Let’s say we’ve chosen, but now we want to understand how to use it or how a CRM works. Let’s type in CRM tutorial. Once again, the search results change drastically. In this case, we’ve got the video results here. We have a video carousel right at the top.

If you’re targeting CRM, selling a CRM, moving a user from a solution they have now, or they don’t have a CRM into using one, video is something that Google highly values, and it seems like something that the users and the intent to the user highly values. Video would be definitely something we would target here.

That’s the first listing we see. And then we have this tutorial with Microsoft Dynamics. Buried in between, the people also ask, and then right here, we’ve got some organic listings. We also have the image carousel, which we can target. Now we’ve seen the different types of CRMs that we can target as Google is pulling out these different entities, one of them being YouTube, which means that people typically look for video when it comes to tutorials in the CRM space.

Understanding Options Available in Queries

If this is something that you’re doing or something that you’re marketing, you can see there are tons of different opportunities just by changing the query and changing the intent. The intent here is informational, educational driven, where people want to see how something is done. When you’re looking at each of your queries through the funnel, you need to make sure that you understand which options are available in the search results for you.

Let’s say we’re not in the software business. Let’s say we’re working with somebody else. Does this still apply? It does. Let’s start with something simple, like a local business and a bakery. Immediately when I type in the term bakery, Google assumes that I want to find a bakery near me. It’s going to start to pull where some bakeries are near me or near the location they assume that I am at.

Right here, we see the image pack and we see a couple of different bakeries. If you’re a local business, you’re going to want to be in Google My Business. You’re going to want to have a maps location. You’re going to want to have reviews and really be able to optimize yourself. If we go down into the local pack, we see some local websites that are going to help you. 10 best bakeries. You’ve got Yelp. You’ve got TripAdvisor. You’ve got even Wikipedia listing here for a bakery.

Let’s say though, this doesn’t fully match the intent. The user’s not just going to type in bakery. They want to find an actual bakery near me. If we start to look at this term, again, we see the local pack. Now Yelp has jumped to the top. Yelp probably is going to be a place that you want your business to be listed on and see if you can’t be in the 10 best bakeries in your location.

If you go down here, it’s kind of similar to the first one. It’s shifted a little. You’re not seeing the Wikipedia article now. You’re seeing a little more location-based content and they’re even giving you discover more places. This is some Google discovery here. Take out or delivery or coffee shops, connecting all that because of my location saying near Miami. It’s even giving me Cuban bakery, which would be more regionally specific to the users in this specific area.

Again, if I’m targeting this for this company or I work for a bakery in this location, these are the things I want to be conscious of because these are the things that might drive users to my location to purchase. This is going to have a big role when it comes to intent.

Let’s say if I change it a little, like I want a local bakery. I don’t want just any bakery. I want somebody who’s local. As you can see here, some slight shifts, but again, it’s still this image. It’s still this local pack plays a huge role. And if I change it one more time to get even more specific, to Miami.

Again, the bakeries have changed once more, and now the top result has changed to Yelp has been pushed down. These are pages, these are sites that I probably want to be listed on. These should be part of my search strategy when I’m developing content, where I’m having my site online, to make sure that I’m getting the more specific users to my site.

When it comes to local, having a presence on Google My Business is extremely important and imperative. But as you can see, even in this example here, there’s a huge difference by just changing the queries. The intent changes, as the intent changes, so do the search results.

Let’s look at one more. We’re going out of local now, and let’s look at something that’s more product-driven. Let’s say it’s getting colder, so I need to find a jacket. I go jacket for men.

Right here in the search results, you see the ad carousel and the ads are very different this time. We’re not seeing any of those blue link ads. We’re just seeing this ad carousel with product directly in it. We’ve got product features, so if you’re doing search marketing, you’re going to want to have your products in this carousel as well. You’re going to need to make sure that you are leveraging these types of ads.

It’s even getting to the point where it is location-specific. Google’s saying, hey, you could buy this and have it today. Now that could be very big when it comes to a user who needs this right now. So these are different things that they’re adding into the search results, and you can mark up your ads even to make sure that you drive your users here.

But let’s go to the organic listings. We’ve got H&M. We’ve got Macy’s. We’ve got Nordstrom. A couple of blue links, and now we get into images where they again go deeper with type of jacket, a blazer, a motorcycle jacket. Does it go with an outfit? Is it for a suit? Is it street style?

You can do image search. All of these are going to apply huge if you’re creating content and you’re creating links and connections with that content. Which types? How descriptive are you in these jackets? Google wants to really know specifically what the user wants to give them those results quicker.

As an SEO, as a content marketer, be specific and be very straightforward when you’re talking about your different products. This is just a very broad search, a jacket for men. People Also Ask, so you can go a little bit deeper. Amazon is way down here. They aren’t even there at the top. They’re even getting into refining by brand, so be specific. These are all brand entities. And if we go down even further, they’re starting to pull in the location where they’re saying, okay, we think you’re in this area. Here are some places you can go buy a jacket right now.

On this one search result, jacket for men, you see a number of different types of SERP features that we can target, a number of different opportunities and really specific information on how we should describe our products. We need to be specific about the style, about the brand.

Let’s go a little deeper. Let’s say, I don’t want any jacket. I want to have a trendy jacket. We’ll go ahead and do 2020 trends. Once again, we see this ad carousel, but it’s changed quite a bit. And now right below that we see a featured snippet, eight best jacket trends for men in 2020.

If I’m selling jackets, I want to make sure that I can have a part in this. We’ve got images located in this. We’ve got a list site. Google’s favoring the top eight. They’re going for a list feature here. Maybe that’s the type of content I need. I just need to create very specific content and go a little deeper. As you can see, biker jacket, chucker jacket, denim jacket, track jacket.

All of these are very specific and they kind of lean on to what we learned in the first results. That’s why you want to be specific about the type. Maybe we can go a little deeper into the brand. The GQ piece here kind of gets smashed in between these two SERP features, a little lost. This is, but then shows up here as well.

As we scroll down, we can see a lot of list features here. Lists are very popular when it comes to this search. Let’s say this doesn’t give me what I want. I want to see, okay, what are other men wearing, and what are their reviews? So we change the search query. It’s changed the intent of the search. Now I’m seeing different results.

Once again, we’ve got the ad pack up here, but now we’re starting to see results right here within the search results. Now you can mark up your links to have these reviews, to let people know, hey, I’m going to tell you the results. What other people just like you thought of these jackets. That matches the intent much better here.

If we go down with an FAQ, we’ll see refined by brand. I can go deeper to find specific reviews. Let’s say I wanted a specific company. I wanted a specific type of jacket, and let’s say for me, I want a North Face jacket. Just by changing and adding a brand here, I’m seeing that here in the ads, I’m seeing, men’s jackets and coats matching my intent. A lot of these have to do specifically with the North Face, and then we can get into Dick’s Sporting Goods.

They’re also showing some product numbers right here in the search results. And once again, Google is going to say, hey, here’s where you can buy a North Face jacket near you today. So it’s actually adding in the location and it’s even giving us stuff here, like a style so we can get more specific.

Each one of these queries gives me different opportunities. It tells me different or deeper information trying to lead me deeper in my journey to refine it so that I can find the exact jacket I want. Let’s change it a little more. Now I’m getting into a purchasing position as I’ve gone deeper, and now I’m going to buy a men’s North Face jacket.

Once again, I have them up here. I’ve got the pickup today, curbside pickup. I know I can get that. I can get it from the North Face. Now Dick’s Sporting Goods has come up higher. Now Amazon has come up higher. Now that’s really important. On some of the broader searches, Amazon was further down on those content-based searches, but when it came to actually purchasing and shifting into a behavior of being a transaction, Amazon started to climb up a lot higher into the search results.

If I’m a marketer, if I’m an SEO knowing that, I might want to look at what Amazon’s doing. I might want to understand how they’re marking up their pages, and I also want to make sure that my content on those purchasing pages is more focused on the transaction. We’ve still got people also ask for, but we also have the local pack coming back in, as well as the continual refining.

Better Understanding Our Own Search Results

By taking these journeys ourselves, as marketers, as SEOs, we can begin to get a better idea of what’s going on in the search results. What type of features are available to us? How can we leverage these different intents to create content, to mark up our pages, to create a better user experience through the entire funnel so that our site shows up through the entire funnel, and we can really move people towards that transaction or that engagement that we’re looking for, that’s really going to help us grow our business.

If you have any questions on this, please let me know because using the search results is extremely important for all marketers. We can’t use our tools and rely on them alone. We have to use the search results to help inform our decisions, to make sure that we’re headed in the right direction. Please comment below with any questions, any insights. We’d love to continue that conversation with you. Until next time, Happy Marketing.

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