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Understanding Search Intent: How to Unlock the Secrets of the SERPs

Oct 18, 2021
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Why is your audience making a search? What are they hoping to learn, doing, receive from the search query? If we look at intent, there's a number of ways that we can define this from a marketing standpoint. In this video, we will walk you through a simplified process for using search engines to help you better understand intent.


Video Transcript: 

So in this video, I'm going to be walking you through a worksheet I created, and it's part of a larger project that I'm currently working on right now, but I think it's super applicable today. So we've seen a number of adjustments within the search results and Google's shaking things up quite a bit. And one of the most important factors when you're trying to achieve success in SEO is understanding search intent.

It's really about understanding what the user's looking for, as well as what Google believes the user is looking for and the type of content and information that they're expecting to see within the search results.

And one of the most important factors when you're trying to achieve success in SEO is understanding search intent.

I want to make this worksheet available to you. You can download it through our website. So make sure that you click the link below.

Download the Search Intent Worksheet Here

And if you've got any comments or questions along the way, please feel free to ask. Just drop them below and I'll answer them as soon as possible.

But we're going to walk you through a little bit of what search intent is. We've covered it a few times here on this channel, but I'm going to do a quick overview and then we're going to get into how to actually use this worksheet to help you understand intent a little bit deeper.

Understanding Search Intent

So when it comes to search intent, we really are looking at the types of queries that people make. And what are the expectations for those specific queries? So we've got informational query, we've got navigational, we've got commercial and transactional.

Informational query: when it comes to making an informational query, people just want to get knowledge. They're looking to learn something. Maybe to learn something more specific about a certain topic.

Navigational query: when somebody makes a navigational query, they're looking to get somewhere. So they might know the company they're looking for. They might know some of the basics of the information, but they have a specific direction that they're trying to go in.

Commercial intent: is somebody who is looking to make a purchase. And they want more on that specific product. So at this point they're not actually ready to buy, but they're making maybe some comparisons. Like the best smartphone or the best headsets, those types of questions. And it's a little bit more commercial intent because they're looking for specifics about products or companies or services.

And lastly, we have transactional: which is when they're actually ready to make that purchase and they're looking for pricing information. They're looking to make a specific transaction. So we can break down most of the queries we see to fit within one of these buckets.

Now majority of them are going to fall within informational. That's what people use Google for. It's an information engine. Right? But we do see these other types of queries as well.

Understanding the Context of Intent

But it's not just at query type that we want to take a look at, we also need to look a little bit deeper and understand the context of the specific intent. So this is where we can get into the emotional layer of why people are doing the things that they're doing. Emotions play a huge role when it comes to the actions we take. And if we can understand the interactions between the intent from a query standpoint and emotional search intent, it can really help make sure that we create the type of content that both the user and the search engine's looking for.

Six Types of Emotional Search Intent

So this is from an article from Google, and breaking it down into the six types of emotional intent.

We've got 'Surprise me'. So they're looking for something fun or entertaining.

Maybe 'Thrill me', looking for new things. Something that is just going to maybe be a little bit of an adventure for them.

'Impress me', so this is where they're looking to be influenced. It's usually a little bit more laser focused, and they're looking for those people who have authority in this space.

'Educate me', they want to learn more about a specific product, a specific topic, and in a way that's going to tell them what is the best. Right? And how they get the most out of that.

'Reassure me', somebody's looking for comfort. Right? They're looking to build trust. They want to know that they're making a smart decision. And then help me. They're looking for practical solutions.

So understanding these emotional layers to our search queries, which we have before with informational and navigational and commercial and transactional, and we put them through the lens of these emotional intents, we can really start to see a new perspective on our content.

And Google's using natural language processing. They're using ML and AI to build these different models to help them better understand why people do the things they do, and then to deliver those results to them within the search engines.

So how can we surface some of this? Because there's no tool out there that's going to pull all this information for you. We have to really look at the search results themselves to give us a deeper insight. Well, we can start by going through this worksheet.

Search Intent Exercise

And the first thing you want to do is go to That's one of the biggest mistakes I think that people in search make, is they don't ever use the search engine themselves for research. They just look at their tools, but the search engines have a lot of information that we can leverage to help us take it to another level.

So, the first thing we want to do is make a broad query. So we can go in here and we can ask anything we want to Google. So, for this query we're going to do running shoes. Now, when we make this query, we can see a number of things. Before we start to look at all the cool different features we have in search, and I'm going to turn off SEO quick, so it's just the native. We want to look at the type of content that's ranking. We want to scan the search results and understand it. Right?

So right here we've got a blog from Runners World. We've got a running shoe list from Nike. We've got running shoes for DICK'S Sporting Goods and Road Runner Sports, looks like a lot of sites that are specifically selling.

Now this query would be probably more commercial, but that's what we're looking for right now. And we want to scan and we want to look at these different pieces of content and we want to check them up. So in this case, we saw a blog article, but we've also seen some product pages as well. So now we've got two types of content that we know are ranking for this specific query.

Now, what is the style of that content? Well, if we go here, the best running shoes for every type of run. So this would be maybe a product review. So we want to go ahead and put those on there. We've got research here. We want to find the one that we're looking for and cross it off. Product review. Here we go. Boom.

Now we've got some product pages that are just information on those products themselves. So, we still product review pages. Right here they've got those reviews and those other information, really specific to the products themselves. How to, down here at the bottom. So we also have a how to article. So right now we are only looking at the content. We're not looking at any of the SERP features or the pictures or anything else. And we know that there's two blog posts. There's a whole lot of product pages, and it's either how to content or product review content that's ranking for this broad query.

Now, if we go to the next page, we want to start looking at SERP features. Now, as you can see, there's quite a bit of SERP features here.

We've got product ads here at the top. We've actually got a knowledge card over here. We've got local park showing up here. We've got site links all over the board. We've got product carousels and shopping results showing up. We've got news, top news stories that are showing up here. We've got the image pack showing up here, and then we've got related searches. So within this one query, there's quite a bit of things going on. Now, based on that information, what type of query is this? Well, I would say it's probably commercial. At this point we're not looking for prices. We're looking for information on running shoes.

And so, based on what we know now we can start to look at the content we need to create. If we're selling running shoes, well, we need to have a running shoe product page, and we probably need to have some content on how to pick the best running shoes or strategies around what the best running shoes are.

So, as you can see, we know that the users in this case they're looking to learn more information about a specific type of shoe and how it's going to impact something that they do, which would be running in this case. So this is a quick way to look through the search results and really get a better understanding of the types of intent. So let's try this again. All right.

So this time I changed the query, and this time it's not as broad as the one was before. It's a little bit more narrow, but it's still broad enough. And it's how to start a garden. And if we look at the search results again, we'll start at step two. We've already made our query. Let's start at step two. What type of content? Here we've got, looks like a blog article, another blog article.

We've got a blog article, lots of different blog articles here. So right now we can go ahead and check off articles and blog posts. Now, what is the style of content that's ranking. We've got how to content. Another, how to content with a list. So we've got both of those here. Again, here's another list. Another list. How to. How to. Another list. This is just a guide, I would say, basics for planting.

So, we looked over here, we've got how to's, we've got lists, we've got a guide, and we've got basically articles and blog posts. Now let's take a look at the search results. What are the different search features? Oh, we've got the ads carousel. We've got people also asked. We've got videos showing up here. We've got the image carousel. And we've got related search. And in this case it's showing books about gardening and as well as basic gardening tools.

So Google's starting to show us some of the other intents that people have. They're saying, "Okay, you want to learn how to garden? You probably are going to need some tools for that." So based on this information, we can tell that this would be an informational query. And if we want to rank here, we need to create blog content because that's what's ranking or maybe blog with video content.

And we need to do it in a way that's either how to, because that's what the query is, but maybe also look at putting in some list or steps that people can use in order to learn more about gardening in this case.

So as you can see the intent here it's definitely informational. The types of content we need. People are looking for steps, they're looking to be helped, that we look at that emotional need that we talked about before. And they're looking for somebody that's going to be able to walk them through this entire process.

So take this search intent exercise and run through it when you're looking at creating content, when you're looking at, what are the things you need within your site in order to rank for a specific query? Ask yourself these questions and use this. Print it out. Check it off as you go through it and slow down a little bit before you just start creating content hoping you're going to rank. Use the information right here within the search results, check off the different things that apply to it, and then you have a better idea of both the query intent, but also the emotional intent of the user, and the types of content both they as well as the search engines are expecting.

So I hope you found this helpful. If you've got any questions or comments about this video, please make them below. We'd love to continue to have that conversation with you. And don't forget to subscribe. We create new content each and every week to help you really maximize your SEO and your digital marketing efforts online. Thanks again for watching. And until next time, happy marketing.

Download the Search Intent Worksheet Here

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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