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

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Why is your audience searching on Google? What are they hoping to learn or receive from the search query? If we look at intent, there are 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: 

In this video, I will walk you through a worksheet I created. I think it’s super applicable today. We’ve seen a number of adjustments within the search results, and Google’s shaking things up. 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, what Google believes the user is looking for, and the type of content and information they expect to see within the search results.

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 here. We’re going to walk you through 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’ll discuss how to use this worksheet to help you understand intent.

What Is Search Intent?

When it comes to search intent, we are looking at the types of queries that people make. What are the expectations for those specific queries?

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

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

Commercial intent: Somebody looking to make a purchase. They want more on a specific product. At this point, they’re not actually ready to buy, but they’re making some comparisons, such as the best smartphone or the best headsets. It’s a little bit more commercial intent because they’re looking for specifics about products, companies, or services.

Transactional Intent: They’re ready to make a purchase, and they’re looking for pricing information. They’re looking to make a specific transaction. We can break down most of the queries we see to fit within one of these buckets.

Now, the majority of them are going to fall within informational. That’s why people use Google. It’s an information engine. We do see these other types of queries as well.

Understanding the Context of Intent

It’s not just the 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. 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. 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 are looking for.

Six Types of Emotional Search Intent

This is from an article from Google, and it breaks it down into the six types of emotional intent.

1. Surprise me. They’re looking for something fun or entertaining.

2. Thrill me. They are looking for new things. Something that will be an adventure for them.

3. Impress me. This is where they’re looking to be influenced. It’s usually more laser-focused, and they’re looking for people with authority in this space.

4. Educate me. They want to learn more about a specific product or topic in a way that will tell them what is the best.

5. Reassure me. Somebody looking for comfort. They’re looking to build trust and want to know that they’re making a smart decision.

6. Help me. They’re looking for practical solutions.

Understanding these emotional layers of our search queries, we put them through the lens of these emotional intents, and we can start to see a new perspective on our content.

Google uses 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 deliver those results to them within the search engines.

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 look at the search results themselves to give us deeper insight. Well, we can start by going through this worksheet.

Download the worksheet Understanding Search Intent.

Understanding Search Intent

The first thing you want to do is go to google.com. One of the biggest mistakes I think that people in search make is they never 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.

1. Make a broad query.

We can ask anything we want to Google. For this query, we’re going to do “running shoes.” Now, when we make this query, we can see a number of things. We want to look at the type of content that’s ranking.

2. Scan the search results and understand them.

Here’s a blog from Runner’s World, a shoe list from Nike, and 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. We want to scan, look at these different pieces of content, and check them up. In this case, we saw a blog article, but we’ve also seen some product pages as well. Now, we’ve got two types of content that we know are ranking for this specific query.

3. What is the style of that content?

Well, if we go here, the best running shoes for every type of run. This would be a product review. We want to go ahead and put those on there. We have research. We want to find the one that we’re looking for and cross it off.

We have product pages that are just information on those products themselves. We still have product review pages. We also have a how-to article. Right now, we are only looking at the content. We’re not looking at any of the SERP features, the pictures, or anything else. We know that there are 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.

4. What SERP features are ranking?

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.

In this query, the product ads are at the top. There’s a knowledge card over, a local pack, site links, product carousels, and shopping results showing up. We have news, the image pack, and related searches. Within this one query, there are many 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.

Based on what we know now, we can start to look at the content we need to create. If we’re selling running shoes, 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.

As you can see, we know that the users in this case are 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. This is a quick way to look through the search results and really get a better understanding of the types of intent.

Let’s try this again. This time, I changed the query, and this time, it’s not as broad as the one before: “How to start a garden.”

What type of content? Here, we have another blog article. Right now, we can go ahead and check off articles and blog posts.

What is the style of content that’s ranking? We looked over here, we’ve got how-to’s, lists, a guide, and basically articles and blog posts. Now, let’s take a look at the search results.

What are the different search features? We have the ads carousel, People Also Ask, videos, image carousel, and related searches. In this case, it’s showing books about gardening as well as basic gardening tools.

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.” Based on this information, we can tell that this would be an informational query. If we want to rank here, we need to create blog content because that’s what’s ranking, or a blog with video content.

We need to do it in a way that’s either “how to” (because that’s what the query is), or a list or steps that people can use in order to learn more about gardening in this case.

As you can see, the intent here is definitely informational. People are looking for steps. They’re looking to be helped, and we look at that emotional need that we talked about before. They’re looking for somebody that will walk them through this entire process.

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 them. 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, the emotional intent of the user, and the types of content both they as well as the search engines are expecting.

I hope you found this helpful. If you have 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.

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