Search Intent – Getting Into the Head of Your Customer
People come to search engines with questions. Your goal is to anticipate questions prospective customers are likely to have. To win search you must build pages which answer the questions as specifically and completely as possible using language people are likely to use in their search. An easy way to think about the questions is to start with the intention of the searcher. Intention falls into one of four categories: information, navigation, commercial investigation, and transaction.
Search Intent Step One: Information
The first step in the buying process is information gathering. Many of these searchers may never actually become customers but answering their questions will help you introduce your brand and company. Informational questions are the first questions someone who doesn’t know a lot about you, your product, or service might ask. Informational questions might start with words like how, what, why, when, or where. Words related to learning a skill such as resource, tutorial, or video may also be used in information searches. When searchers are looking for general information, they might fall back on terms like ideas, tips, or suggestions.
Search Intent Step Two: Navigation
In this case the searcher is looking for a specific brand or company, but they may not know the exact URL. Winning this type of search is only possible if you already have significant name recognition. Examples of navigation search might include your specific company name or a well known product or service you sell. So if you are a representative for a well known brand or product, you may be able to capture some of that traffic in niche searches.
Search Intent Step Three: Commercial Investigation
When someone is in the market for a specific product or service they begin by exploring and weighing their options. Reviews, comparisons (Item A vs Item B), and evaluations are often searched. Words such as “top” and “best” are frequently used in their question. In many product and service categories, proximity is a key deciding factor as searchers add the phrase “near me” to the query string. This is your best chance to capture potential customers, so be sure you have a solid set of questions in this category and rich content on your website to answer each of the questions.
Search Intent Step Four: Transaction
Finally someone is ready to buy. The tone of the conversation turns from an evaluation of features and products to price and location. At this last phase, search terms may include: buy, deal, discount, coupon, best price. Once again geographic terms will be an important part of the search query. While extremely helpful in consumer products these phrases are probably used less often for large consumer purchases or B2B services.
So where are your customers in their journey? Do you have content on your website designed to meet their needs and answer their search questions when the arrive?
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