Understanding Search Intent & Optimizing Content For High-Intent Keywords

As a marketer, your goal is to get your website ranked on page one of Google. Google’s goal is to understand search intent and provide the most relevant results and information to searchers. A searcher just wants the information they want, fast. 

At the center of all this is user intent — why a user is searching for a particular keyword or phrase. Do they want to research a product, read reviews, or are they ready to buy? Are they in a hurry and type in a brand’s name instead of its URL? Or do they just have a question they want an answer to? 

When you understand your audience’s keyword intent, you can create helpful and relevant content that solves their problem, answers their question, or makes it easy for them to buy something. 

Here’s what you need to know about search intent, how to find high-intent keywords, and how to optimize your content for user search intent so that Google recognizes it as a relevant result. 

What Is Search Intent?

Search intent, also called user intent, is the reason or purpose behind a person’s online search query in Google or another search engine. 

People turn to online searches because they’re looking for something, naturally. They want to learn something, find something, buy something, or go somewhere. And in today’s highly digital environment, they expect fast, accurate results from any device. 

User intent also signals where a customer or prospect is in the buyer journey. Are they strictly looking for information on a new topic, comparing two brands, searching for the best price on a product, or ready to make a purchase? 

Take sushi for example. Most people know that if they type “sushi” into a search engine, they’re going to get a huge range of results. That’s why they type in queries such as “best sushi in Boston,” “how to make sushi at home,” “order sushi takeout,” or “history of sushi.” All of these queries revolve around sushi, but the user intent is very different, and a search engine will return different results in each case.

The Importance Of Search Intent In SEO 

The search engines (ahem, we’re looking at you, Google) that get user intent right and provide relevant, high-quality results naturally see higher traffic and ad revenue. In fact, it should come as no surprise that Google controls more than 92% of the search engine market compared to Bing’s 6.84%. Google has invested significant time, money, and resources into fine-tuning its algorithms using artificial intelligence and machine learning to successfully identify user intent and return the best results. 

All of this matters because in order for your pages to rank well in Google, you have to be able to anticipate user intent and create relevant content that answers it. 

The first step is understanding that there are primarily four main types of search intent: navigational, informational, transactional, and commercial intent. Let’s break them down.

Navigational Intent

Navigational search is when people are searching for a specific brand, product, or service, and they want to visit the brand’s website without typing in the full URL. 

For example, when someone searches for “Facebook,” they are likely looking for the Facebook login page. Or, if they’re on their personal device and stay logged in, typing Facebook into Google will take them directly to their News Feed.

If a person wanted to know something about Facebook – not visit the site – they would likely use a more specific query, like “how many people use Facebook.” This would then be considered informational search intent. 

Informational Search Intent 

As the name implies, informational search intent is when people are searching for… information! They usually have a very specific question they’re looking for an answer to. 

Informational searches are often accompanied by keyword modifiers that clue Google into the intent. When you see a topic accompanied with words such as: how, who, what, when, where, why, guide, resource, tips, ideas, or learn — you can usually assume it’s an informational search. 

A person searching for “how to make sushi at home” doesn’t want results for restaurants and food delivery services. They want recipes and videos, and maybe even some shopping results for the specialized equipment needed to make sushi at home.

Transactional Search Intent

A transactional search is when a person is ready to buy something. They will likely use specific buying intent keywords, such as: buy, order, price, cheap, coupon, or the name of a product in a city. For example, if they’re looking to “buy local honey in Woodstock.”

Commercial Search Intent

Commercial search intent is when a person is interested in making a purchase in the future, but wants to research their options first. 

Think of searches for products or services that include keyword modifiers such as: compare, best, top, or review. These types of searches return results for buying guides, top 10 lists, review sites, and comparison charts. 

While the user intent is initially research and investigation, subsequent searches usually follow down the informational and transactional paths.

Think of a buyer’s journey for purchasing a new washing machine, as they move from awareness, to interest, to consideration, and finally conversion. Their search track might go something like this:

“top load vs front load washers”

“best front load washer”

“what size front load washer do I need”

“is Maytag a good brand of washer”

“Maytag washer reviews”

“price for Maytag 4.8 cu ft washer” 

“Maytag washers on sale” 

Now that the different types of search intent are clear, let’s look at how to identify search intent topics to create content around. 

How To Find Search Intent Topics

Start With Google

The search intent topics you choose for your business will be based on the products, services, or solutions that you offer. Before you ever sit down to write a blog post, a buying guide, or to optimize a product page, you need to think about user intent – and how your content will match it. The best place to see what type of content is winning Google’s search intent game? You got it… Google itself!

For example, if you’re a local appliance repair company, you may be thinking about creating content about how to make appliances last longer. Go to Google and search “how to make appliances last longer.” The top results are what Google deems the best, most relevant matches to your search. 

Do you know who else likes it? People searching for tips for making their appliances last longer. We know Google’s search algorithms are uber advanced and use hundreds of factors to rank content. But when a piece of content is consistently clicked, and the user stays on that site and doesn’t quickly bounce back to Google for a different result, then Google knows it’s a perfect match for the intent behind the search query. 

The more the result is clicked, the more Google’s algorithm learns that it’s a good fit, and the higher it will soar in the rankings. 

Understand Multiple Intents

As you’re reviewing the SERPs (search engine results pages), take note of any other types of results. For searches that can have multiple intents, you may see the featured snippet or answer box, shopping results, videos, or maps results. An example would be the “how to make sushi at home” search we mentioned earlier. You’re going to see shopping results for kitchen equipment, featured recipes with beautiful pictures, additional blogs with recipes, videos, and separate sections to launch related searches specifically for sushi flavors and sushi rice. 

The reason for such a varied results page is because Google has identified multiple intents for this search term based on past user behavior. Every user may type the same query, but some want recipes, while others want videos or sources for equipment. 

Use The “People Also Ask” Box

During every experimental search you perform on Google, take note of the “people also ask” box. Going back to the appliance repair topics, you’ll see that people also ask what are the most reliable and longest lasting appliance brands, as well as the worst. This is a goldmine for topic ideas as Google is literally telling you exactly what people are searching for! 

Organize Topics With A Mind Map

Just as you probably did when identifying seed keywords and starting your keyword research, a mind mapping tool is a great way to organize your search intent topics. You will likely see some of the same results for different search queries in the same category (i.e. “which appliance brands last the longest” and “which appliance brands break the least” feature the same article from Reader’s Digest). 

This is when it’s time to start researching search intent keywords to decide which topics will be easiest to rank for. 

How To Identify Search Intent Keywords

Now that you’ve brainstormed some topics that are in your business’s wheelhouse and you can write about with authority, it’s time to find some high-intent keywords to rank for. 

Using a keyword research tool like, LongTailPro, simply enter some seed keywords around your topics to retrieve related keywords. Like we discussed earlier, informational, transactional, and commercial high-intent keywords will have keyword modifiers like “how,” “buy,” or “best.”

Like all keyword research, you want to choose keywords with a moderate search volume (too high and it will be difficult for unestablished websites to rank for), and low keyword competitiveness (staying in the 25-30 range that tends to be a sweet spot for smaller websites). 

Choosing more descriptive long-tail keywords with a lower search volume will also help your content convert better. Consider the difference in content for a blog about “best washing machines” versus “best washing machines for large families.” While the latter has a lower search volume, if you can create content that nails the user intent and keeps readers on your site, you will win page one of Google.  

Here’s how to use LongTailPro to find high-intent keywords:

  • Step 1: Enter seed keywords:

  • Step 2: Apply a filter with the informational, transactional, or commercial keyword intent modifiers:

  • Ste 3: View keywords. In this case, while both keywords have a low keyword competitiveness, “buy local honey” has a higher search volume and rank value, making it a more valuable keyword.

  • Step 4: Once you have a few keyword options, conduct a SERP analysis in LongTailPro to see how easy (or difficult) it will be to rank for those keywords:

Now that you have your topics and keywords mapped out, it’s almost time to start writing! But first, let’s talk about how to monetize your new content. 

 

Monetizing Your Content

Before you begin writing anything, it’s important to decide how you’re going to monetize your content. Yes, all content that you create should have a monetization strategy – even the genuinely helpful and relevant articles can send some cash your way with the right strategy. 

Monetizing Your Content

There are many ways to monetize your website and individual blogs, but these are some of the easiest and most direct strategies:

  • Affiliate links
  • Display advertising
  • Premium content (webinars, guides, exclusive in-depth content)
  • Subscriptions and memberships
  • Consulting services

Include A Call To Action

In addition to these direct strategies for monetization, you should always include a clear call to action on every page that asks visitors to do something and explain why it will benefit them – whether that’s a purchase, scheduling a consultation, or some other action that will move them toward eventually becoming a paid customer. Remember, if you don’t ask, the answer is always no! 

Grow Your Email List

Even if you’re just asking readers to subscribe to your newsletter, growing your email list and getting prospects into your nurturing campaigns is an important part of the buyer journey. And, it’s easy to measure the effectiveness of your email marketing with an email platform that tracks open rate, clickthroughs, and conversions, so that you know which prospects became customers as a result of your content. 

Keep Visitors On Your Website Longer

Conversion marketing and onsite retargeting strategies can also be implemented on your site to catch visitors before they leave, redirect them to additional content, ask them to sign up for a demo or webinar, or offer them a direct discount to complete their transaction. 

A smart combination of these monetization strategies will net you to best return on investment while providing readers with helpful content. 

Now onto the writing!

Writing & Optimizing Your Content For User Intent

The most important part of writing or optimizing content for search intent is making sure the focus of your content truly matches your search intent keyword. People want content that answers their question, solves their problem, or offers a quick, frictionless way to make a purchase. 

Relevance is the name of the game when it comes to user intent. 

If you optimize your content for a related keyword with favorable keyword competitiveness and a high search volume just to try to rank, readers will be annoyed that it doesn’t answer their question and quickly pogo-stick back to the SERPs. Google notes this behavior and factors it into your quality score, and will quickly de-rank your content.  

For example, if you’re writing a blog about “how to make appliances last longer,” it should have very specific and actionable tips that average homeowners can perform on their own. The primary focus of the blog should not be about hiring an appliance repair company. If you sell local honey in Woodstock, your website’s homepage and product pages should be optimized for the transactional intent keywords you identified, and you should have an easy way for people to actually “buy local honey” right on your website. 

Bottom line: Make sure your content matches the user intent. 

search intent is a top priority for Google, and it should be for you as well. At the end of the day, creating relevant content that genuinely helps the billions of people who turn to the internet for answers every day is what it’s all about! Great content is rewarded with higher rankings in Google, and those websites sitting pretty at the top enjoy more organic traffic and ultimately, more sales.

LongTailPro Can Help You Rise In The Rankings

LongTailPro’s keyword research tool can help you find informational, commercial, and transactional high-intent keywords that you can start creating content around – today! Sign up for a trial and jump right into our 1-hour hands-on training to learn how to skyrocket your website visitors.