Analysing intent for search engines

 approx 50 minute video

Nettl Academy SEO Live Event! Session 8

This session is the eighth in a new series of live events from Nettl. Each week they’ll explore a different subject relating to SEO.

What’s it all about?

Demand for SEO has increased 4-fold. Find out why with our online educational sessions. Our SEO expert sessions are usually reserved for our existing SEO subscribers, but given the significant increase in demand for SEO, we thought it would be useful to open these up to every Nettl customer to help businesses boost their online presence.

In session #8 the team talked through the complicated world of user intent and how that shapes their searches.

We covered hot topics such as:

  • What is searcher intent?
  • Types of intent – informational, navigational, transactional
  • How to research and understand user intent
  • How to optimise for user intent

Plus the team were on hand to answer questions.

Check out the next video in our SEO webinar series

So today’s session is on analysing intent for search engines and I’m going to try to explain a bit to you about what this actually means and what search intent is. So we’re going to explain what search intent is and why it matters today if you’ve got a website and a recap of the four types of search intent. If you’ve joined any of the other previous sessions, you probably would have remembered us talking about the different types of search intent in a keyword research session, but this one’s going to go into more depth. Then I’m also going to go through how you interpret search intent. So how you find search intent yourself without being an SEO, for example, and how you optimise your website for search intent. 

What is search intent?

Essentially what search intent is, it works alongside keyword research. So keyword research is, I suppose, underpins your search engine optimisation of your website. So if you’re getting a website and you want to rank in Google or Bing or any other search engine, you need to do keyword research and you need to optimise your site for those keywords. Now back many years ago in SEO, the easiest way to rank well was to optimise your site for keywords. You could even stuff your website with keywords and you would do really well. The more keywords, the higher you rank. Today that’s a black hat SEO technique, you can’t do that anymore. It also just generally doesn’t work. It’s more about search intent optimisation as well as keyword optimisation and by search intent, it’s basically understanding the reason behind a keyword and why someone is searching that keyword and the information they want. So the intent behind the query, the keyword, however you want to call it. For example, why did someone make that search? Do they want to buy, do they want to learn, or are they trying to just find a particular website, for example? 

Why does search intent matter?

So why does search intent matter? You’ll see this everywhere, if you ever look online at anything to do with Google or what Google is saying, it’s all about providing users – so people going to your website – with the most relevant results for that query. Essentially if you’re looking to invest in SEO, or if you want to rank in Google or any other search engine in 2021, you need to be the most relevant result for the query. 

I always say this to business owners: you can’t just have on your site what you want to have on the site, because your reflection of what you want is gonna be very different from what users want. So yes, it’s your business and yes, you have things you need to promote and things you want to say about your business, but you also have to include information that someone that is looking for your services might want to know. That can sometimes be a bit difficult if businesses don’t want to put certain information or don’t want to talk about certain things on their website, but they are actually relevant to what they are offering. So, I would always say, try and be open-minded about the content you need on your landing pages. 

Essentially that means you need to create content that aligns with search intent, if you have a page and you have the keywords you want to rank for that page, if the intent of that keyword is not what you’re showing, you’re not going to rank well. 

I’d also recommend Googling about search intent because it’s actually a relatively easy search engine optimisation technique. It’s not one of those technical things that you necessarily need an SEO person to do. Yes, it’s a lot easier if you work in SEO to know how to optimise a page but anyone can just have a look at what queries and what sites are ranking for particular queries. 

The importance of being relevant

Relevance. It’s all about being relevant to the query. Any keyword research includes intent research, so don’t just go and get a list of keywords. If you go and get those keywords that you think you need to rank for, for your website, once you’ve done the keyword research, then use those keywords to do intent research and understand what people potentially are looking for as a result of that key word. So if your keyword is plumbers in Brighton, and you’re a plumber in Brighton search ‘plumbers, Brighton’ into Google and see what types of results are ranking. Is it plumber pages? Is it plumber businesses? Or is it information about plumbing? I know that if you search ‘plumbers Brighton’, it will be the local results and it will list a load of plumbers from different websites. 

It won’t be an informational query because you know if someone’s searching plumbers, they’re actually probably looking for someone near them. Whereas if they’re searching, ‘why is my sink leaking?’ They’re actually searching for information, probably not a plumber. That’s what it is. It is pretty simple. 

The four types of search intent

So now I’m going to go through the four types of search intent. This information actually comes from Google, I think Google calls it something slightly different, but this is what Google defines as intent. So the information I’m giving you now you should really pay attention to because it’s not one of those search engine things that people have just made up, it’s actually a thing that has come from Google that there is intent and there’s different types of intent. 

There are going to be crossovers and there are going to be a few things it might not fit in, but broadly speaking, there’s informational, navigational, transactional and commercial. 

Informational searches

Informational, this is quite clear: someone is looking for information. They’re looking for an answer to a simple question. So the easiest one to give you an example of is if someone says ‘weather today’, ‘what’s the weather’, or ‘what’s the temperature in this location?’ and in Google, you’ll get a thing saying ‘this is the weather forecast for today’. They’re just looking for an answer to that simple question but they might actually be looking a much longer, more in depth answer. That’s where the content or the blog content and the articles on your website might come in use. 

We’ve got a few examples here, ‘how to cover pumpkin’, ‘champions league fixtures’ or ‘who is Jessica Adams’. So these are some queries that I took that were trending at the time of creating the presentation on Google trends. 

Here’s an example of what comes up for an informational query. So informational queries will have different types of results that will show up in Google. For champions league fixtures, ‘champions league fixture’ is searched hundreds of thousands of times a week but this is the result that comes up. It’s very different from the standard results that you’ll see when normally searching for queries. This is more and more frequent now that Google is showing different types of enhanced search results. So you might see these called rich snippets, featured snippets, knowledge graphs, but essentially they’re enhanced results that are different from the standard listings that you’ll see where it’s got the URL, the title and the description. This is the enhanced results for this and there’ll be other informational queries where you’ll see different types of enhanced results. So it might be just a snippet of information or a paragraph of information or some bullet pointed answers. 

So that’s informational, if you have a query. If you have keywords that you want to search, if you’re a plumber and you find keywords related to plumbing, search them in Google and see if they are informational or see if they are navigational, transactional. They’ll be informational if they’re informational pieces of content, so if they’re listicle articles or how to articles, for example.

Navigational searches

Navigational is someone that’s looking for a specific website. So you might think navigational was location related, it’s not. It’s actually someone who’s looking to go to a particular website. So, for example, if you were looking to go to the Nettl SEO academy page, that’s what you would type into Google. So you know where you want to go. If you’re looking for BBC recipes, that’s what you type in. 

So essentially you could say it’s a branded search, so someone looking for the brand or the business and that’s very simple. Ideally you would always come up the top if you’ve got a business name that’s unique. It can be a bit difficult if your business name is exactly the same as another thing that might go up higher in Google. For example, if your business was called Apple, you’re probably not going to appear above Apple, but it might be ‘apple something else’, and then you would appear above. 

It’s also important in search engine optimisation to actually optimise the navigational queries, so your branded queries. People don’t always realise that. The amount of people and businesses we speak to that can’t seem to rank well for their actual own business name is quite common actually. There’s quite a few ways that you can optimise for that. 

Transactional searches

Transactional. This is a query where someone’s clearly trying to make a purchase, so they probably know what they want to buy but they’re just looking for somewhere to buy it from. So I think the PlayStation five is coming out soon so if someone Googled ‘buy a PlayStation five’, you know they want to buy it, they’re just looking for the place that they can buy it from. Or ordering face masks, which is quite a common one at the moment – someone wants to order face masks, they’re just trying to find a place to get them from. 

These are really good queries to try and rank for because you’ll probably be better targeting someone that’s actually further down the funnel and ready to buy. It can be better to target people that are ready to buy, but equally these keywords can be more competitive. So if you are quite a new young business with quite a relatively new website, it might be that you try to target the informational query keywords – so the questions where you’ll have your blog content – but then you’ll actually work your way up to optimising your main landing page – by that I mean your product page or your service page. So if you offer print services, you might have a landing page called print and then if you also offer branding, you’d have a landing page called branding. So in the different service pages, that’s where you can optimise for these transactional keywords as well. 

Commercial searches

Finally commercial. So this is where the person that’s searching is looking for a specific product but they don’t know which solution is right for them. So they’re probably looking for reviews and comparisons. Now I expect everyone on this call does this quite a lot, but you just don’t realise. So when you search ‘car insurance comparison’, ‘compare home insurance’ and you go and compare the market. Those sorts of websites, comparison websites, aggregator websites, are really common for these commercial keywords where people want to weigh up their options. A good example is if you’re looking to build a website and you don’t know whether to do it on WordPress or Shopify – there’s quite a lot of searches for WordPress versus Shopify. 

One thing that you could do here – some people don’t agree with it, some do – you could do a commercial, a page that reviews you against your competitors potentially. Why are we better than everyone else? That could work quite well and then you can even end up ranking for your competitors keywords, which they won’t like but it is an option. I’ve done it before. 

Then commercial plus local. So this is probably going to be really relevant to a lot of you on this call, if you are a local business targeting a particular area. A lot of these will have commercial intent, so it is someone who wants to buy and they’re looking for somewhere to buy from or looking for somewhere to go, but they’re looking in a specific area. So ‘near me’ searches are very common and also to rank for near me searches you don’t need to stuff your site with ‘near me’. The way near me works is a bit different because Google knows where you are. 

If someone’s looking for your ‘best restaurants in Cheltenham’ or ‘electricians near me’, they’re probably looking to get an electrician out but they’re just trying to look for one near them so they’re comparing their options. This is where reviews come in. I don’t know if anyone’s seen it, but Google is literally putting adverts on the television every night at the moment about Google reviews. It’s really important. It’s not just us telling you to get reviews. 

How to interpret search intent

So next, how to interpret search intent. So this is how to understand it, how to see what the search intent is of a keyword. This is actually quite obvious sometimes from the wording of the query, I don’t think this is too complicated. It can be when you have certain keywords that have a bit of both intent but we aren’t going into that because that gets a bit too technical.

Interpreting informational searches

Here’s an example of the sorts of things that people would search for if they had an informational term. So if you search ‘how to carve a pumpkin’ or ‘examples of this’ or ‘guide’ and ‘tutorial’, ‘ideas’, ‘tips’. So any key words or questions that you want to target that have these kinds of words in them are probably informational because you wouldn’t have a thing that said ‘two tips for your garden’ and then the result came back with B&Q with tools for your garden, because it just doesn’t work. That’s for someone looking to buy tools or a lawn mower versus someone looking for tips for things to do in their garden is completely different. 

If you’ve got any keywords that you think you want to target on your website at the moment, if any of them include these sorts of ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘how’ terms type them into Google with your keyword and have a look at the results. You’ll probably find that these kinds of keywords won’t show up with product or service pages. They won’t show up the likes of Amazon because people are looking for information and Amazon doesn’t give you information. It gives you products. So they can be really good to target if you’re at the start of your search engine journey because actually they’ll probably be quite low search but you’re more likely to get traffic because it’s less competitive. 

If you do do this and you have blogs where you’re targeting these sorts of informational terms, make sure you have a call to action and a link to your product or service page from the blog. There’s no point driving loads of traffic to your website onto the blog section where you’ve got loads of information, but then not actually telling the user how to ring you or send you an inquiry. So always, always make sure you have calls to actions everywhere. Not too many though. 

Interpreting navigational searches

Then navigation. You’ll probably see that if someone’s looking to go to a particular company or particular website, they will have the name of the shop. So if your shop is, for example, Burt’s Bakery, if someone searches ‘Burt’s Bakery’ they’re probably looking for Burt’s bakery so they’ll type in the local shop name. 

Then brand names. So they’ll type in the name of the product name or the brand, you might offer products that no one else offers if you’ve got a particular name. So, one of the well-known examples of something is the velvetiser, a hot chocolate machine that Hotel Chocolat makes. That’s a product that only one company has. So actually, if someone was searching for that, they’d be searching for the Hotel Chocolat product because they know where they want to go. They want to go to the Hotel Chocolat website, or maybe they sell it on other websites, but they’re definitely looking for that product from that brand. 

Interpreting transactional searches

Then transactional. So examples of this one: I do this quite a lot, I always hate paying full price so I search for voucher codes. I still have some friends that I try to get university discounts from. You’d be searching by cost so ‘discount code for this’. So anyone looking for discount codes, if you have a keyword that has a discount code for ASOS or a particular company, you’re looking to buy, you just want a better discount or you want some somewhere to buy it from and you’re considering your options. A local example would be if you searched ‘Bath car hire’ you’re looking to hire a car in Bath. So you’ve got the word hire there but also the location. 

So that’s transactional and local. Try to optimise for these keywords as well, if you can. So if you’ve got business, could you try and offer some deals? Could you try and do deals on black Friday? Then if someone’s searching for deals in the local area relating to something you offer, you might rank well for that. 

Interpreting commercial searches

Then commercial modifiers. So again, these are people looking to buy but they’re looking to compare their options. So any query would have ‘review’ in. So looking for reviews of electricians, or size, or series, or the type, or cheap, or compare. Best is a good one as well, often people search ‘best’ nowadays. 

Use these keyword modifiers in your keyword research. So whatever your business is, if you are, for example, a plumber, start trying to type in things into your keyword research that it’s like ‘best plumber’ and then see what comes up. Then start optimising for that as well, rather than just optimising for the keyword, because then you’re optimising for intent. 

Key tools

A few tools here to find informational keywords. These are the ones where people are looking for information to help build up the content of your website. We’ve had a few questions before about whether a one-page website can rank well. It’s not to say it can’t, but I think it’s going to be quite difficult. It’s not about the quantity of pages on your site but it’s more about the quality. I think if you can be posting a few articles or blog posts each month, based on questions, queries, anything related to your niche, that would help build up the authority of the website and help each start targeting intent. 

So,,,, So different forums where people ask questions. There’s so many free research things out there. You can also just look at the Google search results and see what comes up there. 

An example here is featured snippets and knowledge cards. So this is an example for an informational query. So where we spoke about champions league fixtures earlier, the featured snippet or the knowledge card shows up for informational queries. So if you ever see you’ve ever got a keyword that you want to target, and you don’t know the intent, put the keyword into Google and if anything that looks different than normal search results appears – so anything with additional information – it’s probably an informational keyword or a video. So if you searched ‘how to’ then it’s probably a video that will appear. So that would tell me that you need to create video content. If the video is appearing for the keyword that you want to target. So it’s not always about the content, it isn’t always about what you’re writing on your site. You might also need videos, imagery, anything else, depending on what your business is. 

Then, for example, transactional intent. These are the sorts of things you might see. So if someone searches for ‘cheap iPhones’ or ‘PlayStation five games’, you’ll probably see these like shopping carousels, which are definitely more frequent now. You also see these are sponsored so paid advertising, but anything where it looks like it’s got different products or different companies that you can buy for, that will be a transactional keyword. Only really relevant if you offer products to buy on your website, if your website doesn’t sell anything directly on the site, I wouldn’t necessarily say some transactional keywords are worth it, but if they’re transactional keywords where people can give you a call it, you might be able to target that. 

I suppose this is just a point to make, which I made earlier, is that it’s not always clear what the intent is. I’ll show you an example here. So if you search ‘life insurance’ into the search results, the first result you get, at the top, is this where it’s an informational result, but it’s also transactional. It’s given you some information there in the little snippet box about life insurance and what it is but the title has ‘get a quote’ and it’s also a company that’s offering life insurance. So it’s informational, ‘here’s a bit of information about life insurance, come and get a quote from us’. Their main landing page about life insurance will probably have loads of information there.  Also life insurance is quite a considered purchase so it’s not always that clear. 

Then you have, for example, the second result, which is Aviva, which is also transactional, because it’s like quotes from five pound a month, but then you can see that in the site links, which are the little four blue links below the Aviva result, If you can see this, there’s a ‘what is term term life insurance?’. So they’ve then got informational content also about life insurance. Then the result below is Compare The Market, which is obviously allowing people to compare. So that’s actually commercial intent, people are looking for reviews, comparison, looking at their options. So it’s not always as clear cut, but sometimes it’s a lot easier to look at the different results that are appearing. I hope that makes sense for everyone, but please have a go at yourself for your terms that you want to target. 

Tips for optimising search intent

A few tips to optimise for search intent that you could probably go away and have a go at. I don’t think you need to really be an SEO person to be able to have a go at doing some of these things, you just probably need a bit of time, which many business owners probably don’t have. The first thing is to try and map your query to what the likely intent is. I’ve got an example here of what you could do. So you could just have an Excel or Microsoft word document open, where you put a query in of your business, all the keywords that you think you want to target, and then put the likely intent on the right-hand side. You can probably try and map it and then go into Google and actually see if you’re right. 

So if the query is ‘Bath car hire’, I, just using my initiative, think if someone types that they probably want to hire a car in Bath. So I’d put that there in the likely intent. Then I’d go to Google, type in the keyword and see if all the results are showing the websites that you can hire a car in Bath. That’s really quite simple. 

Another one, ‘get candy crush games’. That search obviously wants to install the game. If you’ve got questions, an informational question, ‘what is my BMI?’, that person probably wants to calculate their BMI. So I typed in ‘what is my BMI’ into the search engine and the top results were BMI calculators.If you were trying to target ‘what is my BMI’, an informational article isn’t going to be enough. You probably need a calculator on your website, if you want to rank high for that. So it’s worth exploring what results are showing for your keyword, because if it’s not something you’re realistically going to be able to target with just a short landing page, it’s probably not worth targeting or it’s worth thinking if you can get the budget to try and target that and try and put some money into creating a little tool or a video on your website. 

Easier ones like ‘plumber near me’, that’s quite easy. Someone is looking for a plumber nearby to come and fix something. Then ‘best restaurants in Bristol’, they’re obviously looking for a good restaurant in Bristol. They’re not looking for the lowest rated restaurant in Bristol. So that’s a simple way; it’s just mapping keywords to your intent or what you think it is. This is essentially just an add on to keyword research. There’s not just getting the keywords, it’s getting the intent of those keywords as well. 

Then the other thing which I previously said is typing the keyword into Google. Really, really simple. If you want to nail search intent, you need to analyze the top ranking pages. So you need to look at those top five pages in Google and see firstly, what the pages are. So what websites is it? Is it a brand? Are they competitors? Are there loads of local websites offering certain services? Then actually look at those websites. Click on the website, look at their headings, look at the content they have on there. I have an example in a minute of where I would compare a site that is ranking high to my site and you’ll see that it’s quite clear to see why some websites rank over other websites. Essentially the intent of the keyword, once you’ve got that, should dictate the content you have on the site. You actually should do that before you create landing pages, because otherwise you’re just creating the landing pages without even knowing what needs to be on there. It’s just what you think needs to be on there. 

So if it’s informational, you probably need to have a listicle, something like ‘seven top tips’ then you go through them, 1, 2, 3, 4, of all your different tips. A long form article so anything, maybe up to 1500 words, blog posts you might need or how tos, might need a video to target that.

Transactional, you will need a product or service page. If you offer a product or any service, create a landing page for it and optimise it for transactional intent.

Navigational. So that would be a brand page. I think I touched on this before, but it’s really important to have those trust pages on your website. So if you don’t have it already, have an about us page, have a contact us page, make sure you have an optimised home page that details what you do, who you are, make sure you have a terms and conditions page and a privacy policy page. It’s like the basic pages that you need to have a trusted website.

Then commercial. So there you might need some comparative articles and review pages reviewing your product against another product would be really useful. Then just an example with the top 10 results for the keyword that you’re searching are product pages don’t then go and create a blog post on that keyword, because you’re not going to rank, you probably need to create a product page or service page.

Here’s an example of an informational query. So the best weight loss products, and this is a listicle. So what I was talking about for listicles is you can see the first thing that appears is Healthline and it’s 12 popular weight loss pills, and then you have other results so you’ve got 23 best supplements. That’s the kind of listicle, but then you’ve also got other informational random things like ‘guide to weight loss pills’. Where we were talking about the keyword modifiers for informational, they were things like ‘guide’, for example, this one’s also a bit of a mixed intent keyword because you have all of these 12 weight loss pills, so informational terms, and then you also have Amazon in there and you also have Boots who are selling weight loss products. So this is where it can be a bit of a struggle. 

What I would recommend is that if you do have a keyword and it looks like there’s different types of intent, try and optimise the page for the one that you think is most important. So the one that you think is more prevalent rather than trying to kind of mix it too much. There’s no reason why you can’t create blog posts, but also create an under page for weight loss products because then at least you’re covering yourselves. 

Mini content gap analysis

Then you can conduct a mini content gap analysis. So once you’ve got your keywords, you know the intent of the keyword, you know what’s ranking well, you need to look at what is different for that website that’s ranking versus your website. A little example here: we’ve got different columns here, so the query is ‘Bath car hire’, this is transactional because someone wants to hire a car in Bath. If my website was positioned nine and my website had a heading that said ‘car hire’ and my website also had a few pictures of some nice shiny cars and it had some prices and then it had an inquiry form. Great, you’ve got everything you need there surely, you’ve got the price, you’ve got the picture, you know what you’re getting and you can inquire. I would think, ‘okay, yeah, that’s great, that’s all I need’. But then I looked at the search results and I’m like, ‘okay, position one, the headings are actually ‘Bath car hire’, which is probably more relevant, and then this other website has an online booking form whereas my website only has an inquiry form’. Just thinking as a user myself, if I’m looking to hire a car, nowadays you just want to be able to do it online. You just want to be able to do it rather than just sending an inquiry. I’m not saying that’s the case for every service but for this kind of service I think it is. 

So this might not seem like SEO to you but I would say that if you’re a car hire company and you don’t have online booking functionality, you’re probably not meeting the intent of users, which then means you probably won’t end up ranking that well. Then also this website at position one actually has reviews on that page. They have third party reviews that are linked into the page. They have the prices, they have a comparison table, which is great, and they have FAQs. They have a video as well with more information, they have tips for hiring a car in Bath and things to do in Bath. So they have way more information, but bearing in mind the most important things are at the top. 

You probably don’t need to read loads of information about things to do in Bath if you’re looking to hire a car, but you never know it might be useful. But if someone just wants to book, the booking functionality is right at the top, in the header. The example that ranked position one, I think for this, was kayak. You literally just land on their website and, before you even scroll, there’s a booking form. It makes it really easy. Then the same for position two and three. So they don’t have quite as much, but they have more information. So all you need to do is just simply do a little map of what content is on the other rec pages that’s not on yours and then work out, ‘what am I missing?’ Why am I not targeting the intent that these guys are? Then you’ll probably be able to go, ‘okay, well I probably need this stuff on my website’ and then brief that into, for example, the Nettl team, or do the content yourself and ask them to upload it onto the site. That’s really easy content mapping, mini gap analysis of what another website has that you don’t. Simple competitor analysis. 

You can also look at ‘people also asked’ questions. These are the little boxes of information that when you write something into a search engine, it says ‘people also asked’, and if you searched BMI, you can see what the questions related to that people ask are. That might help you understand the content that you need to put on your website. A little tip here that you can do is if I clicked on the down arrow for ‘how do I calculate my BMI’, it would then give me even more questions. So then you can get even more questions and then optimize your site to answer those questions. So ‘people also asked’ is really, really useful information as well. If you are creating blogs on that kind of content on your website, the ‘people also asked’ result on mobile actually appears above the standard search results now. So if you can get the ranking for one of these, you’re actually technically higher. So they’re really useful to try and rank for these as well. 

Building intent driven landing pages

Final thing is to plan and then build your intent driven landing pages. So just to recap: product or service page, you need to optimise that for commercial keywords; blog article, you need to optimise it for long tail informational query; home page, you need to optimise for your brand terms, what your company is called essentially and then contact us pages. This should be naturally optimised for the name of your company, if it’s not then I’d highly recommend doing that. What I would recommend is to try and avoid keyword cannibalisation or cannibalisation. This is why mapping a page – a URL – to a keyword is important because if you have loads of pages trying to target the same one, Google would probably just say, ‘you know what? I don’t even know what you want me to do so I’m just going to leave it and not rank any of them’. Or you might see that you have two pages of your site appearing in the search results, which you might think is good at the time because you’ve more real estate, but if there’s two pages, actually in the long-term, you’ll probably end up worse off because you’re better off having the power of one page than two lower quality pages that trying to target the same keyword. 

Keywords with multiple intents

What about keywords with multiple intents? Essentially use your judgment, decide what intent is most likely, optimise that page really well for that one intent and then monitor the pages, the research result changes, and see if anything changes, see the sites that are ranking really well. So you have Google’s understanding of intent changes. Now Google’s algorithm is changing every day and Google was also learning the intent behind certain keywords. So it’s not always going to be as clear cut, but if you can see if your landing page starts to rank well for a particular intent then great. If it doesn’t, you might need to make some changes. The best thing you can do is try and then keep an eye on the search results, keep an eye on what’s appearing and keep changing. 

Big piece of advice as well is don’t leave your website static. Don’t create a landing page and then go, ‘yep, done’ and don’t look at it for five years because the way people search for things changes. So there is voice search now, for example, which people are using. I don’t think that’s a massive thing for anyone here to worry about yet necessarily. I think if your site is optimised well for Google searching – so people writing into their mobile phone or whatever – then you’ll probably do well on voice search anyway. So you don’t necessarily need to do anything separate for voice search at the moment. 

Search intent summary

Just to recap: always include intent research in your keyword research, always use keyword modifiers in your keyword research, map your query to your likely intent and then type your query into Google, make sure you analyse the search results and see what else is there. Then do go one step further and do a mini gap analysis for what you have on your site versus the people that are ranking higher than you. Then also look at the ‘people also asked’ questions and build your intent driven landing pages. This might seem like quite a long process, but it could probably be done pretty quickly, but most people just go straight to building the landing pages but you’ll probably benefit way more from doing all of this research first. If you don’t have time for it, there’s no reason why, if you have a package with Nettl, the SEO team can’t look at doing this for you. 


How does Google learn intent?

Google’s algorithm is changing every day, and it’s learning, so would I be right in thinking that for intent it’s learning context? Would it also be right that the reason why it’s changing is because it’s using AI to help it?

Yes and yes. So it’s called natural language processing. It’s essentially learning the meaning behind what people are searching for. It’s quite technical and it can also do sentiment analysis so it can also understand the sentiment behind what people are searching. So yes, it is. It’s using very complex and detailed algorithms and artificial intelligence. 

Is search intent the same for PPC?

Would you recommend the same for PPC? Yes, intent research is really important for PPC as well. I wouldn’t say more important, just as important, because ultimately if you’re paying to get someone to a website you really don’t want to get the intent wrong and then get them to come to the website and actually it wasn’t what they were looking for. Also for PPC, you have something called quality score, which is the quality of your landing page versus the keyword that you’re trying to target. If you’re not meeting intent, then your quality score will probably go down. Then you’re probably less likely to appear when there’s the option to appear for the keyword. So yeah, really important. 

With PPC, you can also target those commercial keywords so you can target people more likely to buy. That might be more beneficial, might be more expensive, but if they’re more likely to buy then they might be the better person to target if you really want the money. 

Can you get stats on search intent from Google analytics?

Can you get any stats or info on search intent from Google analytics? No, unfortunately not. So search intent, you just have to understand, it’s more just keyword stats. So whatever your ranking is for keywords or whatever the search volume is for a keyword, and that’s not from Google analytics, that’s from your Google search console. From analytics, I’m not sure there’s anything you can get from intent necessarily in analytics. What you can get is the engagement information on your website. So you can get them out of people bouncing off or how long people are spending on your site. What would be really useful there is if you have a landing page and the bounce rate – which is the amount of people going onto the page and then leaving straight away – if your bounce rate is over 90%, those people probably aren’t getting the information they need so you’re probably not targeting intent. So while I say you can’t get intent stats, you actually can in some respects, because you can get stats that show you that you’re probably not meeting what the person wants. So if it’s a really long informational article that’s like 2000 words, but they’ve spent 10 seconds on the page, you’re probably not meeting the intent. 

So you can get information, just not necessarily specific. Intent is one of those things of SEO where you can’t actually automate. It involves humans actually having a look and seeing what the search results show, for example. 

Search intent on other search engines

You mentioned checking Google a lot, what about other search engines? Yes. So Bing I would say is the other major search engine. There are a lot of search engines out there like DuckDuckGo, which is a privacy conscious search engine. The reason I say Google is because Google has around 80 or 90% of market share in terms of searching and whatever Google does, it’s pretty much the same principles for other search engines. So if you follow Google’s principles, you’re pretty much following search principles. 

There are tools that Bing has as well so you can use Bing’s tools. I think with Bing, it depends on your target audience. So Bing might be more of an older audience potentially. So potentially the 65 plus, but that’s just what I know from sort of seeing different stats. Bing might be something as well if you’re looking to do PPC advertising, but Google’s quite expensive, you could try and do Bing because it might be a little bit cheaper, but also do really good results. 

So yeah, definitely look at all different search search engines but I would just say principles of optimising your site and user intent optimisation is the same across search really. It’s across any search, if you’re searching for anything on the web or on your mobile or anywhere, it’s the same principle. I’d urge you all to go and have a look at the intent of your keywords and see if you’re actually targeting intent effectively.