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Keyword Intent: The Key to Unlocking SEO Success

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Keywords are a vital part of search engine optimisation and digital marketing as a whole. Keywords are specific words and phrases weaved into content to improve how it ranks in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Alongside determining which keywords to target, it’s also important for marketers to understand the intent linked to those keywords, as this has a big impact on the types of content visitors’ expect to see when searching, as well as the types of content that marketers must produce and optimise.

What Is Keyword Intent?

Keyword intent refers to the purpose behind an online search query. Are visitors looking for information, to make a purchase, compare their options or navigate to a specific webpage? It goes beyond the specific words or phrases that they type into a search bar and delves deeper into the underlying reasons that are driving their search.

Keyword intent offers insight into where visitors currently are in the purchase funnel and what sort of content they need. Someone looking to purchase immediately, for example, won’t need masses of information, while someone undertaking basic research likely won’t benefit from an e-commerce page.

Understanding the intent behind a search helps search engines deliver the most relevant and helpful results, while it also helps content creators adapt and optimise content to match visitors’ needs.

Four Main Types of Keyword Intent

There are four main types of keyword intent. These are

  • Informational intent
  • Commercial intent
  • Transactional intent
  • Navigational intent

1. Informational Intent

Keywords with informational intent fall at the very start of the purchase funnel, where visitors are seeking broad-level information. At this stage, they know little about the topic and are trying to gather as much information as possible.

Visitors with informational intent are unlikely to purchase immediately, so content should be more informative than promotional. By supporting information-gathering, businesses project their competence and increase the likelihood that visitors will seek them out when looking to make a purchase.

Example Search: “Baking chocolate cake”

2. Commercial Intent

For keywords with commercial intent, visitors are considering their options and comparing the products or services of various competing businesses. Examples of keywords with commercial intent include

  • Product or service-focused keywords (e.g. exhibition stands, smartphones, plumbers)
  • Investigative or comparative phrases (e.g. best low-budget cars, Apple vs Samsung, “reviews”, “alternatives”)
  • Local commercial keywords (e.g. butchers near me, electricians near me)

Traffic from commercial keywords generally has a higher conversation rate than that of informational keywords, as it is at this stage that visitors decide which business they want to purchase from (or at least narrow down their options) and which product or service best suits their requirements.

Example Search: “Best budget smartphones 2023”

3. Transactional Intent

When searching keywords with transactional intent, visitors have typically done their research and are looking to make a purchase either immediately or very soon. Searches will usually include a brand or product name, as well as a signal that the visitor intends to complete a transaction.

Examples of transactional keywords include

  • Buy
  • Discount
  • Coupon
  • Free shipping
  • For sale

The top search engine results will normally be e-commerce pages that allow users to make a purchase, however, the transaction in question could instead be signing up for a service, in which case words like “buy” or “purchase” are replaced by “signup” or “register”.

Example Search: “Buy iPhone 13”

4. Navigational Intent

With navigational intent, visitors are looking for a specific website, page or brand. They already know what they are looking for and are simply using the search engine as a navigation tool.

Top results will typically be the exact page, followed by related pages that are either on the same topic or from the same website.

Examples of navigational keywords include

Optimisation for these keywords centres on proper on-page optimisation such as including branded keywords in title tags. Content marketers generally don’t focus heavily on navigational keywords, as visitors have already decided where they want to go and are just looking for a way to get there.

Example Search: “Facebook login”

Why Does Keyword Intent Matter?

Keyword intent matters because it informs the content that visitors expect to see.

For informational keywords, there is little value in optimising your website’s e-commerce page. Visitors do not want to make an immediate purchase, so search engines are unlikely to rank these pages for informational keywords. If, somehow, visitors do land on your e-commerce page when undertaking informational searches, this can have a detrimental effect on their user experience and create a negative perception of your brand as a result.

Serving visitors with the content that they want, when they want it, is the difference between intrusive, pushy marketing and helpful branded content – the latter being viewed much more favourably by both search engines and online visitors.

The benefits of understanding keyword intent include

1. Relevance

When the type of content you optimise aligns with what visitors are looking for, you’re more likely to appear in search results and attract user engagement.

2. User Experience

By improving user experience, visitors are more likely to view your brand favourably, stay on your site, engage with your content and potentially convert.

3. Competitive Advantage

If you focus your optimisation efforts on the content that visitors want to see, while your competitors do not, your content will naturally rank higher than that of your competition.

4. Content Strategy

Understanding keyword intent allows you to adapt your content strategy based on your business objectives.

If your business is concerned primarily with raising awareness you can focus on keywords with informational intent to reach visitors interested in learning. If, on the other hand, your business is more concerned with generating sales, you can focus on commercial and transactional keywords to reach visitors who are ready to buy.

5. Conversion Rate

When users are provided with exactly what they are looking for, they are more likely to take the desired action, leading to higher conversion rates both immediately and in the future.

Users finding transactional content while they are ready, willing and able to buy are more likely to make an immediate purchase, while users who are provided with relevant information during their fact-finding stage are more likely to come back to your business later when they’re ready to buy.

Conclusion

Keyword intent is not just a buzzword of Search Engine Optimisation; it is the essence of providing value to your audience.

By understanding and optimising for keyword intent, you can ensure that your content meets the needs of your target audience, enhancing your SEO rankings, user experience and, ultimately, your business success.

So, remember to think beyond the keywords themselves and focus on the intent behind the search to unlock real SEO success.

Published: December 11, 2023
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Carl Garner Watts

Carl Garner-Watts

Carl Garner-Watts is the lead Marketing Content Creator at exhibition stand design and build contractor Quadrant2Design. He has over a decade of experience in digital marketing, spanning industries including trade shows, facilities management, finance, property investment and venue marketing.

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