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November 25, 2019

A Quick Guide to Search Intent to Power up Your SEO Efforts

SEO Targeting
Photo Credit: Augur Marketing via flickr

SEO has become so pervasive in digital marketing strategies that you can rarely find a company that ignores it altogether. 

Just take a look at this query:

‘Everyone needs SEO’ has more than 36 MILLION results! And most of them are in agreement with the initial query.

I don’t disagree with it either. How could I? Idunn, the digital marketing agency I run was entirely built on content marketing and SEO – no paid ads, no paid influencers. Our SEO and content efforts are what brought in 90% of our customers. The rest came through recommendations.

So I wholeheartedly support anyone who wants to invest in SEO and content.

However, I fear that when something becomes so pervasive we sometimes lose contact with the basics. You know, like not seeing the forest for the trees.

When starting off an SEO strategy it’s easy to get confused and to look at the wrong metrics, KPIs and goals. And it’s no wonder.

If you thought the above query produced a lot of results, just take a look at this one:

There are 195 MILLION SEO guides you can choose from. Talk about choice paralysis, right?

If you click on some of the top results, like the one below, you’ll see that most of them focus on choosing keywords, getting backlinks, and the technical aspects of SEO.

Screenshot via Moz

Of course, all of these are really important aspects of SEO. But what about the basics? What about the forest?

I strongly believe that, in order to be profitable, any SEO strategy has to start with understanding the audience. You know, the people you’re writing for and the people you’re creating SEO-friendly websites for. 

This journey starts with search intent.

What is the intent behind a search query? What does the user really need? How can you match your content to every buying journey phase? 

Let’s discover it together!

The Zero Moment of Truth

Zero Moment of Truth or ZMOT is a phrase coined by Google back in 2011. It refers to “the moment in the buying process when the consumer researches a product prior to purchase.”

This moment takes place between the awareness phase (when the user becomes aware of the existence of a certain product – through a paid ad, for instance) and the First Moment of Truth, the “moment a consumer chooses a product over the other competitors offerings”.

How does this apply to SEO? 

Well, it gives you an idea about what type of content to create for each phase of the buying cycle, which incidentally coincides with the three main types of searches and the intent behind them.

Too much info?

No worries, light is about to be shed on everything.

Search intent for SEO

This term isn’t new – it was actually coined back in 2002 by Andrei Broder. The former Altavista employee says that search intent can be broken down into three major categories:

  1. Informational searches
  2. Transactional searches 
  3. Navigational searches

Each of them corresponds to a different type of content you have to produce to match a different need of information of the user.

Know, do, go

This is the terminology Google uses to describe Broder’s concept.

  1. Informational searches = know
  2. Transactional searches = do
  3. Navigational searches = go

Let’s illustrate all this with an example. 

Say you’re running a store selling smartphones. The three main types of search queries that should bring people to your website are:

Informational searches:

  • How do I unlock my Samsung phone?
  • How do I repair a broken screen on my Huawei?
  • Samsung freeze screen solutions

Transactional searches:

  • Buy Samsung 10
  • Best Android phones under $500
  • Samsung 10 price

Navigational searches:

[your brand name]

Now you might be tempted to optimize for transactional searches alone and invest in PPC ads enough to get the brand recognition that brings you navigational searchers too.

But you shouldn’t ignore informational searches either.

The users who perform them are what you’d call top-of-the-funnel users. They are at the beginning of their buying cycle. They are not ready to buy. Yet.

But when you offer them the information they need, you gain brand awareness. More importantly, when they are ready to convert into buyers and move on to transactional searches, your website will pop among the first results thanks to cookies and browsing history.

In other words: you should invest in your buyers early on. Be there when they need your expertise not just your products.

Understanding search intent helps you guide the buyer throughout their buying journey, from its very beginning. 

Search intent and the various types of content

What should you write for each of these types of queries?

Well, it depends on the kind of business you run, of course. But there are a few rules of thumb that can help you navigate through the countless types of content.

Informational searches offer great opportunities for long-form content. Choose the keywords you want to rank for and use them in: blog posts, whitepapers, ebooks, videos, product comparisons and more.

Transactional searches should be shorter and sweeter. This is where you optimize your case studies, product descriptions, pricing pages, landing pages, sales pages and more.

Navigational searches are pretty straightforward. You just need to make sure you rank high enough for your own brand name. Shouldn’t be too hard, right?

Search intent for better SEO – final thoughts

SEO and keyword research tools are great. We use several of them at Idunn too for every piece we write for ourselves and for our clients. 

But you shouldn’t rely solely on them. 

Remember that there is a human behind every query. Try to understand how they think. What they might search for. And, more importantly, what they expect to find when they click on your link.

Don’t withhold information just because ‘they have to pay your for something’. Showcase your expertise in your content and share every trick you know. Don’t worry – most people won’t jump to DIY-ing just because you showed them how. Those who do aren’t your ideal clients anyway. Most people will be impressed with your knowledge and buy your products or hire you to fix their problems.

Want to create content that both search engines and humans love? Check out our general copywriting and content writing services on the Idunn website or our dedicated packages for tech content writing on Copywritech, my newly-launched agency.


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Adriana Tica is an expert marketer and copywriter, with 10 years in the field, most of which were spent marketing tech companies. She is the Owner and Founder of Idunn. In October 2019, she also launched Copywritech, a digital marketing agency that provides copywriting, SEO content writing, and strategy services to companies in the tech industry.

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