What is User Intent (& Why Is It So Important)?

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Posted on by Jason Cook
Categories: JTT - SEO

In discussing the fundamentals of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) , you often see that it’s crucial to understand the importance of ’User Intent’ (also referred to as ‘Search Intent’). But what is User Intent and why is it so important?

In recent years, Google has made it a priority to better understand (and anticipate) the meaning and intent behind search queries earning it a prominent spot on Google’s updated Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines and . Why? To ensure it is able to return results that answer the user’s query and provide the greatest value to the searcher.

Needless to say, intent (and its importance) is now emphasized in SEO and content marketing. If we’re creating content with the purpose of improving Search Engine Ranking Position (SERP) we need to follow Google’s lead and filter our approach through the needs of the user. We need to anticipate and satisfy their intent. We need to understand what they’re searching for, how they’re searching for it, and steps other pages might be taking to grab those top SERPs.  Shouldn’t best serving our customers be our real goal anyway? Then, we need to build our content accordingly.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

Types of User Intent

The lion’s share of search queries (more than 99%) are likely to fall under one of four categories:

  • Informational. The user is searching for information or instruction, to do research or educate themselves on the topic.
  • Navigational. The user is searching for a specific URL (website, service, page or piece of content ).
  • Commercial Investigation. The user is searching general content to help inform a potential transaction but is not yet ready to make a purchase.
  • Transactional. The user is searching resources with the intent of performing a transaction or purchase.

By interpreting a search query and classifying it under one of the types of Intent, Google gains an understanding of what approach to take in securing content. And by understanding the intent behind a search from the search terms or keywords. that are included within it, Google can deliver results that are most likely to satisfy the user’s need.

Additional Factors in Determining Intent

On Google, an individual’s experience is fully customized but heavily self-influenced. In other words, our search results may be impacted by  a variety of factors; our location, our search history, and whether or not we’re performing a search while logged into our own Google account to name a few. ‘What we search for’, ‘what pages we visit’, ’what we buy’, ‘what we watch’, ‘what we listen to’ also are all influential factors in how Google interprets our individual intent.

Optimizing Content to Satisfy Intent

There is no magic wand, or quick fix here. As with any component of an SEO or content strategy, an understanding of intent is simply one piece of a puzzle. It’s a new set of lenses to be worn so that we can create content of genuine value to convey our Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. It can help us to improve page quality, guide us in optimizing our search signals and enhancing our structured data to attract more traffic, satisfying the needs of more users, and gaining favor in the eyes of Google.