Ever Googled something random, clicked on a result and started reading… but instead of the typical word-salad drivel that Google usually serves up, it felt like…
like somebody was reading your mind?
Sure, you were hoping for something decent, but not this good.
Whatever you found understood your exact problems, but not only your problems. Also, the problems you didn’t even know you had, plus things that might be on the horizon that you want to look out for.
That, friend, is not a stroke of luck or the universe and stars aligning…
it’s called “user search intent.”
What is Search Intent?
User search intent what a person truly wants when they’re Googling something. Not just what kind of content they want, but something quite a bit deeper than that.
We’re talking “hopes and dreams” level deep.
Sure, they’re Googling how to fix an appliance, but they’re also budget conscious and want their spouse to respect them and want their kids to be able to have toast today. They want to be a good parent because their parents didn’t…. okay, maybe not that deep. But close.
What you experienced was when a person has taken the time and care to create something that precisely matches what a person is looking for when they’re Googling something.
User Intent Past
Every other article about search intent that you see in Google say that search intent is about 4 things:
- Informational searches
- Navigational searches
- Transactional searches
- Commercial searches
Those guides are (bluntly)… they’re wrong.
First, that model for search intent is over 13 years old, created in a time when Google didn’t even have an autocomplete / autosuggest feature (which wouldn’t come out until 2008).
Second, the guides that claim they can be broken down into informational / navigational / transactional / commercial (INTC) miss the entire nuance of things within those differing levels.
Here’s what I mean…
If a search query has “informational” (again, a bad term to use. I’ll give a better one shortly) intent, that’s great.
But what do I write?
Do I talk about my product or not?
How to I keep the person reading?
No amount of content gap analysis will get me there.
I haven’t read one guide that explains how to write for that user intent. Based on the intent:
- What do people need to know to move forward?
- What do they move forward to?
If you’re writing content, you need to know BOTH of those things.
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Here’s what Search Intent in 2021 ACTUALLY looks like:
Nailing the “search intent” perfectly will not only help you rank, but also help people fall in love with your work once they discover you through Google.
Over time, having a streamlined process for search intent will benefit you tremendously:
- You will be able to write your articles MUCH faster
- Your articles will rank faster
- Your articles will convert better
Let’s break things down.
Here are 4 questions you should answer to lock in the search intent for your next article:
#1: Are they searching for a solution to a problem?
If YES (Example: “back pain”), move to #2.
If NO, nevermind. There’s nothing we can help them with!
#2: Does the search phrasing include a possible solution?
If YES (Example: “yoga for back pain”), move to #3.
If NO, they’re at the “problem” level of awareness. Your job in the article is to deeply empathize with them and get them to read another article.
#3: Does the search phrasing include your product?
If YES (Example: “Brendan’s yoga for back pain”), move to #4.
If NO, they’re at the “solution” level of awareness. They know solutions *like* yours exist, so we need to show them how our type of solution could help them.
#4: Do they already know your solution is best for them?
If YES (Example: “Brendan’s yoga for back pain price”), they’re at the “most” aware level. They know our exact solution is best for them. We just need to show them the deal.
If NO (Example: “Brendan’s yoga for back pain review”), they’re at the “product” level of awareness. They know our product will solve their problem, but they still aren’t sure if we’re the best for them. Our job is to prove we’re their best option.
The chart below is what we really need to be talking about when we speak about user search intent because it lets us see deeper into what people want (both in information and in their own emotional response) when they’re searching.
The skills of copywriters are quickly becoming must-learn skills for every SEO.
For the record, I am 100% here for Joshua C. Hardwick breaking down the intent of every possible variation of search around “protein powder.” I think we even chatted about that example in our 100 Days of SEO interview.
I’ll give you a final example to make my point:
A Search Intent Model Gone Wrong (Example)
Under the INTC model of search intent, a search like “how to hire the best web designer” is going to confuse the hell out of you.
informational – how
transactional – hire
commercial – best
navigational – web design
So which is it?
And then what do I write?!?!?!
MASS CONFUSION ENSUES.
I’d wager that, with a search like “how to hire the best web designer,” the person is past the “problem awareness” stage because they know a solution like a web designer exists.
Also, I think they’re past the “solution aware” stage because they already believe that a web designer is going to solve their pain points.
Under this model, the searcher knows how a web designer will solve their pain and is trying to decide between multiple options. While our article could give them criteria for choosing the best, we also need to prove to them we’re their best option for web design.
The goal of our article is to prove this using a case study, testimonials, etc. and then move them into the “most aware” stage and show them the deal.
Everyone’s talking about user intent in relation to content and keywords, nobody’s talking about context. I think context (generally in relation to the purchase journey) is just as important. If you don’t understand context, how do you know what the intent is in relation to?
— JH Scherck (@JHTScherck) July 12, 2019
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