Search Intent and its Importance to Writing

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A bearded man uses his tablet to search for a query online in this file photo.

Search intent. What is it, and why should it matter to writers? In this article, we’ll dive deeper into this topic and offer some clarity for newer or even more experienced writers who want to deepen the meaning and relevancy behind their content. Keeping search intent in mind can make you a better writer, thus helping you develop more profound, more trusting relationships with your clients.

Search intent is the reasoning behind an individual’s internet search query, or in other words, what they are looking to accomplish with their search. Typically, the intent is related to something that the user is looking to learn about, find, or buy online.

Search intent goes hand in hand with boosting SEO results. We’ve all heard that content is king, and there’s much competition for those coveted top ranking spots on SERPs (search engine results page). While a large part of SEO is focused on keywords, placement, and driving more traffic to a website, search intent makes that content relevant to readers and keeps them drawn in. If you’re looking to boost your rankings on Google, it’s critical that you factor in search intent.

Exploring the Different Types of Search Intent

While there are quite a few types of search intent, the most common fall under these three categories:

1. Informational Search Intent

Informational search intent is when a searcher is looking to gain more information or if she/he is looking for education on a topic. It is also known as the “know” search query. Common searches might start with “how to,” “what is,” or “why is,” yet the search may not always be framed as a question. An example would be if someone is looking to learn more about the new Vice President of the United States, they might type in “Kamala Harris.” Regardless, the reader is looking to learn something or find guidance through a process. The searches themselves tend to be more generic and are purely for information gathering purposes.

2. Transactional Search Intent

Transactional search intent is when an individual is ready to purchase a product or service. Their search may reflect this with keywords such as “buy,” “discount,” “promo code,” or “order.” It is known as the “do” search query because the searcher is ready to take action. The transactional search query is an essential factor to consider when writing compelling content, but we’ll revisit that later.

3. Navigational Search Intent

Navigational search intent is when the individual already knows what they are looking for and has a specific web page or website in mind. It is also known as the “go” search query. An example would be if someone types in “Panera Bread.” They are probably hungry and are looking to put in an order for lunch. It’s a specific search that will result in Panera Bread’s website.

What are Intent Modifiers?

Intent modifiers are words in a search query that indicate the meaning behind the search. If the question starts with “how to,” this is a good indication that this is informational search intent, and the searcher falls into the “know” category. They want guidance on how to do something.

If the searcher uses the word “best” as in “best stove” or “best wine,” this may indicate that they are interested in buying, but they’re doing some comparison shopping first. Modifiers such as “buy” or “best deal” show that that individual is ready to take action and buy. They would fall into the “go” category.

It’s important to understand that search intent is a top priority for Google. One of their primary goals is to make sure search results are satisfied and not producing irrelevant results for their users. But another challenge is that the same search can have a different intent, or the meaning can be ambiguous. For example, if someone searches for the board game “Monopoly,” they could be searching for how to play or buy the game itself. Therefore Google must try to determine the searcher’s end goal with each search performed.

How Can I Apply This Knowledge To My Writing?

Writers aren’t necessarily marketers, but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider the reader’s search intent when creating content. If a writer fails to do this, they could disservice themselves, their readers, and their business or client.

Keyword frequency and placement are essential for SEO rankings, but if the content doesn’t align with a reader’s search intent, they won’t spend time reading and engaging with your content. It can hurt your business and lead to a drop in ranking.

As writers, it’s essential to put ourselves in the reader’s position. We should be asking ourselves what purpose would draw the reader to our specific content, whether it be a blog, website copy, or an educational article.

If an individual’s search intent is navigational, it’s not as crucial for the writer to focus on swaying that person’s opinion. They already had their mind made up as far as the website they are hoping to visit. Unless you’re writing for a specific website or yourself are the website owner, the other two types of search intent are what you will want to focus your attention on.

Writing for Informational Intent

If your article or blog is for readers with informational intent, the writer will want to think about what questions the reader may want answers for and how they would enter that into their search.

If someone searches “how to cook fennel” and you happen to be writing for a cooking blog discussing the many delicious ways to use fennel, then you can answer this question in a clear, concise manner without the fluff. The writer will want to consider what the reader is looking for and answer the question as soon as possible, typically within the article’s paragraph. From there, the writer can focus on other food tips and facts to keep the reader engaged.

Another helpful tip is to ask the question in the body of your article or blog post. You can place the question strategically in areas such as title, subheadings, or description. It will help draw eyes to the question and keep readers drawn in for more.

Writing for Transactional Search Intent

Suppose the purpose of the content is to sell something (writing copy for e-commerce landing pages, reviews, or comparison sites). In that case, it’s helpful to use the names of products and brands as your keywords and make sure to include intent modifiers to help prompt customers to buy. These could be words such as “buy,” “free shipping,” “sale,” or “promotional.” Keep in mind the target audience and what terms may resonate more with them. If you’re writing content for a spa service, that would be a much different tone than writing copy for a truck dealership.

It’s Time To Take What You’ve Learned And Started Writing.

You now know that to create meaningful content that will engage readers, you must consider the search intent. The more optimized your content is to the different search intent types, the higher your rankings are in a relevant search query.

Engagement is also an area that is worth emphasizing. Google is smart and knows that website clicks aren’t all that matter. Your content will rate higher the longer readers engage and spend time on your site.

Before starting your writing piece, ask yourself the following:

  1. What is the search intent of the reader that is going to engage with my writing?
  2. Identify keywords and intent modifiers that you should focus on in the writing
  3. Remember to use the reader’s proper tone (what keywords would resonate with a specific audience more than another).

Always remember, relevant content is the real king.

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