How did it all start?
Giving the user exactly what they intend to find has been the solution to generating great business value from search engines ever since the early days of the internet.
In those days, search engines relied mainly on directories and keywords for indexing, a method that is still employed today despite the tremendous improvements to crawling with depth and accuracy.
For example, the famous Yahoo directory was so large and user friendly, it became the main index used by search engines for finding web pages.
This gave Yahoo a tremendous advantage over other smaller directories such as DMOZ created by Open Directory Project (ODP).
At that time, all ODP had to offer was a superior directory structure that allowed users to browse through categories
Those were the times when any professional SEO Company was easily able to take over the organic search results by buying huge volumes of keywords and creating web pages around them.
Fast forward to the present, Google is in charge of 90% of all search queries.
SEO companies are hiring experts in user search intent for nothing less than 6 figure salaries. Just one problem – people have too many choices today when it comes to internet search.
SEO professionals have been trying every trick in the book for years now, from content marketing and link building to black hat methods that violate Google’s TOS – all to win at the SERP game.
But all of that is changing quickly as we speak: today’s expensive SEO campaigns are becoming obsolete, and many SEO companies are closing their shop due to the economic downturn.
Why is that happening? Because all of their efforts were spent on moving keywords around instead of understanding user intent, and optimizing for specific search queries.
The process of precisely identifying what a user is looking for later enabled Google to transition from a directory-based search engine to one characterized by its superior crawling and indexing abilities.
The internet is still the greatest source of consumer surplus in history. Although consumers are getting increasingly sophisticated in how they use it, your ability to win their business often turns on basic search tasks like product discovery.
When a user finds what they’re looking for, their impression of your brand and business improves. This is why it’s so important to get the basic search tasks about your products right.
Most Product Managers have a pretty good handle on how CRO can help with driving traffic from paid channels like Google Adwords.
But what about organic search? User Search Intent is the act of searching with a clear goal or end in mind. It’s when users go beyond simply looking for general information about a subject and instead enter search terms with the specific purpose of finding a particular product or service.
Types of Search Query Intents
The user search intent plays a major role in the way SERPs are organized. The intent of a query can be one or more of three types:
- transactional, and
Navigational Search Intent: Numerous studies have shown that users search for navigational information when they know exactly what website they want to visit.
When users type Moovit into Google, they are looking for the official website of the Moovit public transit app.
When users type “Barbeque Nation in Frazer Town contact number”, they are specifically looking for the contact details of the restaurant.
Most of the time this type of user intent is associated with a specific website, but some queries that fall under this category can include geographic locations (like cities or states) and people’s names or contact numbers.
Transactional Search Intent: The transactional search intent refers to users who are looking to buy something online.
Transactional queries often include specific keywords related to the product category (like “shoes”) and a general term describing the type of transaction (like “buy”).
“buy blue Nike shoes”
Informational Search Intent: This type of user intent includes users who are looking for information that will require a broad or generic response.
Informational queries often include words and phrases to describe a general topic as well as specific details related to the subject matter (like “how tall is the Eiffel Tower”).
“Eiffel Tower Height in meters”
The User Search Intent Gap
It’s important to note that users can have more than one intent in mind when they enter a search query and that the user intent might change as they interact with the SERP.
For example, if you search for the following query in Google:
“Best Nike running shoes”
You’d be able to tell that this user has an informational intent because he wants to find out the best running shoes by Nike, before making a purchase. He needs some help in deciding what to buy.
So, Google understands this and shows results that guide users in choosing the “best Nike running shoes.”
Furthermore, a search for “Nike running shoes” will demand a very different user experience from a search for “best Nike running shoes”.
Let’s see what Google has to show us for “Nike running shoes”.
Google shows us the shoe catalogues the user might be looking to buy the “Nike running shoes”, making it a Transactional query (user search intent).
This is why understanding user intent is so important in organic search. You need to deliver users with results that are highly relevant to what they need, in a manner that is both easy and engaging for them to use.
In the next section, we’ll take a look at how to do this.
Controls For Ranking
The search results from Google are highly organized and grouped into chunks that provide users with all the information they might be looking for. In fact, the search results in Google are so good that users rarely need to look beyond the first page.
This is due in part to Google’s efforts to provide the most relevant and accurate information, but also because they have “controls” in place that help them rank websites according to specific user intent.
These controls (or ranking factors) cover a wide range of different criteria and every search engine has its own version.
Google’s latest list of ranking factors is available online and we’ve outlined the ones that we believe are directly connected to user intent:
- Keyword Usage in Page Titles: Simply put, keywords that are used in page titles get higher rankings.
- Use of Schema (MicroData): A website’s overall structure and layout are important in terms of providing a clear image to Google, on how it should rank the site. Schemas provide webmasters with an easy way to add structured data to their pages so that Google can better understand what it’s about.
- Content-Length: Longer content usually ranks higher than very short articles.
- Comprehensiveness: When it comes to engaging your audience, you need to first understand what they want. This is the only way to ensure that your content will meet their expectations and be useful for them.
- Ease of Navigation: This is particularly important in terms of keeping users happy and engaged. If a user feels like their experience was engaging, easy to use and served them what they were looking for, then chances are that they’ll rate the site as useful.
- Landing Page Experience: The landing page experience (bounce rate and time on site) is another key signal that helps determine a site’s rankings in search results.
Now that we’ve covered a wide range of different ranking factors and how they might affect user intent, let’s look at some specific examples.
How to Improve your Click-Through-Rates on Google Organic Search Results?
One of the best ways to improve your organic search CTR is to make sure your site is well optimized when it comes to user intent.
In this part, we’ll cover 3 different ways you can implement this:
1) Use Longer Titles and Descriptions in Your Content: Using longer titles and descriptions (meta-data) in your content allows Google to understand what the page is about and how it should rank your content.
This point becomes especially important in terms of how long a title or description might need to be to really get good results from organic search. The image below shows an example of how longer page titles improve your CTR on Google
2) Make Sure Your Offer “Speaks” Directly To User Intent: When users look for information online, they usually have an idea of what they are after.
This means that you need to have some understanding of their intent so that your offer can speak directly to them. For example, if someone is looking for a new car on the internet then chances are that they want information about different brands and models.
The image below shows an example of how matching offers to user intent can increase CTRs on Google organic search results:
3) Use Schema Markup To Improve Your CTR on Product Pages: When users look for products it’s important you provide them with all the relevant information they might be looking for. This includes key features, price ranges, reviews among other things.
Adding schema markup to product pages ensures that Google understands what your website is about and how you can help your users. This, in turn, improves the rankings of your product pages and improve user experience.
Here’s an example of saying exactly what a product is about:
“Apple Macbook Air 13.3″ Laptop (2017 Refurbished).”
SEO is evolving and Google is getting smarter each day. So, don’t just stress on targeting best-performing keywords.
Rather, you should put more emphasis on user intent and what value your content can provide to users. Once you do this, ranking higher becomes much easier.
I hope this article proved useful for you. For any questions, feel free to comment below.