Demystifying Google Search Intent

September 1, 2021

Why it’s important for your site to deliver exactly what users are searching for

One of the most critical but often neglected aspects of SEO is mapping search intent. Your content can be better than the competition’s in every way but still fail to rank for a targeted keyword if Google thinks it doesn’t fit the intent behind the search query.

Understanding search intent and knowing how to analyze it will improve your ability to rank for desired keywords. It also will improve your content by giving visitors what they expect and want when they perform a Google search.

What Is Search Intent … And Why Is It Important?

Because keywords can contain adjectives and have multiple variations and meanings, Google uses a system called RankBrain, powered by artificial intelligence (AI), to understand the meaning behind search queries. Search intent is how Google tells the difference between Apple Inc. and a search for the fruit.

A good search engine optimization (SEO) strategy incorporates the search volume of keywords in the initial planning stage to indicate what topics are worth targeting. However, just looking at keywords with the highest volumes is never the best strategy.

Many other factors impact keyword ranking — including competition, number of search results and query type — so your goal may not be achievable using high-volume keywords alone.

But, before you add search intent to your ranking factors, it’s important to understand what Google thinks the keyword means if you want to rank for it.

For example, the Google search for the keyword ‘apple’ could refer to a few things–it may be an app or website related to Apple products such as iPhones and Macs. It may also refer to one of America’s favorite fruits called apples!

The top-ranking results on Google delivered ALL information related directly to Apple products and completely ignores the fruit. In fact, a result about apples and apple picking doesn’t display until page 7.

Because not all keywords are ambiguous, not understanding search intent isn’t always damaging to your SEO. However, it also can prevent you from ranking for a keyword at all.

Sometimes you will rank for keywords that don’t match user intent. In those cases, the user will leave your site quickly and you’ll likely see an uptick in your bounce rate. Including intent analysis in your SEO strategy will help ensure that your content marketing is effective and your bounce rate is low.

Putting Search Intent Into Action

After you’ve narrowed down the keywords, you’d like to use based on search volume, perform a Google search for each term and look at the highest-ranking results. The top results are exactly what Google thinks should be ranking for that search term. Your content needs to target this intent to be successful.

Matching your content strategy to search intent can not only improve your rankings, but it can also help boost engagement and other important metrics that Google uses to assess the quality of your pages.

When you map search intent, people will visit your site because they’ve found the exact information they were searching for. Ultimately those visitors will spend more time on your site, resulting in more website conversions for your business.


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