Optimizing content based on keywords requires an understanding of searcher intent. Is it to buy, to learn or to find a specific site? Search engine optimizers call these options “commercial”, “informative” and “navigational”.
Therefore, depending on the intent, a content strategy for search engine optimization should focus on:
- lead an action,
- provide answers,
- Help people navigate to your site (brand queries).
The fourth type of intention is ‘transactional’, reflecting the transition from informational to commercial. These are queries from people who don’t intend to buy but who may do so if they receive satisfactory answers.
Optimizing intent is about giving searchers what they are looking for.
In most cases, identifying search intent is more or less common sense. A query for “affordable running shoes” is likely a commercial intent. “How to Clean Running Shoes” is informative. “Road Runner Sports” is navigation.
Researching your target keyword can provide clues to Google’s interpretation. For example, most information queries on Google produce “snippets” (aka “answer boxes”), while business queries produce shopping results.
Another useful signal of search intent is the cost per click of a keyword in Google Ads. Advertisers are willing to pay more for keywords that generate sales. Therefore, commercial and transactional keywords tend to be more expensive.
But how can a marketer know the intent of hundreds or thousands of keywords?
Luckily, a few SEO tools have integrated search intent into their keyword research toolset. None are perfect, but all are better than none.
Keyword Tools for Search Intent
Semrush launched its intent analysis feature in 2021. Users can filter their entire keyword lists by intent and identify which ones are driving the most traffic to competitor sites.
Semrush integrates search intent into a few of its reports, including Keyword Magic Tool, Competitor Reports, Keyword Gap Analysis, and Position Tracking.
Here is a sample Keyword Magic Tool report for the keyword “ecommerce” filtered by informational intent.
CognitiveSEO is another tool that assigns search intent to keywords through its “Keyword Explorer”, “Ranking Analysis” and “Content Assistant” tools.
Automated spreadsheets. A site called “Sheets for Marketers” has tutorials and templates for creating spreadsheets.
Semrush and Cognitive SEO do not disclose How? ‘Or’ What they identify search intent. But a tutorial in Sheets for Marketers does. Titled “How to Perform a Quick Search Intent Analysis Using Google Sheets,” the tutorial assumes:
- Queries containing question words (what, why, how, where) are informative.
- Queries containing “best” or “versus” are transactional intent (the tutorial calls this “commercial” intent); people are looking for a purchase.
- Queries containing “buy”, “cost”, and “cheap” are commercial (what the tutorial calls “transactional”); researchers are ready to buy.
Everything else is labeled as “other” for the user to manually edit.
It’s a simplistic way to assign search intent, but it’s useful nonetheless. To use the tool, copy the spreadsheet, then paste your list into the first column. Remove the “Search Volume” column or add your own to store more data in the sheet.
Many keywords have dual or even triple intent. For example, a search for “how to buy a laptop” might come from someone researching the process or looking to buy.
So keep multiple meanings and intentions in mind when using automated tools for content optimization. Very often, words have information and commercial intent. Thus, manual review is essential when inserting keywords based on automated suggestions.