When you googled “what is search intent,” you had the informational intention to seek out an answer to your question and learn more about a topic you’ve been hearing about.
As you can see, we understood that intent and wrote this blog post to answer your question. In other words: you’ve clearly come to the right place!
Search intent isn’t a “new” concept in SEO, but it is a surprisingly overlooked concept, especially in B2B. This is a problem for a couple reasons:
First and foremost, there’s the scary reason. As SEO becomes more and more competitive and third-party cookies go the way of the dinosaur, B2B businesses really have their work cut out for them if they want to stand out. Just targeting high-volume keywords isn’t going to cut it anymore; we’ll need to reach the right audience with the right message using the right keywords.
Which brings us to a less scary, more exciting reason why it’s so great that you’re looking up search intent right now: because it’s a huge opportunity. Marketing with intent is the way for today’s marketers to stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace and reach their audience more effectively than ever.
Let’s talk about why:
What is Search Intent?
Simply put, search intent is the reason why a user types a query into a search engine. Yoast breaks search intent down into four broad categories:
- Informational: The user is looking for information, such as the answer to a question. If you found this blog by googling “what is search intent?” or even just “search intent” with the hope of learning more about this topic, then your intent was informational.
- Navigational: The user is trying to navigate to a particular website. If you searched “TopRank” or “TopRank Marketing” with the intention of finding our website (thank you!), then your intent was navigational. Or if you ever type “Twitter” into Google rather than typing out Twitter’s URL, Google will understand you’re probably trying to navigate to Twitter and provide that website at the top of your search engine results page (SERP), rather than, say, the Wikipedia page for Twitter.
- Transactional: When the user has transactional intent, they’re trying to buy something on the internet immediately. This often means they’ll type in the exact brand or product name of what they want to buy, or attach “for sale” or “buy online” directly into the search query.
- Commercial: Commercial intent occurs when the user may be interested in buying a product or service, but they want to know more about it first. “Commercial” intent is primarily for buying research.
If you googled “search intent marketing agency” with the intention of finding an agency to do search intent marketing for your organization, for instance, your intent would be commercial (and we’re excited to help!).“Marketing with intent is the way for today’s marketers to stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace and reach their audience more effectively than ever.” — Nick Nelson @NickNelsonMN Click To Tweet
Why search intent matters to modern SEO
For search engines, intent is the be-all, end-all. Google became as successful as it is today because at the time it was created, its algorithm was much better at accurately assessing intent than other search engines. That meant when people used Google to conduct their searches, they actually found what they were looking for. The rest, as they say, is history.
Search engines are still all about trying to read their user’s intent and provide them with the best answer to their query. And that means they’re all about rewarding anyone who helps them do that. By understanding your own audience’s intent and servicing it effectively, you can earn relevance, reputation, and respect just like Google did. In fact, Google will help you do it!
Search engines notice which links users click on in the SERPs they provide. The more users click your links from SERPs, the more search engines will raise your brand’s “authority” on a given subject.
The higher your authority, the more likely your content is to appear higher on related SERPs. The higher your content appears on related SERPs, the more likely more highly relevant and qualified users are going to click on it organically. The more relevant clicks your content achieves organically, the higher your authority continues to grow… and so on.
Perhaps most importantly, improving your understanding of your audience’s search intent won’t just improve your site’s search engine optimization (SEO), either. As you optimize your on-page content not just for keywords but for actual audience intent, the process also optimizes the real value the pages you’ll point your audience can offer to that audience.
In other words, SEO-optimizing for intent isn’t just essential for modern SEO optimization; it’s a way to unite all of your organic marketing efforts around the most important and pertinent goal for any business: serving your customers better.
Why keywords alone are not enough
Historically, search intent has been overshadowed by a somewhat myopic focus on keywords in SEO. This has led to many B2B companies targeting keywords with very high search volumes that seem relevant to their tech solutions — regardless of the intent users have when searching for that term.
Unfortunately, this tends to lead to B2B businesses pursuing keywords that are applicable to an extremely wide variety of intents. A keyword like “what is digital transformation,” for instance, is searched 3,600 times every month in the U.S. If we’re only considering search volume in our SEO strategy, that would make it very attractive. However, when thinking about intent, there are two problems with pursuing a keyword like this one:
- It’s a very competitive keyword (88% difficulty according to SEMrush), because of how broad it is… and because of how many other companies are after it for the same reasons we would be
- The quality of the traffic this keyword would bring in, even if we could beat the competition and land on page one, would likely be very low. This is because the intent of the keyword is very likely “informational,” meaning users aren’t necessarily looking for a tech solution, but simply want to know what the term means.
By paying attention to intent when selecting keywords, on the other hand, we would know not to pursue an informational keyword this broad and with search volume this high.
Winning organic search traffic is only becoming more and more competitive as more and more companies utilize SEO best practices on their sites and content strategies. As third-party cookies are phased out, we’re also losing one of our main ways to identify who audience members are — which will make relying on keywords alone to target them even more difficult.
Luckily, search intent is the solution to these twin challenges. By becoming more focused and strategic with SEO intent, businesses can target audiences based on what they’re trying to accomplish, not just who they are. This will help you find users who are qualifying themselves for your content via the questions they ask… instead of pursuing broad targets and hoping some of those users happen to be looking for what you’re providing.“By becoming more focused and strategic with SEO intent, businesses can target audiences based on what they’re trying to accomplish, not just who they are.” — Nick Nelson @NickNelsonMN Click To Tweet
Why search intent is particularly useful in B2B marketing
One more big reason to invest in intent-based marketing: it’s especially effective in B2B marketing.
Because the average B2B tech service or solution is relatively complex, the people looking to invest in it have a lot more knowledge about what they’re looking for and why. This means they know what to search for… and know which questions to ask about it, in search engines and otherwise.
If you can identify these questions via intent, you can design an SEO-optimized content strategy that can answer them — and nurture your customer every step of the way in the process.
How can I use intent to improve my SEO content strategy?
As a B2B search marketing agency, TopRank Marketing specializes in developing SEO content strategies guided by search intent and audience intel.
In our newest guide, “Marketing With Intent: A Guide to the Future of SEO and Qualified B2B Search Traffic,” we break our process down into data-backed steps in order to demonstrate exactly how your B2B business can create an intent-driven content marketing strategy of your own and how you will benefit from doing so.