What is Search Intent (and Why Does it Matter?)

All search engines exist for the same basic purpose. That being, to satisfy the ‘search intent’ of those using them.

But what does the term ‘search intent’ refer to and why does it matter? How can deepening your understanding of search intent ultimately improve your online business performance?

Search Intent Defined

Sometimes referred to as user intent, the term ‘search intent’ refers to the reason any given individual carries out a specific online search. Hundreds of millions of online searches are carried out every hour of every day, though research suggests that the overwhelming majority are rooted in just two things – pain and pleasure:

  • Pain – There’s something you need to solve a problem you have, which motivates you to conduct an online search to find the solution.
  • Pleasure – There’s something you want to satisfy a desire or craving, so you take to the web to see the various options available.

These are the two primary driving forces behind almost every online search conducted. The goal of Google and the other major search engines being to ensure that search intent is immediately satisfied with relevant and appropriate suggestions.

Why Does Search Intent Matter For SEO?

Search intent matters for SEO for the simple reason that you cannot get by these days with a bare-bones keyword strategy alone. Google and its counterparts have become remarkably intelligent over the years, taking any number of ranking factors and signals into account when determining their respective SERP rankings.

What makes the difference with search intent is the way in which you focus on search terms (and the web users behind them) in context at a much deeper level.  You don’t simply focus on the words and phrases – you think about why they are being entered, who’s entering them, where they’re located, what they expect to get in return and so on.

Just a few of the benefits of effective search intent optimisation being as follows:

  • The opportunity to fulfil your audience’s needs at a deeper level
  • More highly targeted traffic driven to your website
  • Reduced bounce-rates and significantly improved on-page times
  • The chance to stand out as an authority in your niche
  • An important contributor to a brand development campaign

Of course, effective search intent optimisation also holds the key to climbing the rankings with Google and all other major search engines.

The Motivation Behind Every Web Search

Search intent may vary significantly from one query to the next, but the basic motivation behind every web search is more or less the same.

Irrespective of what they are looking for, people conduct online searches to:

  • Get the fastest possible response to their query, question or request
  • Access information they can trust to ensure they make educated decisions
  • Find the information they need to plug gaps in their knowledge

Getting it right with search intent means looking beyond the basics of keywords alone. It means considering your unique selling proposition, what makes your brand different, why your customers should choose you over your competitors, what’s likely to make them stick around after accessing your website and so on.

An understanding of search intent is essential for climbing the rankings, but its importance transcends SERP placement alone.