Blog: SEO
Group of blurred, indistinct people walking at trade show, highlighting searcher intent

Searcher Intent and SEO: The Invisible Ranking Factor

Avatar for John Locke

John Locke is a SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps manufacturing businesses rank higher through his web agency, Lockedown SEO.

Matching searcher intent for a keyword phrase is possibly the most overlooked part of SEO.

What is searcher intent?

Searcher intent is the task that a user wants to accomplish at the end of a Google search.

When someone types a search phrase into Google, what problem are they trying to solve? What do they hope to find in the search results?

By going with the grain, instead of against the grain of a search query, you increase your odds of ranking your web pages higher in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

Matching Search Intent Means Going With The Flow

Have you ever noticed that some Google searches have only informational results on the first page? While some searches have mostly e-commerce results? And yet other search phrases are recent news stories or announcement?

That is because the searcher intent is different for different search phrases.

Without understanding the intended “task to be done” for each keyword phrase, you cannot create content that matches that specific searcher intent.

To put it another way, you can’t swim upstream, or go against the grain when it comes to ranking your web page.

How Do You Determine Searcher Intent?

The best way to gauge searcher intent for a given keyword phrase is see what appears on Page One of Google for that phrase.

This is something we do in our SEO audits for clients. We assess the search intent for major keywords, so we can create content or functionality that allows people to complete the task or gather the information they are seeking.

A Few Examples of How Searcher Intent Affects SEO

The best way to determine searcher intent around a keyword phrase is to simply look at what Google is ranking on Page One for that search term. You can actually learn a lot from that analysis.

But most people aren’t looking at that.

Instead, they are trying to swim against the current, and force a keyword phrase to rank, when there’s no chance they will get there with their current content.

First Example: What Happens When You Fight The Flow

We recently had a client that came to us with some different search terms that they couldn’t move up the rankings.

They work with a specific type of tool, and the keywords they were having problems with were related to selling services around that type of tool.

Everything that is ranking on Page One of Google for their search terms are comparisons of different brands of that type of tool, or reviews of different brands of that tool.

Upon pointing this out, the client told me that they can’t create that type of content. They have relationships with different brands in that tool market.

As a result, they are stuck on Page Five of Google for these keyword phrases, while the comparison articles are dominating Page One.

You can’t force a sales page to rank on Page One of Google when the people continue to choose informational posts instead. The search results are a product of what the audience says their search intent is, not what you want it to be.

Our Second Example: A Fundamental Change Makes a Big Difference

Another client of ours sells industrial supplies. Together, we developed a number of search terms to target. We discovered that many of these search terms had a buying intent.

When I looked at Page One of Google for many of their keyword phrases, I noticed most of them were e-commerce or product pages.

At the time, their main pages were telling the company story, or talking about the products, but didn’t show the products, or link to the product pages.

When we changed their main pages to show grids of their products, with links to the individual product pages, those pages started ranking higher.

By matching searcher intent to what was on the page, we made customers happier, and as a result, Google ranked the pages higher.

A large part of SEO is determining what people want when they are searching for a certain thing, and then giving it to them.

Pattern Matching Matters More Than You Realize

There’s no doubt that a lot of things need to line up in order for you to have stellar SEO: great content, a strong brand, a fast, mobile-friendly site, good user experience and design, a positive company reputation, and a robust back link profile — among other things.

But you must also be cognizant of what’s already ranking for the keywords you’re trying to push up the search results pages.

Once you start doing this as part of your keyword research, the patterns become more apparent.

Give the people what they are already showing you they want, and your SEO efforts will have more impact.

Searcher intent, at it’s root, is very fundamental. If a person is typing in a search phrase into Google, what exactly are they trying to find? What problem are they trying to solve? Or what action are they trying to take?

A Question for You

We’d like to hear from you in the comments: What will you change about your content creation process now that you know about searcher intent?

Avatar for John Locke

John Locke is a SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps manufacturing businesses rank higher through his web agency, Lockedown SEO.

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