The searches that your customers make offer a window into their thought process and purchase journey. The words they choose, and the way they search, can help you to understand and predict user intent — enabling you to increase clicks and conversions by optimizing your digital experience for high-intent searches.
But doing so requires a big investment of time spent analyzing consumer search behavior. Here's how to determine consumer intent based on your search data, and how to optimize your marketing accordingly.
Conduct keyword research.
Navigational: intent to reach a particular page on a business's site
Informational: intent to acquire information from a business
Transactional: intent to buy
All of these types of searches reveal important moments in the customer journey, but transactional keywords show the highest purchase intent.
High-intent keywords are numerous and varied, but think of terms like buy, get, and purchase. For example, a customer searching "buy home insurance in Philadelphia" is likely looking to purchase insurance in the near term, while a user searching for "what kind of insurance do I need?" will probably need to do a bit more research before making a purchase. Terms like buy, visit, and purchase express a clear intent to transact — as do searches that include the phrases near me or driving directions. It's a simple concept with a high payoff.
On the other hand, keywords and phrases containing terms like how to, tips, and guide imply the need for informational content, like a blog post or in-depth infographic on a topic relevant to your industry.
There are a wide variety of free and paid tools that can help you identify the search terms for which your site is ranking, as well as providing suggested related search phrases, potential content optimizations, and tracking how your competitors rank for those terms (you may already be using one or several to manage your organic and paid search tactics). The most important takeaway at this stage is to understand what kind of high-intent searches your customers are making, and to prioritize ranking for them with the right type of content — whether that's an informational blog post, or surfacing in search results with a landing page where they can take action.
Leverage data from SERPs and optimize for long-tail queries.
In isolation, keyword phrases aren't necessarily enough to identify user intent — it helps to understand what search engines deem most relevant to consumer intent.
Empty your cache and conduct an incognito search for your identified keywords or phrases — for example, that simple search for "buy home insurance." See what appears in recommended searches, Google Answer Box, and different search engines' autofill suggestions. This can help you understand the broader context around a search and which topics are seen as most relevant to a given query. Performing the same search on multiple engines, devices, or voice assistants will provide you with additional context.
Autocomplete can also help you understand what longer queries your customers might be making. This is important because you can likely see an even higher return on investment by targeting high intent long-tail keywords in your organic search strategy.
Up to 70% of all search traffic may stem from long-tail keywords. These types of keywords are incredibly specific search phrases that express exactly what a user wants. They may have a lower search volume overall, but they indicate truly high intent to transact. An example? "Adidas Yeezy boost sneakers price" versus "Adidas sneakers." The first query is much more detailed and expresses an intent to purchase a highly specific item.
The benefits of targeting high-intent long-tail keywords specific to your business can be great. There will likely be less competition because you are targeting a very specific search — meaning that your business may have a better chance to rank than for a very general search like "buy sneakers."
Optimize content to match intent.
Once you've ensured you're there to meet your customer, you then need to be useful in that moment. Otherwise, your customer will simply move on to another brand. Surfacing in search results is the first step, but you have to ensure that the content that shows up matches the consumer intent — whether that's to learn more or to actively transact. In fact, Think With Google research shows 51% of smartphone users have purchased from a brand other than the one they started searching for because the information provided by a competitor was more useful.
Make sure you optimize your content to match the right types of queries (informational versus transactional) and ensure you take long-tail keywords into account. Crafting specific, structured content for these long-tail keywords can help customers find your business at the moment of highest intent — leading to more traffic and conversions for you.
Learn more about how consumer search is evolving in our ebookThe Customer Journey Starts With a Question.