Keyword research has always been about trying to find phrases that users commonly searched for so that businesses could target them and appear first for those phrases.
Unfortunately, most SEO’s understanding of keyword research stopped there. The keywords were merely something to rank for and often they didn’t care about the person ending up on their page, or even why they were searching that phrase in the first place.
As SEO has become more competitive and consecutive Google updates have forced the lower quality SEO’s to update their tactics, SEO has become more about marketing.
As such, it’s important than any SEO performing keyword research is aware of the intent of the searcher so that they can know how to address their issues best.
Understanding Searcher Intent
When a person types a phrase into Google, they do so with the goal of finding a specific piece of content that will help them. This is the searchers intent.
For example; if you were to search for “car parts” then you would hope that a page about car parts would come up. However, you could be looking to buy parts, learn about that different parts of a car or find out how the parts work together.
Understanding the intent of the searcher is key to being able to produce a web page that solves their needs. There is no point in ranking for “car parts” if your business sells clothing, you don’t solve the searcher’s problem, and therefore you don’t address their intent.
With the development of Googles knowledge graphs and boxes, we have created different categories of search. The knowledge graphs and boxes appear at the top of the results page and are designed to give users quicker access to the information that they are looking for.
Each of the different knowledge graphs is there to address a specific micro-moment. There are four micro-moments; buying, going, doing and knowing.
With each of these micro-moments, the user has a different intent, although each could be about the same topic. Somebody could be buying car parts; they could be looking for the local car parts garage, they could be putting them together or even researching the different parts.
With each of these micro-moments, we have a different intent, and the knowledge graph will hopefully figure out the purpose of our search and give us the most useful information.
Search Engines and Rankings
When search engines were first developed, they were relatively primitive and relied on the creators of the page to tell them what it was about. The easiest way for them to do this was through including specific phrases on the page, with the hope that they would rank for them.
This is why keywords have been an integral part of SEO since the very beginning because search engines were unable to understand the context of a web page.
However, the algorithms have developed a lot since 1995, and now Google can easily understand the content on a page and even the context of the page within the website.
All of this extra understanding means that Google can match your content to the intent of the searcher, even if they search for a phrase that isn’t on your page. To an extent, this has made keywords redundant, because you don’t have to include them on your web page to rank for them.
In 2015, Google introduced their newest and possibly most important ranking factor of all; RankBrain.
RankBrain is an AI that is integral to their algorithm, and it helps Google to understand the intent of searchers better and to improve the algorithm by tracking their behavior gradually. This is critical for website owners to understand because the sites which create the best content that matches users intent and provides value to them will be ranked the highest.
Google aims to provide the best searching experience to their users, failing to do that will ensure that people quickly swap to one of the many different search engines available. The most important part of the searching experience is that you find the content that you are looking for.
At this point, the Google algorithm is so advanced that one of the only improvements they have left to make is to make the search experience more personal by understanding your intent. If you regularly search for recipes and then one day search vaguely for “Chinese,” it would be reasonable to presume you are looking for food rather than the language.
Searcher intent has always been a crucial part of SEO, but as the algorithm has developed and is starting to impact rankings, SEOs will need to pay greater attention to it than ever before.