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A Comprehensive Guide to Recognising Search Intent in Organic Results

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A Comprehensive Guide to Recognising Search Intent in Organic Results

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A Comprehensive Guide to Recognising Search Intent in Organic Results

One client requested us to rank their website for the keyword “London Olympics” a few weeks before the event. However, they were selling Union Jack rugs, which had no relevance to the search query.

This case exemplifies a common mistake where companies focus on ranking for as many keywords as possible without considering the searchers’ intent. This mismatch can result in negative outcomes for everyone involved.

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To avoid this, we should prioritise the searcher’s intent and create content that aligns with their goals. By analysing the search query and identifying the searcher’s intent, we can tailor our content to match their needs.

This change in mindset can lead to better search engine rankings, improved user experience and business success.

What Is the Best Way to Use Search Queries and Identify Meaning and Intent?

When it comes to identifying the meaning and intent behind search queries, you must understand the intent behind a search query, we need to analyse the search terms themselves. Even a few words can reveal a lot about what a searcher is looking for.

By breaking down the query into individual elements and considering synonyms, tenses and dual meanings, we can identify potential interpretations.

For example, a search for “catch cricket” could refer to watching cricket on TV or catching a cricket insect. We can also use pre- and suffixes to refine the meaning or provide context. The phrasing and syntax of the search can also impact its meaning, and as the search becomes more conversational, we can use natural language to search.

What To Do?

Once you have the list of potential intents, you can use intent modifiers to determine what stage of the user journey the searcher is in – informational, commercial, transactional, or local. These modifiers can be applied to a large keyword list and help you classify search intent types at scale.

By focusing on the searcher’s intent, you can create content that better matches their needs and improve our chances of ranking well for relevant searches.

Learn More: 3 Major Types of Search Queries

An Overview of Intent Modifiers

Intent modifiers are words that indicate a specific search intent. For instance, the word “best” indicates a comparison intent. Adding the modifier “best” to an informational query like “cat toilet” changes it into a commercial query like “best cat toilet.”

Another example is the modifier “buy” which transforms the query into a transactional intent. If the searcher adds the modifier “near me,” it becomes a local transactional intent.

What To Do?

You can either utilise a pre-existing list of commonly used search modifiers or create your list based on research. STAT has conducted useful research on optimising for search intent and you can read their findings on their blog

How to Segment Keyword List Based on The Type of Intent?

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to segment your keyword list:

  • After compiling a list of intent modifiers, the next step is to segment your keyword list by intent type. This way, you can match your content with the searcher’s intent.

What To Do?

If a keyword falls under the transactional search intent bucket, it should be linked with a product page, while commercial terms should lead to category pages or comparison articles.

It’s essential to align the searcher’s objective with the content you provide, considering the meaning of each query and modifier.

What To Do?

By analysing the search query and identifying the meaning behind each component, you can understand the user’s intent and even classify it by intent stage.

How to Identify Search Intent Using the SERP?

Let’s explore how to use search engine result pages to determine the intent of a searcher.

Search engine results can provide insight into the possible intentions and stages of the intent underlying a query, as well as imply the most significant or prevalent intent.

This is because search results are ranked based on their relevance to the user and ability to help them achieve their objective, i.e., the results that best match the searcher’s intent rank the highest and have the most potential to help them achieve their goal, according to Google.

It’s important to note that we should approach these findings with caution and exercise our common sense, as even Google can make mistakes.

How to Identify Search Intent with Search Results?

Let’s begin analysing the search results by searching your query on Google.

  • What information can we gather about the search intent from the search snippets?Look at each snippet and jot down what the title and description reveal about the ranking page’s purpose. This will usually give you a list of potential intents and intent stages, especially after analysing the top 5 results.
  • How do the top-ranking pages support our conclusions?What is the intent of the results?What objective can the user accomplish by interacting with the ranking page’s content? Which user stage is the content tailored for? Is the user able to purchase on the page or is it a comparison or a list of the “best of”?
  • Who ranks high, and who doesn’t?Take note of the page order.The top-ranked results likely represent the majority intent.

Repeat the process for your entire list of keywords. Pay attention to how the results change for similar or related queries. Even minor differences, such as using the plural form of a word, can significantly alter the results and imply a different intent behind the search query.

Is it Possible to Identify Search Intent with The Help of Search Features?

Yes. Let’s examine how we can identify search intent by looking at the search features that appear for a particular query. The presence of certain search features can provide clues about the search intent SEO and its stage.

For instance, the appearance of shopping results indicates that the searcher is likely to have commercial intent. Similarly, the presence of a local pack suggests that the searcher is interested in a location-based search.

We can classify the intent of a search based on the search features that appear for the query.

We aim to gather information on the following when identifying search intent through search features:

  • The location of the feature on the page can indicate its perceived importance for the user, like rankings.
  • The content of the feature, including snippets and videos.
  • Just like with organic results, it is necessary to do this for all queries and observe changes in position and content for related searches. Gaining featured snippets and shopping positions can be essential to achieve success in search.

As a bonus, Answer the Public is a free tool that can be used to gain a deeper understanding of related queries and the bigger picture of a search, with the help of “People also asked boxes.”

How to Identify Intent with Advertisements?

Let’s explore how ads can help us identify search intent. The mere presence of ads in search results can suggest that there is commercial or transactional intent.

What To Do?

  • It’s important to ensure that the ads are relevant to the query being researched.
  • Look for any anomalies with the ads and focus on the relevant ads to understand what they are selling and which specific intent they are fulfilling.
  • Use the headlines and descriptions of the ads to decipher their meaning.
  • Emotional triggers used in the ads can provide further insight into the intent of the searcher.
  • Consider how the emotional triggers reflect on the searcher’s mental state when searching.
  • Look out for callouts and other extensions that can give more information about the intent behind the search.

Points To Remember: It’s not just analyzing your competition’s ads that can help identify search intent; you can also run your test campaigns to understand the majority intent behind your queries.

By doing this, you can gain a better understanding of how to identify the intent behind a search query.

Key Difference Between Informational Search Intent and Navigational Search Intent

When searching on a search engine, users can have two types of search intents: informational search intent and navigational search intent.

  • Informational search intent is when a user is looking up information about a particular topic. The user may be seeking definitions, explanations, or answers to a specific query. The objective of the user is to find information that can help them solve a problem or answer a question, without necessarily having a particular website or brand in mind.
  • Navigational search intent is when a user is searching for a specific website or brand. The user has a particular destination in mind and is looking for a way to get there. This type of search intent is usually used when a user is familiar with a specific website or brand and wants to visit it directly, without going through a search engine.

For instance, if a user searches for “how to bake a cake” in a search engine, their intent is likely informational, as they are searching for information on how to accomplish a task.

On the other hand, if a user types in “Facebook” in a search engine, their intent is likely navigational, as they are searching for a specific website.

To identify the mode and location of a search, there are a few methods that you can use, some of which are more manual than others.

  • One way is to analyze the query’s semantics to understand its intricacies. For example, if the search query is conversational, fully phrased, or has an inherent local intent, it can give you insights into the user’s mode and location of the search.
  • Another approach is to look for intent modifiers such as “near me,” which not only indicate a local search but also suggest that the search is performed on mobile. In fact, mobile and local “near me” searches are often interlinked and users sometimes drop the modifier and still expect local results.
  • You can use Google Analytics, Search Console and Trends to determine the mode and location of the search. By using the search query report with a mobile segment or creating location segments, you can identify the differences in the meaning of queries based on location.
  • Consider the time of year when the searches are conducted. Certain times of year will lead to more commercial queries, while others or special events might alter the meaning of searches entirely. Therefore, make sure to check Google Trends for seasonal demand to gain a better understanding of the mode and location of the search.

Relevance OF Search Query Tool

To determine the mode and location of the search, you can use various techniques, such as:

  • Analyzing the semantics of the query
  • Looking for intent modifiers like “near me,” and using tools like Google Analytics, Search Console and Trends
  • By using keyword research tools, you can also identify the searches performed around a particular topic in each location and understand the overall intent of the topic
  • Conduct user interviews and run short surveys. You can use tools like Google Surveys or Survey Monkey and promote them via email and social media to collect feedback from your audience
  • Reach out to your existing customers via email or phone and ask them questions like what they were looking for when they found you in search, what problem your service/product solves for them and why they chose you over other options.

Points To Remember: To craft experiences that resonate with your searchers, you need to understand their tasks, content preferences and interaction styles. You can use the insights gathered from user interviews and surveys to create targeted content that addresses their needs and aspirations.

Moreover, you can refer to CRO guides and “Jobs to be done” frameworks to get inspiration for asking the right questions and eliciting meaningful responses.


  • After acquiring a better understanding of search intent through research methods such as semantics, intent modifiers, analytics tools, and user interviews, it’s time to leverage this knowledge.

What To Do?

  • In addition to keyword research, incorporate intent research to determine whether and how to target a particular term based on the searcher’s intent.
  • When creating content, always keep intent in mind and ensure that your site satisfies the needs and goals of future searchers.
  • By aligning your content with search intent, you can provide a better user experience and increase the chances of achieving your desired outcomes.

Here are the 4 most important SERP tips:

  • Feature snippets optimization: Highlighted boxes at the top of the SERP provide answers to users’ questions. Optimize your website for featured snippets by creating relevant content, answering common industry questions and using headings and bullet points for clarity.
  • Meta titles and descriptions: The meta title and description provide users with a preview of what your website is about. Ensure that they are descriptive, relevant and contain keywords that are appropriate to your content.
  • Local search optimization: If your business operates locally, optimize your website for local search. Incorporate your location into your meta title and description, create local landing pages and optimize for relevant local keywords.
  • Website speed improvement: Google values websites that load quickly. Improve your website’s loading speed by compressing images, minimizing CSS and JavaScript files and utilizing a content delivery network (CDN).

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