February 16, 2020

How search intent may be killing your pages for SEO


Unless your page gives users exactly the right kind of result they want to find for their particular need, Google is very likely to bury it in the depths of the index.

Search intent is key. 🗝️

Only ranking among the very top results of a Search Engine Result Page (SERP) gives you any traffic at all. Beyond using the right keyword and crafting quality content, your page needs to give a user exactly what they want.

In other words, your page needs to satisfy search intent.

Search intent is Google’s understanding of what types of results users want to see. It can be difficult to pinpoint. Indeed, with just one or two qualifiers, Google’s understanding of a keyword will massively change.

Your chance to rank for a keyword may hang on a single companion word.

Let me illustrate this point with the word ‘ribs’. Ribs could refer to:

  • meat;
  • your rib cage;
  • a clothing pattern;
  • Rigid Inflatable Boats;
  • and so on.

Very small changes in your query can radically change Google’s understanding of your intent. 🤔

Say I am feeling peckish and I know just what I want to eat: ribs. So I pull out my phone, type ‘ribs near me’, and have my pick of the closest restaurants that can serve me today.

Google understands the ‘near me’ qualifier to mean that I want to eat ribs in restaurants nearby. I get served a hot SERP of restaurants and restaurant-comparing websites.

Super relevant. 👍

Now imagine I am looking for a pair of tights with a ribbed pattern. Again, a quick search of ‘tight with ribs’ gives me lots of results — but not the ones I wanted this time.

Because I misspelled the word tights, I ended up with a completely different SERP.

Google understands the query ‘tight with ribs’ to mean that I want information about tightness around the rib cage. So it gives me informational pages 📝 from authoritative sources on the subject.

The search intent behind this query is completely different from the one I meant to type.

Fair enough.

This time, I am extra careful when I type my query into the search bar: ‘tights with ribs’ gives me the results I meant to find; ribbed tights for sale.

This time, the SERP is filled with ecommerce category pages. Spot the sponsored links on the right-hand side, too.

Google gets it: I am looking for something to purchase, therefore it must give me commercial links. 🛍️.

Now let’s use one last qualifier and search for ‘ribs for hire’.

The search intent here no longer has anything to do with eating, fashion or chest pain. Instead, I am shown a SERP full of boat businesses from which I can rent a Rigid Inflatable Boat.

The difference in the queries ‘ribs near me’ and ‘ribs for hire’ is technically small, but makes a world of difference for SEO experts.

If you had ribbed tights to sell and tried ranking your ecommerce category page for the query ‘tight with ribs’, the performance of that page would be abysmal. For this query, Google will only allow informational pages to rank — not commercial ones.

👉 When deciding on a keyword or query to try and rank for, SEO experts should pay extra attention to search intent.


Search intent, satisfied.

A quick Google search usually helps pinpoint what Google understands of a query.

This simple check could make a huge difference between having a chance to rank for a keyword… or getting buried in page 3 by default.

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