We have been posting a series of blogs on user intent. In our most recent article on the subject, we talked about how Google, in specific, has divided search types into interpretations to determine what search results a user will see. While many factors determine how Google ranks sites and the types of interpretations of searches, we will provide a brief overview of a few key points on how search engine optimization (SEO) and user intent work and how these interpretations can help shape SEO strategies.
Dominant and Common Interpretations
There are two main types of interpretations that Google’s search engines try to understand: dominant and common interpretations.
Dominant interpretations are what most users mean when they type a query. For example, if a user searches for surfboards, they are most likely looking for places to buy them or they want information about the history of surfboards. Either way, their interest in surfboards is clear. Google’s search results can cover the surfboard shopping experience, the knowledge portion, and even the idea of where one might go to use a surfboard.
Common interpretations, on the other hand, have multiple possible meanings, such as the word apple meaning electronics or a fruit. In response, Google provides results that cover a variety of possible meanings.
Do/ Know/ Go
In dominant interpretations search engines cater to three basic intents, these can be categorized as Do, Know or Go. Google and other search engines can try to determine the type of intent behind a user’s search, and attempt to display the most relevant results.
Do queries are transactional. The user is looking to do something, to make a purchase. These are important to digital commerce websites. To take our previous example, if a user types in “surfboards”, Google displays digital commerce websites where surfboards can be purchased as well as surf shops nearby. Google is categorizing surfboards as a do or commercial surf.
A Know query is informational. Users are trying to learn something about a product, industry, place, etc. Know queries also encompass micro-moments which is when a user wants to check something for a quick update, for example checking the balance in one’s bank account.
In the case of our surfboards example, we would need to add on “surfboard history” or “surfboard construction” to take the query into the Know status for the search engine. Alternatively, if we use a verb, surfing, the query results quickly change and give us a lot more information and knowledge about the sport of surfing.
Go queries are location-based. A user is looking for a specific website or place to go. An example would be if a user were to type “Florence, Italy Vacation” into a search engine. Now when we type in surfboards, Google did not prioritize this as a Go search. But if we change the wording to a verb, “surfing”, we get more knowledge-based and some location-based results. But to truly get a lot of Go information we need to type in: “surfing trip” or another similar search.
This micro example shows how Google uses this method of categorization to decide what to display. This can be used to help ensure better matches between users and the businesses that aim to solve their problems.
Meta Title and Meta Description for SEO
Understanding this type of basic SEO information can help rank your site better and drive more traffic. Another piece of the puzzle to pay attention to is the Meta Title and Meta Descriptions as both of these will populate what Google or another search engine shows when displaying query results.
It is logical that any business would want to use the main topic of its website or content in its meta title and description as this is what will show on the search page. Users will click in based on this information.
Keep in mind that most searches are seeking to solve a problem, whether it be about doing something, learning something, or going somewhere. There is an intention to be fulfilled. The sooner a user can see the potential for problem-solving in a website, app, or content, the sooner he or she will click in and begin to read. The meta description should, whenever possible, address this problem with the promise of an easy and quick solution.
A user scanning the results page will click on the answer that will most likely solve their problem. If we go back to the surfboard example, our user wants to buy a surfboard. She types in “surfboard”. And she’s met with several options for buying surfboards as well as a map with surf shops nearby.
The meta description for one surf shop proclaims, “THE WORLD’S LARGEST SURFBOARD SELECTION!” Another says, “Compare, customize and order surfboards directly from the world's leading shapers. With thousands of surfboards to browse and choose from, there is something…”
Quite quickly we can see that these businesses are trying to solve the user’s surfboard problem by offering a large selection of boards to choose from, and the ability to compare and contrast boards to ensure that this user finds her perfect board.
Further down in the query results, there is information on what to look for when buying a board and how to find the perfect board. This may come in handy if the first results were a bit overwhelming. Or, if our user had been looking for information about surfboards before buying.
All sites displayed are doing an excellent job of using their meta descriptions to tell the user exactly how they can solve the problem (a.k.a the lack of a surfboard).
Keyword Stuffing and Other No-Nos
Old tricks such as keyword stuffing a post or website with empty keywords will be a quick turn-off for users and will lead to a fast descent in rankings. Google picks up on bounce backs and uses this to make its rankings more accurate and helpful.
Once a user has clicked into a site, it pays to have good UI/UX and content so that they aren’t quickly leaving pages and returning to a search because of poor design or difficult-to-access content. The bottom line is, give the user what they want, help them solve their problems and Google will reward you with better SEO rankings.
The more a business knows about how search engines rank sites and function, the better it can position itself to take advantage of SEO.
- Search Engines such as Google rank sites according to user intention.
- One theory divides searches into a three-pronged approach of Do/Know/Go, which assumes that queries fall into one of the three categories.
- The Meta Title and Meta Descriptions will populate what Google or another search engine shows when displaying query results. Therefore it’s important that this information accurately represents the page.
- The quicker a site can help a user solve a problem, the better it will rank.
- The more a business knows about how search engines rank sites and function, the better it can position itself to take advantage of SEO.
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