The Great Search Intent Analysis of 2020: Top SEOs on User Intent + Big Data Case Study on Intent Changes
back in December 2019, search intent was mentioned as the most impactful factor by top SEO specialists in the world, like Viola Eva, Sławek Czajkowski, and Josh Hardwick.
If you want to rank and keep ranking in 2021, nothing changes in that matter – you have to get unplayful about user purpose.
I believe that search intent is becoming the initiation of content optimization. It ’ second now equal to the backlinks, technical foul SEO, and capacity in the page evaluation action. And that ’ s something that everyone I asked to contribute to this article agrees on.
Reading: The Great Search Intent Analysis of 2020: Top SEOs on User Intent + Big Data Case Study on Intent Changes
particularly that Google we know Google does tweak its search purpose recognition. major changes to the intents have started after the BERT update in October 2019. many SEO folks reported rank drops for keywords they were ranking for without giving those keywords particular attention. And then, with no attention to the overall SERP ( research engine results pages ) intent. Seeing the tweaks and the changes, we decided to investigate them.
This article will open your eyes on :
1. How to determine user intent, thanks to my awesome guests.
I want you to know the smart way to determine search captive. You can do all the work manually, the old-school means, or you can learn from the best.
I asked for opinions from exceed brains from the SEO industry like Viola Eva, Robbie Richards, James Dooley, Steve Toth, Kevin Indig, Lukasz Zelezny, Miles Beckler, Gael Breton, Matthew Woodward, Nathan Gotch, Adam Chronister, and Matt Diggity.
2. How user intent is changing over time—based on data study of 37k keywords. I asked the freshly-baked Surfer ( our newly team member, get it ? ) and car learning ace, Maciej Gruszczyński to help me with this one. Maciej and I used BERT for determining user intent based on a search question, meta, and URL from SERP.
These two sections make up for a comprehensive overview of why search purpose needs special attention in your SEO process—from the perspectives of top marketers AND the unyielding hard data .
here ’ s the TL ; DR translation :
- Search intent is a critical ranking factor recognized by top SEOs all over the world. They actively base their strategies on search intent.
- The SEOs’ methods of investigating search intent are not all the same, but most are based on an analysis of actual search results.
- In a year, our 37k-keyword sample’s search intent changed around 12% (this is the average drawn from results gathered between four time stamps, including three major algorithm updates).
- Nearly half of the post-BERT changes were reverted to the original within less than a year.
- After the December 2020 Core Update, 24% of the keywords that were changed during either the May or the BERT update got reverted to the intent from before BERT.
- 23% of shopping intent keywords turned into informational or commercial.
Is the 12 % -change big enough to care ?
As Matt Diggity himself said,
12% of search queries sounds like a significant enough change for me.
It ’ second hard to disagree. 4,5k keywords out of 37k have changed their drug user intent in a year. It ’ sulfur hard to walk by those numbers
I asked top experts for their opinions on the subject, how we obtained the results, and our actionable conclusions .
Question 1: Why is the user intent important to analyze?
If you don’t check and align with the user intent, you won’t rank.
Gael Breton, Overlord at Authority Hacker
This simple conviction says it all. If you don ’ triiodothyronine meet your visitors ‘ needs, your subject efforts will fail. Or, at the very least, reaching and maintaining a high gear position ( with the world power of world authority, backlinks, etc. ) will be much more expensive.
You can ’ t dismiss intent when creating your content scheme.
When you create content in alignment with what Google already sees as relevant, you have a higher likelihood of ranking. If you ignore intent and just start writing about a keyword, the odds of you missing the correct intent (and thus not ranking) are drastically higher. Understanding intent means you understand what is required to rank.
Miles Beckler, The Most helpful seller In The World
Google’s job is to return the most relevant answer to a search query. If you understand what Google deems relevant, you can create a more targeted content briefing and SEO strategy and increase your chances of success dramatically.
Viola Eva, SEO Consultant and Founder at Flow SEO
User Intent is a ranking enabler. Without meeting it, no other ranking factor applies or makes sense.
Kevin Indig, VP SEO & Content at www.kevin-indig.com
You simply won’t rank if you don’t deliver the right type of article that Google expects to see for a query.
Matt Diggity, Founder at Diggity Marketing
Keyword intent will dictate how you structure the page and the angle of the content you’ll use. For example, informational content must be written and structured differently than transactional content.
Nathan Gotch, Founder of Gotch SEO
Search intent is a buzz word in the SEO communities and rightly so because no matter how powerful your backlinks if you don’t meet the intent of the query no amount of link building will rank your site.
James Dooley, Founder at FatRank
Gone are the days of plain and simple link building and stuffing your page with keywords. If your content doesn’t match with user intent, then there’s not much you can do—except for adjusting the content to be in accordance with what the searcher wants. While matching search intent is not the only thing you need to do to rank, this is the backbone of any page.
Stefan Batory, CEO at Booksy What does it all mean to you ?
If you try to rank a product land page ( shopping intent ) when there are informational articles ranking in a SERP entirely, your chances to appear in the clear ten are non-existent.
You may have the strongest backlinks, the highest content sexual conquest, and still get no organic traffic from your prey keywords. That ’ second just money flushed down the drain.
I analyze user intent to improve desired metrics agreed with a client who I am working for.
Lukasz Zelezny, Founder at SEO.London
Intent is the most important factor when it comes to prioritizing, and accurately qualifying your keyword opportunities. Get this step wrong and you’ll waste a lot of resources going after keywords that you can’t realistically rank for, or ones that will not support your site monetization model.
Robbie Richards, Founder of robbierichards.com
That ’ randomness very matter to. According to Robbie, search intent can have a big impact on your business model angstrom well.
This is how I see it : if you have a multi-product e-commerce locate, and you manage to rank products from one class, you should expand your inventory by products from this very class. Those products rank well because the dominating search intent of their keywords is shopping.
Chances are, other items you sell rank low, because they target phrases with informational or commercial probe search purpose.
therefore, your concluding put up will depend greatly on search captive.
User intent helps you make a decision on how and even whether you should attempt to compete in that SERP.
Steve Toth, Creator at SEO Notebook
Search intent is important because it indicates that the searcher is further along in the buying process. It also can inform the quality of your traffic.
Adam Chronister, Director of Operations at Enleaf
Search intent matters as it cuts right to the heart of what the user is actually after. Every time somebody conducts a search, they have a goal in mind, whether it’s to make a purchase or to simply collect information. Your job as a marketer is to figure out what that goal is in order to deliver. Matching search intent leads to happier customers which leads to better ranking for your site.
Milosz Krasinski, Managing Director at web consulting party at ChilliFruit
Search intent is about figuring out why somebody is conducting a search. Is there intention to buy something or do they want to do a price comparison or simply find out more about a certain product? These are the questions that you tackle with search intent and, this allows you to deliver more targeted results which, subsequently, will rank you higher with Google as well as improving your conversion rate.
Neal Taparia, Founder of Solitaired.com here ’ s the final think from Matthew Woodward that sums it up adept :
Intent can literally make or break a business in both organic search and paid.
If you spent tens of thousands of dollars developing your site, content, and link profile to rank for high search volume keywords with “free” in them—it’s unlikely to bring a net positive.
But if you spent the same money purely focused on keywords that are aligned with the intent of your business, you will grow.
One of the biggest mistakes I see is people sacrificing intent for search volume, which in turn—sacrifices their budget.
Matthew Woodward, SEO at MatthewWoodward.co.uk
Matthew argues that the conversion rate from keywords with small search book, can be a lot higher than for many queries with high search volume if the exploiter intent is not there.
If person uses the son “ exempt ” in their search question, it means they have no captive in leaving you their money. If your goal is to make money out of this foliate, your chances are low. There are other reasons why you may want to rank for those keywords though. fair be realistic about your goal .
Question 2: How to determine user intent?
There are many ways of analyzing search purpose : from eyeballing, through analyzing SERP features, to reviewing each rival page by page.
I ’ ve tried them all. And I was asking myself for a while, how the top SEOs are going through the summons. This is what they said :
Gael Breton analyzes his keywords one-by-one .
Pay attention to title tags and URLs.
Miles Beckler suggests just googling away .
Take time to understand what Google believes is relevant content for that phrase before writing.
Viola Eva looks into SERP features to pick the right field content form :
I look at the whole of page 1 and start by reviewing media elements. Does Google show images, videos, classic, organic results, map pack? This helps me understand what Google thinks the user intent is—and it also helps me understand if writing a page is the right move to win real estate on page 1.
Lukasz Zelezny bases his process on Google Analytics and other data providers :
I am reversibly looking at organic keywords in Google Analytics after these are pulled from Search Console via Keyword Hero. Google Analytics gives a better description of behavioral aspects than Google Search Console. However, GA initially doesn’t have the ability to show organic keywords behind organic traffic. With Keyword Hero, I am able to see not only the number of visits (which normally correlate with the number of clicks) but also time on page, bounce rate, conversion, conversion rate, and for e-commerce websites bunch of e-commerce related metrics.
Robbie Richards has a wholly process based on URLs and title tags .
Generally speaking, the SERPs will tell you the user intent behind a query. i.e., they rank the content types and formats that best address the intent of the user.
For example: if you see mostly e-commerce product or category pages ranking for a given term, you can infer that the user’s intent for that query is more transactional in nature.
Similarly, suppose you see mostly blog post content types in a listicle format ranking for a given “best X for Y” query. In that case, you can infer that the intent of the user is more investigational, so a post comparing different options would rank best.
You can quickly spot these trends by looking at either URL or title tag patterns in the SERPs.
In addition to analyzing the SERP content types and formats, you also need to consider the query itself. This comes down to understanding the audience and your common sense. Look for modifiers in the query that would indicate different stages of intent.
For example: if someone includes the “best, top, alternative, competitors” modifier in the query, you know they are actively researching their different options before making a purchase. This could indicate more mid-funnel investigational intent. Great for affiliate site models.
I wrote a comprehensive SERP analysis guide if you want to dive deeper.
Then I look at organic results and mainly content length and content type: Is page 1 full of long-form guides? Comparison articles with tables? Product category pages? This helps me to decide what type of page I should create or optimize.
Kevin Indig built a hale formula based on his march.
I look at three things:
1. What types of sites are ranking in top positions
2. SERP Features Google displays
3. Ranking changes over time for the query
This gives me the best idea of how Google interprets the user intent for a given query. The system I developed and wrote about in my article solving fragmented user intent shows how to use rank trackers to export SERP Features and identify user intent at scale. At the cherry on top, the concept allows you to track user intent changes over time.
Steve Toth bases his research on rival analysis .
Mainly I look into types of articles on the SERP, e.g., lists, comparison sites, guides, marketplaces, aggregators, and less often, companies actually offering the product or service. I look at what keywords are ranking for my competitors. If I know the original keyword’s intent, it’s fair to assume that other keywords are highly-ranking to share similar intent.
Adam Chronister shares examples, looking at a question itself .
When looking for signs of intent in a query, I’m usually looking at the incoming queries themselves, identifying particular modifiers. Some of the more obvious are how, what, who, where, etc.
– How to buy a life insurance plan
– Where to get a fishing license
Other modifiers might include terms like buy, top, order, best, etc.
– Top Pizza Restaurants in Seattle
– Best Spa in Chicago
– Where to buy snow tires
Google Search Console performance report measures the user intent of the traffic coming into a website. Lower in the report, I can see queries bringing traffic into the website, and from there, it’s easy to prioritize them by impression and clicks and scan those terms for user intent verbiage.
Matt Diggity says that the truth is hidden in the page titles .
The titles usually tell the whole story. It takes time to sharpen your search intent detective skills, though. But eventually, you’ll be able to look at a SERP result and simply see “when I Google ‘best wireless router’, I get a bunch of listicles. This must be review intent.”
In rare cases, you may need to open the page and see the type of page (transactional, informational, directory, etc), but 99% of the time, you’ll find the answer in the title.
Nathan Gotch relies on the types of rate pages .
The query itself can often reveal the intent. However, nothing beats looking at the actual SERPs and then doing some qualitative analysis of the rankings pages. Ultimately, the question is, what TYPES of pages are ranking (informational, transactional, etc.)
James Dooley is a fan of keyword bunch .
If you do not have a keyword clustering specialist as part of your team, I would quickly recommend you fill this void. In my opinion, this is the most critical position within your team.
There are plenty of tools out there to assist your keyword grouping to meet the intent. A few are listed here if interested.
Milosz Krasinski makes sure that the search volume is right.
Read more: https://shayski.com Survey – TellCulvers Survey 2022 – Get a Free Single Dish!
I analyse intent by first mapping it to create a more strategic list of keywords. I then create categories for my keywords by search volume and intent. I can then tailor my content accordingly.
Neal Taparia uses tools to determine user intent .
There are lots of clever and complex ways of figuring out search intent but, to be honest, I tend to use Cognitive SEO which is an online tool that helps with this. Identifying and matching search intent is really important and so its a good idea to get all the help that you can get.
Matthew Woodward sticks to search results .
There is a big difference between what you think the “user intent” is and what Google thinks it is.
Ultimately, we want to make sure our efforts align with Google’s definition of “user intent.” And to figure it out, there’s no better tool than the power of observation.
You should search for your target keyword and use the power of observation to look at the complete picture you have in front of you—which is the SERP.
Search results are the output of an algorithm. That’s Google’s way of telling you: “Here’s what the users want.”
We pay close attention to intent during our manual keyword research process.
Unless the intent of a keyword matches our ideal customer profile, it’s not worth spending any time or money going after it.
For example, you could probably get thousands of visitors per month in your niche ranking for keywords with the word “free” in them—but that intent does not usually align with the bottom line of the business.
Can you spot the patterns among the experts ’ quotes ? Titles, SERP features, research question itself … This is all you need to determine exploiter captive with a high accuracy.
While most of our experts claimed to look into search intent themselves, here at Surfer, we decided to base our study on big data and automation. The model from the research is a part of Content Planner vitamin a good to recognize search captive for a single-page topic cluster.
The chief finish of utilize car determine in this work is to analyze SERPs and detail out the changing intents continually. Analyzing search purpose by hand will tell you what works for your one particular keyword now.
In fact, we ’ ra going to explore the automation of search purpose analysis further so you can spot trends and captive changes .
User intent Big Data case study: How has search intent changed over time?
therefore here ’ s what happened. Maciej, our big data specialist, took the distill version of BERT, added his secret sauce, and trained the model. He used SERP features, geodata, semantics, and human input to the aim data set therefore that BERT could determine the exploiter intent based on the search question, deed, URL, and description. To give you a sneak glance into our process, here ’ s a simplified model of what kind of information we fed to our BERT. Is there a map backpack in the SERP ? Most likely, the search intent is local anesthetic. Just like in the example below :
The cognition panel shows up, and there are no signs of commercial probe ( like words “ review ” or “ best ” ) ? The purpose is informational.
All of these above mix with question modifiers and human remark turned out to be great. In shortstop, this is how we trained the BERT. And hey—it work !
But before I show you the results, let ’ s brush up on the essential search intent aspect : its types .
Our classification of search intent types
There ’ s no one, simple classification of exploiter intent. The most popular categorization divides search intent into the follow categories : informational, navigational, transactional, and commercial. But after analyzing the SERPs, we came up with a sting different so far equally simpleton classification. In our opinion, it showcases the division between SERPs good :
The user wants to find information on a subjugate, determine, and get more cognition .
- Customer investigation
The drug user knows they need to make a purchase but international relations and security network ’ metric ton so far surely about its claim nature. For case, the seeker knows they need a new pair of headphones, but don ’ triiodothyronine know which brand to go for, whether they need them wireless or not, etc .
The exploiter now knows precisely what they want to buy and is presently searching for the best position to get it .
The exploiter needs a local service—a plumber, a hairdresser, a 24/7 pizza place. They want to see maps, prices, and contact information.
Each category got indicators assigned. For exemplar, the local anesthetic purpose got the map gang, the commercial investigation—a question modificator, or shopping—the ad carousel.
Thanks to the plant of rules and stimulation from our SEO experts, we managed to prepare a dataset, and BERT was able to learn how to determine drug user intent .
Okay, but how the heck are you using BERT? It’s Google’s algorithm!
I asked Maciej to explain it as this interview may be popping up in your head. According to him, BERT is equitable one of many Natural Language Processing models, but a real number game-changer in car learn.
He claims that its transformer-based computer architecture is both innovative and massive. therefore, it can be used for a wide crop of NLP tasks, like translation, motion answering, textbook classification, opinion psychoanalysis, proper name recognition, negotiation systems, and so on.
Google shared BERT with the public and started a new era in the field of AI. Many researchers used it to publish a lot of papers where they test, apply, or upgrade it. We decided to put it to the task that was probably never solved this way—user intent detection based on SERP content.
Many upgrades of the original BERT model have been proposed since the first release, and we have chosen the most fitting one. (I’m proud that we go hand in hand with the state-of-the-art.)
It works very simply. It returns the percent of each intent based on analyzed ranking pages’ snippets. Then, we determine which intent was dominant in the SERP.
In our research, the intent can be considered dominant allele when the majority of top 10 results are recognized to serve this particular captive.
once you know why and how we used BERT to determine user captive, it ’ south time to move to the actual study !
The study: methodology and results
It all started with 37k keywords analyzed by Surfer users in January 2020. We recrawled the lapp 37k SERPs twice :
- after the May Core Update
- and in December 2020.
The cherry on top was the database from September 2019 for the exact lapp sample to cover the situation before BERT.
We wanted to answer one simple question :
How many SERPs have changed their dominant search intent?
The changes are significant after all three Google updates.
BERT update changed 10,5 % of the keywords ’ dominating exploiter purpose. What does it mean ?
about 4k keywords turned from one captive type to another. For exemplar, a SERP that was dominated by product pages ( shopping intent ) are now on the commercial investigation side.
If your keywords were among them, it means that your content relevance is lower. And this may be reflected in your constituent dealings.
May Core update saw the biggest impingement on exploiter captive changes, resulting in a 13,3 % change of the keywords ’ dominating exploiter intent.
For December 2020 Broad Core Update, this numeral was slightly smaller, changing 12,4 % of the keywords.
now, those changes happened from one period to the future. The big interview is, what ’ s the accumulative impact of those changes ?
51 % of the exploiter intents changed in the BERT update were reverted to the master intent by the May update ! It appears that the changes were not the best from the users ’ perspective and they adjusted the algorithm.
Did the December 2020 Core Update revert the May Core update then ? Hell yeah ! 39 % of the keywords came back to the captive introduced by BERT so far again.
That ’ s quite a batch of changes ! But if we wanted to sum up how many keywords got reverted to the pre-BERT country after the December 2020 Core Update …
It turns out the number is around 24%.
We considered lone singular reverts ( those keywords that were only reverted by the December 2020 Core Update ) – for model, when the intent was informational before BERT, changed into shopping, remained shop after May, and went back to informational after the December 2020 Core Update.
As you can see, the changes have been a actual rollercoaster and the accumulative deepen of the search captive between the beginning and the last datum check is 15.7 % .
Who suffered the most from the intent changes?
The massive ball of all patronize captive keywords turned into informational or customer investigation. Either way, stores were replaced by blogs.
From 5,5k keywords that used to be shopping, 1,6k changed the dominate intent, starting to display blogs after the May update. That ’ s 29,3 % !
The December 2020 Core Update was just a bit smaller ; 21,4 % of shop keywords turned into informational. The BERT turned out a act weak in this area, changing only 11,9 % of shopping queries into Info.
These changes were reverted reasonably much ; however, if we take the first sample from September 2019 and compare it with December 2020…
23,4% of shopping keywords are now informational or customer investigation.
Conclusion and action points: what do the results mean to us, SEOs?
The huge chunk of data we analyzed can shed clean on a few SEO aspects of our influence with search captive. The most crucial one is :
Lining up with user intent is crucial.
The SERPs we analyzed showed consistent exploiter intents, and all of our technical guests confirmed that meeting the search captive brings results.
But there are a few other takeaways that you can take and apply to your scheme .
1. You can analyze user intent by looking at SERPs with decent accuracy.
It turned out that titles, URLs, descriptions, and on-SERP features were enough to determine the intent. The only problem here is the scale—if you have a set of keywords to juggle, you will spend a lot of time monitor SERPs for each of them .
2. Put a blog on your store’s website.
Over 20 % of shopping purpose keywords turned into an informational or commercial probe after BERT and/or the December 2020 Core Update.
E-commerce should invest in contented beyond their intersection pages, like blog posts and articles .
3. Reactions to updates should be quick or not done at all.
There is a high find that they ’ ll catch reverted by the pursue update. indeed, either ride the high tide and keep changing, or stay calm and let things be. “ Better belated than never ” doesn ’ t work for search captive .
4. Writing an article today based on the current user intent is a relatively safe practice.
If you ’ re worry future algorithm updates might change your evergreen contented into a flop, don ’ t be. Data showed that most intents remained unchanged. If you ’ re not e-commerce, chances are the updates will leave your content as is.
You should go binding to your capacity once in a while anyhow. Make search purpose check a point on your contentedness optimization disturbance tilt .
5. Do you have content that lost traffic after the Core Update? Check if you are aligned with the intent; there is an over 10% chance it changed.
again, you might be one of the unlucky “ few. ” Do your research .
6. If you can’t satisfy the new intent for your target keyword, find a new one.
You may think, “ very well, I ’ ll take over this keyword with my knowledge domain strength ALONE, ” and try to do that… But even if you succeed, high rate may be good impermanent. If people won ’ thyroxine find what they want Google will drag you down .
Summary: How should we change the way we think about user intent?
I think the 10-13 % changes every few months are pretty big. About 6k keywords out of the 37k sample changed user purpose in a class. not to mention the massive shopping intent queries drop. This huge change could put a lot of e-commerce stores at a disadvantage. I hope more and more businesses will consider search captive in their keyword research process and stop neutralize time trying to rank their capacity that is merely not right for the context of the question.
Maciej and I will keep on exploring the subject of research intent identification to streamline the process. In the interim, keep creating the most relevant pages in line with the exploiter ‘s needs. simple but herculean, that ’ s THE “ message strategy ” for 2021. See also:
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