Understanding SEO Search Intent

As a freelance SEO, you tend to work with and nurture a handful of small but important long-term relationships, and with this, you are continually guiding the conversation with your client and delivering results. Terms that may have been used in 2014, can still be fundamental, but the intentions of that search can change. I will share some examples of this in the article.

In March 2021, I was lucky enough to join Candour, which is, without doubt, the best Norwich SEO Agency, headed up by Mark Willams Cook, who is an absolute joy to watch at 1000-mile per hour... And working with the amazing Digital Marketing Team blows my mind; they are passionate, incredibly skilled individuals who want to do great work, and I love it! - Anyway, I digress... helping to manage the team, our conversations regularly centre around search intent.

What is SEO search intent?

Search intent is the intended outcome of a search query, simply put, if I Google 'red trainer', then my intent is to find a trainer that is red, which is my desired outcome. Therefore, it matches the query and the content as closely as possible.


Why is search intent important?

If I am searching for a red trainer and Google returns me a 'blue shoe', this does not match with my expectation, which will cause me to close the page and move on because the outcome has not met my intent. Google's ultimate job, above all, is to provide the best experience to users, and in order to do this, it must serve the most closely aligned results for the query entered, doing so in milliseconds.


Back in 2014, Riverside Dental a client of mine, came to me after a price increase with their current SEO Agency had priced the Agency out of the running, back then Bim's team was a start-up, just himself, Reza and Gemma, three of them. Now in 2021, they are 20-strong. The journey to number 1, had some interesting learnings around SEO search intent.

Besides wanting to be number 1 for Dentists Norwich, Bim's brief also included being number 1 for Emergency Dentist Norwich. OK, I said, and so the journey began. Within a few months, we'd started to see significant changes and, shortly after that, established them in top positions, which have been maintained ever since 🙂

Understanding misalignment of search intent 

Riverside Dental is a private practice and is one of the only customers I have ever had that have asked me to deprioritise a ranking. Why would you want to deprioritise a number 1 position? In this scenario, Bim was receiving hundreds of calls a month as intended, the phones were busy new staff are joining, and the business is growing. Once able to take a breath and look at what was happening, it became clear that being number 1 for 'Emergency Dentist Norwich' was getting them calls from NHS patients who, while happy to pay and see a private dentist in their hour of need, where not the right demographic for 10K tooth veneers and were just one appointment consultations, with no lifetime value to Riverside Dental.

What does this mean?

It meant that Riverside Dental were busy fulfilling short-term, low-value clients and although they felt busy, the value per customer was fairly low. The search intent was not aligned with the ideal persona.

It is important to work with clients to really get to the bottom of their ideal customer persona, which informs the content and the messaging.


How to improve SEO search intent

Here are some quick-fire pointers that will help you

  1. Identify your audience demographic
  2. Ensure that the product or service matches the search criteria
  3. Adjust your headings and content to support this
  4. Use analytics to observe user behaviour
  5. Track the sale and value through your website
  6. Regularly review trends and changes in the search approach
  7. Remember that as search engines improve, their understanding can shift too

Overall; adjust, observe change and continue to monitor your results. If you would like to discuss search intent with me in more detail please use the contact form on this page