If you’ve ever used a search engine with built-in autofill or an autocomplete function, it may have seemed like it knew what you were going to search for before you actually searched for it.
That’s because it probably did.
Search engines have long been working on algorithms that can detect what a person is searching for before they finish typing it in. These algorithms effectively try to guess the search intent of the user before it’s explicitly communicated. But search intent isn’t just used to guess searches—it also plays a role in determining search rankings.
What Is Search Intent?
Intent seeks to understand the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’. It tries to establish the context of each search in order to provide users with the answer they’re looking for as quickly as possible.
For marketing purposes, search intent usually falls into 3 or 4 categories: informational, navigational, commercial, and transactional. Each of these categories can be thought of as different points in the purchase funnel, moving from the top (informational) to the bottom (transactional).
Searches that indicate informational and navigational intent facilitate the early information-gathering stages of the funnel. Meanwhile, searches that indicate commercial or transactional intent are more likely to pull up results that will allow a user to make a purchase as quickly as possible.
Why Does Intent Matter?
Considering its substantial influence on search results, you can’t overlook intent when it comes to dispensary SEO.
Intent should be considered alongside traditional SEO ranking factors. Factors like keywords, links, authority, anchor text, and content freshness are obviously still incredibly important. But intent requires marketers to also consider just how well the content on a specific page will answer a searcher’s intended query.
You may find that optimizing for intent will require you to change some of your current SEO practices, especially when it comes to on-page SEO.
How Can You Use Search Intent to Your Advantage?
Google’s main priority is user satisfaction, so it’s important that your page is able to help search users actually achieve what they set out to do.
Before optimizing pages for themes or keywords, you should first optimize them for intent. By allowing intent to precede these other factors, it can guide their development and improve their effectiveness. For instance, establishing intent first can make it easier to design a thorough and consistent content plan. For example, you’ll know to focus your location page with information about how to get to your particular dispensary, what visitors can expect there (parking? ATM?), and which menu they should look at for that particular location.
Keep in mind that not all traffic necessarily needs to convert. Covering the bases of search intent will help you develop a more balanced SEO strategy that can siphon leads from all across the purchase funnel.
Plus, understanding intent can also help you to find hidden opportunities where results and intent may not be aligned. If current results don’t seem to answer searcher intent, a more focused page could potentially outrank them.
There are technical aspects to optimizing for intent as well. Factoring intent into titles, meta descriptions, and anchor texts can sometimes help you outrank competing pages with higher authority and better links.
Whatever strategy you choose, always remember to carefully consider how your content may (or may not) align with searcher intent, and what you hope to accomplish with it.
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