Why Does Search Intent Matter?

In the early days of digital advertising, search engines used keywords to understand their users. This is how SEOs optimized pages to get higher and higher page ranks for their clients. Things have changed a bit since then, and not in the least regarding how search engines work.


The Great Intent Shift

Search engines have been getting better at understanding user intent over user keywords for the past few years now. Using open-source machine learning, Google created BERT, a robot designed to understand intent, and released it into the world in the Fall of 2019. 


The release of BERT indicated a shift of intent over keywords. If you want to know what this looks like, imagine a person trying to figure out the visa process of moving from Guatemala to America. They search “Visa process Guatemala to united states.” With the keywords being “Visa,” “Guatemala,” and “United States” they Google might give them an onslaught of news stories about new policies. Other than maybe influencing them to move to Canada instead, these results won’t help them learn what they need to do. 


When you change the situation to user intent instead of keywords, the person is more likely to get links to the DHS immigration page or a blog post from an immigration lawyer. The point is, they are more likely to get what they intended to get. 


How This Helps You

While keywords still matter, they no longer need to be the focus when you’re creating content. Instead of stuffing H1s and H2s with various repetitive synonyms, trying to rank for as many keywords as possible, you should focus on writing the most accurate and helpful headers you can. It’s a lot easier to write quality content if you’re not fighting for every word. 


So how should you focus on intent? Provide quality content and write out the straightforward questions with straightforward answers. This is where blog posts, FAQs, and other resources will benefit you. People want straightforward answers to their legal questions, and that’s something you can provide. Search intent might just be what helps you get the traffic (and clients) you want.