Search Engines Getting Better at Understanding Intent

Does Google understand user indent when they search?

All traditional Search Engine Optimization has been focused on keywords. In fact, SHOM Tek has always recommended front-loading titles and URLs with the keywords used in the content. Fall, 2013, however, Google introduced its Hummingbird algorithm, which is its first major algorithm update since the 2009 “Caffeine” update and it seems a significant shift in Google’s approach.

We’re told that the main goal of the new algorithm is to make Google capable and far better at interpreting “conversational” language and understanding the intent and of a given search rather than just a series of keywords. This is what the announcement said:

“The main focus was that the new algorithm allows Google to more quickly parse full questions (as opposed to parsing searches word-by-word), and to identify and rank answers to those questions from the content they’ve indexed.”

What this means for us is that searches like “What’s the best reviewed plumber near my home?” will factor in the full statement and pull from reviews and maps in addition to just keywords. This shift in fact comes from the overall change in user behavior.

Over the years, searchers have leaned on the instinct of typing questions directly into Google rather than search terms. Here’s a screenshot of the rise in popularity of the search terms “How do I” and “How do you” over the last few years.

Questions not Keywords!

In the future, we expect that the role of natural or conversational language will play an even bigger part in search engine optimization. We believe that this move toward search intent is actually a really good augur for inbound marketers whose core strategy involves creating useful content aimed at answering user questions.

Instead of only thinking about keywords that describe your services or products, think about the questions your customer would ask to find your company online and then create content around that.


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