All about deducing the searcher’s intent

If you use Google Search Console to examine the search terms which sent people to specific pages on your website, you might be in for a surprise. It’s quite common to discover that your page is ranked highly for terms that it’s not really targeted towards, but which turn out to be quite relevant. The reason? Google understands the intent of pages much better than it ever did, based on the context of the website and the links to it.

As an example, a blog post titled ‘What is a data sheet?’ that I wrote here four years ago ranks on the first page for a search on ‘engineering data sheets’. It ranks nowhere for a simpler search on ‘data sheet’. Yet the word ‘engineering’ doesn’t appear on the page at all*. What’s going on? It seems that Google knows the blog has a strong engineering-related theme, evidenced by the content and the links to it. So it assumes that an article here titled ‘What is a data sheet?’ will be about ‘engineering data sheets’. What’s more, when it looks at the average time people spend on the page after clicking through (measured by the time before they come back and try a different link), it discovers that the page appears to be of interest, so confirming its assumption about the content.

What we can all learn here is that you don’t need to create separate pages to target reasonably similar searches, and that one page can cover a lot of searches. Google is all about deducing the searcher’s intent nowadays, and it’s getting very good at it. So concentrate on really good content, and you might be surprised at the extent of its reach.

*Actually, it does now, I’ve just added it. Seemed rude not to.