Search Party

Brad Yale
Brad Yale
Sep 24, 2018 · 3 min read

Part 1: Search Intent: What It Is and How To Leverage It

As a content strategist working in the pharmaceutical market, I find myself constantly thinking about user search pathways. Understanding how target audiences find your content is a key concern to developing and evolving a branded or unbranded content strategy.

With this in mind, I want to use this series to talk about search intent and how it impacts website content strategy/architecture.

What is Search Intent?

For too long, the majority of people have assumed incorrectly that Google and the major search engines that fall in line still adhere to the sentiment that keywords are king. This just isn’t true anymore and for good reason.

While keywords are a major part of how Google indexes, sorts, and delivers content to a searcher, the Google algorithm is constantly seeking to understand the inherent meaning behind a search query. The search engine understands that a typical query, segmented into short and long tail, holds behind it varying levels of user knowledge and interest.

Search intent can be broken down into four high level categories: Awareness, Research, Decision, Purchase

The standard search intent for a user can be broken down into four high level categories:

  • Awareness Stage (information and data seeking)

This said, how does search intent show itself within the pharmaceutical vertical? Using the “cancer” market via Google Auto-Populate, SERP’s, and SEMRush, let’s jump in.

Awareness Through Purchase Stage

For a caregiver or a patient newly diagnosed with cancer, a typical search intent map would break down the following way.

1. Awareness Stage: Cancer, Broadly

The first stage of oncology search, segmented into awareness, would be a high level, short head search for “oncology.” Due to the general nature of this search query, we can assert the intent behind the search is awareness because the nature of the query is broad in topic.

Similar to the single top-level search query, the auto-populate results Google provides are all general in nature, leaning from the awareness to research phase of user search intent.

The search query “cancer” reveals additional general search queries segmented between “Awareness” and “Research.” This is by design, not mistake.

As you can see, the auto-populate is not exactly sure of the user’s search intent. While I am directly searching for “cancer” in the medical space, auto-populate brings back results varied between “cancer horoscope” and “cancer symptoms,” directly showing an unsure variance in search intent.

Another indicator of awareness is how broad the search is in terms of keyword volume.

165,000 Search Volumetric Results for “Oncology”

While it is true that numeric search volume metrics aren’t a direct indicator of high level category, within the cancer space the broad level metrics highlight the top of the category of search intent (rather than bottom of the funnel, composed of the decision or purchase stage).

That leads us to the research and decision and phases of cancer search intent. For that, we need a part two.

Back to DDB Hello >

Brad Yale can be reached for comment at He considers himself a search nerd and hates when a website has terrible meta data or hasn’t taken the time to implement structured data.


A Force for Good Health

Brad Yale

Written by

Brad Yale

Nerd at heart. I write about health, tech, data, search and content.



A Force for Good Health

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