How Google Search Intent Affects Search Engine Results Pages

Google Results Search Intent

There are many ways local consumers can find your business online, but when they’ve got a need for your product or service, there’s a good chance they’ll start by looking at a search engine like Google. Sometimes, a consumer may have an idea of the kind of business they want, so they’ll enter category keywords like “plumber” or “massage.” They might also add a location keyword (like “Dallas”). Or if a consumer has seen ads or heard recommendations for a particular business, they may use business name keywords to find more information.

Depending on which type of keywords a consumers uses to find a local business on a site like Google, the search engine results page (or SERP) they see from their search query will display different results. So it’s crucial that local businesses understand consumer search intent and how that affects what consumers see on the search engines in order to put together the right online marketing strategy that’ll get their brand discovered when consumers search for them online. Here are three examples that illustrate the differences:

Category Keyword Query SERP

Key features:

  • “Related searches” appear very high on the SERP
  • Ads from local businesses running pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns for these keywords display prominently on the page
  • The local map results page including Google Place page pins is also prominently featured
  • Top organic results skew toward big national brands and general information, like a YouTube tutorial video or a Wikipedia listing
  • Abbreviated local Google Place page listings appear within the organic listings themselves, further down the page
  • Google products that contain related information are listed toward the end of the SERP
  • Organic listings return local results based on the IP address of the searcher (in the case of this particular example, Dallas)

Key takeaways: This SERP page demonstrates two important things for local business marketing. First, pay-per-click advertising is an important tool for creating local visibility for your brand on generic category keywords. Second, having a claimed, optimized Google Places page is a critical part of making your local business show up for these types of general searches that have local intent.

Category + Location Keyword Query SERP

Key features:

  • Again, the ads from local businesses running PPC campaigns for these keywords display prominently on the page, as well as the local map results that display Google Place page pins
  • Top organic results are for local businesses rather than general, educational links (like YouTube videos or Wikipedia definitions)
  • Expanded local Google Place page listings appear higher in the organic listings
  • Related searches appear at the bottom of the SERPs

Key takeaways: Notice that paid search advertising and the Google Places page are also very important pieces of this type of SERP result, underscoring their importance for your business web presence. This type of SERP page shows us why it’s so important to optimize your local website and blog for local keywords – because in this type of search, a well-optimized local website and blog can show up in top organic results along with ads and Place pages, overall boosting your brand.

Business Keyword Query SERP

Key features:

  • This business is running a PPC campaign for its own business name, so it appears in the sponsored ads section
  • A nested group of site links from that brand’s website feature very prominently at the top of the page
  • Links to a variety of review sites, social profiles and local directory listings for that particular business account for the bulk of the search engine results
  • An even more expanded Google Place page includes previews of photos

Key takeaways: This type of SERP shows just how critical it is to bid on your own business name. It also underscores the value of a Google Places page, as well as an optimized website and blog, in order to have a dynamic web presence for your brand. When consumers enter a business name keyword search query, they are probably trying to check the online reputation of a  particular business, so it’s important to dominate the page in order to exercise more control over what these consumers see.

Based on these three common search types, it’s clear that an online marketing approach that uses paid tactics (like PPC) as well as organic tactics (like SEO) is the best way for your business to appear in search results, regardless of which types of keywords are being used. This kind of holistic strategy, which incorporates both a “buy” and “build” philosophy, is what we at ReachLocal call web presence optimization.

So for the examples above, the “buy” aspect of web presence optimization means running search engine advertising campaigns that incorporate a mix of category, location and business keywords. But because generic category keywords are the most popular (and competitive!) it is less likely that a single-location local business may appear in sponsored listings.

And in order to “build” an organic web presence, using a mix of content marketing and search engine optimization is just as critical. But it’s not only your business website that matters. Now, optimizing your presence on other organic sources that will index highly for your brand, including social media profiles, blogs, local directories, review sites, is essential. And in Google’s case, Google Place pages are a vital component of marketing your local business online.

Are you currently using the “buy and build” (or paid and organic) approach to make sure your local business gets discovered on search engines like Google? Let us know with a comment.

Angela Epley writes about online advertising & web presence for the ReachLocal blog, which focuses on small business online marketing strategies.


The ReachLocal online marketing blog shares practical tips and advice for those who want to reach local customers online. Learn about online marketing from our in-house experts and thought leaders.

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