Understanding User Intent in Google’s eyes: The Google Intention Engine

After the leaking of the Google Quality Rater General Guidelines for 2011, a lot has been going on on the discussion boards, but it is hard to pinpoint the most valuable information in the 125 pages worth of Google quality rater material. It is a very interesting document, but without a good understanding of the way google algorithms work one cannot but guess what it’s all about. One very interesting tidbit is that Google is actually considering a person’t intention (Intent) when it looks at a search query. And the searcher Intention is the subject of Chapter 2.1 of the guidelines pdf, Understanding User Intent. The chapter explains how a rater should look at the searcher’s intention when he typed for example “tetris”, rather than just thinking abstractly about “tetris”.

This would mean that by the same logic, the search results should not contain scientific or explanatory references about what tetris means, but websites where the user can actually play the game called tetris. So Google is trying to guess what your intention is with the words you’ve searched for, this is very interesting. Raters are asked to identify the actual intent of the search, which means the algorithm is doing the same thing, and how it can do that, I can’t tell. The first thing that comes to mind is that webmasters have to create signs to make the algo detect the intent, or what you can actually achieve on a website: play a game, read some lyrics, read a poem, buy a product or ask for a price. The only signal that could facilitate this – that I cann think of – is the usual call to action: “Buy x product now”, or “Order your insurance online now”. If anyone else has a better idea for how wembasters could include signals in their websites please let me know, but right now we’re going to have to presume this is one of them.

So my theory is that the algo has to detect some sort of action that can be done or achieved on the specific website, and it has to look for standard ways to signal the possibility of doing that action. An intent is followed by an action, because that is just the way things work, so in the web design world, we add a call to action and I assume it should be succeeded by some sort of form or add to shopping cart possibility. Today’s websites aren’t about what they once were, you don’t just find out that Apple has launched their new IPhone 4, but rather you are offered 2-3 ways to order the phone, directly, and you can also pay with PayPal or any other electronic payment company. So this is the intention engine. Or at least my theory about it. This would account for some of the sites that have no conversion or possible action, being hit. Like maybe eHow. Maybe the value isn’t simply in the broadness of information, but also in offering the next step to your visitor: like the product or service you’re reading about? You can order it, buy it here and now.

On another level, this seems almost like a paradigm change. Google wants to know what you want to do or where you want to get before you do. You search for tetris and it takes you to the game. Maybe it even takes you to a game with a totally different name that’s actually tetris. The question is: is this all good? And how does this affect SEOs? Do we have to optimise in a different way to make Google understand what our site is offering as the next step, as an action?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>