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How to use implicit search intent for multilingual SEO

An image of author Veruska Anconitano, accompanied by search-related iconography, including a search bar, key icon, and chart

Understanding implicit search intent is crucial in SEO (and, arguably, for overall digital marketing as well). But, it becomes even more critical in international SEO because it is closely linked to knowledge of the market and its unique characteristics, as well as the target audience and their particular needs/challenges


As a consequence, implicit search intent should inform the multilingual marketing strategies you create. I’ve already written about implicit search intent in great detail, but let’s take a look at why it takes on an even more central role when marketing to international audiences, and what you can do to identify implicit intent for a competitive advantage that maximizes conversions, not just rankings.


Table of contents:



Explicit vs. Implicit search intent


If you want to produce content that achieves high rankings in search results and provides users with the information they need, then you need to understand explicit search intent


In the SEO industry, we generally categorize search intent into four categories


  • Informational

  • Navigational

  • Commercial

  • Transactional 


I refer to this as “explicit” search intent because the search query directly reflects the purpose the user has in mind when they conduct the search.


For example, the query [Buy Samsung Galaxy S22 online in the UK] has the following explicit intent:

— Action (Buy): The user wants to make a purchase.

— Product (Samsung Galaxy S22): The specific item the user wants to buy is clearly stated.

— Location and method (online in the UK): The user specifies both the method (online) and the location (UK) for the purchase.] 


However, another crucial aspect of search intent—particularly with regards to nuanced audiences, like you’ll find with multilingual SEO—is often overlooked: implicit (or underlying) search intent.


What is implicit search intent?

Implicit search intent refers to the underlying motivations and circumstances behind a user’s search query that aren’t explicitly expressed in the search query itself.

I’ve already written an article that explores implicit search intent in great detail, so I’ll keep this explanation more concise.


When a user searches for [the best way to lose weight], it’s generally assumed they’re seeking advice and suggestions—a notion seemingly shared by Google, as evidenced by the search engine results page (SERP).


A screenshot of the Google search results for “best way to lose weight,” showing listings for listicles from the Mayo Clinic, Healthline, Medical News Today, and WebMD.

However, this might be a scenario where searchers are seeking proactive solutions, rather than mere advice for weight loss. Consider this: losing weight is a challenging endeavor for many. Establishing and adhering to a routine demands significant commitment and dedication. 


What if the audience is searching for a practical solution, like a product/program/personal trainer to actively assist in their weight loss journey, rather than just advice? 


This could exemplify “implicit search intent,” where the user’s query subtly suggests a desire for a solution, even though it’s not directly requested.


In years past, search users would enter more literal search queries (e.g., [rent kayak lake tahoe] to find the results they were looking for, giving rise to “keyword-ese”—something of a search engine hack born from the limitations of the technology at the time.


Over time, Google’s systems improved to serve users more nuanced results based on their location and search behavior. 


Consequently, you can now look at a search query based on its two constituent parts: the explicit aspect (what the user types into the search bar) and the implicit aspect (the underlying intent or problem the user is trying to solve).

A graphic showing a Google search bar. In the search bar is the words “search query” and the graphic implies that the search query = explicit request + implicit request.

I’ve already mentioned the four explicit search intents above. For the sake of brevity, I’ll recap two the main implicit search intent categories:


Implicit search intent

Description

Emotional intent

Relates to the user’s emotional state or desires, which may not be explicitly expressed in their search query.


Examples of emotional search intent include: FOMO, fear, motivation, biases, etc.

Contextual intent

Relates to the situation or context motivating the user’s search query.


Examples of contextual search intent include: Environment, current events, cultural context, time sensitivity, etc.


For international businesses pursuing multilingual SEO, these concepts become even more crucial as the audience’s circumstances, environment, and even current events can dictate your campaign’s success. 


Let’s take a look at some examples of how this might play out and what you need to understand to make implicit search intent work for your brand.


Why is implicit search intent important in multilingual SEO?


Understanding the market(s) you’re running campaigns in will help you see beyond what users are searching for, enabling you to create content and messaging that is not only brand safe, but also resonates with your target audience to maximize conversions.


01. Understand what’s happening in the countries/regions you’re marketing in

By identifying the underlying emotional motivations and intent behind a user’s search, you can provide more relevant and personalized content to your audience while avoiding the mistake of targeting keywords that don't convert.

 

Let’s say, for example, you’re targeting American consumers looking for information on mobile phones and want to expand into the Italian market. You notice that the iPhone 15 Pro Max has a monthly search volume of over 130,000 and is marked as a transactional keyword. Your initial reaction may be to translate your existing content about the product into Italian to capture users’ interest and increase your chance of a conversion.

 

However, the new market you want to expand to may be very different from the one(s) you’re already operating in. Italy has one of the lowest salaries in Europe, and consumers face high inflation rates, further eroding their purchasing power. 


The implicit search intent behind the high-volume keyword [iphone 15 pro max] may differ from what you initially thought. For instance, users may be looking for a cheaper alternative based on the phone’s specs or searching for a reason to prioritize buying this phone over spending money on something more substantial.

 

Thus, translating your existing content 1:1 and keeping the same angle may not be appropriate in this context. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t localize that page for Italian users. But, if you do, you must find a different angle for your content that addresses your Italian audience’s underlying emotional motivations and intent.


A screenshot of the Google Trends for the word “inflazione” in Italian, showing that search interest has reached an all-time high over the recent past.

Even the Italian word for “inflation,” which is “inflazione,” is experiencing a surge in search popularity. This is something a brand should take into consideration: when a term like this rises in popularity, it means something is going on, and the effects can be felt across various segments, niches, and platforms.


02. Understand each market/audience’s unique characteristics

Let’s say a company targets Spanish-speaking users in Mexico for a new line of running shoes. The company’s keyword research in Mexico shows that [tenis para correr] (English: running shoes) has high search volume and is marked as a transactional keyword. The company creates content around the shoe’s performance and features to target users’ explicit search intent.

 

However, the company may be missing out on an opportunity to address the implicit search intent of Mexican users, who may be searching for durable running shoes that can withstand Mexico’s harsh terrain and climate conditions. 


By understanding this implicit search intent, the company could optimize its content to highlight the shoe’s durability and reliability in challenging environments, which would better resonate with Mexican audiences and improve engagement rates. Keywords that reflect this strategy (often long tail) may not have the same search volume, but the converting power would undoubtedly be higher.


03. Understand regional differences

Imagine your company is marketing to French-speaking users in France and Canada for a new line of winter jackets. Your keyword research shows that [manteau d’hiver] (English: winter coat) has high search volume and is designated as a transactional keyword in both countries. So, you pursue your users’ explicit search intent and create content and pages around the jackets’ features and performance.


Search volume for manteau d'hiver in Canada, showing a domestic search volume of 2.4K and 25% keyword difficulty. Source: Semrush
The search volume and keyword difficulty for [manteau d'hiver] in Canada.

Search volume for manteau d'hiver in France, showing a domestic search volume of 1K and a keyword difficulty of 33%. Source: Semrush
The search volume and keyword difficulty for [manteau d'hiver] in France.

However, by analyzing regional differences in implicit search intent, you may discover that French users in Canada are more interested in jackets that can withstand extremely cold temperatures, as Canada experiences harsher winter weather than France.

 

On the other hand, French users in France may be more interested in fashionable jackets, as temperatures are significantly higher in France than in Canada during winter.


How to identify implicit search intent for multilingual SEO


I’ve shown (above) that tapping into implicit search intent requires a deep understanding of the user’s behavior and motivations, as well as practical knowledge about the country the user lives in, their social surroundings, and current events that might influence their online behavior. 



But, how can you learn all of these details to make tactical, informed decisions about your campaigns? There are several ways to approach this:


Conduct country-based user research

Surveys, focus groups, and other research methods can help businesses learn their target audience’s preferences, behaviors, and pain points. Analyze the responses/results of your research to better understand the underlying motivations and needs that drive your audience’s search queries. 


For example, a business targeting runners in India may conduct a survey to gain insights into their target audience’s running shoe preferences. The survey could ask questions about:

 

  • The most popular running shoe brands in India

  • The features that runners look for in a running shoe

  • The biggest challenges faced by Indian runners when it comes to finding the right shoe

  • etc.


By analyzing the responses to this survey, the business might discover that Indian runners are looking for lightweight and breathable shoes, as the weather in India can be hot and humid—a requirement that’s unlikely to be reflected in the search terms this target audience uses (and thus, not addressed via explicit search intent categorization).


Armed with this knowledge, the business could better tailor their content to address its audience’s requirements, starting with keyword research and improving its engagement rates and sales in the Indian market. 


The bottom line: Work with your business intelligence team to get the most out of the research.

Perform cross-data analysis

Cross-data user behavior analysis helps you identify patterns and trends that can speak to your audience’s implicit search intent(s). This analysis may involve examining various user data sources, including:


  • Search queries

  • Website analytics

  • Social media engagement

  • Etc. 


Let’s take Japan and the query [moisturizers] as an example: While this query may seem straightforward, a cross-data analysis could reveal that Japanese users are particularly interested in products that provide intense hydration (rather than just a basic moisturizer). 


This could inform a business’s content in the Japanese market, as they may want to emphasize the hydrating properties of their products to better appeal to this audience. Additionally, the analysis may reveal that Japanese users are more likely to engage with content featuring user reviews, indicating that businesses should focus on creating this content to improve engagement rates.


The bottom line: Do not assume that if something works in one market, it can work worldwide. Cross-reference data and study your target market’s unique characteristics.

Monitor user behavior for trends and changes

It’s essential to monitor trends and changes in user behavior to identify emerging implicit search intent. 


For example, your company sells home decor products and you notice a trend of users in Germany searching for [minimalist decor ideas] or [minimalist home design] in your website analytics


By digging into this trend a bit further, you discover that users are not only looking for design inspiration, but also searching for ways to simplify their lives and reduce clutter, as evidenced by:

 

  • Behavior patterns in which users navigate from product pages to blog posts or articles about minimalist lifestyles/decluttering.

  • High engagement on content related to lifestyle simplification (guides, blog posts, etc).

  • Google Analytics or Search Console showing searches that often co-occur with terms that suggest this implicit search intent, such as [how to declutter], [minimalist lifestyle benefits], or [simplifying home life].


The implicit search intent behind these queries may be to create a more organized and calming living space. Knowing that, you can start experimenting with a new type of content, providing tips and tricks for decluttering and simplifying one’s home to address your audience’s implicit needs and motivations. 


The bottom line: Trends shape user search behavior, so it’s crucial to keep an eye on trends in countries you’re marketing in to gain insights for your SEO (and overall SEM) strategy.

Delve into local cultural and social factors

To truly understand implicit search intent, you must delve into the cultural, social, and legal factors that shape it. A country’s unique characteristics and policies can significantly influence its people’s interests and needs, and businesses need to pay attention to these nuances to create content that resonates and converts. 


This means checking relevant local sources (news, regulating bodies, user-first research, etc.) and using them in your SEO strategy. 


For instance, in Finland, winter tires are a seasonal need for driving in snowy conditions—as well as a legal requirement. Therefore, Finnish users searching for [winter tires] may have different implicit search intent than users in other countries (it’s not just about surviving the snow, it’s also about local laws). Understanding this can help businesses tailor their content and advertising to meet the unique demands of their Finnish audience.


The bottom line: Collaborate with local people(s) to understand the specific circumstances and conditions that can affect your tactics and strategy.

Integrate implicit search intent into your business’s wider objectives for better implementation and impact


For implicit search intent to make an impact on your international campaigns, it’s not just you and your team that needs to embrace it—your stakeholders must understand and support it as well if you want to keep bringing results over the long run.


To secure stakeholder buy-in: 


  • Start by presenting data-driven insights that illustrate the tangible benefits of this approach, such as increased engagement and customer satisfaction. 


  • Highlight the long-term benefits and sustainable growth potential of an ethical approach in new markets, emphasizing the enhanced customer experience and loyalty it fosters. 


  • Show the competitive edge this strategy offers by providing examples of successful implementations by competitors and contrast this with the risks of not adapting, including potential damage to the company’s reputation. 


  • Suggest initiating a pilot project to demonstrate the strategy’s effectiveness in a controlled setting while stressing the importance of cross-departmental collaboration involving SEO, marketing, and content teams to address the target audience’s emotional and psychological needs comprehensively. 


  • Encourage continuous learning through workshops or training sessions for stakeholders.

  • Set realistic expectations, clarifying that while results may take time, they lead to more sustainable and ethically sound outcomes. 


Lastly, emphasize the need for ongoing feedback and adaptation to ensure the strategy remains effective and relevant, thereby securing necessary stakeholder support into the future.


By communicating these points effectively, you can weave a narrative that emphasizes implicit search intent’s importance and connects it with your organization’s wider objectives and principles, paving the way for successful implementation and market impact.


 

veruska anconitano

Veruska is an SEO consultant that works at the intersection of SEO and localization to help companies enter non-English-speaking markets. She follows a culturalized approach to SEO and localization, leveraging cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and data. Twitter | Linkedin 

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