The secret behind good SEO: user intent
Every content marketer and SEO specialist will tell you that having target keywords in your content is crucial to ranking on search engines’ results page (SERP). Thus, hours are spent doing keyword research and looking for ways to insert them in your content.
But, here’s the thing…
What if the keywords you spent hours looking and inserting in your content don’t match the initial intent of your audience?
Thing is, behind every search query is an intention and a context. Understanding these is the real secret (ok, one of the several) behind proper SEO.
This article will guide you in taking your SEO to the next level and in improving your website ranking in the SERP by explaining what user intent is and how you can implement it for great results, with real examples from Mauritius organisations.
Table of Contents
- What is user intent?
- Why is user intent important?
- The types of user intent
- How to implement user intent and optimising for conversion?
What is user intent?
User intent is the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation your customers have all along their buyers’ journey and which often result in a search for answers. Most of the time, search engines happen to be their go-to.
They might be looking for bread recipes, which are the best self-care books to read or where to buy a laptop. And these are the words, also known as search queries, they will type in the search engine.
And we all know that Google’s main goal is to properly satisfy its users. Which is why it continuously strives to improve its semantic search in order to pull up the most accurate results that match what the user is looking for.
Why is user intent important?
So what happens if you place the right keywords in your content but it doesn’t meet the needs of the user?
On clicking on your content and realising it’s not what they’re looking for, the user goes right back to the SERP. This increases your bounce rate which then tells Google that your content is not worth ranking among the top results.
In other words, if your content fails to meet the user intent, Google will downrank your content. As such, Google themselves place much importance on user intent, advising brands to actively meet their customers’ needs.
Content that is relevant is content that has the buyer in mind. In other words, your content should have a purpose to give your target audience what they want.
This shows that writing content is great, but writing content that matters and that serves a purpose is key.
Before we get to how to implement user intent in your marketing strategy- especially your content marketing strategy, let’s look at the different types of user intent to better understand what it entails.
The types of user intent
Similarly to the categorisation of search queries, user intent has also been categorised into 3 main types:
- Informational – when a user is looking for information
- Navigational – when a user is looking for a website or a location
- Transactional – when a user is looking to purchase/buy
Google also has its own model: the Do, Know, Go concept – which also includes the Buy moment of a consumer’s journey, just like some marketers also add ‘commercial’ as a fourth type of user intent.
But we’re omitting both here so as not to overcomplicate things.
To elaborate on each type of intent behind search queries, we will be referring to the customer journey so it makes more sense.
The user is looking for information on a subject or a topic. They are still at the very early stages of the customer journey, where they are most probably doing research. They will very often be including words like ‘definition’, ‘what’, ‘how’ ‘guide’ or ‘tips’ in their search query. These search queries usually contain 3-4 words.
The user is here looking for a specific brand, website or location. These are what they will be typing in the search query.
They are at the middle stage of the customer journey. Such search queries often contain 2-3 words and in the case of a location being looked for, they can include ‘near me’ or the name of a town/city/country.
The user wants to purchase a specific product or service. He is at the final stage of the customer journey. They most often will include words such as ‘buy’, ‘purchase’, ‘book’ or have some elements of price in their search query.
Implementing user intent and optimising for conversion?
Now comes the part where you actually need to implement user intent in your strategy so that your content is relevant to your customers.
Because once again, relevant content that resonates with the user and satisfies their intent, is an important ranking factor. But not only. It also builds rapport with your consumer. So, how do you go about doing this?
Identify what brings users to your website
Head to your Google Search Console and identify the search queries that bring users to your website. This will help you know what users are looking for when they come across your website.
Analyse those queries and try to understand their intent based on the types discussed above.
There are some instances though where the intent isn’t clear.
Suppose the query is “digital marketing agency”, at first glance it doesn’t tell you whether the person is looking for the services of an agency or whether the person is looking for jobs in digital marketing.
Type in keywords yourself (even those you want to rank for)
If you’re unable to gauge the intent behind a search query, looking it up on Google will provide you with a list of results.
Because Google does its best to improve semantic search, the top results on the SERP are most often a clear-cut indication of the intent behind a query.
You can carry the same exercise with the keywords you want to rank for. This will pull up the pages that are currently ranking for these keywords.
Since these pages represent the intent behind the keywords, you can assess whether your content will respond to what the consumer is looking for.
For example, if you want to rank for best laptop, your content should be informational since the users typing these keywords are looking for information. If you were trying to rank a transactional page for these keywords, your page would not get much success.
Tap into user intent for your content
One way of capitalising on user intent to improve your content is to include long-tail keywords. These keywords are of high value and more than often explicitly indicate the intent behind them.
You must have noticed the People also Ask box when looking for something on Google. Well, that section is full of information about what people are looking for. In other words, a great place to start to know in which direction to gear your content.
Adapting user intent to your sales funnel
You probably already know that your content strategy should be adapted according to the sales funnel, as in, there should be content for every step of the funnel to meet every potential buyer along their journey.
The same applies with the user intent. Understanding the user intent helps you create content that speaks to users at the different stages of their buying decision process. In this way, you can create content that’s best adapted to their intent with the right CTAs.
Navigational queries would mean ensuring that your Google My Business is properly set up, and that your local SEO strategy runs smoothly. Features are dependent on the industry.
For example, if you are a hotel, both your Google My Business and local SEO strategy will tell Google you are a hotel, hence you can feature in Local Packs, which drive more clicks and immediate booking.
You can then optimise your own features to make the experience better for the user once they are on your website.
For informational queries, your content will look at providing answers related to the service or products that your business provides. The main goal being to land on the first page of the SERP or land on the ‘position zero’ spot.
The ‘position zero’, also known as featured snippet, is the first thing that pops up on the SERP for certain informational queries.
Although it is debatable that being on the featured snippet means less clicks to your website, landing that sweet spot is great for brand awareness.
As for transactional queries, the buyer is either strongly considering a purchase or they are already about to make a purchase and just need to land on the perfect website.
You can thus build different landing pages with different CTAs to maximise the chances of a user falling on any one of them, depending on what they are looking for. If your budget permits, you can even invest in Pay-per-click at this stage.