Successfully determining user intent, or search intent is the foundation of a successful Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and conversion optimization strategy. It is impossible to succeed at optimizing your digital conversion without first addressing customer intent because if you haven’t, you really have no idea what your customers are looking for when they end up on your site.
But what actually is user intent and how does it relate to SEO?
User intent is what your prospect’s intentions were from their initial search and how likely they are to convert into a paying customer. Are they in the last stages of the consideration process? Are they simply comparing your prices to your competitors? Knowing what your customers are looking for when they arrive can help you better target your content strategy so you can move these prospects through the buyer funnel and ultimately convert.
In this post, we’ll get deeper into what user intent actually means and how you can use it to create more targeted content that turns passive prospects into paying customers.
What is user intent?
“User intent” refers to what a user was actually looking for when they typed their query into Google. Instead of thinking about this in terms of the keywords you’re trying to rank for, think about it as the information your users are generally looking for when they end up on your site. In other words, what need or pain point was this prospect looking to address when they found your content?
In general, there are three types of search queries a user could perform:
- Transactional – A user is at the bottom of the buyer funnel and is ready to make a purchase.
- Navigational – A user is trying to get to a specific site.
- Informational – A user is looking for more information about a general topic, product, or keyword.
In all of these cases, the user has a specific need or pain point, and their search intent is aimed at resolving that need. Google’s algorithm is designed to provide a user with the best possible answers to their search query, meaning if you can determine your users’ intent, you can create more focused content, rank higher in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), and ultimately convert these users into customers much more easily than you would by relying on keywords alone.
If you’re a local bakery, you might discover that most of your site visitors end up on your site after searching for something like “naked cake tutorial,” – an informational need – rather than the bottom-of-the-funnel keywords you might generally create content for, such as “bakeries in Salt Lake City” or “next-day delivery bakery.” Perhaps surprisingly, you’ll find more conversion success by creating content geared toward resolving the customer’s pain point than you would by just targeting your high-ranking keywords.
Why is search intent important to your SEO?
Knowing your users’ intent is critical because if can nail down why your prospects are searching for a particular term, you can better create and deliver content that meets their needs. This leads to higher traffic, a lower bounce rate, higher conversion rates, and an overall better user experience.
Creating and promoting content is extremely expensive, wouldn’t you like to maximize your investment and improve your user experience at the same time? You can do just that by realigning your content strategy to be user intent-focused, rather than just keyword-focused. In order to truly meet your users’ needs and maximize your SEO potential, you should be creating content based on the actual pain points your customers are trying to address in their search engine queries.
And remember, user intent refers to the current intent of your users, meaning what they want right now, not what you want their intent to be further down the pipeline. If you discover that your users are finding your web design firm’s website after searching for “how to design a website,” you should create content that meets that need – i.e. information on how to design a website, rather than simply pushing them to hire you right away. Build trust with your readers by giving them the information that meets their pain point, and then show them how your products or services can be an even better solution. In addition, by providing your customers with the best possible answers to their inquiries, even if they don’t include your target keywords, you’ll have a much better chance at being deemed the “best” answer by Google’s algorithm, and you’ll rank regardless.
How to create user intent-focused content
Step 1: Discover what your users are actually searching for
The very first step to creating content that addresses customer pain points is identifying the Google searches that are bringing customers to your site. An easy way to find this goldmine of information is by looking at your Google Webmaster dashboard. Navigate to Tools > Search Traffic > Search Queries. This page will tell you exactly what the most common searches are that ultimately bring users to your content. Look for trends and export a list of the top queries – this is the information your customers actually want you to answer for them.
Step 2: Understand the “why”
Now that you have a list of the most common queries that drive your site traffic, the next step is to understand why these users were searching for these queries. Remember the three types of searches we discussed earlier? Each of your top Search Queries will fit into the Transactional, Navigational, or Informational category – each addressing a different type of customer need. An easy way to visualize this is by dropping your top queries into a spreadsheet and creating a new column where you mark each search by type. Now you can easily see what types of searches are driving your traffic.
Step 3: Begin creating content that addresses user intent
Now that you know what your users’ intent actually was when they came to your site and what type of need they were seeking to address, you can now begin to develop content that meets those pain points.
Nearly 50 percent of all searches have an informational intent.
You can identify an informational user intent with the following hints:
- They use informational cues like “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “how to,” “when was,” and “why.”
- The search is longer than a few words and includes details
- There is no jargon or company-specific information
At this stage, your users are simply in the awareness stage of the sales funnel and are solely looking for information that might solve their need. Your job is to create content that helps educate your users and builds trust – you want to be seen as a valuable source of information for them so they’ll keep coming back when they have other questions.
A few examples of informational content pieces based on our earlier business examples include:
- Why your small business needs a website
- How to decorate a cake with fondant
Searches with navigational intent tend to include information about the specific business, people, locations, or places. Your users are already aware that these entities exist and are using specific terms to find more information about them. These searches are generally in the consideration and evaluation stage of the sales funnel.
You can identify a navigational user intent with the following hints:
- The search includes a brand name, a website domain name, the name of a person, or other specific information.
- The search is very short and to-the-point, generally 3 or fewer words
At this stage, users are looking to get to a particular website or to get information about somewhere specific. Navigational searches are a bit more tricky to create content for and will generally depend on your niche and your visitors’ pain points. Your job is to create content about specific products or services that meet the navigational need they were searching for, such as brand or service overview pages.
A few examples of navigational content pieces include:
- Intro to Mountain West Web Design
- Cake bakery in Salt Lake City
By now, your users have reached the bottom of the sales funnel and are ready to convert. However, this doesn’t always mean that these users will convert, but that they know what they are looking for and are ready to make a decision.
You can identify transactional intent with the following hints:
- The user used a price modifier keyword like “discount,” “buy,” “coupon,” etc.
- The user used a variation of the word “download” or “get”
- The user was looking to obtain something, such as a recipe, a packing list, or a workout plan.
The most common type of transactional content you will create will be landing pages that will take your customer to the shopping cart to complete their purchase. If your users are arriving at this landing page, they’ve already decided to convert, so design the page to make it as easy as possible for them to do so.
A few examples of transactional content pieces include:
- Hire a web design company
- Order cake in SLC
Win your customers’ trust through intent-focused content
Your content calendar should now be filled with content ideas that actually answer your users’ questions, build trust, and ultimately prime them to convert to paying customers. And don’t forget to include the most critical piece of your content – your call to action. After you’ve finished meeting your customers’ needs, tell them what you want them to do next, whether that’s view more related information, sign up for a free trial, or come into your store.
Interested in learning more about how you can use intelligent content marketing to improve your user experience, increase sales, and earn customers for life? Sign up for a free Big Leap Content Marketing consultation today.