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What Is User Intent and How to Master it in Content Marketing & SEO

content marketing and seo

We use the web regularly. We search for information, find products, read content, and even get entertainment from the internet. Over the years, the number one search engine, Google, has been rolling out updates to ensure that it’s able to satisfy what you’re looking for. There’s always a reason or “intent” behind that search. Google, being an intelligent machine, has found ways to decipher such intent so it can give you results that you need.

It has been standard practice over the years to try to get ahead Google by examining its data and algorithm (and still is today). Many people pore over the search engine’s complicated algorithms to try to find out how it works, and how to use this information to one’s advantage. But focusing too much on numbers and data isn’t enough. Right now, you need to focus on the person’s purpose for searching. This is called user intent.

Unfortunately, user intent is an often-overlooked aspect of the SEO equation, but one that holds a lot of importance and impact.  

Recommended reading: Google’s Search Quality Guidelines for SEO & Content Creators

What is User Intent?

User intent is also often called search intent. Many marketers have tried to define the concept, but they all boil down to the same thing: the user’s goal when searching something on the search engine.

Search engines like Google are built to understand user intent. When you type in a query on the search bar, it runs data and information on the background and brings back results it believes to be relevant to your search. Therefore, understanding user intent SEO is an essential aspect of creating a successful marketing campaign because it aims to target search algorithms. And by knowing and understanding how user intent works, you are in a great position to come up with content that is most likely to be interpreted by the search engine as useful and relevant.

Too often, people look at numbers to measure the relevance of keywords. But what user intent aims to tell you is to look beyond the number and understand the “human” side of every search. Every business aims to give customers what they want exactly, and mastering user intent is an essential step in achieving success in content marketing.

Why is User Intent Important?

A content marketing and SEO strategy is never effective and successful without putting user intent into the equation. Specifically, user search intent is necessary because of the following reasons:

  • It helps you craft your content accordingly – Indeed, “content is king” in digital marketing, but it’s also essential to put “context” into the “content,” and one excellent way to do this is to understand user intent. You can optimize your content more effectively if you know what your audience is looking for and then integrate the appropriate keywords into your material.
  • Improve conversion – User intent also allows you to create and optimize landing pages where conversion begins. Understanding user intent also enables you to improve user experience and attract the right traffic to your site.
  • Build a faithful following for your business – Your audience opts to go to your site for a reason and knowing what the reason is helps you improve your chances of forging a solid and faithful following for your business.
  • Attain the preference of search engines – Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines don’t just run on data alone. They also put the context of a search into consideration. Knowing how user intent works helps you to optimize your material better so that your site is deemed by the search engine as useful and relevant to the search query, thereby giving you one of the best places in the SERPs.

Types of user intent

Satisfying user intent is essential in running your content marketing campaign, and knowing the fundamental categories of search intent is critical to your efforts. The audience is driven by one or more of these three types of user intent.

Informational

This type of user intent refers to the audience’s desire to collect information so that they can make an informed decision and move to the next step. The user wants to learn something or have the desire to solve a problem. This type of search intent typically intends to answer the “how” and “what” behind a specific query.

Informational intent tends to have the most substantial volume of searches. Many people come to the internet to answer a question like they need to know “the best budget-friendly destinations in Europe” or answer the question “how to survive Europe on a budget.” The user’s intent is not to explicitly to go to Europe just yet, or book flight and hotel accommodations. Instead, he wants to get an answer to this question and perhaps move on to the next step once he receives the desired information.

Searches with informational intent are fantastic vehicles for developing high-quality content that provides useful and relevant information. There are various methods in approaching informational intent, including writing a full and detailed blog post, posting a how-to or tutorial video, including an infographic into your content, or creating a step-by-step guide. The more that you’re able to address the user’s question or problem, the more that he’ll see you as someone authoritative and credible in the field.  

Navigational

When a user wants to find a particular site or go to a specific page, his intent for the search is called navigational. Targeting navigational intent is an excellent way to drive high-value traffic into your site. Typically, the user already knows the website and is merely inputting the keywords on the search engine to get to the site.

For instance, if a user wants to go to “YouTube” or “Facebook,” he might not input the appropriate URL in the address bar. Instead, he types in “youtube” or “facebook” on Google, clicks on the right link from the SERPs.

Unlike informational intent wherein the user types in a broader keyword or keywords to obtain the information he needs, the user with navigational intent knows precisely what he needs from the query. Therefore, navigational intent is only relevant if you own the site a user wants to visit.   

Transactional

When a user is motivated to complete a transaction in doing a search query, then the intent is called transactional. Transactional intent usually has keywords pertaining to a product or service, brand, and business name. Users may also include other relevant keywords like “buy,” “price,” and “quote.”

With these keywords, it’s safe to assume that the user is considering doing business with you, whether to buy your products or hire your services. In short, users with transactional intent are at the end of the sales funnel.

Out of all the types of search intent, it is the transactional intent that is most likely to bring ROI to your business. You’ll notice that the search engine results page is laden with sales pages, and sponsored ads take most of the SERPs real estate.

Satisfying the needs and meeting the expectations of your audience through user intent is paramount in every successful marketing campaign. And now that you know what user intent is, what its advantages are and its classifications, it’s about time you incorporate user search intent strategies into your content and SEO campaigns.  

How to Implement User Intent in Content Marketing and SEO  

According to Neil Patel, “intent drives behavior.” Every business owner and marketer needs to understand the importance of intent in creating content to achieve virality, increased conversions, and higher engagement.

Here are the top ways in implementing user intent into your content marketing and SEO strategy:

Identify the intent

The first important step in making sure that your content and SEO are aligned with user intent is to identify the intent in the first place. Most people begin their search process with a question in mind. “What am I doing?” “Why am I doing this?”

Once you understand the three types of intent, it is now easier to understand their intent based on the keyword they use when doing a search query. For instance, if the user types in “buy kitchen cookware,” the intent is mostly transactional. If the user types “benefits of ceramic cookware,” then the intent is informational. But if the user types in a brand or website into the search engine, then the intent is mostly navigational.

It is wrong to assume that the user only has one intent in mind. It’s possible to have several layers of intent during the search process. For instance, the user may be interested in learning about the benefits of ceramic cookware, and if he is convinced by the information he read, he might decide to make a purchase. Or, he could go to a company website to check out their ceramic cookware products and from there, decide whether to buy or not. When you discover the intent of your users, it is now easier to tailor your content to meet their needs.

Determine whether existing content is aligned with user intent

Next, you need to take a look at the existing content on your site and see whether they satisfy user intent. To do this, you need to see what your top-performing keywords are by going to your Google Analytics account.

Now, determine whether your keywords are meant to do what you intend them to do. For instance, the keywords “buy white sneakers” are primarily transactional. However, if these keywords lead to an informational page or blog post, then there’s a misalignment. Your audience will only read information, but it doesn’t really prompt them to buy.

Another scenario is that your contents are correctly aligned with the type of content, but you don’t see as much traffic as you would want. This may not be a matter of user intent, but proper use of keywords. Consider overhauling your SEO and look into more effective and powerful keywords. If you want your audience to make a purchase, then your keywords should be driven by transactional intent. If you’re going to inform your audience or answer their question, then your keywords should be aligned with informational intent.

Write the right content

Your content should attract your audience, but it shouldn’t be just to any audience, but the right kind of audience. How do you know that your material is not only appealing but also relevant to the needs of your users?

Keyword research

Researching the right keywords is fundamental in every SEO campaign. It is not right to pick just about any keyword that comes to mind; yours should also be supported by data and analytics. Thankfully, you can now use a lot of keyword tools to expedite the keyword finding process, such as Moz Keyword Explorer, LSI Keywords Generator, and Google Trends.

You shouldn’t stop with keywords, though. The quality of your content is also very essential because Google can now identify user content. If your content does not meet the criteria of the users, then it will likely go down the SERPs.

To do this, make sure that your content is the right match for a specific intent. For instance, if you want to inform your audience about a topic, you should do away with selling a product or service or veer to another topic. Stay focused on the issue at hand. The more useful your content, the more your audience will stay and explore, and the more that they’ll likely to convert.

Optimize your content

While it’s essential to create a relevant, engaging, and high-quality content that matches the intent of your users, you cannot take optimization for granted. In fact, this is the other half that completes the equation for a winning content marketing strategy.

Implement the best SEO practices for your content. Make sure that you introduce the topic properly by speaking what it’s all about and how it is vital to your audience. Subtitling is another crucial aspect of SEO because these are considered as keyword carriers. H2, H3, and other subtitles can bear the keywords that you’re targeting for which is relevant in SEO. But in content marketing, proper subtitling gives your content appropriate breaks so that it becomes more appealing and easier to digest.

Understand the buyer’s journey

The goal of your business being online is not just to inform, but ultimately, make more sales. But before you can do that, you need to understand that your users go through a journey first, also called the customer lifecycle. Understanding this journey allows you to craft your content better so that it meets and satisfies the intent at every phase.

The buyer’s journey starts at the awareness stage. At this point, your users are just getting to know you and what you can do for them. It is essential to answer general topics, and then moving on to more focused topics. You are just introducing yourself to the audience, so give them as much information as you can about your business without the bombardment. Make your site easy to navigate and enrich the pages with useful content. Supporting contents like brochures, whitepapers, and others also make this stage a more seamless experience.

From the awareness stage, the user moves into the middle of the funnel where evaluation takes place. The user has come to know you and is now contemplating whether to buy from you or not. He is evaluating whether what you’ve got to offer would meet his needs. At this point, it is essential to zero in more focused topics, post more related content, and inspire with the appropriate calls-to-action.

Finally, the user moves into the purchasing stage. At this point, you should be able to address the customer’s pain points. You should also provide comprehensive coverage of your business’ solutions and offerings and how these can help solve the customer’s problems. The customer could be using words like “buy,” “purchase,” “order,” and other keywords that signal his readiness to hand the money to you.

Understanding the buyer’s journey in more detail allows you to create appropriate content for their needs at every stage.   

Improve User Experience

It is also essential to look at your site with the user’s point of view or walk in their shoes, as they say.

This means that your site and contents should be accessible and easy to understand. It includes technicalities like the site being fast-loading. According to Kissmetrics, 47% of users expect your site to load as fast as 2 seconds, or else you’re losing valuable traffic.

Additionally, check how well and easy it is to navigate your site. Every page and feature of your site and ensure that aspect is navigation-friendly. Responsive design websites are also more favorable as many users are also doing searches from their mobile devices.

Conclusion

You cannot undermine the importance of user intent in your content marketing campaign. It can be easy to get overwhelmed by data, but it isn’t entirely about numbers. It is crucial to understand that intent drives every search query. It is your goal to understand such intent and make sure that your content effectively addresses it. Mastering user intent is a necessary step to bring your site rankings up and improve your business’ performance online.

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