User intent isn’t a new strategy for content marketing. In fact, people have been talking about it prior to 2008. It’s simply more of a focus now because of how technology has evolved. In reality, it’s perhaps currently one of the most important aspects of marketing on the Internet.
What is User Search Intent?
In today’s world, it’s not simply enough to throw some keywords into a blog post and expect to show in the top 10 of a search result. It’s all about what the user is actually looking for.
I remember back in the day when I had to go through pages upon pages of search results to find specific information. Nowadays, I rarely see page two since what I’m looking for is put up in front of me. This is a result of user intent.
Many searches today center around at least four-word phrases. These are often referred to as “long-tail keywords.” It helps guide the search engine to find specific information focused on a particular topic.
For example, let’s take the word, “dodge.” Now, is the person searching this term looking for a vehicle type, how to avoid work or a specific sport involving a rubber ball? That depends on the long-tail words that accompany the search.
What if we take that same term and expand it to “2006 dodge charger parts.” Sites with content relating to just “dodge” would be relevant, but “2005 dodge charger parts” is not.
But wouldn’t “dodge” be better because it’s general in a search? Not exactly. Think of the thousands of sites that use “dodge” and realize your site might be buried under a heap of content.
This is where you benefit from content optimization: by demonstrating to Google you have what a person is looking for.
Reasons to Strive for User Intent
So, why is it important to focus on writing more for user intent? Couldn’t you use long-tail keywords and get a similar result? Not exactly. Too many variables come into play when Google crawls your page for content.
Here are my seven reasons why you should work on optimizing content.
1. Closer Match to User Needs
When you optimize for user intent, you’re creating specific pieces of content for a precise purpose. This means people looking for that information are more apt to click the link to visit your site.
About 83% of customers go to a company’s website for information. This is often in the form of blogs, tutorials or contacting the business for customer service. The materials on your site should reflect the answer someone is seeking.
2. Helps Search Engines Classify the Content
Keywords don’t matter as much as they did in the past. Search engines like Google thoroughly analyze the words of an entire article to properly categorize its purpose. Don’t get me wrong, keywords are still viable. But it’s the overall content that makes the difference.
For instance, what if you wanted to score well for “chicken soup recipes.” If you diverted from the topic and wrote about baking chicken, the “soup” aspect is lost. People looking for those recipes will have to get them from somewhere else as the search engine isn’t sure what you’re trying to convey.
3. Creates More Engaging Content
It’s not just search engines that are looking for quality content to display on a results page. People are also interested in more focused content as opposed to general topics. It’s like zeroing in on a specific target for pinpoint accuracy.
By answering someone’s exact question, you’re inspiring him or her to further explore your site for other information. This is all about fulfilling a need to have a question answered.
4. Attracts High-Quality Visitors
By optimizing for user intent, you’re focusing content on answering specific search criteria. This also means the ones finding your content from search engines are already interested in the topic before even visiting your site.
The result is a visitor who is more likely to make a purchase, sign up with a newsletter or subscribe to mailing lists. It’s a far better use of marketing than simply aiming for the general population.
5. Better Adapted for Mobile Search
More than 52% of all web pages across the planet are displayed on mobile devices. Not only do you need to optimize for voice search, but you need to understand how people are speaking into their phones.
A lot of people are more casual when asking Google or Siri a question. It’s this conversational tone and structure you need to recognize when creating content. In other words, you need to take a more friendly and natural tone when you write.
6. Improves Local Business Traffic
Speaking of mobile devices, about 82% of users with a hand-held device use search engines when looking for local businesses.
This is important as around 72% of shoppers who did a local search visited the store if it’s within five miles. In this instance, user intent would include local elements such as city, state, zip code or nearby popular landmarks.
7. It’s Often More Cost Efficient
Focusing on a specific group of people asking a certain question is more productive than a general advertisement. In some instances, optimizing website content for user intent has potential to have a much higher return-on-investment from things like pay-per-click campaigns.
This is because there is no extra cost outside of the time to create the focused article. You can still run PPC ads through platforms like Google AdWords, but they charge you each time someone clicks the link. When you optimize content, there is no extra cost for the interaction.
Three Types of User Intent
People often use the Internet in one of three major ways:
The term, “Google It” is a slang adopted by many as meaning, “look it up.” Millions of people flock to the search engine on a daily basis to search for information regarding everything known to human kind. In this instance, you’d want to work on providing rich and detailed answers.
A lot of people will use Google to find a specific website or physical location. For example, many will use the term, “Facebook” in search as they are currently on their way to the social hub. This means sites and locales need to be obvious in relation to search criteria.
It’s believed worldwide eCommerce will reach $4 trillion by 2020. It’s because people are using search to make purchases while researching a company. Your products and services need to be easily identifiable online.
How to Optimize for User Intent
Optimizing for user intent usually takes a bit of practice, research and effort. However, the payoff is worth the time as you build stronger connections with customers using search engines.
What can you do to maximize your efforts to attract those buyers?
Use Long-Tail Keywords, but as More of a Guide
Keywords will always be important in varying degrees. After all, you’d expect a search for “Tesla cars” to show you cars built by Tesla. However, they’re not as profound as they were in the beginning days of Google.
Keywords should be more of a guide to help you create optimized content. Think of it more like a topic you want to cover while implementing long-tail phrases people will use.
For instance, something like “houses in New York” is more general while “cheap houses in New York” focuses more on affordable housing. It’s these long-tail phrases that usually promote the most success.
To put this into perspective, long-tail phrases consisting of more than five words are more likely to receive clicks and appear within the top seven search results.
Use Latent Semantic Indexing and Synonyms
Latent semantic indexing, or LSI, is a practice that shows similar topics based on search term. A prime example of this is when you scroll to the bottom of a Google results page and see the “Searches related to…” area.
Using LSI helps guide your content for user intent by letting you know what people are searching. Using this information, you can fine-tune the content to focus more on exact results rather than generalizing the information.
For instance, using the term “ways to lose belly fat” in Google gives you suggestions for “how to lose belly fat at home.” This creates a tutorial while putting emphasis on “where” people can lose belly fat…at home.
Optimize Meta Descriptions and Title Tags
Meta descriptions and title tags are two very important elements when it comes to search results. This is the information users will see when asking Google or Bing a question. Optimizing description and title tags contributes to better result rankings.
It’s common for the title of a website post to be slightly different from the tag for the sake of matching user intent. Some developers will include locations of physical stores in these tags to attract specific customers.
Now that Google has expanded how much can fit in the meta description, you’d be wise to capitalize on it. You can fit a great deal of information to target specific individuals or groups.
Know Your Customers
Understanding the target consumer is something business owners have done since the first shops opened. However in the digital age, understanding these shoppers also involves knowing how they search.
What phrases do most of your patrons use to find your goods? What kind of information are they seeking regarding your products or services? Are there specific questions they want answers to and can you provide those answers?
Being connected with your target consumer requires more than merely providing something they’ll buy. You should provide details they seek to build trust, awareness and competence. These elements are vastly important to continue driving sales.
Experience What the User Experiences
If you really want to optimize for user intent, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the customer. Experience what your site has to offer from start to finish. A lot of owners will do this periodically just to make sure the entire flow is easy and user-friendly.
Don’t think of precise keywords in search but more of how the average Joe would look for your product. This is sometimes a difficult process for some simply because you may already know the perfect phrase to find your content.
The point is you need to view your business from the outside. This will give you ideas about what to improve and what phases you should include in your content to engage certain types of shoppers.
If all else fails, you can always run surveys.
Survey Your Patrons
A great way to discover all kinds of information about your site is to directly ask customers. Surveys, polls and other questionnaires are great tools to discover what it is your target market wants out of your company.
You can set these up on your website or engage people on social media. It’s a very cost efficient way to gain valuable insight to how your target customer views your brand. And it’s an engaging aspect the gives people the sense of power and creating change.
Let the people guide how you develop your business. After all, your consumers are the ones who will keep the business open.
Go Back to Make Adjustments
Don’t be afraid to go back to old content and make revisions. Too many people have the misconception that once an article is published, it’s no longer something that is editable.
On the contrary, revisiting and republishing articles is a common practice to help site owners increase a page’s rank in search engines. What’s more is that you can use social media marketing tools to spread that content like it was new on sites like Facebook and Twitter.
The only downside is changes to old content are sometimes not immediately viewable in sites like Google. This means you’ll need to have a bit of patience to see any real results.
However, the effort is worth it when you see old articles climb search rankings.
Optimize SEO for User Intent
A lot of benefits center around content that is geared towards user intent. Search engine optimization is more than just knowing what keywords to use. It’s about engaging your audience by knowing what they’re looking for. Build a strategy that makes your site easy to find online.