Search engine optimization — when it’s at its best — is about more than just putting a word on your website and hoping a potential customer types that word into a search bar. If you’re ready to perform high-level, real-deal SEO, you must master the advanced concepts driving the search engine world. One of these essential factors: user intent.
If you know the user intent behind a search query, you’re not just asking what people are searching for. You’re also figuring out why they’re performing that search at that time. What do they expect to find? What are they hoping to accomplish? Can your company provide the answer that customers are seeking,
making them stick around on your website?
Maybe a person Googling terms relevant to your company hopes to make a purchase right away. Alternatively, they may want to get a quick answer to a question or learn how to do something. In this post, you’ll learn how to get a better grasp of intent so you can tailor your content offerings to attract people fitting any or all of these user profiles.
What is User Intent?
User intent is a crucial aspect of SEO and audience segmentation. Instead of treating all website visitors the same, user intention entails categorizing individuals based on their specific needs and desires.
In the early days of SEO, content customization based on user intent held little significance. It was a matter of using keywords or not. However, modern search engine algorithms — including Google’s — now consider user intent to provide more accurate search results.
When users enter a search query, they often use telltale phrases that give clues about their intent. Terms like “buy” and “price” indicate they’re closing in on an online purchase, while phrases like “near me” or “address” suggest a search for a brick-and-mortar business. Asking a question in a search query suggests a desire for information. These cues help algorithms determine the user’s intent.
Why Is User Intent Important?
To align with search engines’ prioritization of user intent, website operators must grasp its significance and integrate it into their content. When crafting an SEO-friendly landing page or product listing, it becomes vital to tailor the content to rank highly in search results for customers who are ready to make a purchase. Conversely, when creating explainers or how-to articles, the focus should be on addressing the needs of users who are seeking answers to their questions.
You can optimize your overall SEO strategy by fully capitalizing on your understanding of user search intent. Rather than presenting a website with a singular purpose, you can curate a collection of pages that align with specific SEO objectives. This approach enables more targeted and strategic search result targeting, leading to improved outcomes.
Comprehending user intent involves considering key factors such as search engines, conducting thorough keyword research and recognizing Google’s role in search engine optimization. By incorporating these elements and effectively addressing user intent, you can refine your SEO strategy to better cater to your target audience’s needs.
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4 Types of User Intent
Considering user intent from a high-level perspective can be a little daunting. Every single search query is carried out for a reason. How can you map that intent and build SEO content around it?
Fortunately, it’s simple to break down user intent into 4 distinct categories. These are general motives based on visitors’ major objectives. Rather than catering your strategy to a near-infinite range of motives, you choose which of these 4 categories a particular page or piece of content is targeting.
There are SEO best practices for each search intent type, helping you carefully tune your content marketing. Before you can implement those methods, however, it pays to define what each user intent category means.
1. Informational User Intent
Let’s begin by discussing what informational search intent entails. It’s important to note that informational intent isn’t directly related to making a purchase. Instead, users performing these searches are seeking information or looking to find answers to their questions.
Typically, an informational search query begins with phrases like “How to” or “What is.” This type of question is very common since not all curiosity leads to a buying decision. Sometimes, people simply want to verify some information and move on.
While some companies may view investing time and resources into attracting informational searches as unworthy due to the lack of commercial motive, this perspective is short-sighted. People who receive answers to pressing questions from a specific brand can come to think of that business as an industry-leading source, and they may be back when it’s time to buy.
2. Navigational User Intent
Sometimes, people know what they’re looking for when they type in a search phrase. This means they’ve picked a product or a brand, and are interested in either learning more about that specific thing or making a particular purchase.
These searches are just a function of the way the Web works today. Search algorithms have become good at serving users the content they want to see at that moment, so it could be easier and quicker to type in “Brafton blog” than to enter our homepage URL and navigate to the blog.
The theory behind navigational user intent is refreshingly simple. People want to find your brand, and you want to make that search as easy as possible. SEO optimization for navigational search intent means mapping out your resources in a way that consumers don’t become frustrated while looking for a particular page.
3. Transactional User Intent
When a user conducts a transactional search, they want to interact with a brand and complete a specific action, which may involve spending money. However, it’s important to note that transactions encompass more than just making purchases. Every kind of interaction between an individual and a brand can be considered transactional, unless the visitor is simply gathering information.
By searching for a company name or a specific type of company, the user demonstrates transactional intent and an interest in engaging with the brand. Although they may not be actively searching for “buy” yet, they’re approaching that stage.
A transactional search may end up with someone reaching out directly to your company or signing up to stay in touch via email. In any case, that individual is aiming to accomplish an objective, so it’s up to you to streamline that process.
Transactional search intent can come from someone very close to the bottom of the purchase funnel. They’re relatively sure about the item or service they want to buy. You can tell whether they’re browsing for a type of product or a specific brand by analyzing the keywords they use.
4. Commercial User Intent
While some SEO experts don’t differentiate between transactional and commercial user intent, it can be valuable to think of commercial intent as its own distinct segment when developing your content marketing and SEO strategy. After all, you’ll want to make absolutely sure people can find your e-commerce pages or store listings when they’re ready to buy.
A successful commercial SEO strategy is built on meeting the needs of the other types of user intent. If users find all the information they need on your website, they may prioritize your brand when it comes time to finalize a purchase. Consequently, commercial intent SEO comes into play when they search for your company or product name followed by “buy.”
You can refine your content marketing strategy and SEO practices by addressing the four types of user intent: informational, navigational, transactional and commercials. Mapping each intent type to different pages on your site allows for targeted optimization, enhancing the overall user experience and improving search result relevance.
How to Determine a User Intent Strategy
Factoring user intent into your content marketing strategy is fairly straightforward — it’s a combination of common sense and sound SEO practices.
When considering the different types of user intent, you can align them with the various content pages of your website, ensuring that each page caters to the intended audience.
For instance, your informative blog articles should be crafted to target individuals with informational intent, providing them with valuable answers and insights. Your main website, on the other hand, naturally attracts users with navigational intent, as they seek specific information about your brand. As for your product/service pages and e-commerce sites, they’re the ideal platforms to engage users with transactional and commercial intent, presenting them with opportunities to make purchases or interact further with your brand.
Optimizing your content for each intent type involves maximizing various elements, from headings and formatting to metadata. These optimization efforts should clearly convey to both Google search crawlers and human users that they’ve landed on the right page with the desired content.
Keyword Research and Content Strategy Alignment
To assess your user intent strategy’s effectiveness, it’s crucial to conduct thorough keyword research and align it with your overall content strategy. You can determine whether you’re successfully meeting your goals by examining websites that have been designed with different intent types in mind. One key metric to consider is dwell time — the longer visitors spend on your pages, the more likely it is that you’re delivering what they’re looking for, whether it’s informative answers or enticing opportunities to make a purchase.
By implementing these strategies and continuously refining your content based on user intent, you can enhance your blog posts, SEO strategy and overall content marketing approach. Understanding user intent and aligning it with keyword research and content development is a powerful combination that enables you to provide valuable experiences for your audience while driving relevant organic traffic to your website.
Creating Content for Each User Intent Stage
Crafting SEO content tailored to each type of search intent is akin to mapping the customer journey. Ensuring you have relevant content that caters to different search intents devises a strategic plan to guide potential customers from their initial moments of curiosity to the point where they choose your brand as the ultimate solution.
Treat the 4 types of user intent as stages in a sales funnel, and they work out as follows:
People conducting informational searches are doing general research, and you should establish your expertise by answering their questions.
Make sure you have informational resource pages and blog posts, each optimized for an informational search term associated with your industry. There’s no need to scare customers away by focusing on promotional or salesy content here. Your subheadings and titles can take the form of common questions or answers to those queries.
Navigational searches are more focused on individual brands. By creating content that will rank in this kind of search, you’ll help people conclude that they want to see more from you.
There likely won’t be many competitors for navigational keywords regarding your brand. As long as you’ve taken the time to make a well-built error-free website with plenty of helpful content and tags mentioning your brand, you’ll build brand awareness around the audience most likely to be interested.
Transactional search intent indicates more commitment and readiness to engage. Whichever form of interaction people are seeking, give it to them.
It’s useful to optimize these pages for highly specific keywords, the kind that people will type into their browsers when they’re relatively sure what they want to buy. Once they arrive on those pages, you need to give them an easy way to take action — a highly visible CTA that leads them to a form submission or an “add to cart” button.
When it’s time for commercial searches, your e-commerce site and product landing pages enter the picture — people have reached the bottom of the funnel, and it’s up to you to take away remaining friction before a purchase or a request to speak with a sales rep.
Branded keywords, specific product names and any search term with “buy,” “services” or “company” are the defining features of these pages. Rather than looking like blog posts or lists, this content should be formatted as conversion landing pages or e-commerce product listings. Google’s search crawlers will point people with high commercial intent to these pages, where they’ll hopefully convert.
The Right Content for the Situation
Optimizing your content based on user intent means building a strategy around all the ways a potential customer might find your brand online. The more you show up for them when they search, the more likely they’ll come to you when they’re ready to buy.
Each section of your site is there for a reason, and your multifaceted content strategy should reflect that fact.