If the goal of your website is to rank well on search engines, increase quality traffic, or drive conversions, you need to incorporate user search intent into your SEO and content marketing efforts.
Search engines are businesses too. They want to give their users relevant and quality search results every time they make a query, so they’ll prioritize content that supports or agrees with the search intent of those users to keep them returning to use their services.
When a user enters a query into a search engine, it will do everything to accurately judge the user’s intent and then display results that are the best match for the search.
If search engines fail to present your company or website in response to a particular search query, it’s not because they don’t know about your business or that the content you’ve created exists.
It means that you need to optimize your content to fit the specific user intent of the audience you’re targeting so that search engines can bring up your website when displaying search results.
What is User Search Intent?
This term refers to what a user is trying to accomplish when they enter a query into a search engine.
Think about the last time you used Google’s search function. What was the reason behind that? Were you looking for answers to a question, the latest news on a particular subject, or reviews for a restaurant near you?
Perhaps you were just searching for where you could buy something online, or you needed to find the web address of your city’s health department. Whatever it was, you assumed that Google would understand what you were looking for and help you find it.
If you can figure the user search intent behind certain keywords or phrases, you can optimize your content, so it’s guaranteed to rank for those words when people go searching for it.
There are three main types of user search intent that you need to be aware of:
Informational Intent (Know)
As the name suggests, the user’s search intent is to find information. They want answers to a question, solutions to a challenge they have, or to learn more about a certain topic.
Informational user search intent constitutes 80% of search intents. Some of the keywords used in this informational search are:
- How to
- Best ways to
- What is/are
- How do/does
Navigational Intent (Go)
The intent of a user performing navigational searches is to find where something is located. Users already know where they want to go, they just need a link to get there so they can find the information they want.
These searches are straightforward and don’t require a lot of guessing to figure out the user’s intent.
Examples of keywords used in navigational searches that you can optimize your content for include:
- Brand name (Grammarly, Walmart, Amazon, etc.)
- Product/Service name
- Locations near me
- Directions to
- Cost of
- Brand login (Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, etc.)
When someone is looking to purchase a product or service, their user search intent is transactional. They want to perform a specific action, like find the best place to buy what they want, search for discounts or prices, or carry out further research.
To find the pages they want, searchers can use transactional keywords like:
- Where to buy
- Best prices
- Schedule appointment
Targeting the right keywords according to the user search intent is one of the most efficient ways to improve your SEO, which would ultimately translate to an increase in quality organic traffic to your site and a corresponding rise in conversions.
How To Optimize Your Content For Each Type of Search Intent
Understanding the user search intent behind the queries your target audience is making and creating the best content possible to align with the goals can help drive visibility for your website.
It’s important to know how to tackle the various types of user search intent and the best ways to optimize your content for them.
How to Optimize for Informational Intent
When creating content for informational user search intent, the goal should be to provide valuable information that the user is looking for.
At this stage, most people aren’t interested in being sold to. They just want to gather as much knowledge as they can about a subject.
Informational queries typically begin with words like “how to”, “what is”, “ways to”, and so on. The users want to know something so they’ll use words that’ll help them learn more about a subject.
Your focus should be on answering their questions and presenting your brand as an authoritative and trustworthy source of information.
For instance, if you’re an insurance adjusting firm, your informational user search intent strategy should be centered around answering questions related to your business and industry, such as what are the benefits of hiring a public adjuster or how to appeal denied insurance claims.
When you optimize your content to satisfy the informational needs of specific audiences, your webpage will rank well on Google and other search engines.
The most effective types of content for informational user search intent that you should use are:
- Step-by-step guides
- Blog posts that offer tips, tricks, hacks, and other helpful information
- Tutorial videos showing users how to do something
- Infographics and other visual content
Optimizing your content for informal user search intent means ensuring that the content you put out directly answers the users’ queries by providing useful and relevant information.
By doing this, you’ll not only solve the problems of your audience, but you’ll also rank well on search engines, generate leads, and boost the inflow of targeted organic traffic to your site.
Help your audience solve their challenges or pain points, so when they’re ready to make a purchase, they’ll think of your business first.
How to Optimize for Navigational Intent
With this query, the user is trying to navigate to a product/service or website that they already know.
You might wonder why the user doesn’t go directly to the website they’re looking for instead of entering a query into the search engine.
One reason is that they might not remember the exact brand, or it’s easier to type a name into the search bar than typing out the entire URL.
For instance, many people just type “twitter” into the search bar when trying to log into their twitter page. It’s just less stressful that way.
Although you don’t stand much of a chance targeting for a navigational user search intent unless you own the website the person is looking for, there’s still wiggle room for optimizing your content to match these kinds of queries.
Let’s say a user is looking for a website known as “seoexperts.com”, and they search for the term “seo experts”. The search engine will display all relevant web pages or content that also have that keyword on the results page.
If you’ve optimized your content for that query, you’re still going to rank, and the user might end up visiting your page.
To meet your user search intent on navigational queries, these are the content formats that you should create:
- Clear landing pages and online forms
- Case studies/reports
- List of products and services
- Presentation pages
- Product demo videos
There are situations where brands don’t rank first for their own navigational queries. It’s important that you don’t make that mistake.
Optimize your content for all versions of your brand navigational query that users might enter when searching for you. This includes incorporating keywords or phrases for common typos and misspellings of your brand name so you can rank for them as well.
How to Optimize for Transactional Intent
As mentioned earlier, transactional user search intent indicates that the user is looking to purchase a product or service or carry out a transaction. Consequently, they’re searching for a place to buy what they want.
To benefit from transactional search intent, optimize your content to include transactional search keywords such as discounts, buy, pros vs. cons, product comparison, purchase, order, on sale, where to buy, etc.
Local search optimization is a good way to optimize your content for this kind of query. People in and around your area are looking for nearby places where they can sign-up for a service, schedule an appointment, or make a purchase both online and offline.
By infusing addresses, city names, and regions into your content, your website can rank at the top of the results page in your locality, so you’ll be primed to gain business from users within that location.
Check what your competitors are doing, perform a SERP analysis to understand what your users are looking for and what it takes to rank on top, then optimize your content accordingly.
Some of the best ways to create content for transactional user search intent is through:
- Appointment pages
- Live demos
- Sign-up pages
- Product pages
- Free consultations
- Pricing pages
- Sales pages
When creating content for transactional search intent, focus on providing important information about the product, infused with the relevant transactional keywords to capture the attention of both search engines and your target audience.
Behind every Google search, there is an intention. It is your job to figure out that intention and align your offerings to match it.
Do keyword research to uncover the reason behind certain user queries, then optimize your content to suit them.
To end up with the right audience, your content needs to appeal to people’s needs and user search intent.
With every page you create and every blog post you write, ask yourself whether you’ve optimized your content well enough to satisfy the intent of anyone who visits the page.
If you can understand user search intent and properly convey that through your content, the digital business and marketing landscape is yours to conquer.
Heather Redding is a part-time assistant manager, solopreneur and writer based in Aurora, Illinois. She is also an avid reader and a tech enthusiast. When Heather is not working or writing, she enjoys her Kindle library and a hot coffee. Reach out to her on Twitter.
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