If you want to convince people to visit your website, use your services, buy your products, register for a webinar, or subscribe to a newsletter, you must consider their intent! What are they searching for and how can you best answer their needs?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is constantly evolving, particularly when it comes to on-page optimisation. The basic on-page factors include URL structure, keywords, image alt-text, Meta tags, and title tags are things that bog down many people. Your website will rank in the search engines to some degree, on how well you optimise the fundamentals however, they are not as important as understanding the intent of someone searching for a particular keyword (phrase).
The aim is to improve the relevance of your website in response to a search query. SEO tries to satisfy search engine algorithms and sometimes forgets the most significant optimisation principle – User Intent.
User intent needs to form the basis of your SEO and content strategy. When you understand the intentions of your prospects using a search engine, you can tailor your strategy to give them what they are looking for. It’s about feeding a hungry crowd who are out there searching for a business like yours rather than trying to convince and persuade the masses that are not interested in what you provide.
It’s interesting to note most people using search engines typically use about three words when they search for something and often one of the words is a location. The Search Engines goal is to understand what they are looking for so they can send them to the most relevant websites. Your job is to be that most relevant website and feed that hungry crowd with your content.
What is User Intent?
When it comes to SEO, user intent is the fundamental reason behind a specific search query. The search term people enter into Google (or other search engines), represents the goal they want to accomplish. Those searching may want to learn some information, find a product or service, or find a solution to their problem. User intent is the main reason I choose to focus on SEO rather than Social Media Marketing. What’s the user intent for social media? Socialising! That’s not to say social media doesn’t work as a marketing strategy. Of course, it can and does for many people but I’d rather spend my time where people are searching, possibly ready to make a buying decision.
When it comes to SEO, We have three types of user intent:
- Informational (Know) – to learn something
- Transactional (Do) – buy or sell something
- Navigational (Go) – find and go to a specific site
More than 80% are informational search queries, while transactional and navigational have about 10% each. They may be searching to research a product or service just like yours, before making a buying decision. You should design your SEO strategy to attract this type of visitor.
People use these search queries when they want to know the answer to something, so they are question-based and start with “What”, “Why”, or “How”. Google’s goal is to provide an answer to the question. As a business, what are the common questions you are asked? They are possibly the same questions people ask when searching online to find a business like yours. Could you provide the answers to these questions within your website? Maybe you could focus on these as topics for your blog or create a FAQ’s page.
Create content primarily for humans, not robots and you’ll share the same goals as Google.
Tricky, technical strategies may work short term yet quality content will win long-term. The informational content may not boost the conversion rates of your website, but it will increase your online exposure to more of your potential customers. Remember, most people searching online are looking for information so if you give them what they want, hopefully, they begin to know, like and trust your brand so you are ready when it comes to making a buying decision.
People use a transactional search when they want to take action. They are ready to buy right now (or in the near future) if they find what they are looking for. When people search with transactional intent, they may search for a specific product type or model number if that’s appropriate. They have a good understanding of what they want and will be prepared to buy if the price is right, it’s convenient and there is no perceived risk.
Content is still important for people searching with transactional intent however it serves a slightly different purpose. Your website needs to establish trust in your brand. People need to know you’ll deliver on what you promise; it will be stress-free and easy. Product specs may also be important so customers can verify what you are offering is an exact match for what they are looking for. Depending on your niche, transactional intent often provides low search volume, but high conversion rates. For this reason, these search terms are often used in Google Ad campaigns along with SEO.
People use navigational search queries when they want to visit a specific website. For example, if they want to find the Sony website, they would only enter “Sony”. Google will recognise the search intent and shows the Sony website along with other brand-related content such as social media profiles. Searching “Sony” has a very different intent to searching for “Sony 4K HDR Television” Search engines are smart enough to realise this distinct difference and show very different results.
Google has improved its search results with site links that display additional links that help users to visit particular pages within a website. They also realise your location has an impact on what result is likely to be most useful for you. For example, if you search for “Sony” here in Australia you’ll see the Aussie website first. Sony is a multinational company; however, Google will display location-based results because they understand that’s likely to be important to the person conducting the search.
Google has developed its understanding of user intent throughout the years and it will continue to refine it. The search results are becoming more aligned with the actual user intent so techniques to try to trick your way to the top of search engines are becoming outdate. Here at Uplift 360, we love it because it’s becoming more human-like.
How to Optimise for User Intent
It’s time to think like a human, not a robot. What might people search for to find a business like yours? What questions might they ask Google and how can you answer those questions? Are there particular products or services they are looking to buy right now and how can you make that process easy?
Create for yourself a list of phrases you think people might search and try to understand their intention when they search for these particular phrases. Target those things in your business you excel at and are a point of difference in your industry. Too many of us are focused on our competitors and miss the opportunities that exist within our uniqueness. This will help you formulate a content strategy that attracts the right type of people to your website.
Once you’ve got a solid understanding of your content strategy, there are several SEO tools to research and brainstorm other keywords may be worth targeting but I always recommend using your own human intelligence first. Moz, Ahrefs, Squirrly, Keyword Tool, SEMRush are popular tools you may want to use. The Google Keyword Planner is fine too. Use the tools to brainstorm ideas. The tools don’t create success; success is created by your human intelligence in interpreting the data. Never target a keyword simply because the search volume is high, target a keyword because it’s highly relevant to your business.
Blog Post or Regular Website Page?
“I’ve got an idea for some website content but I’m not sure if it’s best suited to my blog or a regular web page” I hear this a lot. The solution is found in considering the purpose of the content and the user intent for people searching for that type of content. A blog is a powerful way to add fresh, unique content to your website frequently. Search Engines love fresh, unique content. Blogs lend themselves to informational user intent particularly when it’s topical and time sensitive. Regular website pages are seen as evergreen content that are usually better suited for transactional and navigational purposes.
What are people searching for when your piece of content will be most relevant? In general, the more specific the phrase, the closer the user is to buy the item. If you have a search phrase (keyword) in mind that you’d like to target, let Google determine the intent. Perform a search for the phrase and see what type of content is currently performing well. It’s likely that will be the best format for your piece of content too.
Understanding user intent helps you map the content to the buyer journey. You can also use it to tailor content to grow your reach. I believe user intent needs to be the basis of your SEO. As useful as keyword research is, knowing the intent behind the keywords, helps you narrow the focus of your strategy.
Putting user intent first puts humans first and we love it here at Uplift 360. It helps guide your content strategy, on-page content choices, and website design. You as a business become laser focussed on your goals when you become laser focused on your customer’s intentions. Each piece of content you create should have one primary objective. It becomes easier to determine that objective when you have a clear understanding of how it best serves your potential customers. The primary objective is all about user intent. It needs to transition through the buyer’s journey according to where they are at right now.
What’s your intention? Contact us if you’d like to support with your website and online strategy!