Optimizing content starts with knowing what the search intent of your customer really is. Learn to create a strategy around search intent.
When thinking about optimizing content, your top priority should be search intent.
Think about how many times you have typed something into Google that was practically gibberish, and Google understood exactly what you meant.
This is something we may take for granted, but it’s the exact reason why search intent is so important.
Monthly search volume is nice to have, but since it’s impossible to create demand, we need to align our high-quality content and our product landing pages with the customer’s intent.
Google has never really cared about us optimizing our content.
It cares about serving the user the most relevant and unique content to help them find what they are looking for.
Google updates its algorithm so often because it wants to make sure that it is meeting the hearts, minds, and souls of its users, and matching their queries with relevant results.
In this article, we will review why search intent is the most important thing to consider when optimizing content, and how to create a content strategy based on research around search intent.
What Is Search Intent?
Search intent – also known as customer intent and user intent – is the primary reason behind users going to a search engine and typing in a query.
When someone visits a search engine, they have a specific goal in mind that they are trying to accomplish with their search.
Think about all the times you have used a search engine to conduct research around a product or to get a question answered.
And with the growth of mobile search, we now have a search engine in our pockets at all times.
That’s why, as marketers and SEO professionals, we need to understand what part of the buyer’s journey our customers are at when they type in a specific phrase – and on which piece of content or landing page we should target this phrase.
Search intent is truly the backbone of a well-optimized landing page and should be our primary focus when creating content on our site.
But, we need to keep in mind the different stages of a customer’s search journey.
What Are The Different Types Of Search Intent?
There have been many times when I’ve searched Google before even knowing what I’m looking for.
Other times, I’ve used it to spellcheck, or to remind me of a particular movie’s name.
For the most part, we can group search intent into three main categories.
See how you can plan and create content to meet the following three types of search intent.
These are early-stage search queries where the customer is still trying to learn more about the topic.
When a user is in the early stages of searching, our goal is to make sure that the user learns more about the product or service.
Studies show that if a user learns something from a website and the site establishes itself as an authoritative source on the topic, that user will end up coming back to the website – and converting later on, when they are ready.
Image from Google, June 2022
2. Comparative (Also Known As Navigational)
This is middle-stage content where the customer is looking to compare your product or service with another to help them decide what to do.
Users who are in the middle or comparative stage are trying to see if they really need the product or service they were researching, or if there are even better options than the one they had previously found.
Think about all the times you’ve compared different restaurants to each other or two similar products.
Image from Google, June 2022
This is late-stage content where the customer is ready to convert.
The reason we’ve created all of the other content is to make sure we are supporting our users and helping them along the way, so they can convert.
Our transactional or end-stage content is typically category or product pages where we want the user to land when they are ready to purchase.
Image from Google, June 2022
It’s important that when we are creating content, we make sure that the phrases we are targeting align with the intent of what the user is searching for.
By creating content and landing pages that match all parts of a user’s journey, we can ensure we are targeting the right keywords on the best page that Google wants to show.
We can also make sure that we are owning our own digital presence and increasing visibility and conversions.
While half of the battle is making sure our content is optimized properly, the other half is making sure Google even wants to show our content based on the phrase – which is why search intent is so important.
What Makes Search Intent So Important?
There are thousands of different factors to consider when doing keyword research, such as search volume, seasonality, branded vs. non-branded, localization, etc. But search intent, or user intent, is the most important one.
Understanding the searcher’s intent ensures that we are prioritizing relevancy in our content and in our keywords.
The more phrases a user is typing into Google or another search engine, the further they are in the buyer’s journey, and the more likely they are to convert.
Search intent is also extremely difficult to figure out.
But once you have an understanding of search intent, it makes optimizing content much easier – as you will know more about what type of content Google wants to show on Page 1.
The main thing we should consider is that we are not deciding what the search intent is – Google is.
If you go against what Google says, your content won’t show up in SERP.
There are also many instances where marketers or executives are blinded by search volume; rather than going after the lower volume phrases they have a better chance of winning, they pursue the higher volume phrases – and end up missing the mark.
How Can We Make Sure Our Content Aligns With The Search Intent?
When you’re struggling to grasp the concept of search intent, take a step back from your company and imagine you are a user.
Think about what you might search for in order to land on your blog article or product page.
Type that phrase into Google (preferably via Incognito or private browsing, so it’s not personalized towards your search history), and see what shows up.
A SERP (search engine result page) analysis is the best way to confirm what Google thinks the user may want to see.
Are there content aggregators? Are there transactional sites?
Is there a mixed search engine result page with both content and transactional content?
There are many times when even Google doesn’t know what the user is looking for, so it shows a mixed SERP with different types of content.
By finding this information live on the SERPs, we can see what Google is rewarding in the top positions, and what it believes is the intent of the user’s query.
SERP analysis is one of the best ways to use competitive data when creating content, because we want to know what phrases they are using and see if we can even compete for that same phrase based on intent.
How Can We Create A Content Strategy For Search Intent?
Content might be king, but the user has all the power.
We can create the best content in the world, but if the keywords we are targeting don’t match the intent of the user, it’s really all for nothing.
Bringing in unqualified traffic helps no one, and is a waste of our time and energy.
We need to make sure we are doing keyword and competitive research before creating our content.
By understanding who else is competing on the SERP, we now know if we have a chance of ranking on Page 1.
Competitive research also allows us to find semantically related keywords that we might want to use in the content. These are keywords that are not necessarily synonyms, but are closely related in nature.
Semantically related keywords give search engines a better understanding of what our content is about, and also enable users who are searching for similar things (but using different keywords) to find our content.
One of the best ways to create a content strategy with search intent in mind is the hub and spoke content marketing model.
This content marketing model allows us to target our transactional keywords on the hub pages and the more informational keywords on the spoke pages.
By doing this, we can make sure we have content that matches where our users might be, and the different stages of their journey.
Keyword research is the bread and butter of a content strategy, and it’s extremely important when understanding search intent.
The keywords with the most search volume might be attractive, but they can also be very vague and may not be the best words to focus on.
There are also many times when some keywords – singular or plural – have a different meaning.
For example: If you search for [TV] you could be looking up a television channel guide or the history of the television.
But, if you search for [TVs], you’re probably looking to purchase a television from somewhere and will see corresponding search results.
The point being: SEO professionals need to continuously look at what is already showing up on Google, and adopt the user’s or customer’s perspective when searching.
This visual helps us better understand the content strategy we might go after if we sell reading glasses.
Image created by author, June 2022
We should be targeting the higher volume keywords on our homepages or category pages.
The lower volume keywords could then be targeted on sub-categories, product pages, and perhaps a blog article.
By creating a visual like this, we can identify the total amount of keywords we are trying to go after, which can help us understand how much content or what type of content we need to create.
Putting our customers first and identifying the search intent of their query is the best way to ensure our content matches our customer’s needs.
We’ve also only talked about half the story: the research side.
The exciting part comes when you’re able to utilize an enterprise SEO platform to monitor keyword rankings and report back to executives on the changes you made – and how they resulted in a significant increase in traffic or conversions.
By monitoring and reporting our wins frequently, we can get more buy-in to our SEO program and evangelize why SEO is important to our organization, making it easier to have a seat at the table for bigger decisions.
Search intent will always be the most important factor when it comes to keyword research and optimizing our content.
Google’s recent algorithm updates have been very focused on user experience, but it continues to put more emphasis on user intent and making its search engine more conversational in order to produce the most accurate search results for users.
So when in doubt, make sure that search intent and relevancy of keywords are your main focus areas when creating and updating content.