When thinking about optimizing your content, your top priority should be search intent.
Think about how many times you’ve typed something almost gibberish into Google, and Google totally understands what you mean.
It’s something we might take for granted, but it’s exactly why search intent is so important.
Monthly search volume is good, but since we can’t create demand, we need to align our high-quality content and product landing pages with customer intent.
Google has never really cared about us optimizing our content.
It cares about providing users with the most relevant and unique content to help them find what they are looking for.
Google updates its algorithm frequently as it wants to make sure it caters to the heart, mind and soul of users and matches their queries with relevant results.
In this article, we’ll review why search intent is the most important thing to consider when optimizing content, and how to create a content strategy based on research surrounding search intent.
What is search intent?
Search intent (also known as customer intent and user intent) is the primary reason users visit a search engine and enter a query.
When someone visits a search engine, they have a specific goal in mind that they are trying to achieve by searching.
Think of all the times you’ve used a search engine to research a product or answer a question.
With the development of mobile search, we now have a search engine in our pocket at all times.
That’s why, as marketers and SEO professionals, we need to understand where our customers are in the buyer’s journey when they enter a particular phrase—and on which content or landing page we should target that phrase.
Search intent is really the backbone of optimizing landing pages and should be our main focus when creating content on our site.
However, we need to keep in mind the different stages of the customer search journey.
What are the different types of search intent?
There are many times I’ve searched Google before I even knew what I was looking for.
Other times, I use it to check spelling, or to remind me of the name of a certain movie.
For the most part, we can divide search intent into three main categories.
Learn how to plan and create content to meet the three types of search intent below.
These are early search queries and customers are still trying to learn more about the topic.
When users are in the early stages of their search, our goal is to ensure that users learn more about a product or service.
Research shows that if a user learns something from a website and the website establishes itself as an authoritative source on the topic, that user will eventually come back to the website – and convert when they’re ready.
2. Compare (also known as Navigation)
This is the middle stage content where customers want to compare your product or service to other products or services to help them decide what to do.
Users in the intermediate or comparison stage are trying to see if they really need the product or service they are researching, or if there is a better option than what they found earlier.
Think about how you’ve been comparing different restaurants, or two similar products.
This is the post content where the client is ready to convert.
The reason we create all the other content is to make sure we support our users and help them in the process so they can convert.
Our transactional or end-stage content is usually the category or product page we want users to land on when they’re ready to buy.
It’s important that when we create content, we make sure that the phrases we target align with what users are searching for.
By creating content and landing pages that match all parts of the user journey, we can ensure we’re targeting the right keywords on the best pages Google wants to show.
We can also ensure we have our own digital presence and increase awareness and conversions.
While half the battle is making sure our content is properly optimized, the other half is making sure Google even wants to show our content based on phrases — which is why search intent is so important.
What makes search intent so important?
When conducting keyword research, there are thousands of different factors to consider, such as search volume, seasonality, branded vs. non-branded, localization, and more. But search intent or user intent is the most important factor.
Understanding searcher intent ensures that we prioritize content and keyword relevance.
The more phrases users enter into Google or other search engines, the further down the buyer’s journey they are and the more likely they are to convert.
Search intent is also extremely difficult to figure out.
But once you understand search intent, it makes it easier to optimize your content—because you’ll learn more about what type of content Google wants to show on page 1.
The main thing we should consider is that we don’t decide what search intent is – Google is.
If you go against what Google says, your content will not appear in the SERPs.
There are also many cases where marketers or executives are blinded by search volume. Instead of chasing low-volume phrases for which they were more likely to win, they pursued high-volume phrases — and ended up missing the mark.
How do we ensure our content aligns with search intent?
When you’re having trouble grasping the concept of search intent, take a step back from your company and imagine you’re a user.
Consider what you might search for to land on your blog post or product page.
Type that phrase into Google (preferably browsing incognito or private, so it’s not personalized to your search history) and see what’s displayed.
SERP (Search Engine Results Page) analysis is the best way to confirm what Google thinks users might want to see.
Is there a content aggregator? Is there a trading website?
Are there mixed search engine results pages with content and transactional content?
Many times, even Google doesn’t know what users are looking for, so it shows a mixed SERP with different types of content.
By finding this information in real-time on the SERPs, we can see what Google is rewarding for the top job and what it thinks is the intent of a user query.
SERP analysis is one of the best ways to use competition data when creating content because we want to know which phrases they are using and see if we can compete for the same phrases based on intent.
How do we create a content strategy for search intent?
Content may be king, but users have all the power.
We can create the best content in the world, but if the keywords we target don’t match the user’s intent, it’s really in vain.
Bringing in unqualified traffic doesn’t help anyone and is a waste of our time and energy.
We need to make sure to do keyword and competition research before creating content.
By knowing who else is competing on the SERPs, we now know if we have any chance of ranking on page 1.
Competitive research also allows us to find semantically relevant keywords that we might want to use in our content. These keywords are not necessarily synonyms, but are closely related in nature.
Semantically related keywords can give search engines a better understanding of what our content is, and also allow users 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 a hub-and-spoke content marketing model.
This content marketing model allows us to target our transactional keywords on the hub page and more informative keywords on the spoke pages.
By doing this, we can ensure that our content matches where users are likely to be and the different stages of their journey.
Keyword research is the foundation of your content strategy and is very important when understanding search intent.
The most searched keywords can be attractive, but they can also be very vague and may not be the most interesting terms.
There are also many times when some keywords – singular or plural – have different meanings.
For example: if you search [TV] You might be looking for a TV channel guide or TV history.
However, if you search [TVs]you might be looking to buy a TV from somewhere and see the corresponding search results.
Here’s the point: SEO professionals need to constantly look at what’s already on Google and take the user’s or customer’s point of view when searching.
If we were selling reading glasses, this visual could help us better understand the content strategy we might pursue.
We should target a higher number of keywords on our homepage or category pages.
A lower number of keywords can then be targeted for subcategories, product pages, or even blog posts.
By creating visuals like this, we can determine the total volume of keywords we’re trying to pursue, which can help us understand how much content or what type of content we need to create.
Putting customers first and identifying the search intent of their queries is the best way to ensure that our content meets customer needs.
We also only got to half the story: the research side.
The exciting part comes when you’re able to leverage an enterprise SEO platform to monitor keyword rankings and report to executives the changes you’ve made and how they’ve resulted in a significant increase in traffic or conversions.
By regularly monitoring and reporting our wins, we can gain more support for our SEO program and spread the word about why SEO matters to our organization, making it easier to take a seat at the bigger decision.
Search intent is always the most important factor when it comes to keyword research and optimizing our content.
Google’s recent algorithm update has been very focused on user experience, but it continues to put more emphasis on user intent and make its search engine more conversational in order to generate the most accurate search results for users.
So, when in doubt, make sure search intent and keyword relevance are your main areas of focus when creating and updating your content.
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