You’ve done it!
You’ve reached the number-one spot in the search engines for your main keywords. You’re consistently ranking highly, and your traffic is through the roof.
Now you can sit back and watch those sales rack up.
Only … nothing’s happening.
What’s going on? You’ve missed a vital ingredient in your SEO campaign: User intent.
Without focusing on user intent, you can kiss goodbye to those high conversions you’ve been dreaming about.
Here’s what you need to know to provide your visitors with exactly what they want—and ensure you’re keeping up with an increasingly smart Google algorithm.
Google Gets Smarter
Every time someone searches for something, they have a motive in mind. They want to achieve something, to find something, to get something answered.
Google wants users to find the most relevant results for their search terms. So it focuses on providing links that don’t simply match the keyword being used but that are most likely to provide the answers the searcher is looking for.
This is user intent.
For the last few years, Google has been getting smarter with its algorithm. Towards the end of 2014, marketers realized that if they were ever going to get better rankings and conversion rates, they would have to take user intent more seriously.
Otherwise, the scenario is this: You get to the top ranking for a keyword, the user finds your website, but they don’t find the content they were looking for.
So they bounce … and no sale for you.
…something that improves the foundation of your SEO.
And it can drive content strategies that lead to more leads, conversions, and sales.
The Types of User Intent
In this blog, Jeremy Smith categorizes intent into three types:
So, people who: want to get to a certain website; are looking for specific information; want to buy something.
Another blog in SearchEngineLand categorizes three goals of user intent:
- Know Something
- Do Something
- Go Somewhere
It also makes the good point that many queries have more than one intent.
It makes sense that if you want people to stay on your website and make a purchase, you need to target the right type of searcher with your content and provide content that answers their specific questions.
Discovering User Intent
For some keywords (“pizza restaurant”), the keyword intent may be obvious. However, it is less obvious with others.
Generic keywords rarely provide much to go on, whereas location-based keywords and long-tail keywords are often much clearer.
That means you will often want to carry out a bit of detective work to discover the intent behind your chosen keywords.
And there’s an easy way to find out.
Simply plug your search terms into Google and see what comes up. You will quickly see the things that people are looking for according to Google’s algorithm, which chooses the results based partly on content that people engage with the most.
The same SearchEngineLand article uses the example of “bed bugs” to find out the user intent.
When it plugs in “bed bugs,” nearly all of the results are around getting rid of the nasty critters.
So there you have your user intent: How to get rid of bedbugs.
Do the same with your keywords now. Figure out the intent behind them, and provide content that answers your searchers’ needs.
This will lead to more traffic and better quality traffic.
Get into the habit of doing this regularly (what SearchEngineLand calls “Google Jeopardy”). Track the user intent for your keywords, note any changes over time, and monitor the trends.
You can then provide the exact content that your buyers want.
Other Ways to Work Out User Intent
Looking at existing Google results is the best way to determine the user intent behind your keywords. But you could also research forums, Quora, and social networks where your customers are talking about the solutions you provide.
Look at the questions people are asking, monitor the conversations, get involved.
Ask your sales team about the recurring questions they receive from potential customers, and use this to base your content around.
There are lots of ways to go about it, and you’ll soon have more content ideas than you could possibly write about.
Go Beyond Just Keywords
The focus here is to go beyond simply using the right keywords within your content. From now on, you need to create content around those keywords that answers the questions people are asking.
The focus is shifting. Google is getting better at user intent, and sometimes it displays results that don’t actually use the keyword because it knows what people are likely to be looking for.
What all this means is that writing for the user is more important than ever (as if it was ever unimportant).
You need to focus on user experience above and beyond SEO. You must optimize for the user experience rather than optimize just for keywords.
Paid Search and User Intent
There is another area where user intent comes into play, and that is with paid search.
Unbounce has written a great article on this topic.
Essentially, if you don’t take user intent into account with your PPC campaign, you can end up spending a lot of money.
The idea is the same: To convert visitors, you need to know what they want, what they are thinking, and what they are really searching for.
You then need to use this to direct the copy of your ads and landing pages.
When it comes to getting landing page conversions, you need to know exactly what your user wants, and then craft copy around the intent, highlighting the benefits for the user based on their intent.
One of the best pieces of advice is to target people who are ready to buy.
People will be at different stages of the buying cycle when they search for your products and service online. Someone using a keyword like “buy” or “cheap” is probably ready to buy.
Whereas someone looking for “reviews,” “best,” “help,” “advice,” etc, is probably still researching.
Use the same trick of finding out exactly what people are searching for with a particular keyword by plugging it into Google, and then base your AdWords ad around that.
People start by doing generic searches. They are aware of their pain, but not the solution. You want to target people who have gone past this, who have done their research, and who are now in buying mode.
By focusing on the last group, the buying keywords, you will get more from your advertising spend because you are focusing on those customers who are most likely to convert.
Make Sure the User Comes First
It’s so easy to get caught up in the goal of ranking highly. But rankings on their own are nothing.
Sure, you will get more visitors, but people know exactly what they are looking for. If you don’t provide the content they want, they will not hang around.
Look over your main keywords for both organic and paid search. Are you really creating content that matches user intent?
Find out the user intent behind your keywords, and create content that provides the solutions searches are looking for.