What is User Intent? Understanding User Intent and How it Helps With SEO

— October 6, 2018

What is User Intent?

User intent goes beyond keywords to describe what a user is looking for when they turn to a search engine. User intent tells us the reasoning behind the keywords and phrases the user chooses. Search queries fall into three types of intent:

? Informational: Users are looking for information. These are users who want to know something.
? Navigational: Users are trying to get to a certain website. These are users who want to go somewhere online.
? Transactional: Users are prepared to make a purchase, or to perform another type of specific online activity. These are users who want to do something.

User intent, or what the searcher is looking for when conducting a search in Google or another search engine, plays a major role in your SEO and conversion rate optimization (CRO) efforts.

? Solid understanding of user intent guides appropriate keyword selection and targeting.
? Knowing user intent throughout all stages of the buyer’s journey enables you to craft content to target them at each stage.
? Having a grasp on user intent ensures you’re focused on serving your readers well, increasing the chances of conversion.
? When you win user intent, SEO and CRO come much more naturally. Focus on your user, and the rest will follow.

All too often SEO seems to focus on the numbers and metrics. While these things are important to helping us gauge our success with a strategy, they are not the only things that matter. Focusing on user intent sets both SEO and CRO off for greater return on investment, simply because they both have the end user in mind.

What is User Intent? Understanding User Intent and How it Helps With SEO

What Can We Learn from User Intent?

User intent tells us what it is our customers want. It’s essentially about marketing. When we focus less on the keywords we should target, and more on how to serve our website users/customers, that’s when we’ll succeed.

How Does Google Handle User Intent?

Google handles user intent by looking at the query’s meaning. Take for instance, when someone searches for “Apple” they are either looking for information about the fruit, or the company. Google uses the other words and phrases in the query to determine what it is the user wants more information about and then displays the appropriate results.

To make sure your content ranks accordingly, you can use topic modeling to help create your content. This ensures you’re touching on all the other related content Google would expect to see for a query and helps them in separating the content about the fruit from the content about Apple’s products.

Applying User Intent to Your Digital Strategy

Before you do anything else, you must first learn which search queries are bringing traffic to your website. One of these easiest ways to do this is to look at your Google Webmaster Tools reports. Do this by navigating to Search Traffic > Search Queries.

Once you learn which search queries bring the traffic, you can take a closer look at the user intent behind each of them. Categorize them based on where they fall into the three types of queries. Worry less about the navigational or go queries, because from an SEO standpoint, you’ve already won those. Focus your efforts on the know/informational queries and the do/transactional queries.

Make sure the queries and the user intent match up to the kind of content you provide.

Introduce conversion optimization techniques based on the user’s intent. After you create content that falls in line with the user’s intent, develop calls to action to meet that user’s desire. This way, when searchers arrive at your site – no matter the intent of the query that brought them there, you meet their needs.

Informational Queries

When you have informational queries, make sure you provide informational results. People here aren’t looking to buy anything, so don’t try to sell them your product. Instead, educate them on how your products and services work, and how they can help solve the user’s problem.

Navigational Queries

When you have navigational queries, you won’t have to do much in terms of conversion optimization, because you’ll win the query from an SEO point of view. But, to make sure people get to where they need to go, you’ll still want to build out your site with great content so you can get site links to show in the SERPs. And, you’ll want a good social presence to strengthen brand awareness, and get those social signals going to Google.

Transactional Queries

When it comes to transactional queries, you know people are trying to buy, so that’s where you can use all the conversion optimization tactics you have available. Make sure you have a purchase page for all the transactional queries. In most cases, the purchase page isn’t technically a landing page, but it is still prime for conversions. Treat each of your purchase pages as their own landing page – with strong headlines, calls to action, product images, and so on.

That said, transactional queries aren’t limited to buying; they can refer to any level of action. People could be looking for coupons to save money on a future purchase, for free trials or samples. Regardless, people with this intent aren’t looking to navigate anywhere, and they already have the information they need, so that’s not what they are looking for.

Building a Variety of Landing Pages Specific to User Intent

That means you’ll need some kind of landing page for transactional queries – whether they are looking to buy or not. There’s nothing wrong with having multiple landing pages on your site – simply because you don’t know which page your user will land on – but you want to be ready for any possible scenario.

Even if you only have one product, you will need different landing pages – each designed to address a specific user intent. Not all of your landing pages need to pitch your products or services. If your site’s page doesn’t match a user based on where they are on their buyer’s journey, your chances for conversion are slim to none.

On those landing pages, take the time to develop unique offers and calls to action based on that user intent. User intent follows from the query in the search engine all the way to when they view your page. It’s their intent that drives them to click your link on the SERP, and drives their actions as they view your page.

If a user lands on your page because of an informational query, chances are they’re not ready to buy your ebook or sign up for a free trial of your service. (That doesn’t mean you can’t get them later, that just means you have to nurture the lead a bit differently first.) Start them off with a smaller offer, such as an email list sign up, a free webinar, or free report.

Keep Up the A/B Testing Efforts

Because user intent affects whether or not your visitors will click on a button, you’ll want to optimize both the copy and the call to action. Because the optimization process can be quite complex, whether you’re implementing conversion rate optimization on purchase transactions or other queries, you should still use split-testing to ensure you get everything right.

Spend time testing everything from your copy (even down to the word in some cases!), button size and placement, CTA, and more. The more testing you do, the better refined your landing pages become, and the more refined they are, the higher the chance of conversion you have.

Conversion Rate Optimization is Making User Intent Work for You

Your conversion rate will always be dismal if you don’t pay attention to user. It’s the focus on what the user wants, what they are looking for, and your ability to deliver on that, that will push your conversion rate up.

As you work on conversion rate optimization, make sure you have options for users to convert on all types of user intent. Prepare for the action the user intends to take based on their query, and use that content to nurture them through your funnel. Always be thinking about the next steps a user may be interested in, and be ready and waiting for them when they move forward.

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Author: Garry Grant

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