The Importance of Understanding User Intent in Your SEO Strategy

user intent seo

user intent seoEach Google update sends all of us Digital Marketers back to the drawing board to draw out new strategies for SEO. It makes re-strategizing a very important part of SEO-based content.

Each Google update is interesting, as well as challenging, for marketers. But it is important to fully understand the impact of the changes in the algorithms.

And the latest updates are focusing on the SERPs displaying results based on user intent, rather than the exact-match keywords.

WHAT IS USER INTENT?

Google now displays results on a search engine results page (aka SERP) according to what the user intended to search for – rather than the exact matched keywords.

PLEASE KEEP IN MIND THAT GOOGLE ALGORITHMS AREN’T SMART ENOUGH TO READ PEOPLE’S MINDS, YET.

The search engine is, however, smart enough to bypass the exact matched keywords and display the best possible results, according to the search query typed by the user.

The Importance of having examples

As shown in the above example, the search query entered was “the importance of having a good sleeping routine”. But Google displayed the top result containing the keywords “bedtime routine” instead of “sleeping routine”.

User intent can be summarized into three aspects, as far as a search engine is concerned:

  • Something they want to do
  • Something they want to know
  • Some place they want to go

This changes the whole perspective of the SEO strategy And the importance of user intent plays a vital role while you develop and deploy your SEO strategy.

Let’s now take a look at how user intent is important for your SEO strategy:

USER INTENT PROVIDES CONTENT STRATEGY

When you start devising your SEO strategy around user intent, you’ll have to take a look at what the users are actually searching for in the search engines.

This isn’t just an indication of the keywords being used by the users in their searches. It also gives a lot of information about how they’re tied to questions or queries on Google.

Let’s take a look at an example for a better understanding of this concept. “Note 8 case reviews” and “Note 8 cases under $30” are two popular short-tail keywords.

The first one, “Note 8 case reviews”, tells you that the users are looking for the reviews of the cases for their phones instead of looking for a product.

This term is generic in nature and the content you produce for it can be generic too. That would suffice here without too much focus on a particular product or type of case.

The other search term “Note 8 cases under $30” is a very specific search term considering the user intent. The searcher is looking for Note 8 cases to buy (eventually) but they have to be inexpensive too.

In this case, the cases have to cost less than 30 dollars. Your content should be designed around the Note 8 cases that would cost a shopper less than $30.

Analyze your traffic and see what search terms your visitors have used to reach your website. And devise your content strategy accordingly.

Revolve the content around your brand and its key selling points. Do not mislead the customer by your content – no matter how attractive the search volume seems to be.

Use Google’s Adwords Keyword Tool to evaluate user intent and align your content strategy using that information.

CLARIFY SEARCHER INTENT

Searcher intent is more often than not confusing for marketers. While the SEO specialists and gurus may deem a search term as commercial, the search results do come out as purely informational in nature.

As an example, the term “Small Business SEO” was searched on Google. The search term seems commercial but the results were surprising. Scrolling down the ads, the organic results that appeared were purely informational in nature.

The initial presumption that the search term is commercial was invalidated after performing the search. However, this information is extremely valuable when devising an SEO strategy.

In an attempt to rank the wrong content for the keyword, the traction gets a hit. In order to develop a successful SEO strategy, identify your keywords but do not classify their types as informational or commercial.

Perform the searches on Google and see for yourself what Google identifies the search term as. If it is informational, try and rank your blog/informational content for the keywords.

If the search term is commercial, rank the service pages of your website.

Takeaway: Do not go with your gut regarding a certain search term. Identify the user intent by performing the search yourself. It will save you a lot of trouble in regards to your SEO strategy.

THE ROLE OF PERSONAS

As a marketer, it is important to fully understand buyer personas and customer journey, and how they integrate with search intent when optimizing your content.

Consider the search term “chicken wings”.

If the searcher is a college or high school student, they might probably be looking for the nearest place that serves chicken wings. Whereas if the searcher is a chef, they might be looking for recipes to make chicken wings.

Optimum SEO practices need to not only understand search intent, but also to create relevant content that brings in visitors to the website.

SEO helps a brand hit its customer constantly along his journey. And optimizing your SEO strategy according to user intent is the best way to get the desired results.

It is important for SEO practitioners and content marketing experts to work alongside each other. They need to create a perfect balance of content that suits the SEO needs of the brand, while keeping in mind the user search intent.

UNDERSTAND THAT INTENT AND RELEVANCY CAN CHANGE

Another important thing to understand when you’re revolving your strategy around user intent is that it can change. The results that Google now displays change with time or overnight.

An example was the Dyn DDoS attack that occurred in 2016. Unlike other DDoS attacks before, this attack got mainstream coverage. Even the White House issued a statement regarding this.

Prior to the attack, the terms ‘DDos’ or ‘DNS’ returned commercial results when searched on Google. That changed very quickly overnight – and the results that were returned AFTER the attacks occurred were informational in nature.

It is important to optimize your content for keywords that provide traffic, as well as providing value and topical relevancy to the domain.

USER INTENT SUPPLIES UNIQUE KEYWORD SUGGESTIONS

When conducting keyword research, SEO practitioners fail to take into account the importance of strong long-tail high-value keywords with strong user intent.

Most of the focus in on keyword popularity: SEO professionals fail to think like the user who is entering the phrases into search boxes on a search engine.

It is not a challenge to find short tail popular keywords. But with user intent in play, long-tail high value keywords should be thrown into the mix.

For example “how to get rid of rust” is a popular keyword that many SEO professionals would know. But what about the users who do not want professional help for getting rid of rust?

This user might end up searching “how to get rid of rust without purchasing a product”. An article with DIY solutions for getting rid of rust would be pretty helpful for that user, in this case.

If the content provided is valuable, the conversion rate will certainly be high.

WRAPPING IT UP

In a nutshell, you need to think like a user instead of an SEO professional when creating your strategies – because user intent is now a key part of SEO.

With voice searches getting popular by the day, the significance of user intent is likely to increase further. And this article should have prepared you for it.

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Sohail Rupani is a senior SEO strategist at PNC Digital, a digital marketing agency based in Orlando. He specializes in SEO and SEM techniques. He is passionate about technology and loves to analyze the tech industry in his spare time and stay in touch with the latest happenings. He also writes technical articles about SEO and digital marketing. Follow @sohailrupani for more updates.

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