user intent

Understanding User Intent: How to Get Inside Your Customers’ Minds and Boost SEO

Understanding user intent is one of those dirty little secrets of massive SEO success.

Unfortunately, many SEO managers look at keywords merely as search terms to target. They make the mistake of going for the keywords with the highest search volume.

By failing to unravel the driving force behind those searches, they miss the whole point. And as a result, their SEO efforts largely go to waste.

In this guide, we’ll look at why the user’s search intent is central to keyword research and content strategy. We’ll also look at the main types of intent, and how you can elevate your SEO game to the next level.

So let’s start by understanding intent:

Search Intent: The All-Important “Why”

Why does a user type a certain search term? Intent is about what the user is looking to accomplish when they run a search query.

For example, if you search for “Nike shoes,” it’s quite likely you’re looking to buy shoes made by Nike. So you expect to see both the brand website and other places that sell these shoes.

Intent goes beyond keywords, which are just search tools. And considering how search algorithms have evolved to the point of judging intent, keywords have little power if they don’t tap into intent.

As an example, let’s say you have an article on your blog about Google Analytics. If a user types “google analytics” in the search bar, they probably just want to get to their GA account. Even if your site shows up in the results, very few people will actually click through to it.

Apparently, the “why” is more important than the “what.”

Types of Search Queries and Intent

Since the Hummingbird update, Google’s algorithm has been getting better at gauging the user’s intent in a semantic manner. To do this, Hummingbird uses natural language processing to understand the meaning and context of the keywords.

The three main types of intent are:

  • Informational – the user is searching for information about something
  • Transactional – the user is looking to buy or do some related specific activity
  • Navigational – the user wants to get to a specific website

While there may be other types of intent, most searches will fall under one of these. Let’s look at each in a little more detail, plus some SEO tips you can apply to your strategy:

Navigational Intent

With navigational queries, the user is trying to get to a specific site or resource. For example, for the search term “Facebook” it’s safe to say the user wants to go to Facebook.com. Lots of people would rather use search than just type out the web address.

A user looking for SEO services might type “Hoth SEO services.” In this example, the user already knows the service provider, but may not be sure of the site URL.

Informational Intent

A lot of internet searches are all about finding information. The user wants to learn about something and is looking for the most relevant information. These queries will often contain such terms as “what is,” “how to,” etc.

Let’s use an example: “how to do keyword research.” In this search term, the user is probably looking for a keyword research guide with specific steps. They are not looking to buy anything; just the best guide available.

Transactional Intent

With transactional intent, the user wants to buy a product or service. At the very least, they want to do some comparison shopping.

As an example, the query “buy Adidas shoes” is a dead giveaway that the user wants to go to an e-commerce store and buy Adidas shoes. In this case, it is important to make it very clear that you have what the user is looking for.

SEO Strategies for User Intent

SEO for Navigational Intent

In most cases, navigational queries are essentially branded search terms. So the only way you can make use of this is by building a recognizable brand. From an SEO perspective, there’s not much else to do besides having a unique name for your business.

SEO for Informational Intent

Competition for informational search queries is fierce. So how do you distinguish yourself from the competition? Well, content.

Everybody’s talking about content, but producing content that stands out remains a challenge for many marketers and SEOs. Here are a few essentials to always remember about content:

Keyword research-know what your potential customers are searching for. Go deeper with longtail keyword research to discover ultra-specific search terms relevant to the solution you’re offering.

Address the user’s questions-your customers are looking for answers to some specific questions. Focus on addressing each question as exhaustively as you can. Provide examples, illustrations, and any cues that might be of help.

Content promotion-use all possible avenues to promote your content, including micro-influencers.

SEO for Transactional Intent

Transactional queries are usually quite specific. That means it’s important that you make it clear what the user will achieve if they come to your page.
If a user is looking for Adidas shoes, for example, they should see something along these lines in the search results snippet:

“Buy Adidas shoes. Choose from a broad selection and checkout in minutes. Free shipping for orders above…”

Your landing page is also a vital part of the optimization process. Remember, search engines have developed sophisticated algorithms for gauging user experience. A high bounce rate, for example, is a strong indication that you don’t offer a worthwhile user experience.

Wrapping Up: Level Up Your SEO

Moving the needle with your SEO efforts really just depends on a good grasp of a few fundamental principles. Key among them is user intent, or in other words, getting into the customer’s mind… so you can give them with exactly what they’re after.

SEO, as it turns out can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be.

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