Beth Thompson
14/05/20

Understanding Search Intent to Inform Your Content Strategy

User intent is one of the most important concepts in SEO right now. If you want to rank, and rank well, understanding user intent and creating content specifically with user intent in mind is essential.

User intent is the reason behind why a person made a search query; were they looking to learn something? Purchase something? Were they looking for a specific website? It’s our job as SEOs and content creators to understand the meaning behind a search, and create content to suit that search intent.

Why Is User Intent Important?

To rank well in Google nowadays, you need to prove that your search result is the most relevant to the user’s search, meaning that you’ll need to create content that aligns with their search intent.

Google interprets a user’s search and displays the most relevant results it can find, so if you’re wanting to rank for “best boots winter 2020” but you’re trying to make your homepage rank for that query, Google is going to suss out pretty quickly that the page you’re pushing doesn’t answer that query.

If you create a blog post that provides a listicle of the best boots and explains why they’re the best, that has a much better chance of ranking as it’s relevant to the user intent.

The Four Types of User Intent

User intent typically falls into four main categories:

Informational

The intent here is to find out information – often the answer to a question. Informational queries include searches such as “football fixtures” or “who is the Prince of Wales?”

Navigational

The intent here is to find a specific website – many people find it easier to type the website they’re looking for into Google and click the top result rather than type the URL into the search bar. Navigational queries include searches such as “Twitter” or “ASOS”.

Transactional

The intent here is make a purchase, and decide where to make that purchase. The user in this situation already knows what they want to buy, they just want to know the best place to buy it. Transactional queries include searches such as “buy samsung TV” or “cheap Apple watch”.

Commercial Investigation

The intent here is to find a solution for their problem. The user will be in the market for a product or service, but isn’t quite sure what the solution will be. They’re weighing up their options. Commercial Investigation queries include searches such as “best smart home devices” or “top spa getaways”.

The Buying Funnel

When it comes to eCommerce, there are two primary forms of user intent that we focus on; Transactional and Commercial Investigation. These two user intents sit at either end of what’s called “the buying funnel”.

If you think of Google as a funnel, its job is to push users through its funnel to the most relevant website for their query. But users could become buyers at any stage – what we want to do is make sure that we capture the attention of users at the top of the funnel (making Commercial Investigation queries) and the bottom of the funnel (making Transactional queries) and provide them with content that secures their trust and results in a purchase.

To do this, we need to infer user intent and provide content that matches that intent.

How We Infer User Intent

Creating content that matches user intent seems quite simple, but we need to make sure that we’re creating content that matches those two specific types of user intent (Transactional and Commercial Investigation). This often comes from looking at long tail keywords and search queries.

For example, let’s say I typed “milkshake” into Google – this search query could mean a number of things. It could mean:

  • I want to buy a milkshake online
  • I want the best recipe for a milkshake
  • I want information about the song Milkshake by Kelis
  • I want to go to the Channel 5 kids website, Milkshake

Without context, it’s quite hard for Google to know which of these things I mean, and chances are that the SERP will be full of a selection of queries that hit all of these search intents. Targeting our content towards such a general query would make it very difficult for us to get our content in front of the right audience.

However, let’s say I typed “chocolate milkshake” into Google – this narrows the list down a bit to:

  • I want to buy a chocolate milkshake online
  • I want the best recipe for a chocolate milkshake

If your website sells chocolate milkshake mix, for example, we could target “chocolate milkshake” on the relevant page. We could also then create a recipe page which details how to make a chocolate milkshake using the mix from your website.

Providing that the content is detailed and enjoyable enough for the user to read, Google will reward us with a high rank on the “chocolate milkshake” SERP. There’s two pieces of user intent focused content that will work for this website!

How Google Infers User Intent

In the example above, I explained that Google may have a difficult time understanding which results it should show me for the term “milkshake”, but Google has become very intelligent in understanding user intent for itself.

Take the world cup. Most people would think that the search term ‘world cup’ would bring up results about men’s football, but depending on what’s going on in the wider world, Google may infer that users want to see different results. If someone searches for ‘world cup’ while the Cricket world cup is on, for example, then Google will present the majority of its results around the Cricket world cup instead.

This means that when you’re dealing with Informational and Commercial Investigation queries in particular, the SERPs become very changeable depending on the global context.

Seasonal User Intent

Seasonality is one of the big context influencers for Google, transforming a little searched-for term into a big hitter depending on the time of year. But beware – if you’re targeting seasonal user intent, it could spell disaster for your SEO strategy long-term.

For example, if your website sells flowers and you spend all of your time creating quality content around ‘Mother’s Day bouquets’ – you’re only going to be a winner in SERPs once a year. Instead, you need to look at a broad mixture of search queries that have relevant user intent all year round – queries like ‘Birthday flowers delivery’ or ‘best indoor blooms’.

Key User Intent Takeaways

  • Understand which type of user intent is relevant to your business
  • Research popular queries in your industry and work out the user intent
  • Create content that targets that intent all year round

Need help creating a user intent-led content strategy? Get in touch with our SEO team at Visualsoft

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