The Importance of Understanding User Intent in SEO Services

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User intent underpins almost everything we do in digital marketing, but it’s often not well understood. My recent experience with trying to purchase a digital camera online highlighted this. We wanted to find out which cameras are the best, a simple enough question, but the results we received in the search engines were for prices and retailers of said camera, not what we wanted to know. This is a common problem with SEO. Many believe that ranking for keywords with high search volumes is the be all and end all, but what’s the point in ranking highly for something that nobody actually wants? Like in my example, user intent is what the internet user really wants to achieve when they search for something online. It’s what they would consider a satisfactory result or an accomplishment of their search. Essentially, it’s being able to identify what your customer wants from your digital existence. It’s rarely as straightforward as a purchase, and its how you tailor and develop your internet marketing strategy around your customers’ wants and needs. Understanding user intent is what makes online marketing more logical and less of a lucky dip on who lands on your page, what those visitors do on your page, and whether they convert or not.

What is User Intent?

Transactional Keywords – This is when users want to buy something or complete an action. For example, “buy Samsung Galaxy S8,” “movie tickets to Guardians of the Galaxy,” “appointment for doctors.”

Navigational Keywords – This is when a user already knows what type of website they want to go to but might not remember the exact URL. They use keywords on a search engine to try and land themselves on a certain website. For example, “Facebook login page,” “Next clothing store.”

Informational Keywords – This is when a user wants to understand a certain topic or subject. The keywords used in this could be “how to,” “what is,” “best way to,” etc. An example of this could be a user searching for the best way to recycle paper, so they would type in “best way to recycle paper.”

When it comes to searching on the internet, we often seek out information to find our desired destination, whether that be a physical location or a webpage. However, navigating the web can be frustrating if we find it difficult. Due to this, we often turn to a search engine to find information on something. When we type in what we are looking for in the search bar, this is known as user intent. User intent is the goal or the desired action a user wants to take when they enter a query into a search engine. Users have several different reasons for searching, which can vary from informational keywords to transactional keywords, navigational keywords, and commercial investigation. User intent and the keywords that they have entered are related. Here’s a breakdown:

The Role of User Intent in SEO Services

Understanding the motives of the user also enables search engine optimizers to predict what the user will do upon entering the site. For example, a user with navigational intent will expect to find a company homepage, while a user with informational intent will expect to find information or answers to their questions. By predicting these actions, a site can be better designed to cater to the needs of its audience.

Search engines use complex algorithms to determine the most relevant web pages to display to the user in relation to their search, using the information available on the website as well as other factors such as page rank to make this decision. A page that has been optimized with user intent in mind will be seen as relevant to a user’s search, and visitors who find the information on the page in line with their original search will be more likely to develop a positive association with the site. This makes user intent an important factor to consider in on-page SEO.

Understanding is the key word here, as understanding the intent behind user searches allows search engine optimizers to target their desired audience. Failure to understand user intent can lead to attracting large amounts of traffic to a site; however, this traffic will consist of users who are not interested in the content the site provides. Ill-targeted traffic is counterproductive, since users who do not find what they are looking for will leave the site, possibly developing a negative association with the site in the process.

User intent is the ultimate objective behind an internet user’s search. It is the definitive goal a user has in mind when conducting a search engine query, and can typically be broken down into three categories: informational, commercial, and navigational. Informational user intent is when the user seeks information, be it a specific fact or a broad understanding of a topic. Commercial user intent occurs when a user is looking to buy a product or service. Finally, navigational user intent is when a user is seeking a specific online destination, for example, the Facebook login page or the homepage of a specific company.

Benefits of Understanding User Intent in SEO Services

Navigational: The user is attempting to visit a particular site or page. Informational: The user is attempting to learn new information on a certain topic. Transactional: The user is looking to buy a product or service.

When a user performs a search on Google, they are doing so with a specific goal in mind. Whether it be to research a topic, learn something new, or purchase a product, the user has an intent and purpose behind their search. User intent can generally be categorized into three main types.

In the world of search engine optimization (SEO), the primary focus for any optimization project is to increase rankings and traffic. However, the ultimate goal of any website is to strive for increased revenue and conversions. To better understand the relationship between SEO and the intentions of the user, let’s take a closer look at what user intent actually is and its beneficial impact on SEO services.

Improved Keyword Targeting

To demonstrate the advantages of understanding user intent and effectively implementing keyword targeting into your SEO strategy, let’s take a look at an example in the insurance industry. Consider the user who types into Google “life insurance”. What is this user looking for? The context of this search is uncertain, but from past data, we can assume this user is looking for information on the different types of life insurance and policy options available. This is known as informational intent. This contrasts with a user who types “best life insurance policy”. This user is obviously looking to purchase life insurance. This is known as transactional intent. Now compare this with a user who specifies the search as “State Farm life insurance login”. This user is obviously a previous customer wanting to navigate directly to the State Farm login page. This is known as navigational intent.

User intent can be a difficult concept to grasp and successfully implement in your SEO strategy. What is user intent and how do we find it? There are 3 types of user intent: informational, navigational, commercial, and transactional. When it comes to implementing user intent into your SEO strategy, it is important to remember that not all keywords encompass user intent. For example, if a potential customer is looking to buy a new iPhone 7, they are not going to search “iPhone 7” into Google because the SERP is showing information on the phone and comparison options to the newer iPhone 8. Instead, they will type something like “iPhone 7 price” or “buy iPhone 7”. It is important to remember the 3 different types of user intent and that different types of keywords can have different meanings. This is where keyword targeting comes in.

Enhanced User Experience

Today, a great number of businesses seem to undermine or forget the importance of customer satisfaction. While they understand its relevance, companies often fail to shift their own demographics and assumptions away from what they think is good to what the customer thinks is good. Though the gap between the business and customer may not always be wide, it is enough to cause a significant deficit in sales and interest. One of the primary objectives of understanding user intent is to bridge that gap. When a user searches something as simple as “doctors accepting new patients,” they are more than just a lead. They have an issue that needs resolution and they are taking the first steps to side-stepping their problem. If that user quickly becomes frustrated and cannot find a way to solve their problem, the odds are they’ll grow more irritated and find it less likely to give the service another chance. This is purely psychological, the user feels that a service ranging from anything couldn’t even take the time to cater to make their experience possible. By accurately understanding the user intent with this search and by shaping their site for a more positive experience, these users can quickly turn into leads and potentially loyal customers.

Higher Conversion Rates

In a recent survey of marketing professionals, thirty percent claim they are being pressured to show the return on investment of their marketing programs. An effective SEO program can bring oodles of free traffic to a website, but if it’s not targeted traffic, there will be no change in the bottom line. Increasing traffic from 250 visitors a month to 2500 visitors a month is great, but if it is the wrong traffic, the results will be the same. Let’s pretend we have a used car lot in Philadelphia. Now it would be a safe assumption to say our dealer is looking to attract locals who are in need of a cheap car. Now examine the following keyword: “cheap car”. The searcher’s intent is quite obvious, and a site visitor coming from such a search is likely to click the back button if they see used luxury cars. This keyword is clearly an attempt to find a quite specific type of cheap car. A webmaster who understands user intent knows this will not be a good keyword to target. A much better strategy would be to target a local looking for a car needing repairs with a keyword using vivid description specific to the luxury car and an emphasis on the low cost. A user searching for this car can be looking to sell it later for a higher price or keep it for a substantial amount of time. Both situations are good potential customers for a used car dealer, and the keywords bring precisely the type of traffic the page is looking for.

Strategies for Understanding User Intent in SEO Services

Conducting keyword research is cornerstone in understanding the user intent. Without knowing what people are searching for, it is next to impossible to land those users on your site. Keyword research also helps you to gauge which type of queries are important for your business. Let’s take an example of a university want to land more students to their site. They’ll certainly want to land on users who search for “top engineering colleges in (state name)” as that can be their potential students. They can create custom content targeting this queries and hope to get those students. But the same university won’t want to spend time on users who are searching for “best engineering colleges in India” as these users can be from another states or potential overseas candidates. So they can put a filter on these kind of queries and may be allocates less resource in creating content for these users. But before all this, they need a knowledge about what people are actually searching for and keyword research is a perfect solution for this. After having a desired set of keywords, it is necessary to organise them into search intent categories to get the right context behind each query. For example, the keyword “engineering college forums” may have informational intent whereas “top engineering colleges and their placement records” may have navigational intent. Understanding context help you to know what users want when they search for a keyword and it is essential in mapping right type of content to serve the users. Now our university can create a series of articles about different colleges and their placement records and make them available in accessible manner to cater to navigational users.

Conducting Keyword Research

Keyword research is the backbone of understanding user intent and should lay the foundation for any SEO campaign. This is where you’re looking to understand the types of keywords that are being used by the people you want to target. There are a variety of strategies to this, starting with brainstorming and any knowledge you have of the target audience. Aim to create a list of seed keywords that will identify the core topic of the website. From here you will start using a variety of keyword research tools to build up a bigger list of keywords. Your aim at this stage is to amass a large number of keywords that will be filtered at a later stage. With the list of keywords being highly specific to the target audience, one of the first effective ways to understand user intent is through search engine results pages (SERPs). By searching for all the keywords and analyzing the type of results, it should give an understanding of the intent behind those keywords. For example, informational keywords should return results showing information-based content, whilst transactional keywords should return results of selling a product or service. SERPs will also be used to sift through the keywords and drop ones that are not specific enough in relation to the content you’re hoping to rank.

Analyzing User Behavior and Engagement Metrics

An integral aspect of understanding user intent, user behavior, and engagement metrics can provide crucial insights into the reasons behind the user’s searches. There are several useful tips and techniques for analyzing user behavior. One of the simplest and most commonly used methods to gauge user behavior is the use of the ‘site:’ command in Google search. This will bring up a list of indexed pages from your site, and using this data, you can find out what pages get indexed and what pages do not. Pages which are not indexed are obviously not user landing pages, and this insight can be invaluable. Log files are also valuable in providing a detailed insight into user behavior and can be used to identify the user’s use of keywords. Another method is setting up a system for user surveys and being able to identify and contact users whose search query has triggered the desired user action. By posing simple questions about what the user was looking for and if they found it, you can gain an understanding of how and why users came to your site for set keywords and if what they found was satisfactory. This, however, can be a difficult method to manage, and incentivizing users to respond can be a costly venture. During these research techniques, it’s useful to compile keyword data related to user behavior. This can be a complex task, and various behavior metrics can also provide insight into content messaging, ad targeting, and information architecture which affects the perception and delivery of content. Behavior-based metrics on the effectiveness of delivered content are paramount to aligning with the user’s informational query and end goal.

Creating Relevant and High-Quality Content

Once we have a specific intent or set of intents for a particular piece of content, we want to determine what type of content best satisfies that intent. Intent targeting how to accomplish something is best satisfied with instructional content. Intent targeting finding information is best satisfied with information resource content (guides, tutorials, etc.). Intent targeting a specific site is best satisfied with navigational content (homepages, etc.). This is important because often times the same key phrase can have many different intents, and thus return different types of search results. The goal here is to align the type of our content with the type of content that satisfies the intent we are targeting.

The first step in this strategy is to take a step back from the list of key phrases. When writing on a particular topic, we want to identify all possible user intents for a given key phrase, and determine which intent our website can best satisfy. Assign a piece of content to one or multiple intents, and begin to optimize around that/those intents. For example, if our site sells a product that cures common hangover symptoms, we may want to assign a particular blog post to the intent of “how to cure a hangover”, and ensure that this blog post is a landing page for users using key phrases related to curing a hangover. This can be an inexact science, but we want to ensure our content is targeting something specific, and has a greater chance of resonating with users.

The final strategy for understanding user intent is creating relevant and high-quality content. This can sometimes be the most challenging strategy to implement, and it can be a difficult shift in a culture that is used to optimizing content around a list of key phrases. The objective here is to shift focus from the key phrases identified in the keyword research phase, and optimize around satisfying user intent. We want to ensure that it is easy for a searcher to find our website using a variety of key phrases, and easily find what they are seeking once they arrive.

How Sotavento Medios Utilizes User Intent in SEO Services

The global approach in the internet has achieved innumerable points over the years, and has hence made it very much necessary for local enterprises to adopt competitive measures in order to sustain in their business. Same is the case with Sotavento Medios, a digital marketing agency in Singapore. It was evident to them that there was increasing competition in their business, and the only way forward would be to adopt the latest and the most competitive strategies in digital marketing. They have seen SEO as a strategy which could give them a slight edge over the others, by enhancing the visibility of their website locally, and hence they decided to implement SEO for their website Sotaventomedios.com. And as the first step in their SEO service, they endeavoured to understand the kind of local customers which they would be willing to target, and what those customers would eventually be looking for when they land on Sotaventomedios.com. This was essentially understanding the user intent, and it was important for Sotavento Medios to identify the same, if they were to have any hopes of succeeding in their SEO strategy. The first thing they did to understand the user intent was to put themselves in the shoes of their targeted customer. They asked themselves what would they search for if they were looking for a digital marketing agency locally in Singapore, as the likeliness of their website showing up for those particular search queries would be their best chance of attracting a customer to their website. This exercise provided them with a handful of potential keywords. But a handful of potential keywords is not good enough to base an SEO strategy on, and there was a need to expand on those keywords and get an idea of the full scale of what a potential customer would be looking for.