If you’re a online marketer, creating content which ranks high in search engines yet still appeals to readers is an issue that’s likely to come up again and again.
Luckily, the solution is a lot simpler than you might think. Google has been telling us for years that we need to focus more on users and less on ticking SEO boxes. And while keywords and meta descriptions should still be an important part of your SEO strategy, this should no longer be the only priority. What really counts is delivering a valuable customer experience, and one of the best ways this can be achieved is by deciphering the user’s intent behind their search query to successfully provide them with content which meets their needs.
Over the past few years, search engines have gotten better at matching content to user’s queries, evolving to reward content that is both valuable and relevant. More so than ever, this means that if you want your website to be noticeable online you need to understand your audience.
That’s where user intent comes into play.
But what does user intent mean?
Essentially, it relates to the identification of what a web user is searching for, and follows the basic principle that anyone who performs a web search has a specific intention.
Let’s take a real example. If you type the word “Coffee” into Google, you’re likely to be hit with a variety of search results. This is because Google is trying to decipher the intent behind this query – does the searcher want directions to local coffee shops? Information about the best blends? Or perhaps the user wants to purchase coffee online?
Similarly, Google has also evolved in such a way that it is able to generate results to specific conversational search queries, i.e. “Where can I buy coffee close to my home” – instead of analyzing each individual keyword, Google is able to determine the entire meaning of the search query enabling the search engine to provide rich, valuable results.
The good news is that user intent means that you don’t have to make the compromise between “writing for people” or “writing for search”.
When you write it’s crucial to remember that a person performing a search always has a goal in mind. Therefore by establishing the need behind the query you will not only be able to create useful content that ranks high in search results but also deliver low bounce rates and better engagement. So when doing your keyword research, make sure user intent is the focus of what you do. A handy tip is to remember that keywords are usually one of three things:
Transactional: The searcher wants to buy something
Navigational: The searcher is looking for a specific site
Informational: The searcher wants answers on a specific topic
Another useful way of decoding user intent is to study the SERPs for your website’s keywords; this should give you a good indicator of the sort of things people are looking for as the immediate results will reflect the content people are engaging with. By tracking keywords based on user intent you will become better at predicting trends in your industry. In turn, this will allow you to provide the specific content that your users are searching for.
Once you have your list of keywords, a good place to start is to identify your low performing webpages. The simplest way to do this is to use analytics to establish pages which you believe are high quality but receive a below-average amount of traffic based on site averages.
The next step would be to discover the keywords that are being used in order to find your page. For instance if your top ranking keywords appear to be transactional queries “where to buy organic coffee” make sure it links through to an informational page about the history of coffee then you have failed to satisfy user intent, and chances are your potential customer is going quickly click off your site and head straight back to Google.
Improve task completion
Of course the aim of the game is to answer all of the user’s questions, eliminating the need to leave your site and revisit the search engine. Improving task completion on your webpage is an excellent way to achieve this goal. Say for instance a user searches “best hotels London” – you want your hotel to rank number one for this query, but will the user’s intent be met?
It seems unlikely, as it’s probable that the user is looking for a list of “best hotels”, along with reviews, opening hours and maps. So imagine if your webpage could fulfill all of these needs in the same way that the likes of TripAdvisor does – you’d be onto a winner!
It doesn’t stop there
It’s important that once you’ve optimized your content accordingly that you don’t just sit back and rest on your laurels. This process involves measuring, testing and refining, so make sure that you compare current performance against past.
It’s helpful to remember that it’s not always about getting visitors to your site, it’s about getting the right kind of visitors. So put yourself in your customers shoes before selecting and integrating your keywords and think about what they might be looking for.
This in turn will make it much easier for search engines to recognize your content as valued by your readers, and boost your rankings to help the next person searching with a similar intent.
The good news is that great content always performs well. While Google might be indexing your content, it’s people that are reading it, and no one is going to read a badly written article that is simply packed full of keywords. When you know why your readers are performing a search, the more adept you will become as an online publisher and the better you will become at making your web pages relevant, useful and visible.