The search landscape has drastically changed over the years. There was a time when ranking well on search engines meant stuffing content with keywords. This no longer holds true today. Now, it’s all about understanding the intent or motive behind a search query.
Every search engine query has a specific purpose. The purpose or goal behind conducting a particular search is referred to as search intent. As a content marketer, your job is to create content that is aligned with users’ search intent.
What are the Types of Search Intent?
The first step is understanding the user’s intent. For example, someone searching for “how to make pancakes” clearly has a different objective than someone searching for “buy pancake mix”. So, let’s take a look at the three types of search intent.
An informational search query is used when people want to get more information about a broad concept or topic. People searching with an informational intent are doing research and are generally in the ‘awareness’ stage of the customer life cycle.
Informational keywords include:
Eg. ‘What is SEO’, ‘how to make pancakes’, ‘podcast ideas’, etc.
Navigational search query is more specific. This is used when people already have a particular brand or website in mind and perform a search to know more about it. Those performing such a query are in the ‘consideration’ stage because they’re already considering a certain brand.
Navigational keywords include:
- [name of product, service, brand or company]
- Near me
- Opening hours
Eg. ‘SEO services near me’, ‘Betty Crocker pancake mix’, etc.
With the transactional or commercial search query, the user is in the ‘decision’ phase and is ready to buy. They might be looking for prices, discounts, deals, or even making price comparisons.
Transactional keywords include:
Eg. ‘affordable SEO services Canada’, ‘buy Betty Crocker pancake mix’, ‘purchase iPhone 11’, etc.
How to Optimize Content for Search Intent?
Now that you know the kinds of search intent, it’s about making sure your content is in line with the specific intent.
You can create a ton of content but if it’s not attracting the relevant traffic, what good is it? This is why optimizing content for search intent is so critical because by doing that, you’re delivering valuable content that matches searchers’ needs.
You’re able to engage visitors better and in many cases also encourage them to take the desired action (eg. subscribe to a newsletter, download an eBook, make a purchase, etc.).
Let’s take a look at how you can create content while aligning it to each type of search intent.
1. Develop user personas
In order to create content that is considered useful and engaging, you need to know who exactly you’re writing for.
As a starting point, develop user personas which are basically representations of your ideal target audience. Do a market segmentation – gather information by doing comprehensive research, speaking to your customers or creating a survey to understand their interests, motivations, challenges and pain points.
On the basis of your findings, create unique, detailed personas and map out their journey using user persona templates to maintain consistency and make quick comparisons.
2. Do a SERP analysis
In addition to doing keyword research and identifying specific long-tail keywords, it’s a good idea to perform a SERP analysis to understand what competitors have ranked for and what the dominant search intent is.
For example, when you type ‘productivity software’, all the websites that appear in the first few results are about the best productivity apps or best productivity software. This indicates that people want to know more about apps and to rank well, you need to create content along the same lines too.
Apart from looking at what the other websites have ranked for, also take inspiration from the ‘People also ask’ and ‘Searches related to’ sections.
3. Run a content audit
Before you proceed to create new content, it’s a good idea to run a quick content audit and identify gaps in your existing content. You might find new keyword opportunities to optimize existing content pieces and get them to rank better.
Use Google Analytics to understand how your landing pages are performing and the kind of keywords driving traffic to your website. Identity pages you can optimize by adding more focussed keywords to match user intent.
For example, if you’ve written an article on programmatic advertising, how about creating an infographic to explain the complex concept better and optimize it to rank for an informational search query.
4. Create targeted new content
The last step is creating new content targeted to each of the search intent. As every type of intent pertains to a different stage in the buyer’s journey, it’s important to create the suitable type of content that will best demonstrate your point.
For instance, if you are targeting informational intent, you should look at creating how-to blog posts, videos, guides, infographics, and tutorials to name a few.
Similarly, for navigational content as people are already aware of your brand, in order to take them further down the funnel, you can create eBooks, case studies, webinars, and demo videos.
Transactional content, on the other hand, is purchase driven. Hence, the kind of content that works well includes discount coupons, free trials, pricing pages, and product pages.
Once you’ve established the kind of content you want to create, it’s about optimizing it for SEO by using the identified keyword/s across the title, meta-description, URL and content.
Another important aspect while creating the landing page is the use of a strong call-to-action (CTA) that addresses the search intent. For instance, the product page needs to have a clear and prominent CTA which says ‘buy now’ so the user exactly knows what to do.
Creating content that matches search intent boils down to giving people what they want. So, don’t just focus on keywords – be smarter in your keyword research and use it in conjunction with search intent data to create and optimize content that not only ranks well but also delivers value and builds trust in your audience.