How to optimize for user intent in search

By Simon Ensor

User intent. Also known as searcher intent, it is a theory that unashamedly stands up to the more primitive pre-Penguin and Panda tactics of optimizing purely for keywords.

User intent and optimizing for it has come into being via a combination of three key factors:

  • Latent Semantic Indexing, Hummingbird, Rankbrain. All have fantastic and mysterious sounding names but all underpinned by the fact that Google’s algorithm is not exactly made up of high school algebra. Google is clever, real clever. The algorithm understands more than just the specific keywords that a user types into the search bar.
  • As a result of the aforementioned ability, people trust Google. They may not trust them as a business that will pay their fair share of tax but they trust the search engine to understand their query and as such will ask more complex questions rather than utilising pure keywords. To ‘Google’ is a verb in the Oxford English Dictionary!
  • The internet and Google (among other search engines) have made unfathomable amounts of information accessible to the masses. As a by product, Google is often the first port of call for more than just purchasing actions. More on this later.

Voice search has further stamped on the throttle for user intent with more and more never before seen searches due to the conversational nature of voice search. As such, if you are still basing your SEO strategy around keywords you should probably start to think a little bit deeper around user intent.

Finally, and this is an important one. Optimizing for user intent is not just about providing solutions or using synonyms. The majority of SEO campaigns are built around driving revenue and whilst rankings are great and indicative of campaign success, in reality you won’t retain clients without providing ROI.

Fully optimizing for user intent requires an understanding of how your potential customers buy via your inbound marketing channels. As a result, make sure that you have identified these sales funnels as they are crucial for capitalizing on optimizing your website for user intent in search.

User intent: An overview of the basics

What is user intent? In short it is the reason why someone is searching for something in Google. What are they actually trying to achieve as a result of typing (or saying) that search term?

Traditionally, the intent has been categorized as either navigational, informational or transactional although some like to define commercial intent or use different terminology such as ‘to buy something’, ‘to do something’, ‘to find something’, ‘to learn something’, ‘to go somewhere’ and so on.

These questions or intents can then help to you to identify your Buyer Personas and the stage that they are at within your inbound funnels. Again, various inbound funnels utilize different terminology, but I am a fan of Hubspot’s methodology:

Image credit: Hubspot

How do you figure out what the user intent is behind a search term? Honestly, it’s pretty easy. Just about everyone uses Google. Put yourself in the searcher’s shoes and ask yourself, “if I Go to the full article.

Source:: Search Engine Watch

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