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Why User Intent Should Shape the Content You Create

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A look at user intent and why it should be the forefront of your content strategy

Back in the day, if you wanted to up your SEO game, it seems like all you had to do was toss in some solid, strategically placed keywords into your content and voila … you got better rankings.

Nowadays, unless content creators are able to write content that meets the needs of the user (as opposed to just incorporating the right search terms), their rankings in the search engine result page (SERP) will actually suffer.

Why? Because the goal is no longer to just get as much traffic as possible. Luring in disinterested users will only result in a higher bounce rate, because as soon as they realize that you’re not actually providing what they need, they will quickly hit ‘back’ to further peruse the SERP.

It’s important to remember that search engines exist purely to provide relevant results for those who are searching. To drive organic traffic, or more importantly, increase conversions, your content needs to provide a clear user intent.

How to decode what users want

To preemptively write content that is aligned with user intent, ask yourself what your readers expect to get from engaging with your website. Think about the primary reasons that someone would search for topics related to your website, and provide information that effectively provides those answers.

That said, not all search queries will look the same because intent varies based on the user and user persona. The key is deciphering and tailoring your content for the right type of user intent. The three basic kinds are:

  1. Transactional
    User intent: A user wants to buy something
    Query: “laptop cover” or “handheld vacuum cleaner”

  2. Navigational
    User intent: A user is seeking a specific website
    Query: “HubSpot” or “Atlanta Journal Constitution”

  3. Informational
    User Intent: A user is looking for information on a particular topic or answer to a question
    Query: “home remedies for dry skin” or “average summer temperature in Denver”

The best way to tailor your content for these types of user intent is to examine the keywords that people are using in their searches. Some keywords are an obvious indicator of their search intent, like “buy a down blanket”, which suggests a transactional intent, but others might not be so clear cut. In those cases, try typing those keywords and keyword phrases into a search engine and see what you get. If the majority of the results are informational, then it’s safe to assume that the user’s intent is also informational.

How to evaluate and transform your content to support user intent

If you want to see where you’re succeeding and failing to meet the needs of your users, jump on Google Analytics and take a look at your high-performing keywords. If you find that your top keyword phrases are transactional, for example, but readers are being led to a Q&A page on your site, then the needs of your users are most likely not being met. To avoid this, focus on linking popular keyword phrases to the pages within your site that match the user’s intent.

If you go through this exercise and find that readers are being appropriately directed but you’re still not getting seen by searchers, it may be time to re-examine your keywords. Try adjusting your keywords to better align with your content. If your site is a resource where people can learn, your keywords should be navigational or informational. If you are an ecommerce site with a goal to sell something, then your keywords should be transactional.

In addition, the increased use and popularity of voice search means that users are likely to perform their searches in the form of a question. Research what those questions are and naturally provide those answers in your content.

Common mistake

Because deciphering user intent is decidedly more involved than incorporating the right keywords, some companies attempt to game the system and boost organic traffic by using misleading titles. In these cases, the title makes it look like as though the article is applicable, but the content itself is totally unrelated. Obviously, these companies have zero intentions of answering the users’ inquiry, or aligning their content with the intent of the user.

This tactic, as you can imagine, not only damages these companies’ credibility, but it also hurts their rankings due to high bounce rates and lowered amounts of time spent on their page. That is a large price to pay for a temporary boost in traffic levels.

Remember, content that doesn’t align with user intent will ultimately result in traffic that will never convert. If you want conversions, you have to address the needs of your readers. This is what will lead them to your site and keep them there.

Learn more about incorporating user intent into your content strategy

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