User intent is an all-important factor when it comes to search.
Most of the chatter in digital marketing circles revolves around online ads → website and landing page optimization → lead magnet → conversion and sales → freebies → discount and so on.
Inevitably the conversation is about SEO, search engine optimization, and driving up organic traffic followed by CRO, conversion rate optimization (if that traffic did what was expected e.g. – sign up for a newsletter or make a purchase).
There is little understanding about the customer who sat down in front of his laptop to find answers on Google.
What is User Intent?
User intent lies at the base of a successful SEO campaign and highly optimized CRO.
You cannot convert unless you know the user’s intent.
Simply put, user intent is the solution a customer is looking for when they search.
When a customer conducts a search, they are looking to answer a need. Fulfilling that need is satisfying the search intent. Although you can do it yourself, it’s often better to let a SEO services company handle it.
For example, someone might search “movie theater near me” and the next person “how hot will it be today” and the third for “Stranger Things Season 4 review”.
While at first glance it seems to be self-explanatory on deeper inspection, it is not that easy.
You want your page to show up before the target audience. You have some keywords that relate to your business and would like to develop content around them.
There are several types of user intent and without a thorough understanding, it is impossible to create the right type of content that would attract traffic to your site.
Types of User Intent
When a customer searches they are looking for the perfect solution to their question.
But all questions are not the same and can broadly be broken down into four forms.
- Navigation Search
This type of search is conducted when the user wants to find an URL.
Often a user wants to skip the home and landing page and jump straight to the login page e.g.
- “my fitness pal login”
- “youtube channel login”
It might also be one where the user is looking for a home page URL, e.g.
- “mercedes benz usa” (the URL is www.mbusa.com, not something an average user can guess off the top of their head).
- Informational Search
Most of the search queries that Google handles are about information. The internet is, after all, the information superhighway.
This type of search looks for a quick reply to a query on any subject, e.g.
- “when was shakespeare born”
- “dallas weather today”
- “symptoms of long covid”
- Transactional Search
A search for a product or service.
It might not end in purchase but at least would educate the future buyer about what is available and at which price point.
- “coffee shop near me”
- “where can I buy iphone in london”
- “cheapest gaming laptop under $1000”
- Investigative Search
The third on our list might lead to a fourth type. The customer wants better information and is looking for expert and P2P reviews.
“cheapest laptop under $500” might lead to “amd ryzen 5 versus i3 10100” or “i3 cpu expert reviews” or “should I buy i3 cpu laptop”.
The user is clearly learning more before making an investment.
Importance of User Intent and Impact on SEO and CRO
- Select better keywords
Paying attention to user intent would help you understand deeper about the searches carried out on Google.
A search is not a string of words with a keyword included. A search shows how and under which conditions a user uses a keyword.
Such as a search for “gaming laptops under $1000” show that the user wants a gaming laptop but would prefer a mid-segment device. He is unsure of the make and model. Perhaps he does not even understand what specifications he should be able to buy at that price point.
Therefore, if you are in the business of selling gaming laptops keywords such as “HP gaming laptop” have no relevance. Ideally, you have to aim for keywords such as “best budget gaming laptop” and similar.
- Modify content style
The user is looking for a gaming laptop. He has not decided which brand he wants, what it should be able to do, or who he is going to buy it from.
In digital marketing parlance, he is in the middle of the funnel, where he is trying to know more and make an appraisal.
How can you use this to your advantage?
Help him learn more.
Set up pages with a buyer’s guide that explains:
- What are the different components of a gaming laptop?
- How each change in configuration affects the overall dynamics.
- A set of well-chosen frequently asked questions.
In short, help him move from Discovery to Interest to Appraisal to Confirmation to Conversion.
Well-written content at this stage can actually influence him to the product you are selling. All that matters is if the content you shared is easy to read and offers a lot of information and infographics that educated him enough.
- Generate brand awareness
Content that is aware of the customer’s intent is magical.
Your content gave a concrete shape to the queries he had. It answered them and it guided him on the right path.
He cannot help but form an unconscious bond with the brand.
You did not cheat him, did not offer him false advice, did not try to manipulate him in any way.
This deep impact can be harnessed and you could forever cross-sell and upsell to him.
He might ignore your emails but at least he won’t mark them as spam since one day he might again need to learn from you, say when he wants a gaming laptop under $2000!
- Revamp old content
Older content is not completely useless in this scenario. All that you have to do is change a sentence here and insert a paragraph there to make it useful.
Often you will find that the content itself is on the same page as user intent, but the keywords have not been well used.
Of course, quite a bit of imagination is needed during the revamp of older pages. The overall structure has to be maintained but with an added FAQ section or maybe some bullet points in place of a long and tedious paragraph.
It is interesting to note that the Google search page has evolved in the past few years due to a better understanding of user intent and its role.
In answer to questions asking for information, they show snippets at the top, a knowledge graph panel on the right, and People also ask in the middle of organic results, making it easy for the user to know the answer without opening a single page.
If you can get an answer straight away by Google snippet, why would you want to visit Bing? Smart thinking by the folks at Mountain View.
User Intent Works in Tandem with SEO and CRO
By now you understand:
- User intent is what the customer wants to know.
- SEO ranks your site and brings him to your site.
- CRO measures conversion of impressions to clicks.
If you tailor content to meet user intent, you are automatically doing it for better SEO and CRO. But the converse does not hold true. A page designed for better SEO might not answer user intent.
A good understanding of user intent gives you a more reasonable chance of offering customers a sound experience on your site.
It also reduces bounce rates and ensures that you get repeat visits.
All in all, understanding user intent and integrating it into content is a winning move for every digital marketer.