Creating Content That Satisfies Search Intent & Meets Customer Needs

When considering content optimization, search intent should be your top priority.

Think of the number of times I’ve typed something into Google that was practically gibberish, and Google understood exactly what you meant.

This is something we may take for granted, but it is the exact reason why search intent is so important.

Monthly search volume is nice to have, but since it’s impossible to generate demand, we need to align the quality content and landing pages of our product with the customer’s intent.

Google has never cared about improving our content.

It cares about providing the most relevant and unique content to the user to help them find what they are looking for.

Google updates its algorithm often because it wants to ensure that it caters to the hearts, minds, and souls of its users, and matches their queries with relevant results.

In this article, we’ll review why search intent is the most important thing to consider when optimizing content, and how to create a search-based content strategy around search intent.

What is meant by search intent?

Search intent – also known as customer intent and user intent – is the primary reason why users go to a search engine and type a query.

When someone visits a search engine, they have a specific goal in mind that they are trying to achieve with their search.

Think of all the times you’ve used a search engine to do research on a product, or to get an answer to a question.

And with the growth of mobile search, we now have a search engine in our pocket at all times.

That’s why, as marketers and SEO professionals, we need to understand what part of the buyer’s journey our customers go through when they type a certain phrase – and at what part of the content or landing page we should target that phrase.

Search intent really is the backbone of a well-optimized landing page and should be our primary focus when creating content on our site.

But we have to keep in mind the different stages of the customer search journey.

What are the different types of search intent?

It’s been a few times when I’ve googled it before I even know what I’m looking for.

Other times, I’ve used it to check spelling, or to remind me of the name of a particular movie.

For the most part, we can group search intent into three main categories.

See how you can plan and create content to meet the following three types of search intent.

1. Informational

These are early stage search queries as the customer is still trying to learn more about the topic.

When the user is in the early stages of research, our goal is to ensure that the user knows more about the product or service.

Studies show that if a user learns something from a website and the site establishes itself as a reliable source on the topic, that user will end up coming back to the website – and converting later, when they’re ready.

Image courtesy of Google, June 2022

2. Comparison (aka navigation)

This is middle stage content where the customer is looking to compare your product or service to another to help them decide what to do.

Users who are in the intermediate or comparison stage are trying to find out if they really need the product or service they are looking for, or if there are better options than those they have previously found.

Think of all the times you’ve compared different restaurants to each other, or to two similar products.

SERP comparisonImage courtesy of Google, June 2022

3. Transactions

This is the late stage content where the customer is ready to convert.

The reason we create all the other content is to make sure we support our users and help them along the way, so they can convert.

The transactional or downstream content is usually category or product pages where we want the user to land when they are ready to buy.

SERP transactionsImage courtesy of Google, June 2022

It is important when creating content that we make sure that the phrases we target match the intent of what the user is searching for.

By creating content and landing pages that align with all parts of the user journey, we can ensure that we target the right keywords on the best page that Google wants to show.

We can also ensure that we own our digital presence and increase our visibility and conversions.

While half the battle is making sure our content is optimized correctly, the other half is making sure Google even wants to show us our content based on the phrase – which is why intent search is so important.

What makes search intent so important?

There are thousands of different factors to consider when doing keyword research, such as search volume, seasonality, brand vs non-brand, translation, etc. But search intent, or user intent, is most important.

Understanding searcher intent ensures that we prioritize relevance in our content and in our keywords.

The more phrases a user types into Google or another search engine, the farther they are in the buyer’s journey, and the more likely they are to convert.

It is also very difficult to know the search intent.

But once you understand the search intent, it makes content optimization much easier – as you’ll know more about the type of content Google wants to show on page 1.

The main thing we have to keep in mind is that we don’t decide what the search target – Google is.

If you go against what Google says, your content will not appear in the SERP.

There are also many cases where marketers or executives are blinded by search volume; Instead of going after the phrases with the lowest volume they have a better chance of winning, they go after the phrases with the highest volume – and end up missing the mark.

How can we ensure that our content matches the search intent?

When you struggle to understand the concept of search intent, take a step back from your company and imagine that you are a user.

Think about what you might be searching for to land on your blog article or product page.

Type that phrase into Google (preferably via Incognito or Private Browsing, so it’s not specific to your search history), and see what pops up.

SERP (Search Engine Results Page) analysis is the best way to confirm what Google thinks a user might want to see.

Are there content aggregators? Are there transaction sites?

Is there a mixed search engine results page with content and transactional content?

There are many times when Google doesn’t know what a user is searching for, so it returns SERP mixed with different types of content.

By finding this information directly on the SERPs, we can see what Google rewards for top positions, and what it thinks is the intent of a user’s query.

SERP analysis is one of the best ways to use competitive data when creating content, because we want to know what phrases they’re using and see if we can compete for the same phrase based on intent.

How can we create a content strategy for the purpose of search?

The content may be king, but the user has all the power.

We can create the best content in the world, but if the keywords we target don’t match the user’s intent, it’s all for nothing really.

Bringing in unqualified traffic helps no one, and is a waste of our time and energy.

We need to make sure that we do keyword and competitive research before creating our content.

By understanding who else is competing in the SERP, we now know if we have a chance of ranking on Page 1.

Competitive research also allows us to find relevant, relevant keywords that we may want to use in content. These are keywords that are not necessarily synonyms, but are closely related in nature.

Meaning related keywords give search engines a better understanding of what our content is about, and they enable users searching for similar things (but using different keywords) to find our content.

A pivotal content marketing model is one of the best ways to create a content strategy with search intent in mind.

This content marketing model allows us to target our transactional keywords on hub pages and more informational keywords on speaker pages.

By doing this, we can ensure that we have content that matches where our users are, and the different stages of their journey.

Keyword research is the bread and butter of content strategy, and is very important when understanding search intent.

Keywords with a higher search volume may be attractive, but they can also be very vague and may not be the best words to focus on.

There are also many times when certain keywords – singular or plural – have a different meaning.

For example: if you are searching for [TV] You may be looking for a TV channel guide or TV history.

However, if you are looking for [TVs]You are probably looking to buy a TV from somewhere and you will see the corresponding search results.

The point is: SEO professionals need to constantly look at what is already showing up on Google, and adopt a user or customer perspective when searching.

This visual helps us better understand what content strategy we might pursue if we were to sell reading glasses.

Keyword search funnelImage created by the author, June 2022

We should target the highest volume keywords on our homepages or category pages.

The low volume keywords can then be targeted on subcategories, product pages, and possibly a blog article.

By creating a visual like this, we can determine the total amount of keywords we’re trying to find, which can help us understand how much or what type of content we need to create.

In conclusion

Putting our customers first and setting the search target for their query is the best way to ensure that our content matches our customers’ needs.

We’ve also only talked about half of the story: the research side.

The exciting part comes when you’ll be able to use our enterprise SEO platform to monitor keyword rankings and report back to executives what changes you’ve made – and how they significantly increased traffic or conversions.

By frequently monitoring and reporting our gains, we can get more support for our SEO program and articulate why SEO is important to our organization, making it easier to have a seat at the table for bigger decisions.

Search intent will always be the most important factor when it comes to keyword research and optimizing our content.

Google’s recent algorithm updates have put a lot of emphasis on user experience, but they continue to focus more on user intent and make their search engine more conversational in order to produce more accurate search results for users.

So when in doubt, make sure search intent and keyword relevance are your main areas of focus when creating and updating content.

More resources:

  • How to automate SEO keyword clustering by search intent using Python
  • Intent-based SEO & PPC: 5 ways to build add-ons
  • How search engines work

Featured image: maradon 333 / Shutterstock

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