101 – Aligning your content with search intent

Oct 23rd, 2020

One of the best ways to make sales online is to make sure that when a person visits your site that they are able to convert easily. It sounds simple but so many businesses spend too much time and effort earning visits and not conversions

This of course, could be down to the way the site is set up and poor user experience (UX) but it is more common that it is because the search results have attracted a user with a low purchase intent.

One of the most difficult things about producing online content for a brand is determining its purpose. Content for content’s sake can have detrimental impact if, for example, it dilutes the relevance signals the site provides the various algorithms that rank pages, while insufficient content can leave sites struggling to compete for relevant search terms. Search intent according to ahrefs, is the why behind a search query. In other words, why did the person make this search? Do they want to learn something? Are they looking to make a purchase? Or, are they looking for a particular website?

There are numerous ways to try to up your organic traffic – many of which are covered in our SEO Uncovered series of eBooks – but a great way is to make sure you’re there for what your consumers are searching for, and that you’re offering the right kind of page when you are.

Whether you’re looking to identify gaps in order to generate content ideas, or looking to ensure you’re serving the right content at the right time, the search queries report can help. User intent can seem a tough proposition, but the main issue is developing a list of genuine queries – after that, we can generally use a degree of common sense to categorise the levels of intent.

Users today want to get the answers to their queries quickly and easily. They also want to make sure that the results that are returned are relevant and that they are from a trusted or apparently trusted source, (this latter point is important as it goes without saying that customers want a trusted service, the problem is that if you are new to the space then you have to appear as professional, relevant and authentic as possible).

Customers and users tend to be looking for one of the following things:

  • an accurate answer
  • an item
  • a specific set of details
  • a date
  • an image
  • an address
  • a service
  • a definition

In an official definition, there are three broad categories that cover most web search queries: informational, navigational, and transactional. These are also called “do, know, go.” The three areas are:

  • Informational queries – Queries that cover a broad topic (eg Liverpool or New Cars) for which there may be thousands of relevant results.
  • Navigational queries – Queries that seek a single website or web page of a single entity (eg YouTube or Facebook).
  • Transactional queries – Queries that reflect the intent of the user to perform a particular action, like purchasing a car or downloading a screen saver.

It is worth noting that search engines often support a fourth type of query that is used far less frequently and is much more advanced. These are connectivity queries – queries that report on the connectivity of the indexed web graph (eg ‘which links point to this URL?’, and ‘how many pages are indexed from this domain name?’).

Google tends to show certain SERP features more or less frequently, depending on the intent of the search. That means we can use the presence (or not) of SERP features to help infer the search intent of a query.

For example, featured snippets tend to show up mostly for informational queries, whereas shopping results and carousels usually only show up for queries with transactional intent.

With all of this in mind, the first thing to do is to run a search query on Google using what you consider to be your best keywords and the most common questions your audience would ask. Look at the results and make notes on which competitors rank for these terms. You can use this information as part of your competitor analysis later down the line.

It is crucial in these early discovery phases that you are listening to how your customers speak, then in turn speaking their language. Brands need to understand what your prospects and customers are looking for, then reflect this knowledge to your website content.

In the same way that the user needs to be understood, Google needs to understand. In recent years there have been many tweaks to the algorithm so they are able to decipher queries and not just return matches but results based on meaning. If a user typed in something like ‘buy chocolate cake’, Google would know that the user is looking for an eCommerce site, they would list stores and sites that sell chocolate cakes and would not return (at least at the top of SERPs) results for baking a chocolate cake.

This deep understanding of semantics and the way that consumers now search means that Google is refining it’s product and that the user is getting a far better UX. It also gives you, the business owner a chance to clearly set your goals through your content.

Think about what it is that you offer and align your content to that, i.e if you are trying to sell bakery products through your website as a side project and in truth the advertising revenue you receive for views and clicks is how you make you money then a ‘how to’ or ‘step-by-step guide might be the best format.

An example of this would be if a user searches for how to bake cookies. Your step-by-step post should do well here (pending on quality and other SEO practices being met).

If however the search is for the best cookie cutter then a blog on this or a top 10 style piece better serves the query.

Finally if there is someone looking to buy a mixing bowl to make cookie dough then a link to your shop serves this query along with a product review.

It is vital that you remember this as there is no reason that one business or site can’t have multiple points of conversion or service different types of search query. You can find more on this topic in our blog
Using Google Search Console to Inform Your Search Strategy

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