User Intent – A Guide To Better SEO

In this article, you’ll learn about intent and how to use it to produce content that better satisfy searches and your organic traffic goals.

What is intent?

Intent is the reason or purpose a person enters a search query into a search engine.

I typed “golf stand bag reviews” into Google yesterday.

What’s my intent?

To review golf stand bags or to buy a golf stand bag?

Why does intent matter?

Satisfying intent is one of Google’s main goals for its users.

A webpage that matches its content to the user’s intent typically performs better than one designed just for search engines.

Search Quality Rating

In the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, Google identifies 4 types of intent:

IntentExplanation
Knowβ€œThe intent of a Know query is to find information on a topic. Users want to know more about something.”
Doβ€œThe intent of a Do query is to accomplish a goal or engage in an activity on a phone. The goal or activity may be to download, to buy, to obtain, to be entertained by, or to interact with a website or app.”
WebsiteThe intent of a Website query is to locate a specific website or webpage that users have requested.”
Visitβ€œSome queries clearly β€˜ask’ for nearby information or nearby results (e.g., businesses, organizations, other nearby places).”

In this 172 page document, not once does Google mention “search intent”; they mention “user intent” 341 times.

While the Search Quality Rating document is helpful to know how Google thinks, it does not help us produce better content for user intent.

Types of search intent

Many SEO experts classify intent into these 4 buckets.

types of user intent

Informational intent

Looking for answers to a question or general information.

β€œhow to play guitar.”

Navigational intent

The searcher is trying to find a website or page.

β€œClarks men’s shoes”

Commercial intent

Searchers are looking for information about products, services, or brands.

These commonly have an intent to complete an action or purchase sometime in the future.

β€œbest golf shoes for under $200”

Transactional intent

Buy something.

β€œbuy iPhone 13.”

What is user intent?

To quote Google;

When a user types or speaks a query, they are trying to accomplish something.

We refer to this as user intent.

Using the earlier example of “golf stand bag reviews,” what am I trying to accomplish after this search?

A relevant web page would review a list of top golf stand bags, but the page that best satisfies user intent is the page with a recommended product for a man, a woman, and a junior golfer.

This is a simplistic example of user intent.

There are 7 billion searches every day, and it is impossible to classify every query.

Getting started with intent

Get started with user intent by Googling the query you want to rank for.

  1. Read the page titles.
  2. Read the page descriptions.

Both provide clues about the pages Google favor at the top of the search results.

Then visit a few of the top pages, read the content, and put yourself in the shoes or mind of the user.

Ask “what do they want next?” or “what would they search for next?

So, in my example, 

I searched “golf stand bag reviews.”

All the top page titles included “golf stand bag reviews.

Some of the descriptions mention branded products, best-selling products, and the lightest products.

Perhaps, the user intends to buy the lightest, most popular golf stand bags (amongst the featured products on each page.)

Step 1: Quickly figure out intent

Here at Frase, we believe you can discover a user’s intent much quicker than manually searching Google.

Create a new document with the search query you are targeting.

Look at the SERP tab, and we’ll display the page title, description, and headings of the top pages.

Now look for clues about user intent.

Intent at scale

But what happens when you rank for 15,000 search queries, or you’ve done keyword research and identified thousands of opportunities?

How do you infer intent at scale?

SEMRush has recently introduced an intent filter into its keyword research tool.

However, it is an elementary application of a complex subject.

The “Navigational/Informational/Transactional” classification is not particularly helpful for making decisions.

Here are 3 keywords; what do you think their intent is?

1. link building

2. keyword research

3. SEO audit

How would you do anything differently based on the intent assigned by a tool like this?

SEO Testing has assigned a similar intent model for queries you currently rank for.

Step 2: Align content with intent

As Google said, what is the user trying to accomplish after a search?

We can never get into the minds of 5,000 different people searching “golf stand bags reviews” every month.

However, we can align queries with intent and the most appropriate content format to satisfy the user on the page.

Types of user intent

Inside Frase.io, we have created a series of content brief templates to help customers create the right content format for specific search queries.  

Query includesIntentContent Format
HowThe user is searching for instructions to get a result or outcome.How To Guide
WhatThe user seeks an answer to a question.What Is Article
Best or TopThe user wants to find, use or buy from a recommended list of products, services, or solutions.Best Post
List, Best, NumberThe user seeks recommended resources, products, services, and tipsList Post
ServiceThe user wants a service that solves their problem.Service Page
Review The user is familiar with a product, wishes to know more, or considers purchasing it.Product Review
Comparison, VSThe user wants to see the features and benefits of competing products or services before buying the right one.Comparison Article
AlternativesUser may know about or was dissatisfied using a product, service, or company and want another similar solution.Alternatives Article

While we haven’t covered every type of user intent to date, these templates will help you create a piece of content with user intent and potential customers in mind.

Step 3: Realign content with intent

Let’s say your website has been live for a few years, but you’re not earning the traffic or results you want.

How do you realign your pages and content to satisfy user intent?

First, look for signs of decay.

Pages that have been dropping positions and clicks may have occurred because you’re not addressing intent.

Or else competitors are better serving users.

Content Analytics

In Content Analytics, choose a page with Decay status and review the queries the page ranks for.

Questions

We display the top questions your website ranks for.

Identify the queries with the most impressions that are not on the first page of Google.

In this example, there are 125 impressions for a query in an average position 26.7 that only gets a one click a month.

Knowing what you now know about user intent, you can realign your page content to satisfy what the user wants next and boost your click-through rate and organic search traffic.

Clusters

We organize the queries you rank for into clusters.

In this example, you can see the top 2 queries the page ranks for.

The user intent behind each query is different.

Perhaps a separate page and content are required to address each intent.

Advanced intent realignment

There are several tools such as Keyword Cupid and Keyword Insights that group keywords together.

How to apply user intent to website conversion

Once you understand user intent, how do you use that understanding to optimize conversions?

Conversion refers to optimizing web pages, so they convert visitors into subscribers, leads or sales.

Let’s say there are e-commerce websites that single towel product that dries dogs.

But dog owners may better respond to product page images that reflect their breed of dog.

So developing landing pages for the top dog breeds may better match the user’s intent.

Addressing this intent could improve your conversion rates and sales.

Depending on user intent, create different CTA’s and offers.

You need to ensure that your conversion action meets the user’s intent.

For example, if a user enters a how-to query into Google, it’s doubtful that they are ready to hire you for your services.

But you could persuade users to opt-in and receive a copy of your guide.

Then you can follow up by email educating the user about how your services help.

You can also optimize your call-to-action (CTA) text for different types of visitors with tools such as RightMessage.

To summarize.

In summary, these are some key takeaways:

1. The core idea is that user intent is the reason people visit your web page.

2. You should be asking yourself, β€œwhat does my audience want to do after reading my page?”

3. Identifying user intent helps you write more relevant content.

4. Optimizing for user intent can reduce bounce rates and increase conversions.

5. Create landing pages for each user intent.

6. Use content analytics to identify user intent.

7. Realign content to meet user intent.

8. Make sure your calls-to-action match intent. 

Next step

To begin creating or optimizing content for users, log in or start a trial with Frase.io.