Understanding user intent in content marketing – what is it and how it can help SEO

Thinking about your content marketing strategy? Ways to improve your SEO ranking?

Well, if you’re committed to improving your ranking on search engines, you had better keep your content marketing search engine and Google-friendly. 

Recent updates tell us that search results are trending towards being more user-centered. Your content strategy should reflect this. Since your target audience is likely made up of humans, your marketing and content strategy should be working to connect with them.

The best content marketing approach for SEO in 2020 is to gain an in-depth understanding of what your audience is looking for and why. Or rather, their intent. If you can define user intent and get it right at implementation, you won’t ever have to worry about another quick fire Google update ruining your paid or organic traffic again.

Check out the state of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for the past decade and you’ll notice one major pattern: SEO has mainly revolved around keywords.

But towards the end of 2019, Google updated its search algorithm in a way that’s made keyword use less crucial to ranking high on search results. With the BERT update, satisfying user intent has a larger potential for impacting SEO and determining where you’ll rank on search results.

Good content with well-understood user intent can have a huge uplift on visibility and SEO overall.

In this quick guide to understanding user intent for SEO you’ll discover more about this important ranking factor. Including:

  • What user intent really is
  • Which are the main user intent categories
  • What are high intent keywords
  • See some examples of how to leverage a strategy that sets keyword intent to increase your click-through rate

All in about 5 minutes.

Let’s get started.

What is user intent for search engines and SEO?

Simply put: user intent is the goal a web searcher has in mind when they Google anything. It is about what they are trying to achieve through their search.

Your content team should think like this: What does the person googling want to know or do? Where do they want to go?

Why is the user searching?

Why does user intent matter so much in SEO?

Being able to target the right intent is critical to your successful content strategy. When you understand what a searcher wants to find out, you can serve them with useful answers to their burning questions or curiosity in the form of useful content.  A solid content strategy will help.

Picture this:

Google is always trying to help searchers get the most relevant, satisfying results to their search queries in the shortest time possible.

That means Google ranks the content that appears the most relevant and satisfying to the particular words or phrases a searcher enters into the search bar.

The higher up Google ranks your content or site, the higher the chances that many people looking for content like it will click and visit the relevant page in your site.

So, how do you convince Google and searchers that you’ve got the most relevant, useful, and satisfying result compared to other sites?

By understanding your users’ intent.

And then putting what you learn into action for you.


Start by understanding the categories of user intent to provide a better user experience.

Categories of user intent: the three types

When a person searches on the search engines, their goal can take several different forms. Often, though, it is usually one of these three:

  • Informational: They want to learn for the first time, gain additional knowledge on a topic, or get answers to a question
  • Navigational: They know what they want; a specific page, site or resource
  • Transactional: They want to buy something specific

You might see these three reduced further to just two categories: informational and commercial (transactional and navigational).

Here’s an illustration to help explain how search intent works:

how to write good content in content marketing

In the figure above, notice the “low value” and “high value” tags on the opposite sides of the arrow?

Those phrases might be a bit misleading without contextualizing them.

To avoid confusion, it is smart to start by further understanding each category.

Let’s break it down…

1. Informational user intent

When you want to educate yourself nowadays, you google. Yes, that’s become a verb.

Most organic traffic goes to informational articles and blog posts—including news.

The intent is to learn. Not necessarily to buy something after that. That’s why the intent may seem like a low-value intent to your business.

For example, searching for “how to clean a humidifier” doesn’t mean you want to buy a humidifier cleaner immediately. But with a bit more nurturing, you can guide the searcher towards your humidifier cleaning product’s funnel.

Searching for “skating boot sizes” doesn’t mean they want to buy your skating boots immediately.

While that search intent belongs at the top of the funnel, you can create content that pulls the searcher in, have them think of you when they finally are ready to buy or guide them through your funnel and all the way to the “Add to Cart” or “Buy Now” button in a few clicks.

To attract and satisfy informational user intent, take advantage of relevant keyword intent. Use keyword modifiers like “…step-by-step”, “…naturally”, or “ultimate guide to…”.

So, your content’s headlines would read:

  • How to Clean a Humidifier Step-by-Step
  • How to Clean a Humidifier Naturally
  • Ultimate Guide to Skating Boot Sizes

Notice too, that these headlines closely resemble longtail keywords in their specificity.

Informational user intent is satisfied by content that answers a specific searcher’s concern.

Check the “People Also Ask” and “Searches Related to…” sections of search results to see what Google thinks its users’ intent is and pick your keyword intent.

user intent in SEO

People Also Ask

Searches related to “What is user intent?”

2. Navigational user intent

Here, the searcher types a brand name, website name or resource name.

This type of search query is usually commercial in that the searcher is looking for something specific that they already know about.

For example, an “OGNO digital marketing” search will quickly bring up the digital agency’s website and related social media channels, news, and images. A “Germany digital agency” search will only show agencies based in Germany.

To optimize your content marketing for this search type, add modifiers to your niche’s keywords such as “near me” for local search optimization.

Here’s an example:

When a person makes a “best digital agency in Germany” search, the intent is likely to compare agencies and hire the top one. The same goes for search queries modified with words such as “reviews”, “top…”, “compare”, and “best [product usage] under $500”.

3. Transactional user intent

This is the most vital intent to understand and satisfy because most purchases are directly linked to it.

The searcher is usually ready to make a purchase on a product or service they have considered.

These types of searches typically consist of keywords such as “[product name] price”, “coupon codes”, “discounts”, “affordable”, “[model name] cost”, “best [product name] under $500”, “[brand service] fees”, and “buy [name] online”.

Transactional queries are “do” types of searches—the kind you’ll use in a call to action button. They are also regarded as high-value user intent because they open an opportunity to make a favorable transaction.

Tips for understanding user intent in content marketing

Here are some surefire ways to improve your user intent understanding so you can craft your website content accordingly —and increase click-throughs while at it.

  • Analyze the questions your sales and customer service teams receive
  • Enter and search your primary keywords in Quora
  • Check your competitors’ FAQ and Help Centers
  • Put yourself in your ideal users’ shoes and use the kind of words they would use to find your site or content

What Next?

If you want to master your SEO for 2020, web content, improve your ranking and build a better strategy, understanding user intent is the first step. It is also an important step to attracting, retaining, and converting ideal readers, customers, and partners. Improve your organic traffic with a better content marketing strategy.

By segmenting your niche keywords into the three main user intent categories discussed here, you can determine how to transform the user intent into answers that satisfy that intent. Next step: shaking up keywords using a long-tail strategy.

Sounds hard? At OGNO we can help you do SEO the right way.

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