20/02/2023 • Andrew Lowdon
A common flaw in search marketing is to put the main focus on targeting the highest volume keywords related to your products & services. Whilst this can be great for getting your brand in front of a larger audience, more often than not competition is incredibly high, and intent to purchase at its lowest. These terms require a huge amount of resources or budget to rank for and when a strategy is narrowly focused on vanity terms it can provide limited tangible business impact.
There is an alternative that isn’t as sexy - looking at the intent behind a keyword to understand what a consumer is actually looking for and then creating content that matches their need. These are keyword categories that have a lower addressable market, but more likely to take a tangible action.
Users can search in a multitude of ways and with 15% of all searches made every day estimated to have never been made before, it’s incredibly difficult to be able to cover every single base. So the key is to look at what users are searching for and which areas are the most important.
User intent can be broken down into four main areas:
Informational - I want information to help understand something better
Commercial Investigation - I’m looking to buy a certain type of product or service but I’m not sure which one
Navigational - I know what I’m looking for, help me get to it quicker
Transactional - I’m ready to buy, who wants my money?!
Search intent- Key Words
When the intent of a search changes so does the need of the user, the role of the content served and the information provided.
Imagine you’re looking to take advantage of the Great British Summer and in the market for a BBQ. You’re in the 63% of consumers who begin their shopping journey online and head over to Google and search for the top level vanity term ‘bbqs’ ‘and then search for ‘what type of BBQ is best?’. You get two completely different sets of results.
The first search is seen as a transactional focused search so Google shows product focused listings, but as it’s the equivalent of going into a shop and saying “Can I see your BBQs please, Google are the shop assistant who says “Here is our full range”.
When the user searches for ‘what is the best type of BBQ’, the search intent is in the commercial investigation phase and going back to the in shop analogy, a good shop assistant doesn’t answer by pointing you to their range of BBQs again. They start a conversation with you about the different types of BBQs and why certain ones are better for larger groups, smaller spaces or the benefits of gas over coal and vice versa. This provides the consumer with a better understanding of the products that will better suit their needs. You see the exact same change when you look at how the content response from Google changes with this search. Gone are the BBQ retailer category results and these are replaced by review sites, lifestyle publishers and buying guides. These work to leave the consumer more informed than they were before their search and ready to move to the next stage of their buying journey.
It’s all about ensuring that your content meets with the needs of the consumer at the stage that they are in their buying process. If you try to force them to a certain page on your site, it’s not going to work. You need to adapt your content and how you measure the success of less transactional focused content outside of sales. Without the instant feedback you can get instore of a 1:1 conversation and the customer saying “Thanks that was really useful I’m going to go and have a look at the 4 burner gas BBQs now”. How do you gauge whether the content is doing what you want it to? Look at how many users go on to another page or look at products mentioned in the guide, get customer feedback with a popup questionnaire to ask if they found the content useful (engagement with a pop up can be low but extremely useful).
What type of content should I use for different types of search intent?
With all the different types of searches, understanding the right type of content for each type of intent is key. This will change based on your customer, your industry and the products or services that you sell. Here are some potential options you can use to get you started.
Optimised Site Structure will look after this
Free Trials / Demos / Samples
The key to success with search intent is understanding where you can add the greatest value to your potential customer and how you can do that. There will be times where Google has a preference to show content focused publisher websites for a search result rather than a retailer. Don’t try and force a square peg in a round hole. Understand what Google wants to see and how you can get your brand in front of the consumer whilst adding value to their journey.
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