How user intent influences SEO success

search magnifying glass seo pixabay

If user intent is still not something that you are including in your SEO strategy, you are missing out on the chance to convert more traffic organically.

Many keyword strategies are so focused on volume that there is little thought to how and why people search. As a result, traffic ends up being comprised of people that arrive on the site, only to leave again without taking any further action.

Understanding how people find you can be far more rewarding than simply using a high volume keyword and hoping for the best.

This is where user intent comes in to help. User intent includes three specific types of search phrases, each one influencing your results in a different way.

Sometimes, more than one type of user intent phrase may be used within a single search.

  1. Transactional (Do something). With these searches, users are looking to perform a specific action, such as buying something or taking a specific action.
  2. Informational (Know something). With these searches, users are looking for information on a specific topic rather than aiming to take action.
  3. Navigational (Go somewhere). With these searches, users are looking to visit a specific website or place.

You may have a store that specialises in custom designed baby clothing, for example. Certain phrases such as “custom baby clothing” may result in some traffic.

Intent-based transactional keyword phrases such as “buy baby clothing” or “where to find custom baby clothing” would be far more likely to result in purchase rather than browsing. Informational searches such as “baby clothing sizing guide” may help users find information such as your product sizing guide or a blog post.

Navigational phrases such as “baby clothing near me” or “custom baby clothing in cape town” would apply to those looking for clothing stores in their area.

Focus on value for your audience

Above all else, your entire SEO strategy should focus on value. You might be getting a massive amount of traffic to your site, but none of that traffic will mean anything if you are not seeing any sales or conversion.

Writing purely for search engines almost always results in content that is not targeted to meet your audience’s need. Putting your audience first has the opposite effect, creating deeper, more relevant content that is ranked better by Google’s algorithms.

The only way to ensure conversion is to provide genuine value to people finding you through the SERPs. Think carefully about your content, your keywords and your overall value. Does your strategy add real value? If not, is there anything you can do to change that?

One way to determine how much value you are adding is to think about what your audience is hoping to achieve from their searches. Taking rankings out of the equation for a moment, think about why they are searching.

Are they all looking to buy something or are some of them scouting for information? Now, look at your website and all of its content. Does each page help your audience complete their goal?

Think about how you provide solutions and value that relate not just to the keyword but also the intent. Using our baby clothing example, you could adjust your content to cater to each intent.

Study audience data carefully

There is a wealth of information to be found in your data – much of it offering great insight into user intent.

Over and beyond your standard keyword research, you can also gain deeper insight from the following sources:

  • Your help centre. If you have a help centre or even a Facebook group or other type of community forum, there are sure to be many questions asked each day. You will be able to determine what sort of questions are asked, what information is searched for most frequency and even see what typical challenges your audience has within your specific industry. If you don’t have this feature, use a competitor’s help centre to see what questions are being asked on a similar website in your industry.
  • Your FAQ page. This page features the questions that are frequently asked by customers. If they are common enough to be featured on an FAQ page, they can also be used to provide information on other pages.
  • Your sales team. You can also get feedback from your sales team. Find out which questions are being asked often. Determine which products have the most questions. Make it easier for sales teams to submit common questions and even incentivise the feedback.

You can also use tools such as to get an idea of common questions that people search for within specific topics. You can then find long tail phrases that relate back to these questions and concerns. If you are not seeing the phrases on the SERPs, you will have the added benefit of being ahead of your competition.

Evaluate your current content to see how it meets user intent

It is also worth doing a comprehensive content audit to see how your current content meets user intent. Look at your content as well as your current top performing keywords.

Does your top keyword “buy custom baby clothing” lead to a primary product category page or is it being wasted on an informational page on how to order or where to find your products? If your top keywords are being wasted, your traffic will be wasted as well.

Rather than risk wasting your keyword strategy, you can do a content overhaul and direct your audience to the most relevant page for each top keyword.

Don’t forget about local search

Finally, don’t forget to include local search in your strategy. Mobile searches make up a huge percentage of searches done, with a growing number of searches done on mobile devices rather than desktops.

The majority of mobile and local searches are action-driven — navigational especially. Although there mobile commerce is on the rise, transaction searches may not be as common as navigational and informational.

Make sure that you optimise your local pages so that you take advantage of the large number of searches done on mobile. It’s also a good idea to ensure that your site is fully optimised for mobile so that you don’t miss out on these searches.

User intent does not have to be complicated. When you put all of your effort into focusing purely on keywords that are too broad to add real value, you will continue to battle to grow your reach. Or, you may get traffic, only to struggle to see any type of clickthrough or conversion growth.

Ultimately, this ends up wasting your time, effort and budget, making SEO something that does not help your overall digital growth at all. This makes SEO redundant and makes it easier to quit before seeing how much value it can add to your business.

As you start to shift your focus onto what your audience wants, it will become easier to plan your content and keywords to adapt to these needs. In turn, you will start to see an impact on your bottom line, too.

Feature image: Pixabay (CC0)

Anton Koekemoer


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