In this episode, I share 4 powerful tips with you on improving your SEO by understanding your user intent. This will help you drive more traffic, and have more engagement in social media.
Today I want to take a step back and talk a little bit about SEO and how you can really understand your user intent so that you can drive more traffic to your website. It’s something that’s very important that’s tied into social media. If you better understand your audience’s user intent, you can better speak their language and you’ll have much more capacity to have engagement in social media.
We’re going to get into search and SEO versus social engagement. The reason that I’m going this is that search is very very popular. Search is growing at nearly 20% a year. It reaches nearly every online American user and billions of people around the world.
Here’s a study from Pew Internet Survey. This was done in May 2011, so the numbers are probably even higher now but this was the only recent one that I could find. It finds that 92% of online adults use search engines to find information on the web. Including 59% who do so on a typical day.” That’s a pretty high number.
Now considering that Google changes its search algorithms between 500 and 600 times a year, you really have to understand that each change could signal one or more things that you’re just going to have to do to improve your SEO strategy. There’s really no way you can keep up with that, unless you understand your user experience with these tips that you can use regularly to understand the user intent and the real people behind the queries.
We’re not talking about techniques to jump start your SEO or your keyword strategy, I’m not just going to talk about technique. Today is more really understanding the people behind the clicks on Google or Bing or Yahoo. Whatever search engine it is. I want you to really understand the user intent that is the same across all search engines. And it’s just about user behavior in search.
Across the board, it’s just the human behavior behind search. Search drives this incredible amount of both online activity and activity that happens off the web. People find stuff and they want to have some commerce going with a particular business. It’s going to really drive economic activity. You know that having higher rankings in the first few results are critical to your visibility. And having higher rankings in the first few results are going to be critical to your visibility.
Being listed at the top of the results is going to give you the greatest amount of traffic, but it’s also going to let people know that they can trust in you and that your website is worthy and important – your company and your website. If you have content on your website that’s written for user intent, it’s going to keep those rankings going, and it’s going to keep them there when they get there. The search engines in turn value that.
One of the most important things to building your online marketing strategy around SEO is really having empathy for your audience. That’s something new to SEO. Empathy? Really? Yeah. It’s really understanding your audience. Once you grasp what your target market is looking for and how they’re searching for the particular terms that are important to them, then you can effectively reach and keep those users. And you can also more effectively have conversations with them in social media and then move it beyond social media to your website, or your blog.
Learning the foundations of SEO is a vital step to achieving these goals and I’m going to give you four tips today on what you can do to better understand user intent. So before we talk about user intent, let’s just understand what user intent is.
3 Types of Search Queries (User Intent)
User intent of a keyword defined is the goal of typing the search query and it’s going to fall into one of these three categories. “Do,” “Know,” or “Go.”
a) The Informational Query (“Know”)
Your “know” informational queries means that your user needs information like maybe the band on the concert or the best restaurant in Wyoming. I don’t know. But they’re looking for information. They’re not looking to do anything. They just want to find out more information. So that’s “knowing,” or “know” informational queries.
In this example, I did a search for back pain, just looking to see what information was on the internet about back pain, and also what other keywords are associated with the search. If you look at the smart text that Google provies (the big red box on the top of the image), you will see some of the other important keywords that people associate with that phrase. This will clue you in on what’s most important to people when searching for a term, particularly an industry one.
b) The Transactional Query (“Do”)
Transactional Query – The “Do”. Understanding your User intent is the Key to Driving Substantially More Web Traffic, and Creating More Social Engagement.
With this type of search, you’re going to “do” something where it’s a transactional query like you want to do something like buy a concert ticket or listen to a particular album. That’s “Do.” Transactional queries.
In this example, I moved forward into the search process by searching for back pain plus the word treatment, making the phrase “back pain treatment.” As you can see from the image, the large red box at the top digs even deeper into what other words are associated with that term, and you can see that certain types of back back are included, included upper, middle and lower. Chronic is also a phrase that is used, as well as home treatment, for people who might not want to wish to go to a doctor, but are looking for a solution that they might be able to provide themselves with a home remedy.
c) The Navigational Query (“Go”)
The last query is a “Go” or a navigational query. It means that you want to go to a particular place or website like Facebook or you want to go to the homepage of the MLB. Whatever it may be, the band’s website. You have a particular destination in mind and that’s your navigational query.
For this final example, I used the term facebook plus back pain, to show what a person who is going through back pain might be looking for on a social platform, possibly looking for a chance to fins a community of people who are going through the same issue, and uncovering what other people (authentically) are doing to solve their back pain problems. There are quite a few Facebook pages devoted to the topic, in both the U.S. and abroad. If you were a business that was wondering is Facebook might be a good place for potential customers and an audience, this is proof that there is a definite need. And you could follow the conversation, as well.
Now when your visitors type a query into a search box and they come to your website, are they really going to be satisfied with what they find? The main question that search engines have, billions of times a day, their primary goal is to serve results to their searchers or users.
You have to ask yourself what your target audience is looking for and make sure that your site can delivery. As well, if you’re in social media you need to understand what your target customers are looking for so you can have that relevant conversation with them in social media, and that you’re using the right language.
You know how search works, right? We could go into the steps for search, right? You come to your search engine. You type some words into a little box. The primary principles are the same. It goes something like this.
You have the need for an answer. You are looking for some information and then you formulate that into a string of words or phrases. That’s called a query. And then you put this query into the search engine and you look through all of the results on the page, or your SERP. You click on one of them, scan for a solution or a link.. If you’re not satisfied you go to the search results and you browse for another solution or another link. Or you could perform a new search with refinements to that query. That’s pretty much the search process, so you understand that.
1. Study the SERPs Regularly.
My first tip in better understanding user intent for more traffic – here’s one tip that you really should take on and do this regularly: Study the SERPS, your Search Engine Result Pages regularly. I recommend Google because it’s the number one search engine in the world. And you just need to carve out some time to really study your SERPS for the basic key words. If you look through the results on that page you’ll begin to uncover what people are really looking for when they type in the words or phrases that you focused on. So in other words take your keyword, whatever that keyword may be, if you sell cigars or whatever take a look at the SERPS and see the language around that keyword and see how people are searching for cigars. Are they looking for a particular type of cigar, are they looking to see how to make cigars, what is it. I don’t really know cigars, I don’t know why I use that as an example, but that’s definitely something you should do on a regular basis so that you can better understand people. If you have a keyword for a particular industry you want to see how people are using the language, what questions they’re asking, what the competitors in your industry are doing. So you want to look at the SERPS and you also want to look on the right side to see some of the served ads to see what language is in there to. The results pages on Google are really finely tuned, they are tested and optimized pages. Google may not have perfected it yet, but the search results are really a fine indicator of what people are looking for because they reflect the content people engage with.
So take a couple of examples. If you want to start with this term you can start with it. It’s one I use on the website. The search for back pain shows that there is definite user intent of the search for back pain getting treatment and ending it, as well as many websites giving more information about ending it. They’re not looking for more back pain or to bring on a backache, right? They want to know how to remedy it. They are looking for products and how to information perhaps more than they are interested in the physiology of how backaches start or what causes it or diagnosing it but pretty much finding websites that provide more information on backaches and those could be like WebMD which has information about backaches and what symptoms are, what causes them and stuff but pretty much these people are going to want to click through for more information on one of the solutions. And that’s most important.
So your job for your business is to solve someone’s pain. Products or services you provide a product or you provide a service and that product or service is supposed to make someone’s life better and cure their pain. So here’s a prime example of pain, back pain, something that we all go through at some point in our lives unfortunately. But this is very important, start with an informational search around a certain keyword and see what words, around them in solving that problem. Then you better understand the language that people are using to better solve that particular problem. Call it Google jeopardy or whatever it is but take your company’s or brand’s top keywords on a regular basis and just see what Google gives you and kind of infer the kinds of questions that people are looking for, do they want products do they want how to instructions, kind of general info. Just take some regular notes, come back in another month and do it again. Track your user intent for your keywords for your brand over time and this is going to help you monitor and then eventually predict your industry trends. It’s going to allow you to provide that specific content your buyers are looking for that will drive traffic to your website, even your social platforms. So that’s my first tip.
2. Write for User Intent Versus Keywords.
The knowledge area is constantly growing and hundreds of algorithms are constantly translating the collection of information and data by Google. It’s translating it into human language and understanding. So you have in-depth articles by Google on search and it’s getting really good at discerning user intent. So if you’re creating that content shift that focus from just writing for a keyword now, write for the user. It’s becoming a reality and the keywords are just getting kind of a new job description. Their purpose is to kind of fill in all of the holes around the other language that your users are using when they are looking for a solution to their problem. Remember we were looking for backache, backaches solution. You might find that the words that are used more often might be back pain. You’re only going to find this by doing trial and error and seeing what comes up most and seeing the language that people are using. So when you find other stuff like in the first tip that I gave you, you’re going to study those SERPS so you know the language that people are using and now you’re going to go right for the user intent, not just stuffing keywords into your copy. You want to write with the language that your audience is using and what they’re familiar with and the language they speak.
3. Just Google It.
You can use Bing or what whatever your search engine is but just Google it that’s the one I use all the time. As they continue to improve the user experience, they change their algorithm, their formula, regularly. They continue to force all of us content creators to do the same. The tool that we use to communicate with is language in Google data machine is finally big enough to crack the meaning behind the characters we type. They are getting better at it all the time. So creating that content to optimize keywords is really what you have to do. But Google’s efforts to reach deeper into user intent means that just that strategy alone is getting less and less effective. But fortunately decoding user intent isn’t difficult and you already have the tools you need. So with most problems and challenges these days, the easiest and best place is to just Google it. When you’re in doubt, just use the free tools.
There is a range of tools that are going to enable you to do keyword research. One of them is Google ad words keyword tool. If you want to Google it, it’s SK tool. And the Google insights research tool. Those are two great tools that you can use to just Google it and just figure out what people are looking for and the actual terms that they use.
I use the monthly search volume to see what’s most used. Sometimes it might just be the tweak of the word that will make all of the difference between hundreds of searches a month to thousands of searches a month. Just try variations on a theme. In any case, with both of these tools you have reliable resources available that will take the guesswork out for you. The most successful strategy is doing your own research rather than making that stuff up.
4. Do Competitor Research.
I truly believe in this. It’s what I’ve been doing since I’ve been doing online marketing for about 20 years now. Especially in social media it’s been over 10 years now and it’s something that I’ve always needed to do. You don’t want to kind of guess what people are saying. People are already having a conversation and it’s important for you to understand the language that they’re using. This is important for your SEO not just for your social media engagement. So always make sure that you are taking a look at your competitors’ websites and also their social media platforms. Yes you can also go to the forums where people are having discussions that are very relevant to your industry, particularly on LinkedIn, especially if you have a B2B audience. But if you have a consumer audience I would say that your best bet would be to check your consumer friendly social media platforms, B2C like Instagram, your Facebook, Twitter is kind of a mix you’ll have to check it out.
So always take a look at what your competitors’ audience language is. This will give you a better idea of what some of the languages that you should be using as well in your copy on your website because again, don’t just keep it in social media, you want to drive that traffic somewhere, particularly to your website especially if you have an e-commerce platform, you don’t want the conversation to just stay heavy in social media. You want to take them out from there and continue on driving the traffic to your website.
Download this episode 72 of my SMARTER ONLINE MARKETING PODCAST