Founder at M16 Marketing and a Forbes Agency Council member. He’s a leading marketing technologist on a mission to create success stories.
Marketers are always planning their SEO and content strategies to boost their performance in search engines. While technical SEO is still important and will continue to be, one of the most important ranking factors to achieve SEO success is user intent.
In short, if you want your content to perform well, you need to appeal to users over search engines, or your rankings will suffer.
Keywords Are No Longer King
You might remember the early days of SEO when all that seemed to matter were keywords. When developing content, it used to be that you’d write paragraph after paragraph of keyword-stuffed content with a certain target keyword density percentage. Today, that simply isn’t the case.
Yes, keywords do still matter to some extent. Incorporating keyword phrases that have high volume and low competitiveness can help with rankings, but it’s important to understand that the content around them needs to support them, not vice versa. You can write 1,000-plus words around a set of high-value keywords to your heart’s content, but your page won’t see any movement in Google if there’s nothing else to help you rank.
You should also perform keyword research based on your audience’s specific needs and wants.
Know What Your Prospects Need
If you want your website to trump competitors’, you should have the best understanding of what your audience is looking for. Do your research and see what your target market is looking for in your products or services. Is there a specific feature they need to resolve a specific issue? Is there a popular attribute of the perfect customer experience that you can advertise?
You can learn more about user intent by performing some of your own searches on Google and looking at auto-suggest recommendations, following popular influencers, liking and following authorities in your industry, or even sending surveys to prospects and existing customers to get some ideas.
The more you understand what your audience wants and needs from you, the more they’ll perceive you as a business that actually cares about them.
The Importance Of Developing Content That Users Find Useful
When it comes to ranking high on Google and other search engines, you need to produce and publish content that the user finds helpful in achieving their goals. Google doesn’t just punish spammy content incorporating outdated blackhat SEO practices — the algorithm also dismisses websites that users don’t particularly like.
Google can detect whether or not a webpage meets users’ needs by seeing how much time they spend on the page before returning to the search results page (SERP), along with your page’s loading speed. If people are quick to leave your page because it doesn’t answer their questions or provide sufficient information, Google will see this as a negative. And if your page doesn’t load quickly enough (generally any longer than three seconds is too long), the user will likely leave your site altogether out of impatience.
If you want to create content that your users can actually use, consider the different types of content and the corresponding stages of the buyer’s journey, which can guide your audience along to a sale.
Informational Stage Content
The informational stage is when people are still doing research regarding a specific problem or solution. Buyers at this stage are simply looking for information. Here is where you can shine by figuring out what types of information users are looking for and producing content that educates.
By finding out what people are searching for and learning more about your audience’s problems and questions, you can more effectively develop an SEO and content strategy around these queries and answers. Content at the informational stage might include “what is” or “how-to” content that explains certain concepts in-depth.
Navigational Stage Content
Navigation is when people are performing more research around specific products, services or brands. Put simply, this is when buyers are beginning to figure out where they might find a solution to their problems.
Content at the navigational stage should focus on making it clear that you’re where they can find the best resolution to a user’s problems. You might want to write blog posts that feature “top [products] for [application],” “[business type] in [city]” or similar lists that highlight your business as the ideal place to turn.
Transactional Stage Content
During the transactional stage of the buyer’s journey, prospects are ready to make a purchase. They know just what they’re looking for and possibly have a specific brand in mind. It’s during this transactional stage that you can push content that leads to a purchase.
Content during this stage will include actionable words and phrases like “buy,” “for sale,” “download,” “schedule a consultation” or other similar content that inspires the user to “do” something.
Developing content will each of these stages in mind and the user’s varying intent at each stage can help you supercharge your content and SEO.
Making Content Easy To Find With Natural Language
Part of appealing to users is appealing to their language. This is why you should develop content that uses the same language as your audience. This entails avoiding awkward keyword phrases in your content that people wouldn’t normally say, like “commercial cleaning service Atlanta, GA,” when it looks wrong. Keep your content and optimization conversational, and you’ll be able to stay on search engines’ good side while attracting more users.
If you do all the necessary research and develop engaging content for each of the buying stages from informational to transactional, you can effectively market to your target audience and avoid potential penalties from search engines. When planning your SEO and content strategies into the next year and throughout the next decade, you’ll go far if you keep user intent at the forefront of your mind throughout every stage along the way.
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