User intent can be defined as why users are visiting your website and what they are looking for. Are they are looking for information? Are they looking to transact and make a purchase?
User intent is now something that Google takes very seriously when determining its organic search results. Whilst previous algorithm updates like Panda (content) and Penguin (links) were introduced and literally changed search results overnight, the user intent update is something that Google have continuously rolled out during 2017.
Why does user intent matter?
Google considers logically that people typing in ‘pizza in London’ will mostly likely want a cool pizza joint where they can go with friends or get a takeaway and not a history of pizza in London including when it was introduced to the nation’s capital, what ingredients were used and what people thought of it.
But in the case of the latter, a website with some strong ranking signals like good content, age of site and strong backlinks could potentially rank position one for ‘pizza in london’ – despite not offering a place where people can order a thin crust.
This is where ‘user intent’ comes in. Its Google’s job to determine what the user’s intention is and give them search results based on this.
If you type ‘what is …’ for a certain product, you are likely going to get 10 results on page one that explain about the product and how it works. If you type in ‘just the product’ – you will get clear websites that allow you to transact.
If we take an example from the competitive world of finance or insurance, you want your landing pages to mention what the product is and how they can apply or purchase it (see this example from Pheabs).
This is more effective for ranking a certain product or service rather than a long essay on what the product is and how it works. Other things to include are regular call-to-action buttons (forms, email address, buttons, phone numbers) and things like key features, eligibility requirements and FAQs.
By comparison, if you were trying to rank for long phrases or questions, you could make the pieces much more focused around providing answers and supporting this with images or graphs, with no mention of product features or calls-to-action.
Have your rankings fallen?
In fact, if you have not optimised your website for user intent in the last year, you may have seen a noticeable dip in search results, traffic and sales.
Common cases have included having too much content on the main website landing page. This may result in Google thinking you are more resourceful, rather than transactional. Hence, they may rank you for terms with questions and those looking for guides and information, rather than making the purchase.
In the competitive world of funeral plans, Google’s listings for ‘funeral plans’ and ‘what is a funeral plan’ differ significantly. The main term of funeral plans is a lot more targeted at where you can buy such a plan but the “what is” shows guides from Which, MoneyAdviceService and from plan providers, but their main page is not picked up, rather a useful guide or resource page. In fact, the top 10 URLs between the two searches are all completely different.
How to create user intent for SEO and conversions
In 2018, SEO professionals and webmasters will need to adjust their websites and landing pages if applications, sales and conversions are key to their business growth. The way to create strong user intent includes:
The right amount of content: Avoid offering thousands and thousands of words and consider adding 100 to 400 words which is just enough to explain who you are and what you do to engage the customer. Avoid giving definitions in the content and instead talk about your own business or answer commonly asked questions by customers e.g how long is delivery, what happens when you apply
Use language to make the site transactional: Language should be optimised in the meta-titles, meta-descriptions and <h> tags to encourage the sale. Using our example for ‘pizza in London,’ you will want to use words like ‘Order,’ ‘Make an Order’ and ‘Delivery.’
For financial products, use language like ‘Apply,’ ‘Make an Application’ and ‘Get a Quote.’
Add clear calls-to-actions: The use of apply now buttons, contact forms, data capture forms and mini applications show that you mean business. Even have a clear contact address, email address and phone number in the header and footer can show that you are a transactional business.
You essentially want to move as far away from Wikipedia as possible, which consists of a long page of content. Have multiple calls-to-action above the fold and lower down the page will show that you are offering a product and want to capture the customer.
Include USPs: Promote your own business through key selling points that will make people want to transact with you. Show that you offer free day delivery, have reviews on Trustpilot and any testimonials.
User intent is a real thing. Take time to really understand the customers wants and how you can add value to meet their needs. Thinking with a ‘user intent approach’ will allow you to rank effectively for key terms and reap the financial rewards of higher quality traffic.