Understanding Search Intent & the Key to Writing for SEOby@tosinonikosi
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Understanding Search Intent & the Key to Writing for SEO

by Tosin Onikosi May 20th, 2022
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If you create ten 1500-word articles every month that nobody sees, you are wasting your time. Your content needs to satisfy search intent and address users’ search queries. Google has no interest in ranking pages that do not deliver value to the searcher. The best way to rank for users' search intent is to produce quality content and use product-specific, super targeted keywords that speak to the Unique Selling Point (USP) of your product or service.

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Recently, I mentioned in an article about product-led content marketing, our SEO-crazed “race to rank.” A race that has led several marketers and brands alike to churn out hundreds of keyword-dense articles in a bid to rank better and improve visibility. A lack of in-depth understanding of how Google works might lead one to produce content for keywords without understanding what part your content plays in justifying said keywords.

If you create many 1500-word articles every month that no one sees, you are wasting your time and effort. It’s an understandable mistake because we’ve been told by experts to “be consistent”. Except we leave out the part about the consistency in value you deliver.

Millions of blog posts are written and published every day, and Google, the world’s most-used search engine is getting smarter and stricter. It has no interest in ranking pages that do not deliver value to the searcher. Google’s effectiveness as a search engine is measured by how accurate the results it delivers to a search query are. So inserting keywords isn’t enough anymore. Is your content valuable and a worthy answer to a searcher’s intent?

Understanding search intent

Search Intent or Keyword Intent is a user's main goal when typing a keyword into a search engine. It is the main purpose of any online search, an answer to a question that they have, looking to find a specific product, etc.

Google’s success can be attributed to people’s need for information and its ability to serve that information to users. A lot of people, myself included, google over 15 search terms per day in a bid to find answers — information, places, products, and Google’s number 1 goal is satisfying the user’s search intent. You need to ensure that your content satisfies search intent and provides an answer to the user’s search queries

How Google determines search intent

Google groups all searches under 4 types:

  • Transactional - Looking for a product or service

  • Commercial - Looking to make a buy

  • Navigational - Looking for a specific page

  • Informational - Looking for information on a specific topic

I like to merge Transactional and Commercial because they can sometimes be interchangeable. A user might be searching for a product or service and end up making a purchase and vice versa.

  1. Transactional/Commercial Search Intent

This is when a user is looking to find a product/service or make a purchase. Usually, this person is either looking for the best place to find what they want or has already decided they want to make a purchase, but are looking for a deal. At this point, the searcher likely has an idea about what they want, so their search term may include a brand or a specific feature that they’re looking for. The best way to rank for this search intent is to use product-specific, super-targeted keywords that speak to the Unique Selling Point(USP) of your product or service.

If a person was searching for “best refrigerator to buy” or “women’s boutique near me,” keywords like “Affordable refrigerators” “Discounts on Women’s Clothes,” or “Shop Women’s Clothes, Free Delivery” contain results that are beneficial to the searcher’s need. A person looking for a refrigerator wants to see affordable options available.

2. Navigational Search Intent

Now, this is a tricky one and the truth is that you probably don’t stand a chance to rank for these search queries except if you’re the actual place or website the person is looking for. Google wants to pride itself on the accuracy of results so it will only return results that meet this. The best you can do is make sure that you own your brand’s navigational search by publishing titles that cover all the likely things people might type into Google in their search for you. Does your business have a nickname or street name that’s different from the official brand name? Make sure to optimize your page titles and metadata to reflect that.

3. Informational Search Intent

As the name implies this is when a user is looking for information on a specific topic. The best way to rank for informational searches is with high-quality SEO-led content. From your headlines to the body of your blog post, you must provide genuinely helpful information that is relevant to the keyword or search. Wikipedia for example is always one of Google’s first results for informational searches because it does a good job of providing basic, *reliable* information about a broad range of topics.

Some of the ways you can target informational queries to drive traffic to your content through organic search are through How-tos, step-by-step guides, infographics, and tips that are relevant to your business. The goal is to position yourself as an authoritative and reliable source of information and by extension build awareness for your brand.

After understanding what your potential reader is searching for and gathering your resources to put together your valuable content, here are 3 additional checklist items to help you stand out from the millions of articles being published every day and rank better.

1. Write better titles and headlines

Your headline is the salesperson of your content. It is the reader’s first interaction with your blog post and so must do a good job of being as informative and motivating as possible in as few words. It must be able to convey all of the value you’ve put into your content using direct and conventional language while focusing on the main point of your article. As much as you want to please Google with your keyword-optimized title, you also don’t want to lose your potential reader.

It’s tempting to want to be artsy when it comes to writing your headline (I know I get tempted to use puns all the time😞) Write with a voice and speak directly to your reader in a language they will understand without having to rack their brain. According to an article by Wired, a strong headline can get you 500% more page views than a weak one.

Test your headlines obsessively, it’ll be worth it to find the right one.

2. Write longer pieces

Longer posts rank better on search engine results pages 🤷🏾‍♀️. I don’t make the rules, if I did, 500-word articles that can give me what I need in under 2 minutes would be king because of my ridiculously short attention span but unfortunately, I do not make the rules.

According to Hubspot data, an ideal blog post length should be between 2100–2400 words! (I wish I could write numbers in all caps). The average number of words in the most ranked articles on Google is 2000. Simply put, Google assumes longer content means better value which means higher ranking and more traffic. Longer posts keep your readers on the page for much longer increasing “Dwell Time”, which is the amount of time users spend on your website. This is an important metric because it tells Google that your content is engaging — meaning it’s providing users with what they were searching for. Also, Longer content gets more social shares and converts better.

3. Write from a fresh angle

Again about the millions of Blogposts getting published on Elon Musk’s internet every day and using the understanding of search intent to make your content more valuable and therefore more rankable. I can’t overemphasize this.

During my time at Industrie Africa, content strategy meetings included us analyzing current trends and brainstorming fresh ways to tell those stories. If we couldn’t find a fresh angle for the story, it got dropped because it should always be quality over quantity. Hopping on trends as a way to attract traffic is great except that everyone is also doing it, so what makes your content stand out?

Writing for SEO in a content-saturated world requires that you properly explore and research your topic as it aligns with your audience, decide on the value you want to deliver, and make sure that there’s something that makes your content different from the pool of others that already exist.

Google likes top shelf and topic and content regurgitation reduces the quality of your work. Spending time to figure out a fresh angle for your content can go a long way to improve the quality of your work, attract traffic, and engage your readers.

In conclusion, the ultimate goal of any form of marketing is to be seen. Understanding how to position your content to be found by your potential audience as well as meet search intent in the body of your content is the only surefire way to win the race to rank.

Also published here.