Using Keywords to Define User Intent Online

Keywords are the basic foundation of any SEO strategy, and they are typically used as topical concepts to cover throughout your content. All too often, they’re simply used as guideposts that can help you outline your content’s topics of discussion.

To use keywords in such a way, is to waste their true potential. Instead, content creators and SEO professionals should be looking at the intent behind the keyword. What was the searcher’s purpose when they entered that phrase or topic into Google? Join us as we discuss finding intent and applying it to your strategies.

Understanding User Intent

Every single person that uses a search engine has some kind of intent behind their inquiry. They don’t just type in something because they feel like it. They have a reason behind their search. Google seeks to understand this intent and provide results in the SERPs that meet the needs of that search.

MOZ founder Rand Fishkin once described the main categories of search intent as such:

  • Navigational – The searcher is looking for a specific website, but they don’t know the URL, or they’d rather do it this way.
  • Informational – These are searches that result when people are looking for information or answers about a specific topic. A search like top 10 hosts, for example, would be informational in nature.
  • Transactional – This is when someone is ready to purchase a product, find a local company, sign up for a subscription, etc. They have a specific product or type of product in mind, and they’re ready to buy.

Knowing this, you can use your analytics, your keyword research, and various queries around your brand or industry to better understand which type of intent your keywords have behind them.

Applying User Intent to your Keyword Strategy

Doing your own research into specific keywords or intent begins with understanding the meaning behind the concepts your customers are searching for. You should also target long-tail keyword variations, which reveal intent far more than a single word or concept.

For example, if I were to search for “roaches,” then most of the searches will incorporate something about extermination. From this, you could infer than people searching for “roaches” are most likely looking for a solution on how to get rid of them.

It’s also worth noting that searchers tend to go through these categories, one-by-one, when they are on the journey towards making a purchase. Knowing their intent can also give you an idea of where they stand in your sales funnel.

You can use this as an opportunity to modify your calls to action (CTAs),, and cater your pitch to the intent of the users on that page. This also extends to the language you use on your pages. Remember, you’ll get further by honing in on intent than you will by trying to just broadly target keywords.

Understanding your user’s search intent will give you power over your content in a way that simple metrics like search volume never could for your keywords. It will also apply to other aspects of your business, like social media. Remember to look for detailed and long phrases (long-tail keywords) as these will offer more insight into where the customer stands in their buyer journey.

Final Thoughts

User intent is the true power of keywords in today’s SEO world. You should look beyond things like search volume and instead seek to understand the meaning behind what your users are searching. This will give you the knowledge you need to create targeted content that fits their needs.

This article was originally written by Amy Winer for the Heyo Blog

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