Understanding User Intent – Marketing Beyond Keywords
Keyword targeting has long played an important role in digital marketing, especially when it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). However, as search engines continue to evolve to better serve the user, we’re seeing less of an emphasis being placed on keywords, and more of an emphasis being placed on user intent.
What Is User Intent?
In the simplest terms, user intent refers to what a consumer is looking for when they perform their search. Search engines don’t just look at keywords a user types into a search bar anymore, they look at a wider scope of factors to better identify what results the user wants to see.
That may include things like user behavior, location, and trending topics. However, user intent can generally be broken down into the following three categories:
- Information (Know) – The consumer is looking for general knowledge about the subject of their search.
- Navigational (Go) – The consumer is looking for a specific website.
- Transactional (Do) – The consumer is looking to take a specific action, in our case, purchase and insurance plan.
Understanding the user’s intent is critical when it comes to developing your marketing strategy. It doesn’t just help you create content that user’s and search engines want to see, it helps increase your conversion rates as well. Something we’ll dive into a bit further down.
Why Search Intent Matters for SEO
In the early days of SEO, search engine algorithms were much more primitive than they are now. As digital marketers became more privy to how search engines operated, they started implementing less than ethical tactics when it came to optimizing their websites. Practices like spamming backlinks and keyword stuffing became commonplace.
As a way to combat these tactics, and enhance overall user experience, search engines algorithms began to evolve. Perhaps one of the most notorious updates was Google’s Hummingbird update, which was announced in 2013.
The Hummingbird update signaled a major shift in the world of Search Engine Optimization. One that saw more emphasis being placed on concepts than keywords. Search engines began looking at the search query as a whole, rather than individual terms and phrases.
It’s because of the Hummingbird update that websites and content are able to rank without the presence of the target keyword anywhere on the page.
So what does that mean for your SEO strategy?
For starters, it means you need to stop focusing solely on keywords, and focus on providing the most relevant content for an entire concept. Spend the extra time and energy to dive a bit deeper, and stop thinking about writing content that search engines want to see, and start writing content that users want to see.
Improving Conversion Rates
Understanding user intent is important for SEO, but also crucial when it comes to Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). A critical metric that is too often overlooked by inexperienced marketers.
Your conversion rate refers to the number of users who visit your website that perform a desired action. As an insurance agent, this generally refers to someone filling out their information as a lead, or purchasing a policy.
When you correctly identify the intent behind a user’s search query, you’re able to serve more relevant content that aligns with what the user is looking for. This creates a chain reaction, which both enhances the user’s experience with your brand or business, and increases the likelihood they convert.
This brings us to the ever important buyer’s journey.
What is the Buyer’s Journey
The buyer’s journey is a marketing roadmap that follows consumers from their initial point of awareness, up until they make their purchase. Similarly to user intent, it can be broken down into three stages:
- Awareness – The buyer first becomes aware of a problem.
- Consideration – The buyer gives a name to their problem, and begins researching solutions.
- Decision – The buyer narrows down, and ultimately settles on a solution.
As you can see, the three stages of the buyer’s journey bear a striking resemblance to the three categories of user intent. Identifying intent will allow you to reach your users early on in their buyer’s journey, improving your user’s overall experience with your business or brand.
So, how does this help with conversion rates?
By understanding user intent, and which stage of the buyer’s journey it matches up to, you can begin to tailor your message, content, and call to actions to enhance your user’s experience. It allows you to begin building a connection with your desired audience early on, increasing your conversion rates down the line.
Identifying User Intent
Now that we know what user intent is, and why it’s so important to our marketing strategy, the final step is learning how to identify it. If there’s one benefit to the ultra competitive landscape of the insurance industry, it’s that discovering the intent behind a given keyword or phrase is as simple as performing a quick search.
Begin by finding a focus topic or concept that you’d like to rank for, and see what content is returned once you search for it. The first page on Google will be filled with valuable information, including competitor content, information snippets, and related search queries and keywords.
At that point, you can begin to start mapping out the type of content you need to create in order to be competitive for that particular topic. Begin to ask yourself:
- What type of content is being shown (video, blog posts, forums)?
- Are search results location based?
- What titles and descriptions are your competitors using?
- What are the most common themes and topics being touched on?
- What other questions are being asked around the same topic?
- What related keywords is the search engine showing at the bottom of the page?
Once you begin to start answering these questions, you’ll get a better understanding of the intent behind the topic or concept. From there, all you have to do is begin mapping out your own content, and create something that would offer more benefit to the user than what’s currently out there.
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