Content Marketing News SEO

Understanding Search Intent: How To Surface The “Right” Content For Your Audience

When it comes to online marketing, the conventional wisdom has been that the overarching goal is to have content — any content, so long as it links back to my website — appear in front of the user. But this ignores a critical element of creating SEO-optimized content: search intent.

Put another way, many people have long believed that the goal of SEO is to appear as high as possible in the search listings, no matter the relationship between the content surfaced and the actual intent of the searcher.

A Shifting Landscape Toward Content Relevancy

Many marketers have come to realize that it may no longer be enough to drop searchers onto any old page on their website. Online users, and search engine algorithms, have become increasingly sophisticated.

B2C buyers have long done the lion’s share of purchase research online on their own, and recent research from CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council shows that even B2B buyers are now doing the bulk of their own research online before buying. According to this research, today’s B2B buyers do not contact suppliers until 57 percent of the purchase process is complete.

The implication for marketers here is that it’s no longer enough to check off the “online marketing” box on a marketing plan once you’re ranking for the queries that matter to you. Now, we must be sure we are surfacing the right content.

To do that, we must first understand what the “right” content is. The first step in doing so is to ask what the intent of the searcher is in posing their query to the search engine. Once we have a good answer to that, the query can be mapped to the appropriate content type.

For example, the traditional marketing schema has a home furnishings retailer surfacing a bathroom furniture product page with pricing and purchase information for the query “bathroom design.”

In the new paradigm, by first considering search intent, we identify that a searcher of “bathroom design” is likely in a research/information state of mind rather than a purchase/transactional one. Knowing this, the retailer can surface content such as a blog post, video, or an online design tool that helps the searcher make an informed purchase decision rather than surfacing a transaction-oriented product page.

Contrast that with the query “buy bathroom furniture,” where the searcher is clearly in a transactional state of mind, and it is appropriate to surface a product page with pricing and product information.

search intent methodology to determine best fit content type

Consider Search Intent To Surface The Right Content

To be sure, it is difficult enough for us marketers to consistently appear at the top of the search results for our primary keywords. But, if we can start thinking from the perspective of the searcher and consider their state of mind when they are searching for information, we can better provide them with the kind of content they are looking for which in turn leads to higher conversion rates, more links and more shares.

And, it has been widely suggested that Google looks closely at search results bounce rate — what AJ Kohn refers to as “time to long-click” — as a ranking factor. This means that they measure the rate that search visitors visit your site and then bounce back to the search results page to click on another result. This suggests there are ranking incentives beyond the loss of the immediate visitor for serving up the “right” content.

So, wherever you are in maturity of your search practice, think about how you might start to map search intent to content type. The cost of not doing so is a high bounce rate as visitors look elsewhere for answers that better map to their intent, and the possibility of a broad impact to your site’s search visibility as Google sees searchers consistently bouncing from your site.

Ready for the next step? See our article, A Holistic Approach to Rethinking Your Keyword Strategy.

This article originally appeared in Search Engine Land

3 Responses to Understanding Search Intent: How To Surface The “Right” Content For Your Audience

  1. Eric White says:

    That’s a good and important distinction to make. It’s easy to get into a rhythm, busting out content and working on SEO without realizing how the two actually work together.

    I think Google’s Hummingbird update will make this even more relevant as longtail keywords come back and searches become more… specific.

    • Nathan Safran says:

      Thanks Eric. I agree that, with Hummingbird, Google is demonstrating it’s increased proficiency in understanding and surfacing relevant content.

  2. paul says:

    As considering searching phase and content phase,I think only Original and relevant content can only increase your online marketing .