No matter what your industry, there is a lot of competition for potential clients. This is true both in the physical world as well as online. And when it comes to attracting potential customers on the internet, the search engine is king.

Jockeying for position with search engine optimization has been a contested point since search engines were first introduced. The ways in which a website can position themselves at the top of these results has changed over the years.

Gone are the days of peppering your website and copy with specific keywords without regard to the rest of the content surrounding them. Internet users are more savvy, as are the search engines that serve them.

And that’s the main focus — serving the searcher.

This is where user intent comes in. The term “user intent” refers to what a person using a search engine is looking to find with their query. What question do they need answered? What product are they looking for?

The most effective means of search engine optimization is simply to provide helpful content.

How Does User Intent Affect My Website?

User intent is the main focus of a search engine. Therefore, search engines reward websites that most adequately address user intent. The goal of a website should be to align with user intent as closely as possible for the benefit of both the website and the visitor.

On average, you have around 15 seconds to prove your worth to a new visitor.

They’ll quickly hit the back button and move to the next search result if you don’t address what they’re looking for. Search engines take note of this.

Factors such as the amount of time a user spends on your website, the percentage of users that view one page and leave the site without clicking around, and how many people click into your search result in the first place play a big role in your rankings.

Properly addressing user intent will positively affect all of these aspects and will lead to higher search result rankings.

Your content should aim to address a concern, answer a question, or otherwise provide a service. The point of a website isn’t solely to get people to click in, it’s to keep them there. And for websites that offer a product or service, there’s an additional step of creating a sale.

But if your content doesn’t give visitors a reason to stay, you won’t be able to convert on the rest of your goals.

How Should I Think About User Intent?

User intent can be separated into three different varieties.

  1. Informational: The searcher needs an answer to a question. 
  2. Transactional: The searcher is in search of something to purchase.
  3. Navigational: The searcher has a specific goal in mind, such as a particular website.

These distinctions are important when considering how to address a concern. After all, you can’t address a concern if you don’t understand what the searcher is looking to gain.

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The chances of showing up in a search are fairly low unless the searcher is directly seeking your website.

Providing relevant information that directly benefits your target market is the best way to attract attention and build your search result rankings.

Think of it this way: Gain the attention of a searcher through an informational search and convert it into a transactional interaction.

People searching for information related to your industry will be predisposed to be interested in your services. But this only works if your content aligns with your product and/or service.

A really well-written and informative article on brake pads won’t do a tech website any good.

Your title should work in conjunction with your content. You don’t want to trick someone into your website with a title that doesn’t reflect what they will find. This will only result in a quick departure. It also creates a distrust of your brand and can damage your rankings.

The goal isn’t to simply make it to the top of any list of search results. Properly addressing user intent benefits everyone involved — both the business and the consumer.

How Do I Figure Out User Intent?

Imagine yourself as the person typing a query into a search engine. What are you trying to learn? What are you looking to find?

One way to do this is to actually type your topic into a search engine. The top results most likely align with user intent.

Occasionally a top-tier website will usurp a better article or page, but you can generally rely on these results. See how others have addressed the idea or question and learn from their methods.

Buyer personas can be a big help in figuring out what your potential customers might be looking for. Learn about the motivations and needs of the people your business serves as well as how they interact with your site. Create content that addresses their needs.