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The importance of understanding intent for SEO

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Search is an exciting, ever-changing channel.

Algorithm updates from Google, innovations in the way we search (mobile, voice search, etc.), and evolving user behavior all keep us on our toes as SEOs. The dynamic nature of our industry requires adaptable strategies and ongoing learning to be successful. However, we can’t become so wrapped up in chasing new strategies and advanced tactics that we overlook fundamental SEO principles.

Recently, I’ve noticed a common thread of questioning coming from our clients and prospects around searcher intent, and I think it’s something worth revisiting here. In fact, searcher intent is such a complex topic it’s spawned multiple scientific studies (PDF) and research (PDF).

However, you might not have your own internal research team, leaving you to analyze intent and the impact it has on your SEO strategy on your own. Today, I want to share a process we go through with clients at Page One Power to help them better understand the intent behind the keywords they target for SEO.

Two questions we always ask when clients bring us a list of target keywords and phrases are:

  1. Should your site or page rank there?
  2. What will these rankings accomplish?

These questions drive at intent and force us, and our clients, to analyze audience and searcher behavior before targeting specific keywords and themes for their SEO strategy.

The basis for any successful SEO strategy is a firm understanding of searcher intent.

Types of searcher intent

Searcher intent refers to the “why” behind a given search query — what is the searcher hoping to achieve? Searcher intent can be categorized in four ways:

  • Informational
  • Navigational
  • Commercial
  • Transactional

Categorizing queries into these four segments will help you better understand what types of pages searchers are looking for.

Informational intent

People entering informational queries seek to learn information about a subject or topic. These are the most common types of searches and typically have the largest search volumes.

Informational searches also exist at the top of the marketing funnel, during the discovery phase where visitors are much less likely to convert directly into customers. These searchers want content-rich pages that answer their questions quickly and clearly, and the search results associated with these searches will reflect that.

Navigational intent

Searchers with navigational intent already know which company or brand they are looking for, but they need help with navigation to their desired page or website. These searches often involve queries that feature brand names or specific products or services.

These SERPs typically feature homepages, or specific product or service pages. They might also feature mainstream news coverage of a brand.

Commercial intent

Commercial queries exist as a sort of hybrid intent — a mix of informational and transactional.

These searches have transactional intent. The searcher is looking to make a purchase, but they are also looking for informational pages to help them make their decision. The results associated with commercial intent usually have a mix of informational pages and product or service pages.

Transactional intent

Transactional queries have the most commercial intent as these are searchers looking to make a purchase. Common words associated with transactional searches include [price] or [sale].

Transactional SERPs are typically 100 percent commercial pages (products, services and subscription pages).

Categorizing keywords and search queries into these four areas makes it easier to understand what searchers want, informing page creation and optimization.

Optimizing for intent: Should my page rank there?

With a clear understanding of the different types of intent, we can dive into optimizing for intent.

When we get a set of target keywords from a client, the first thing we ask is, “Should your website be ranking in these search results?”

Asking this question leads to other important questions:

  • What is the intent of these searches?
  • What does Google believe the intent is?
  • What type of result are people searching for?

Before you can optimize your pages for specific keywords and themes, you need to optimize them for intent.

The best place to start your research is the results themselves. Simply analyzing the current ranking pages will answer your questions about intent. Are the results blog posts? Reviews or “Top 10” lists? Product pages?

If you scan the results for a given query and all you see is in-depth guides and resources, the chances that you’ll be able to rank your product page there are slim to none. Conversely, if you see competitor product pages cropping up, you know you have legitimate opportunity to rank your product page with proper optimization.

Google wants to show pages that answer searcher intent, so you want to make sure your page does the best job of helping searchers achieve whatever they set out to do when they typed in their query. On-page optimization and links are important, but you’ll never be able to compete in search without first addressing intent.

This research also informs content creation strategy. To rank, you will need a page that is at least comparable to the current results. If you don’t have a page like that you will need to create one.

You can also find (a few) opportunities where the results currently don’t do a great job of answering searcher intent, and you could compete quickly by creating a more focused page. You can even take it a layer deeper and consider linking intent — is there an opportunity here to build a page that can act as a resource and attract links? Analyzing intent will inform the other aspects of your SEO campaign.

Asking yourself if your current or hypothetical page should rank in each SERP will help you identify — and optimize for — searcher intent.

Answering intent: What will this accomplish?

A key follow-up question we also ask is, “What will ranking accomplish?”

The simplified answer we typically get is “more traffic.” But what does that really mean?

Depending on the intent associated with a given keyword, that traffic could lead to brand discovery, authority building, or direct conversions. You need to consider intent when you set expectations and assign KPIs.

Keep in mind that not all traffic needs to convert. A balanced SEO strategy will target multiple stages of the marketing funnel to ensure all your potential customers can find you — building brand affinity is an important part of earning traffic in the first place, with brand recognition impacting click-through-rate by +2-3x! Segmenting target keywords and phrases based on intent will help you identify and fill any gaps in your keyword targeting.

Ask yourself what ranking for potential target keywords could accomplish for your business, and how that aligns with your overall marketing goals. This exercise will force you to drill down and really focus on the opportunities (and SERPs) that can make the most impact.

Searcher intent informs SEO

Search engine optimization should start with optimizing for intent. Search engines continue to become more sophisticated and better at measuring how well a page matches intent, and pages that rank well are pages that best answer the query posed by searchers.

To help our clients at Page One Power refocus on intent, we ask them the following questions:

  1. Should your site or page rank there?
  2. What will these rankings accomplish?

Ask yourself these same questions as you target keywords and phrases for your own SEO campaign to ensure you’re accounting for searcher intent.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Andrew Dennis is a Content Marketing Specialist at Page One Power. Along with his column here on Search Engine Land, Andrew also writes about SEO and link building for the Page One Power blog, Linkarati. When he’s not reading or writing about SEO, you’ll find him cheering on his favorite professional teams and supporting his alma mater the University of Idaho.





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Marketing strategies during COVID-19 times

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30-second summary:

  • If a site has never been promotedthere have been no SEO audits and there are a lot of errors in codethen link building will not help.
  • If the company is set up to work in messengersit can receive subscribers – even without the support.
  • SMM is less about direct sales and more about building a link between user and brandand content plays a primary role in this.
  • The main task now is to build an approximate plan to get back to the world and maintain feedback with clients and the team.
  • In this article, we discuss marketing strategies during COVID-19 on the lines of contextual advertising, SEO, email, social networks, and more.

Not everyone was as lucky in the pandemic as mask manufacturersfood delivery companiesZoom, and othersThe offline business had to decideeither to quickly move all the work online or limit the business in all directionsIn this article, we will discuss marketing strategies during COVID-19. 

Simply moving to the Internet is not enough: you need to understand what you are doing, and under the influence of coronavirus, marketing strategy is changing rapidly. I am going to explain what happens with contextual advertising, SEO, messengers, email, and social networks.  

You’ll find out:

  • How the demand structure in these channels is changing, 
  • How to work with them now, 
  • Whether marketing can be paused without affecting the company, 
  • Which marketing strategies are best to choose, even if there’s a shortage of money. 

PPC marketing in COVID-19 times

The trend in the PPC is as follows due to the decline in demand in general, we can see a decrease in demand in search, and search advertising subsidies in particular. Previously, PPC search and product advertising was the main source of sales. People were looking for something in search, saw ads, and bought. Context has always been an auxiliary marketing tool – creating demand, brand, remarketing. 

But nowadays, the trend returns a little, if you look at last month’s stats, banner ads and videos have become the main source of traffic from advertising. This is due to the fact that people are using streaming services, watching movies, TV series, courses, and there are banner ads everywhere. 

If we talk about conversions, then again, in most cases there is a fell. I would even say that the conversion has not fallen, but lengthened. In the past, a person coming from an advertisement would buy a simple product at once, and a more complicated product in a few clicks.  

Now, this funnel has lengthened. It became even more important to work with email, chatbots, maintain communication with other advertising channels. 

If in some areas the decision-making period was three-to-four days, it could grow to two-to-three weeks. I assume that this is due to the decrease in purchasing power because many people are on vacation or without work. Those who have money are not in a hurry to spend it, because it is not clear what will happen tomorrow. Even those who have an intention to buy something started to buy less. 

Conclusion 

Advertising is greatly reduced, due to this decreases the advertising competition. The click is cheaper and you can get cheaper traffic. And if you are ready to work with these long conversion leads – you can get them cheaper than before. 

SEO in COVID-19 times 

In most cases, organic traffic drops. And the positions of the site may be good, but the traffic is falling heavily. Demand has decreased in SEO, but again, it depends on the subject. In some niches demand has increased – someone was selling masks and antiseptics, and he had no demand but then suddenly got it. And there is, for example, tire fitting there is no change in demand because people need to retrain the car anyway. There’s no drop in demand. 

Traffic is falling in everything that concerns business services – if you take, for example, furniture for private use, the demand has not fallen much. And for offices, demand has fallen to almost zero, even those who have ordered before, stopped doing it.  

If now there is no need for “burning” clients, business is on pause, it is better to invest at least minimal in SEO, in social networks, in maintenance, and stop contextual advertising.  

How can your business save money while working on SEO? 

There are free sites, directories, where you can go and place links for free. If there is no money, this way you can optimize a good part of the budget. 

If a company does not work with content, you can follow this direction. This is a conditionally free tool – even if you don’t write it yourself, you can hire a copywriter at growyourstaff, conditionally it is not so expensive. Content can help SEO a lot, and it is much cheaper than buying links and working with technical optimization. 

If a site has never been promoted, there have been no SEO audits and there are a lot of errors in code, then link building will not help. If the site had been worked with before, now you just need to reduce budgets, you can buy fewer links or look for cheaper and free sources.

Pay more attention to the content – by publishing new articles you cover more keywords, more search queries. For example, if you sell laptops, then write “how to clean a laptop”, “how to pick up a laptop for games” and so on. A person looking for information – gets into an article, read advice, can subscribe to the mailing list, social networks, become your regular customer. It is possible in this way to reduce the budget for SEO. 

Messenger marketing and COVID-19 times

Being in a situation of forced closure, some businesses could not afford to keep their marketing budget at the same level. Accordingly, some suspended the work with messengers, as with any other channels generating leads. The reason was not even that the companies had no money left. But also the fact that there is nothing to sell and no one to sell due to quarantine if the business is related to offline services. 

Is it worth stopping the activities in messengers at all, if the company is very tight with money? If not, then how to reduce budgets for this channel with minimal damage?  

The work with messengers is divided into several categories. In terms of generating leads, traffic, and conversion, it is the same as in targeted advertising and other lead gen channels. If the business closes, it makes no sense to generate hot leads.

But the messengers themselves can be used in many different ways. For example, the funnel does not have to sell quickly. It can be long and work for involvement, heating, work not only with potential clients but also with existing ones. It makes sense to maintain such a funnel whether the business is working now or not. When the company opens its doors again, it will be able to sell to the same people – no one has forgotten about them, they have been communicating and maintaining relationships throughout this period – it is important. 

If the company is set up to work in messengers

The company may continue receiving subscribers – even without support, even in suspended advertising campaigns. However, as a budget cut, it is possible to suspend work with the contractor. In such a situation, this is a normal solution. In a few months, nothing should break. Thus, it is possible to cut the budget through new developments, testing, active generation of leads. 

SMM in COVID-19 times 

It’s bad for those who are affected by an offline fall. If offline is closed, the whole company has stopped working, and SMM too. For example, they somehow manage the account themselves, they only have enough strength for some content activity. And advertising – nobody simply comes to them, and they cannot work, and they do not maintain advertising. 

Those who are forbidden to work, and who can not accept clients in the office, reduced to almost zero advertising in social networks and other sources. And someone, on the contrary, increased, like VR clubs. They launched a new service – previously there was an offline point, which is now closed, and the equipment is idle. They’ve set up a rental service and are actively developing it. 

What are the changes in campaign traffic that continue working during quarantine? 

In some campaigns, traffic has increased, but this is due to the fact that the auction has been released. On Facebook, the current price of a click has dropped several times – simply because many competitors have left. The price is going down, the number of clicks is going up, and the traffic is going up accordingly. 

In general, somewhere it has increased, somewhere it has decreased. Now it all depends on the area in which you work. If you can reformat online painlessly enough, you’ll have some minimal reductions, there will be growth. 

Is it possible to save money on social networking?

In general, it is better not to reduce the number of posts, and make them better in quality. If the budget for advertising has decreased, then focus on the content. 

SMM is less about direct sales and more about building a link between user and brand, and content plays a primary role in this. If you lose content, the connection is broken.

In paid promotion it is possible to save on what does not bring results right now – it can be reduced. In terms of conversions now everything should be actively connected to analytics. You look through the analytics – does the campaign bring you additional conversions after the transition and application. If the results are down dramatically, you should turn it off. 

And the content takes a little time, especially if the company initially approached it correctly – there is a content strategy, a content plan, and so on. If it’s all there, there’s nothing stopping you from giving it all to one employee who’s sitting at home at a remote location to write according to a ready-made plan. If there is a strategy, there is nothing difficult about continuing to write, and it is not so expensive. 

Email marketing during COVID-19 times

At the moment the main task of the channel is to keep in touch with the client and not to give false hopes. Therefore, the only dynamics that are important to us are the unsubscribe rate and the remaining amount of “live” users. For example, these are openings in the last 60 days. 

I would advise not to stop and not to panic, the situation will somehow be solved and the brand will either resist or not. The main task now is to build an approximate plan to get back to the world and maintain feedback with clients and the team.

Stop everything – it’s like stopping a blast furnace, it’s easier to build a new one than the old one to run. So it is definitely worth reducing the volume, stopping the retention, and reviewing the basic onboard messages. 

It is important that customers know that you are alive and in control of the situation on your side. Therefore, informational digests and regular alerts when you update the situation shouldn’t be stopped. We all have already learned how to wash our hands and listen to all the CEOs, so if you have something specific – then write about it necessarily.

Evelina Brown is an internet marketing, trainer, and founder of marketing courses expert who has been involved in brand development and creation since 2012.



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Google updates, SEO education & A/B testing

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Google AMP errors, Google My Business messaging & Search Engine Land Awards

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