Search Intent Optimization: Your Ticket To More Engagement
Columnist Jordan Kasteler discusses how to optimize content and earn trust while focusing on user intent.
Have you obsessed over keyword density in your content?
Have you hesitated over publishing your content because you’re worried it’s not optimized enough?
Have you lost sleep over trying to keep up with the latest techniques in SEO?
You’re not alone. Internet marketers and content creators are learning to embrace a new shift in how content is optimized for today’s searcher. The key? Search intent.
Why Do People Search At All?
A new focus on why people conduct a search is taking over the way content is optimized. Intent-based optimization identifies primary topics and questions that people are looking to answer when searching for a specific term, then creating content that addresses the user’s needs.
This intent can be broken down into four core categories:
- Informational: answers a question or clarifies an uncertainty.
- Navigational: drives the searcher to a pre-determined destination.
- Commercial Investigation: aids researching while implies a future transaction.
- Transactional: aids the searcher in making a purchase or completing a specific task.
How To Optimize For Intent
Gone are the days when you could hire an “SEO writer” to churn out article after article for a penny a word. Search engines have gotten smarter — and more importantly, so has your audience. Those types of articles fail to match search results with your audience’s intent, so they get ignored and pushed away.
To optimize your content for search intent, here are five steps you need to take:
- Find existing pages to optimize. Your content is already there. Now it’s time to tweak it to match intent so that it gets found and engaged with more often. Start with your top landing pages for this exercise.
- Investigate intent. Why does someone land on your page? What were they searching for right before they arrived? What answers are they hoping to glean from your content? Understand this intent so that you can find missed opportunities and areas for improvement.
- Optimize! Once you’ve identified the areas where your content fails to meet the mark, it’s time to optimize. Tell your customers’ story. Use trust-building words, case studies, and factual information to back up your claims. Your keywords will fall in naturally. Now, your focus should be more on the reader’s experience with your content than trying to show search engines that you’re relevant.
- Implement the changes. Go ahead. Hit publish. It’s also a good idea to identify the benchmark statistics at this point — see where you’re at now so that you can measure the impact your optimization had on your page’s performance.
- Adjust fire as needed. After a week of your page going live, check back in with your analytics. What worked? What didn’t? Record the results and make any adjustments you deem fit. Then, rinse and repeat.
This is not a fast process when done right. Instead, it’s a steady exercise in getting to know your target market and earning their trust so that your pages consistently get the type of traffic and share volume you expect.
Earning Trust Through Your Content
Earning trust isn’t as easy as it might seem on the surface.
“Trust me on this.”
There’s something dubious about that statement, right? As soon as someone says, “trust me on this,” your immediate reaction is often to doubt the sentiment.
Content creation requires a level of trust from the reader. When you’re producing content for your website or social networks, you need the reader’s trust in order to get more exposure for your brand. After all, that’s why you create the content in the first place, right?
You know you can’t ask for your audience’s trust outright, so you have to earn it using other techniques. Here are a few ways you can infuse trust-building tactics into your content.
Watch Your Words
The words you infuse into your content send a strong signal to your reader. Buffer, a social marketing powerhouse, compiled the “Big List of 189 Words that Convert.” These words and phrases have been shown to trigger an emotion in a reader that puts their mind at ease. Some of the words include:
- As a result
- Due to
- For this reason
See the common thread between these words? Each of them promises some sort of proof on the other side of it. Each of these words and phrases shows that a bold claim is about to be backed up by fact. That’s powerful to a reader who is constantly bombarded by marketing claims and sales messages.
Feature Your Users
Sometimes, the best way to build trust is to step outside of the picture and tell your customer’s story from their peer’s perspective. After all, that’s the goal of your content – to tell a story, right?
Your audience wants to know, “What’s in it for me?” Showing the end result of engaging with your brand from your customer’s point of view is powerful.
One company that does an exceptional job at this is GoPro. Their product — a portable, small video camera — lends itself to user-generated content. The team at GoPro has taken this content and put it to work for their brand. The end result? The company doubled its net income from 2010 to 2011 with a marketing budget of only $50,000.
Amplify your content by showing off the stories of your customers in a way that’s hard to ignore by the audience you’re trying to attract.
Just The Facts
By looking at the words that inspire trust and the type of content people flock to, it’s clear to see that the thing searchers want the most is proof.
To optimize your content for search intent, you need to show a healthy amount of proof that what you say your audience will get is accurate. Seeing facts behind bold claims is one way. Showing your customer’s story is another.
Focus on providing cold, hard facts in your content to inspire that level of trust you’re looking for. In doing so, you’ll prove to your audience that you understand the “why” behind their search – and that you have the answers they’re looking for.
SEO today looks vastly different than it did a few years ago. Keywords aren’t as critical. Content structure isn’t as vital. The goal is to give your audience the type of experience they’re looking for when arriving on your website. Do that and you’re golden.
Create content that inspires trust and builds a long-term relationship. The rest will follow.