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User Intent: What Is It, Why it’s Crucial & How to Optimize for It (2019)

Did you know that those who only use demographics as a way to identify and reach their target audience can miss up to 70% of potential mobile shoppers?(1) This is partly a result of forgetting, or inaccurately trying to address, user intent.

Understanding user intent and search intent is critical to reaching and addressing your audience effectively – and meeting their needs, whatever they might be. When you optimize for user intent and address it properly, you demonstrate that you are the solution to the users’ particular problem.

The term user intent (or search intent) is very “user/customer-centric,” and there are a couple of ways you can make use of it. There’s the marketing context (SEO, online marketing, social media advertising), and the commercial context (sales and lead generation, and conversion optimization).

In the marketing context, the term “user intent” is understood as a way you can optimize your website to improve visibility in search engines. However, for website and business owners, user intent is more about how you can make use of it in conversion optimization (CRO).

Ideally, you’ll want to make use of user intent for both commercial and marketing

User intent (or search intent) is inherently linked with conversion optimization

As you might know, there are different types of search queries. By and large, you can group search types into three different types of user intent:

  • Navigational searches (searches looking for a specific brand/person/entity)
  • Informational searches (searches where the user’s intent is to find more information on a topic)
  • Transactional searches (searches with purchase intent)

We’ll get back to these further down towards the end of the article.

These categories fit together with the awareness, consideration, and conversion stage of the content marketing funnel. User intent and different types of Google searches play a big part in the marketing funnel. What user intent actually is, and why it’s absolutely vital to your success rates online, deserves more attention.

Understanding user intent and why it’s important can make a huge difference in your content’s effectiveness. It can have a massive impact on both your online visibility in search engines, and your visitor to customer conversion rates.  

Why user intent is vital to your online success

According to a Google study, 51% of smartphone users have bought from a different company than the one they initially intended because they found useful information from a competitor.(2)

The value of meeting user intent might seem obvious to some. However, identifying and effectively addressing user intent is such a big deal that it’s worth going through more than once.

If you think about it, Google has one primary goal. We discussed this a little while back in our Featured Snippets (also knowns as Position Zero).

To sum it up, Google’s end goal is to immediately find and provide the answer to any question (or query), without the user needing to scroll or give it a second try.

Googles Ultimate goal

In other words, if addressing user intent accurately is not already a priority for your online business – you’re missing out on great potential benefits.

Unfortunately, if you don’t optimize for user intent, you’ll end up losing out to competitors who do. This is not only true from an SEO perspective, but certainly from a financial and business perspective too.

The value of addressing user intent from an SEO perspective:

There’s a huge amount of critical ranking factors that play a part in evaluating your site based on how well you address user intent.

For example, there’s Rank Brain. Rank Brain has been a vital Google ranking factor since about 2015. It continuously evaluates user behavior on a site based on any given search type. It’s a bit complicated so let’s bring it back to basics for now.

Bounce rate is a straightforward ranking factor that does a few evaluations. It analyzes how effectively you address searchers’ needs by:

  • Seeing how long people stay on your page.
  • Whether people go back to Google after visiting your page to check other articles.
  • Evaluate if this is a reoccurring pattern.

If this happens a lot, your bounce rate is high – and your user satisfaction is low.

The end result: Google doesn’t prioritize your content. It’s a straightforward ranking factor, yet improving and optimizing for it is both complex and challenging.

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The value of addressing user intent from a business perspective:

You should think of user and search intent as the best way to cater to and convert potential customers. As a consequence, finding keywords with commercial intent is really where the money is.

There is undeniable value in properly addressing user intent. Addressing user intent, or search intent, will have a direct impact on your bottom line.

You’ll be able to drastically improve how many sales or leads your business’ website can generate if:

  • You address user intent accurately,
  • Understand it properly
  • Create and provide the right information for the right user intent

These types of sales/leads is effectively your business’ version of passive income. By creating the right type of content with user intent in mind you’ll much more effectively tap into the audience that has buying intent. It’s as straightforward as that.

So what exactly is user intent?

Even if the term user intent might seem complicated, it’s actually very straightforward. User intent is simply the “why” behind a search or a website visit. It’s the same as someone walking into a store – they came in there for a reason. That reason is the intent.

The difference between intent online and in-store is that it’s a lot more straightforward to address and meet that intent directly online. This is mainly thanks to keyword research and keyword analysis.

Keyword intent is what you expect people are looking for when doing a search in Google (or other search engines). Evaluating keyword intent is where you identify what types of words you need to either:

  • Include in the webpage copy when creating content
  • Use for your online ads that address a particular need.

You can learn more about how to conduct keyword research here. There you’ll find tips and keyword tool suggestions.

Following the tips outlined in that article, you’ll be able to find keywords with transactional intent. Keep in mind that you should create content and run campaigns for more than one search type. Addressing a wider scope of users will give you access to a much wider audience for your services and products. Although, that’s only true if you optimize for user intent.

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Why keywords with buying intent are the most profitable

While all your online efforts should be aligned with your business goals, you want to find the quickest and most efficient way to reach those goals. By researching and identifying keyword intent and hone in on transactional keywords you’re improving how effective your efforts will be. When you run social media ad campaigns and content marketing funnels around keywords with buying intent you’re truly taking the quickest road to Rome.

This type of content is what’s called “bottom of the funnel” content in the content marketing funnel. We highly recommend that you create more than conversion-focused content. A more holistic approach will help you capitalize on a much wider audience.

The reason that keywords with buying intent (also referred to as purchasing keywords) are so valuable is that they can help improve your conversion rates.

Search intent, purchasing keywords, and landing page conversion rate

As we briefly mentioned earlier, you can focus your social media advertising and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Google Ads by using keyword intent analytics. This will greatly influence how relevant your target audience will be, and therefore it will improve the average conversion rate of your landing page.


Side tip:

How to improve landing page conversion:
Improve your landing page conversion ratio by keeping it simple and taking these three simple steps.

  1. Make sure you have immediate actionable items and sign-up possibilities available above the fold.

  2. Make sure your unique value proposition is extremely clear and distinguishable above the fold, coupled with a clear Call To Action (CTA).

  3. Include plenty of social proof further down the landing page for those who weren’t entirely convinced by the above the fold content.


To create online advertising campaigns that have an above average return you need to combine:

  • Optimized keyword intent for paid campaigns
  • A landing page optimized for conversion

This will help your activities provide a greater return on investment, regardless of whether it’s through paid social, like Facebook Ads, or through Google Ads.

Remember, this isn’t limited to transactional search queries. You can easily duplicate the process for different types of searches. Through addressing informational user intent, you can gain potential customer email addresses and contact information, in exchange for exclusive resources.

Quick takeaways for optimizing for user intent

Optimizing for user intent is all about using a very user/customer-centric approach to how you create website content and social ad campaigns. It’s all about creating the best value possible for your visitor. Even if you accidentally meet your visitor’s search intent without strategically creating your content with the user intent in mind, it’s not ideal.  To put it bluntly:

If you don’t know or understand the users’ intent when going on Google and entering the relevant search query to your content – you can’t optimize your content to provide value to the potential customer.

Optimizing for different categories of user intent

The modern SEO mantra is: provide value – gain value.

In that spirit, at Virtual Visibility Media, we want to give you some quick user intent optimization tips based on search type.

Navigational searches (or navigational queries)

We haven’t discussed navigational searches that much here, because it relates to searches about commonly known entities, sites, or even people.

The best way to optimize for navigational searches is to make sure you don’t waste time creating content for them if you have no chance of being relevant. However, if you can get traction for the navigation search, make sure you provide the user with follow-up content that answers their many questions. Learn more by visiting this article by State of Digital.

Informational searches (searches with informational intent)

Do keyword research and content research to ensure you create unique, extremely valuable content, for the search in question.

This will help you drastically improve the value you provide the user. As a result, people will spend more time on your page – improving your SEO. The additional result is that your brand and website moves into the consideration stage of the marketing funnel.

This will help increase recurring visitors and boost sales down the line.

Transactional searches (searches with purchase intent)

In addition to adding valuable information that’s directly relevant to the user’s intent (like product details, descriptions, costs, purpose, etc) you should also focus on improving User Experience (UX) elements of your site.

  • Make it as easy as possible to purchase from the specific page
  • Ensure that all calls to action are clear and stand out
  • Include all the information required for the customer to make a purchasing decision
  • All “peripheral” content should focus on the product and the process of buying that product.

This is effectively what’s called conversion rate optimization (CRO) and will help you improve your overall visitor-to-customer conversions.

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Footnote Sources:
  1. “Why consumer intent is more powerful than demographics”, Think With Google, Lisa Gevelber / December 2015 / Micro-Moments
  2. Consumers in the Micro-Moment, Wave 3, Google/Ipsos, U.S., August 2015, n=1291 online smartphone users 18+