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Creating Content That Satisfies Search Intent & Meets Customer Needs

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Creating Content That Satisfies Search Intent & Meets Customer Needs

When thinking about optimizing content, your top priority should be search intent.

Think about how many times you have typed something into Google that was practically gibberish, and Google understood exactly what you meant.

This is something we may take for granted, but it’s the exact reason why search intent is so important.

Monthly search volume is nice to have, but since it’s impossible to create demand, we need to align our high quality content and our product landing pages with the customer’s intent.

Google has never really cared about us optimizing our content.

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It cares about serving the user the most relevant and unique content to help them find what they are looking for.

Google updates its algorithm so often because it wants to make sure that it is meeting the hearts, minds, and souls of its users, and matching their queries with relevant results.

In this article, we will review why search intent is the most important thing to consider when optimizing content, and how to create a content strategy based on research around search intent.

What Is Search Intent?

Search intent – also known as customer intent and user intent – is the primary reason behind users going to a search engine and typing in a query.

When someone visits a search engine, they have a specific goal in mind that they are trying to accomplish with their search.

Think about all the times you have used a search engine to conduct research around a product, or to get a question answered.

And with the growth of mobile search, we now have a search engine in our pockets at all times.

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That’s why, as marketers and SEO professionals, we need to understand what part of the buyer’s journey our customers are at when they type in a specific phrase – and on which piece of content or landing page we should target this phrase.

Search intent is truly the backbone of a well-optimized landing page and should be our primary focus when creating content on our site.

But, we need to keep in mind the different stages of a customer’s search journey.

What Are The Different Types Of Search Intent?

There have been many times when I’ve searched Google before even knowing what I’m looking for.

Other times, I’ve used it to spellcheck, or to remind me of a particular movie’s name.

For the most part, we can group search intent into three main categories.

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See how you can plan and create content to meet the following three types of search intent.

1. Informational

These are early-stage search queries where the customer is still trying to learn more about the topic.

When a user is in the early stages of searching, our goal is to make sure that the user learns more about the product or service.

Studies show that if a user learns something from a website and the site establishes itself as an authoritative source on the topic, that user will end up coming back to the website – and converting later on, when they are ready.

Image from Google, June 2022

2. Comparative (Also Known As Navigational)

This is middle-stage content where the customer is looking to compare your product or service with another to help them decide what to do.

Users who are in the middle or comparative stage are trying to see if they really need the product or service they were researching, or if there are even better options than the one they had previously found.

Think about all the times you’ve compared different restaurants to each other, or two similar products.

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Comparative SERPImage from Google, June 2022

3. Transactional

This is late-stage content where the customer is ready to convert.

The reason we’ve created all of the other content is to make sure we are supporting our users and helping them along the way, so they can convert.

Our transactional or end-stage content is typically category or product pages where we want the user to land when they are ready to purchase.

Transactional SERPImage from Google, June 2022

It’s important that when we are creating content, we make sure that the phrases we are targeting align with the intent of what the user is searching for.

By creating content and landing pages that match all parts of a user’s journey, we can ensure we are targeting the right keywords on the best page that Google wants to show.

We can also make sure that we are owning our own digital presence and increasing visibility and conversions.

While half of the battle is making sure our content is optimized properly, the other half is making sure Google even wants to show our content based on the phrase – which is why search intent is so important.

What Makes Search Intent So Important?

There are thousands of different factors to consider when doing keyword research, such as search volume, seasonality, branded vs. non-branded, localization, etc. But search intent, or user intent, is the most important one.

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Understanding the searcher’s intent ensures that we are prioritizing relevancy in our content and in our keywords.

The more phrases a user is typing into Google or another search engine, the further they are in the buyer’s journey, and the more likely they are to convert.

Search intent is also extremely difficult to figure out.

But once you have an understanding of search intent, it makes optimizing content much easier – as you will know more about what type of content Google wants to show on Page 1.

The main thing we should consider is that we are not deciding what the search intent is – Google is.

If you go against what Google says, your content won’t show up in SERP.

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There are also many instances where marketers or executives are blinded by search volume; rather than going after the lower volume phrases they have a better chance of winning, they pursue the higher volume phrases – and end up missing the mark. 

How Can We Make Sure Our Content Aligns With The Search Intent?

When you’re struggling to grasp the concept of search intent, take a step back from your company and imagine you are a user.

Think about what you might search for in order to land on your blog article or product page.

Type that phrase into Google (preferably via Incognito or private browsing, so it’s not personalized towards your search history), and see what shows up.

A SERP (search engine result page) analysis is the best way to confirm what Google thinks the user may want to see.

Are there content aggregators? Are there transactional sites?

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Is there a mixed search engine result page with both content and transactional content?

There are many times when even Google doesn’t know what the user is looking for, so it shows a mixed SERP with different types of content.

By finding this information live on the SERPs, we can see what Google is rewarding in the top positions, and what it believes is the intent of the user’s query.

SERP analysis is one of the best ways to use competitive data when creating content, because we want to know what phrases they are using and see if we can even compete for that same phrase based on intent.

How Can We Create A Content Strategy For Search Intent?

Content might be king, but the user has all the power.

We can create the best content in the world, but if the keywords we are targeting don’t match the intent of the user, it’s really all for nothing.

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Bringing in unqualified traffic helps no one, and is a waste of our time and energy.

We need to make sure we are doing keyword and competitive research before creating our content.

By understanding who else is competing on the SERP, we now know if we have a chance of ranking on Page 1.

Competitive research also allows us to find semantically related keywords that we might want to use in the content. These are keywords that are not necessarily synonyms, but are closely related in nature.

Semantically related keywords give search engines  a better understanding of what our content is about, and also enable users who are searching for similar things (but using different keywords) to find our content.

One of the best ways to create a content strategy with search intent in mind is the hub and spoke content marketing model.

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This content marketing model allows us to target our transactional keywords on the hub pages and the more informational keywords on the spoke pages.

By doing this, we can make sure we have content that matches where our users might be, and the different stages of their journey.

Keyword research is the bread and butter of a content strategy, and it’s extremely important when understanding search intent.

The keywords with the most search volume might be attractive, but they can also be very vague and may not be the best words to focus on.

There are also many times when some keywords – singular or plural – have a different meaning.

For example: If you search for [TV] you could be looking up a television channel guide or the history of the television.

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But, if you search for [TVs], you’re probably looking to purchase a television from somewhere and will see corresponding search results.

The point being: SEO professionals need to continuously look at what is already showing up on Google, and adopt the user’s or customer’s perspective when searching.

This visual helps us better understand the content strategy we might go after if we sell reading glasses.

Keyword research funnelImage created by author, June 2022

We should be targeting the higher volume keywords on our homepages or category pages.

The lower volume keywords could then be targeted on sub-categories, product pages, and perhaps a blog article.

By creating a visual like this, we can identify the total amount of keywords we are trying to go after, which can help us understand how much content or what type of content we need to create.

In Conclusion

Putting our customers first and identifying the search intent of their query is the best way to ensure our content matches our customer’s needs.

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We’ve also only talked about half the story: the research side.

The exciting part comes when you’re able to utilize an enterprise SEO platform to monitor keyword rankings and report back to executives on the changes you made – and how they resulted in a significant increase in traffic or conversions.

By monitoring and reporting our wins frequently, we can get more buy-in to our SEO program and evangelize why SEO is important to our organization, making it easier to have a seat at the table for bigger decisions.

Search intent will always be the most important factor when it comes to keyword research and optimizing our content.

Google’s recent algorithm updates have been very focused on user experience, but it continues to put more emphasis on user intent and making its search engine more conversational in order to produce the most accurate search results for users.

So when in doubt, make sure that search intent and relevancy of keywords are your main focus areas when creating and updating content.

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

Whether you are new to paid media or reevaluating your efforts, it’s critical to review your performance and best practices for your overall PPC marketing program, accounts, and campaigns.

Revisiting your paid media plan is an opportunity to ensure your strategy aligns with your current goals.

Reviewing best practices for pay-per-click is also a great way to keep up with trends and improve performance with newly released ad technologies.

As you review, you’ll find new strategies and features to incorporate into your paid search program, too.

Here are 10 PPC best practices to help you adjust and plan for the months ahead.

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1. Goals

When planning, it is best practice to define goals for the overall marketing program, ad platforms, and at the campaign level.

Defining primary and secondary goals guides the entire PPC program. For example, your primary conversion may be to generate leads from your ads.

You’ll also want to look at secondary goals, such as brand awareness that is higher in the sales funnel and can drive interest to ultimately get the sales lead-in.

2. Budget Review & Optimization

Some advertisers get stuck in a rut and forget to review and reevaluate the distribution of their paid media budgets.

To best utilize budgets, consider the following:

  • Reconcile your planned vs. spend for each account or campaign on a regular basis. Depending on the budget size, monthly, quarterly, or semiannually will work as long as you can hit budget numbers.
  • Determine if there are any campaigns that should be eliminated at this time to free up the budget for other campaigns.
  • Is there additional traffic available to capture and grow results for successful campaigns? The ad platforms often include a tool that will provide an estimated daily budget with clicks and costs. This is just an estimate to show more click potential if you are interested.
  • If other paid media channels perform mediocrely, does it make sense to shift those budgets to another?
  • For the overall paid search and paid social budget, can your company invest more in the positive campaign results?

3. Consider New Ad Platforms

If you can shift or increase your budgets, why not test out a new ad platform? Knowing your audience and where they spend time online will help inform your decision when choosing ad platforms.

Go beyond your comfort zone in Google, Microsoft, and Meta Ads.

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Here are a few other advertising platforms to consider testing:

  • LinkedIn: Most appropriate for professional and business targeting. LinkedIn audiences can also be reached through Microsoft Ads.
  • TikTok: Younger Gen Z audience (16 to 24), video.
  • Pinterest: Products, services, and consumer goods with a female-focused target.
  • Snapchat: Younger demographic (13 to 35), video ads, app installs, filters, lenses.

Need more detailed information and even more ideas? Read more about the 5 Best Google Ads Alternatives.

4. Top Topics in Google Ads & Microsoft Ads

Recently, trends in search and social ad platforms have presented opportunities to connect with prospects more precisely, creatively, and effectively.

Don’t overlook newer targeting and campaign types you may not have tried yet.

  • Video: Incorporating video into your PPC accounts takes some planning for the goals, ad creative, targeting, and ad types. There is a lot of opportunity here as you can simply include video in responsive display ads or get in-depth in YouTube targeting.
  • Performance Max: This automated campaign type serves across all of Google’s ad inventory. Microsoft Ads recently released PMAX so you can plan for consistency in campaign types across platforms. Do you want to allocate budget to PMax campaigns? Learn more about how PMax compares to search.
  • Automation: While AI can’t replace human strategy and creativity, it can help manage your campaigns more easily. During planning, identify which elements you want to automate, such as automatically created assets and/or how to successfully guide the AI in the Performance Max campaigns.

While exploring new features, check out some hidden PPC features you probably don’t know about.

5. Revisit Keywords

The role of keywords has evolved over the past several years with match types being less precise and loosening up to consider searcher intent.

For example, [exact match] keywords previously would literally match with the exact keyword search query. Now, ads can be triggered by search queries with the same meaning or intent.

A great planning exercise is to lay out keyword groups and evaluate if they are still accurately representing your brand and product/service.

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Review search term queries triggering ads to discover trends and behavior you may not have considered. It’s possible this has impacted performance and conversions over time.

Critical to your strategy:

  • Review the current keyword rules and determine if this may impact your account in terms of close variants or shifts in traffic volume.
  • Brush up on how keywords work in each platform because the differences really matter!
  • Review search term reports more frequently for irrelevant keywords that may pop up from match type changes. Incorporate these into match type changes or negative keywords lists as appropriate.

6. Revisit Your Audiences

Review the audiences you selected in the past, especially given so many campaign types that are intent-driven.

Automated features that expand your audience could be helpful, but keep an eye out for performance metrics and behavior on-site post-click.

Remember, an audience is simply a list of users who are grouped together by interests or behavior online.

Therefore, there are unlimited ways to mix and match those audiences and target per the sales funnel.

Here are a few opportunities to explore and test:

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  • LinkedIn user targeting: Besides LinkedIn, this can be found exclusively in Microsoft Ads.
  • Detailed Demographics: Marital status, parental status, home ownership, education, household income.
  • In-market and custom intent: Searches and online behavior signaling buying cues.
  • Remarketing: Advertisers website visitors, interactions with ads, and video/ YouTube.

Note: This varies per the campaign type and seems to be updated frequently, so make this a regular check-point in your campaign management for all platforms.

7. Organize Data Sources

You will likely be running campaigns on different platforms with combinations of search, display, video, etc.

Looking back at your goals, what is the important data, and which platforms will you use to review and report? Can you get the majority of data in one analytics platform to compare and share?

Millions of companies use Google Analytics, which is a good option for centralized viewing of advertising performance, website behavior, and conversions.

8. Reevaluate How You Report

Have you been using the same performance report for years?

It’s time to reevaluate your essential PPC key metrics and replace or add that data to your reports.

There are two great resources to kick off this exercise:

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Your objectives in reevaluating the reporting are:

  • Are we still using this data? Is it still relevant?
  • Is the data we are viewing actionable?
  • What new metrics should we consider adding we haven’t thought about?
  • How often do we need to see this data?
  • Do the stakeholders receiving the report understand what they are looking at (aka data visualization)?

Adding new data should be purposeful, actionable, and helpful in making decisions for the marketing plan. It’s also helpful to decide what type of data is good to see as “deep dives” as needed.

9. Consider Using Scripts

The current ad platforms have plenty of AI recommendations and automated rules, and there is no shortage of third-party tools that can help with optimizations.

Scripts is another method for advertisers with large accounts or some scripting skills to automate report generation and repetitive tasks in their Google Ads accounts.

Navigating the world of scripts can seem overwhelming, but a good place to start is a post here on Search Engine Journal that provides use cases and resources to get started with scripts.

Luckily, you don’t need a Ph.D. in computer science — there are plenty of resources online with free or templated scripts.

10. Seek Collaboration

Another effective planning tactic is to seek out friendly resources and second opinions.

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Much of the skill and science of PPC management is unique to the individual or agency, so there is no shortage of ideas to share between you.

You can visit the Paid Search Association, a resource for paid ad managers worldwide, to make new connections and find industry events.

Preparing For Paid Media Success

Strategies should be based on clear and measurable business goals. Then, you can evaluate the current status of your campaigns based on those new targets.

Your paid media strategy should also be built with an eye for both past performance and future opportunities. Look backward and reevaluate your existing assumptions and systems while investigating new platforms, topics, audiences, and technologies.

Also, stay current with trends and keep learning. Check out ebooks, social media experts, and industry publications for resources and motivational tips.

More resources: 

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Google Limits News Links In California Over Proposed ‘Link Tax’ Law

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A brown cardboard price tag with a twine string and a black dollar sign symbol, influenced by the Link Tax Law, set against a dark gray background.

Google announced that it plans to reduce access to California news websites for a portion of users in the state.

The decision comes as Google prepares for the potential passage of the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), a bill requiring online platforms like Google to pay news publishers for linking to their content.

What Is The California Journalism Preservation Act?

The CJPA, introduced in the California State Legislature, aims to support local journalism by creating what Google refers to as a “link tax.”

If passed, the Act would force companies like Google to pay media outlets when sending readers to news articles.

However, Google believes this approach needs to be revised and could harm rather than help the news industry.

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Jaffer Zaidi, Google’s VP of Global News Partnerships, stated in a blog post:

“It would favor media conglomerates and hedge funds—who’ve been lobbying for this bill—and could use funds from CJPA to continue to buy up local California newspapers, strip them of journalists, and create more ghost papers that operate with a skeleton crew to produce only low-cost, and often low-quality, content.”

Google’s Response

To assess the potential impact of the CJPA on its services, Google is running a test with a percentage of California users.

During this test, Google will remove links to California news websites that the proposed legislation could cover.

Zaidi states:

“To prepare for possible CJPA implications, we are beginning a short-term test for a small percentage of California users. The testing process involves removing links to California news websites, potentially covered by CJPA, to measure the impact of the legislation on our product experience.”

Google Claims Only 2% of Search Queries Are News-Related

Zaidi highlighted peoples’ changing news consumption habits and its effect on Google search queries (emphasis mine):

“It’s well known that people are getting news from sources like short-form videos, topical newsletters, social media, and curated podcasts, and many are avoiding the news entirely. In line with those trends, just 2% of queries on Google Search are news-related.”

Despite the low percentage of news queries, Google wants to continue helping news publishers gain visibility on its platforms.

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However, the “CJPA as currently constructed would end these investments,” Zaidi says.

A Call For A Different Approach

In its current form, Google maintains that the CJPA undermines news in California and could leave all parties worse off.

The company urges lawmakers to consider alternative approaches supporting the news industry without harming smaller local outlets.

Google argues that, over the past two decades, it’s done plenty to help news publishers innovate:

“We’ve rolled out Google News Showcase, which operates in 26 countries, including the U.S., and has more than 2,500 participating publications. Through the Google News Initiative we’ve partnered with more than 7,000 news publishers around the world, including 200 news organizations and 6,000 journalists in California alone.”

Zaidi suggested that a healthy news industry in California requires support from the state government and a broad base of private companies.

As the legislative process continues, Google is willing to cooperate with California publishers and lawmakers to explore alternative paths that would allow it to continue linking to news.

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The Best of Ahrefs’ Digest: March 2024

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The Best of Ahrefs’ Digest: March 2024

Every week, we share hot SEO news, interesting reads, and new posts in our newsletter, Ahrefs’ Digest.

If you’re not one of our 280,000 subscribers, you’ve missed out on some great reads!

Here’s a quick summary of my personal favorites from the last month:

Best of March 2024

How 16 Companies are Dominating the World’s Google Search Results

Author: Glen Allsopp

tl;dr

Glen’s research reveals that just 16 companies representing 588 brands get 3.5 billion (yes, billion!) monthly clicks from Google.

My takeaway

Glen pointed out some really actionable ideas in this report, such as the fact that many of the brands dominating search are adding mini-author bios.

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Example of mini-author bios on The VergeExample of mini-author bios on The Verge

This idea makes so much sense in terms of both UX and E-E-A-T. I’ve already pitched it to the team and we’re going to implement it on our blog.

How Google is Killing Independent Sites Like Ours

Authors: Gisele Navarro, Danny Ashton

tl;dr

Big publications have gotten into the affiliate game, publishing “best of” lists about everything under the sun. And despite often not testing products thoroughly, they’re dominating Google rankings. The result, Gisele and Danny argue, is that genuine review sites suffer and Google is fast losing content diversity.

My takeaway

I have a lot of sympathy for independent sites. Some of them are trying their best, but unfortunately, they’re lumped in with thousands of others who are more than happy to spam.

Estimated search traffic to Danny and Gisele's site fell off a cliff after Google's March updatesEstimated search traffic to Danny and Gisele's site fell off a cliff after Google's March updates
Estimated search traffic to Danny and Gisele’s site fell off a cliff after Google’s March updates 🙁 

I know it’s hard to hear, but the truth is Google benefits more from having big sites in the SERPs than from having diversity. That’s because results from big brands are likely what users actually want. By and large, people would rather shop at Walmart or ALDI than at a local store or farmer’s market.

That said, I agree with most people that Forbes (with its dubious contributor model contributing to scams and poor journalism) should not be rewarded so handsomely.

The Discussion Forums Dominating 10,000 Product Review Search Results

Author: Glen Allsopp

Tl;dr

Glen analyzed 10,000 “product review” keywords and found that:

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My takeaway

After Google’s heavy promotion of Reddit from last year’s Core Update, to no one’s surprise, unscrupulous SEOs and marketers have already started spamming Reddit. And as you may know, Reddit’s moderation is done by volunteers, and obviously, they can’t keep up.

I’m not sure how this second-order effect completely escaped the smart minds at Google, but from the outside, it feels like Google has capitulated to some extent.

John Mueller seemingly having too much faith in Reddit...John Mueller seemingly having too much faith in Reddit...

I’m not one to make predictions and I have no idea what will happen next, but I agree with Glen: Google’s results are the worst I’ve seen them. We can only hope Google sorts itself out.

Who Sends Traffic on the Web and How Much? New Research from Datos & SparkToro

Author: Rand Fishkin

tl;dr

63.41% of all U.S. web traffic referrals from the top 170 sites are initiated on Google.com.

Data from SparktoroData from Sparktoro

My takeaway

Despite all of our complaints, Google is still the main platform to acquire traffic from. That’s why we all want Google to sort itself out and do well.

But it would also be a mistake to look at this post and think Google is the only channel you should drive traffic from. As Rand’s later blog post clarifies, “be careful not to ascribe attribution or credit to Google when other investments drove the real value.”

I think many affiliate marketers learned this lesson well from the past few Core Updates: Relying on one single channel to drive all of your traffic is not a good idea. You should be using other platforms to build brand awareness, interest, and demand.

Want more?

Each week, our team handpicks the best SEO and marketing content from around the web for our newsletter. Sign up to get them directly in your inbox.

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