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Understanding User Intent The Way Search Engines Do

If you’re responsible for driving focused traffic to your site using content marketing, lead generation, or lead nurturing techniques then you either passionately love or hate SEO.  I doubt you will be comfortable, fence sitting.

A large percentage of digital marketers find – SEO best practices – more complicated to execute than it actually is. They also have difficulty measuring the value it adds to their digital marketing strategy.

Most digital marketers find SEO the only type of advertising they are clueless about, largely because search engines often change the rules they play by with the minimum (or no) prior notice.

Now here’s the thing, apparently 61% of B2B buyers start researching appropriate suppliers using Google, hence the need for applying an effective SEO process to site content is crystal clear.

A lot of people say that SEO has not changed much, I agree.  It’s SEO best practices, and their recommended strategies that have changed.

If you are a digital marketer who hates SEO, here are some modern techniques you may actually enjoy implementing, which are not going away OR morphing anytime soon.  SEO in 2016 is going to be all about using content based tactics that work.

Shift To A Topic Based Content Strategy

SEO, in the recent years, has shifted (pretty far) away from relying on the use of keywords.

Earlier the logic associated for great SERP ranking using a keyword was – Write a page about the keyword. Make sure that the keyword is in all the right places page title, meta keywords, headline, subhead lines, sprinkled in the content, while keeping a sharp eye open to ensure you do not exceed permitted keyword density.

Use the keyword just right, and search engines (here read Google) used to assume you’re the expert on that keyword.  Boy! Was a digital marketer’s life simple.

Today search engines (especially Google) are very clear that pages about keywords have the least significance in delighting users. Authoritative pages, loaded with value add content, on various topics – do.

This should be an Ah-ha! moment for all digital marketers.

Building a long term SEO content strategy around topics, which definitely includes the perfect blend of keywords, requires that the digital marketer shifts away from their, be sure the keyword is EVERYWHERE habit.

Fortunately for digital marketers such a change is welcome.  They do not have to build webpages to please search engines. They can focus on building web pages loaded with content that adds measureable value to the site visitor.

Sure these pages will have keywords / key phrases sprinkled within the content, BUT the content itself is focused on the needs of site visitors AND this mix delivers perfect SEO results.

Okay so digital marketers, now focus!

In a topic-based SEO content strategy, each topic should:

  • Be optimized to answer user’s questions for a given topic, and include a group of tightly related keyword synonyms
  • Help the user accomplish a task(s) quickly and easily – to either do something (e.g. a purchase) or to know/learn something

There is no issue of over using target keyword(s) or key phrase(s) in a way that feels unnatural.

Ensure that the content gets an adequate number of social shares, why? Because search engines measure social signals as an indicator that the content is of high quality since it has adequate engagement. Hence, social media signals have quite an impact on SERP ranking.

10 Smart Search Engine Marketing Tactics To Get Free Google Traffic

Irina information packed article – 10 Smart Search Engine Marketing Tactics To Get Free Google Traffic – on the Jeff Bullas website is a must read. If you want a huge jump in FREE FOCUSED Google TRAFFIC.

Understand How Site Visitors Reach Your Site Organically

Executing a successful topic based content strategy, requires the understanding of not just keywords

Creating effective topic-based content means understanding which keywords your site visitor is searching on AND what sort of content they are actually looking for when they use those keywords.

If a seeker types in marketing automation in Google search are they:

  • Looking for a definition?
  • A free download?
  • Do they want to hire someone to do marketing automation for them?
  • Do they want marketing automation software for download and install?

The correct answer to these questions tells you what the seeker’s intention really is.

It’s impossible for digital marketers to figure out what a seeker is looking for when they type in the words marketing automation in Google search. That said digital marketers are not the only ones interested, Google is heavily invested in providing the best user (seeker) experience as is possible, and they continue to do the heavy lifting.  So digital marketers can just Google it.

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How To Discover User Intent

Once you being to study search engine result pages for your keywords, you will notice multiple seeker intents because different seekers are searching using the same keywords with different goals in mind.

Where will you find seeker intent(s) for any given keyword? It’s simple actually – study Google.

Google has curated enormous volumes of data, leveraging which Google delivers highly tuned search results to provide seekers exactly what they are looking for.

The exact variety (or lack of variety) of search results are the signs of what seekers are looking for.   This indicates the intent behind their search.

Consider the example of a search for running shoes for women in Google search which returns these top three results, as shown in diagram 1.

SERP results 1 & 3 are retail landing pages.
SERP result 2 is a review of several brands and styles of running shoes.

From this small sample slice you could assume that Google believes that the primary user intent for the search phrase keyed into Google search is:

  • The seeker wishes to buy a pair of running shoes
  • The seeker wishes to read information about running shoes (Specifically an interest in reviews)

A Bonus Insight

The third SERP returned is focused on only women’s running shoes.

As a contrast to the running shoes, seeker intent as decided by Google’s AI, here are the first three organic listings for carburetor as shown in diagram 2:

SERP results 1 & 2 provides information about how a carburetor works.
SERP result 3 provides a video explaining how a carburetor works.

Hence, Google’s AI assumes that the primary user intent for the keyword carburetor is informational.

This is why a good content strategy is important

If an auto parts dealer wants to rank for the keyword carburetor, they’ll have a greater success of being displayed to a seeker if they create a webpage that provides solid answers to what a carburettor is and how it works in combustion engines.

Hence, careful research into what information Google’s AI is most likely to assume the seeker wants in response to the keywords used in your web page, is vital to:

  • The page being found and delivered to a seeker


  • A the page’s – Bounce rate

Your own knowledge of business, plus any customer or marketplace data you have, should all be leveraged when understanding exactly how Google will map user intent and keywords used in your webpages.

How To Build A Framework For Content

When you analyse SERP content mapped keywords you’ve used on your web page is can be a very educative process. When you combine this data with date collated from other elements of keyword research, it quickly builds into a framework which will deliver a terrific content strategy.

Here’s how to build a framework for content.

Document composite keyword groups:

If you have a long list of keywords, some of them will likely be similar, or bring up similar search results.

Hence, start grouping them into closely related composites — New York lawyer and New York attorney, for example.


If you have several keywords in each composite, open a few browser tabs and do SERP research on a few of them side-by-side.

You do not have to research every keyword in every composite, but try out a few. You could catch some surprises. You’re looking for the general user intent for the composite group.

Prioritize user intent(s):

As in the examples above, there will probably be multiple user intents for each keyword composite.
If one intent dominates the SERP, call that the Dominant User Intent as understood by Google’s AI.
If two or three seem to balance the results, call those Common User Intents.
If there is one represented in two or three results, call that the Minor User Intent.

Place such information in an XL spread sheet so that it can be analysed at a glance.

The XL spread sheet headers could be as those shown in diagram 3.

The content loaded in the XL sheet will now provide a prioritized framework that will underwrite your content marketing strategy.

To improve SERP ranking for the first keyword group:

  • Create two webpages based on Common User Intents 1 and 2

To improve SERP ranking for keywords in the second keyword group:

  • Create at least one page that responds to that user intent

Related / Similar User intents as recognized by the Google AI, can be combined into one authoritative page when necessary.

The exercise of researching assumed user intent by Google’s AI and loading the output of this research into a spread sheet, will help you understand and visualize user intent behind the keywords that it’s important that your website needs to rank for.

In turn this will help you created the best web page content possible that will deliver site visitor (i.e. seeker) delight.  This will in turn deliver the best chance of catching Google’s attention when a seeker keys in your webpage keywords into Google search.

Web page content created based on such research and analysis, are being built using the best content marketing strategy possible.

Capturing First – Time Visitors – They Are Leads

The biggest complaint about organic website traffic (i.e. inbound traffic delivered by SEs, different from inbound traffic delivered by an advertising campaign) is that it does not convert as well.

Your response, triggered by curiosity, should be: Are you doing enough (or anything at all) to actively convert SEO traffic?”

Site visitors being driven to your site organically may not have prior knowledge of you in any way. This may be the very first time they have been exposed to your business page.  Additionally, (and perhaps more importantly) they know they have immediate access to hundreds of other additional search results AND they have only one button to click to get away from your business page.

Hence, you’ve got to be crystal clear about your site visitor’s intent to keep them on your page as long as is possible. To achieve this you must ensure that you are helping them accomplish their site visitor / user intent when they hit your business page for the first time.

In the B2B segment, this means answering their questions clearly and succinctly on your business page.

Once a site visitor’s intent is met, what’s important to convert them are:

  • Your webpage (or site) is intuitive
  • Easy to navigate
  • Focuses of their immediate needs
  • Not necessarily focused on the businesses marketing goals
  • All content relevant to the site visitor’s intent, MUST be above the fold
  • Site navigation must be intuitive
  • User testing MUST show that site visitors can accomplish what they came for quickly

Do remember that even site visitors that spend about 5 to 10 minutes browsing your site may leave never to return a second time.

This can be due to several factors. People unconsciously develop a preference to brands they are familiar with.   It could also be due to the fact that the intent of the site visitor is not being adequately fulfilled by the web page content.

That means you must earn the opportunity to reconnect with them after their first visit.

There are several ways to make this happen:

  • Have terrific (i.e. very relevant to their intent) web page content
  • Remarket this content using a sound Social Media Marketing strategy
  • Social media buttons that work flawlessly and don’t require site visitors to leave the page
  • An effective SEO strategy that puts your website in the results of their next Google search
  • Great email newsletter sign-up persuasion

I often get asked what about webpage technical factors, (i.e. the webpage code base).  The webpage code base is important BUT is no longer critical in providing the competitive edge in today’s SEO.

Webpage code base is a minimal entry barrier to great SEO, webpage content, a great user experience are the factors that drive high SERP rankings and in turn meaningful inbound traffic that converts to paying customers.

Today SEO has definitely changed. Honestly, I’m glad it has, and you should be, too. In 2016, knowing site visitor interests by studying their intent, then building relevant, topical content, will deliver miraculous site visitor conversions to paying customers.

Please Leave Your Comments They Are A Huge Help

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6 responses on "Understanding User Intent The Way Search Engines Do"

  1. wow what a detailed writeup on SEO, its sometimes difficult to track what leads to great SEO

  2. Hi Megha,
    Thanks so much for dropping by and leaving your comment. Appreciate it.

    When its difficult to track what leads to great SEO, often due to not being able to spell out what SEO objectives to start off with.

    When SEO objectives are quantified clearly, then tracking the results of SEO efforts to measure what its delivering not that difficult.

    Have a great day today.

  3. Percise and enriching content about how SEO has changed in 2016 to topic based content marketing by understanding user intent for their search query and adding as much value as possible to site visitors in the most optimized way possible to increase and convert site visitors to paying comsumers

    • Wow! thanks Priyul. Really appreciate your words. It definitely makes all the effort put in so worthwhile. Getting such comments is what Bloggers live for. Thank you for taking the time to leave your comments.

  4. Really a nice content! Got useful information about the seo content. In fact, I also know one of the reputed seo company in Pune which is Technooyster. The company strives hard to fulfill the seo needs of their clients. You may visit that for your seo needs. Thanks again Ivan Bayross Sir for your useful blog!

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