What Does Intent Mean & How It Impacts Marketing Strategy

Digital marketing gets you to users’ front door, and content that satisfies your users’ query earns you the right in.

This means that your competition will outperform you if you are yet to incorporate the users’ intent or if you don’t understand how the search term is connected to your marketing strategy.

This post will explain intent, why it matters in marketing and search optimization, and how you can decode the users’ search intent for better results.

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Intent Definition

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, intent is a usually clearly formulated or planned intention. 

The keyword in the definition is “planned.”

Uncovering the intent of a person or finding out a person’s reason behind behaving a certain way or why that thing in question is being done. 

You can easily translate this meaning into marketing and see how it applies.

What Is the Definition of Intent in Marketing?

Intent in marketing is a user’s purpose when they ask search engines questions. 

These queries contain keywords that are analyzed by these search engines to produce results that best answer users’ queries.

Intent, as used in marketing, can also be referred to as user intent or search intent.

Search intent became integral to digital and content marketing when Google introduced the Hummingbird and RankBrain algorithms to help the search engine match queries with the correct search result.

Imagine you’ve spent hours making multiple search entries on Google but can’t find what you’ve been looking for. Frustrating, isn’t it? Google feels that way too.

Most content on the internet leaned towards the number of keywords in the name of search engine optimization and ranking higher but delivered less value.

This introduction of query intent made digital and content marketers rethink their strategies and create more customer-centric content.

Why Is User Intent Important in SEO?

Staying ahead of the search curve increases your chances of your target audience coming across your content, and search engine optimization (SEO) helps you do just that.

As you put effort into making your content pop up for specific keywords, you must remember that web page optimization alone will not gain you that new subscriber, fan or customer if you don’t satisfy their needs.

SEO is about people. And Google’s recent guideline updates for website owners prove just that.

User intent helps you decide:

  • What keywords to use;
  • Your prospects’ needs;
  • What stage of the purchasing cycle they are in.

With these decisions woven into your content, they are more likely to resonate and appeal to your prospects and customers — regardless of the stage of their buying cycle.

Understanding the Intent of Queries

Over the years, marketing experts have tried to identify and understand the underlying mechanism of query intent. Some have been guesses, and others have zero scientific backing.

A 2020 study on query intent understanding by Zhicheng Duo and Jiafeng Guo classifies these several attempts at understanding query intent into two:

  1. Placing queries in classes
  2. Identifying subtopics related to queries

Placing users’ queries in different classes is mainly based on the keywords used. Does it ask for directions or a location? Or does the query keyword suggest that the searcher wants to know more about a subject?

Subtopics relating to a keyword become the route of choice if and when the searcher asks a more specific question.

If a person from the U.K., for example, visits the U.S. and enters the word “football” into a web browser, chances are that the person may be unfamiliar with the results that might pop up.

This is because they are in a location where football means something different — the search engine’s first attempt at understanding what the searcher was looking for.

But suppose this person enters “football clubs in the English Premier League” into the Google search bar. The results are more likely to be familiar because the keywords “English Premier League” make the search more specific.

4 Types of Keyword Intent

Now that you understand why search intent is important and how you can infer intent from queries, there are four categories to which you can localize keyword intent.

Let’s take a look at them, shall we?

Commercial “High” Intent

Searchers use commercial intent keywords usually when they want to make a purchase. They want to make informed decisions by getting more info on products and services or making comparisons.

Keywords that are grouped as having commercial intent are reviews, demos, trials and comparative words.

Below is a search result for a commercial intent keyword.

Informational Intent

The search engine interprets words like how, what, who, where and why as having informational intent.

Users who use these keywords in their search are just starting their search journey or buying cycle, depending on how it ends. As such, content in this category is usually conversational and easy to understand.

Here’s an example of an informational inquiry.

Transactional Intent

Transactional keywords are precise and are widely considered the most valuable.

Searchers with this intent are done knowing about a subject or brand and want to do something about it. This is where call-to-actions take the shine.

Transactional intent keywords include but are not limited to buy, purchase, cheap, coupon, price and order.

Navigational Intent

Keywords with brand names, physical locations and websites attached are classified as having navigational intent.

It tells the search engine where the searcher wants to go and asks for directions.

For example, typing “Rock Content” into the search bar displays the website, blog and social media profiles.

How Do You Analyze Search Intent?

Understanding how the search engine classifies users’ queries is one of the first steps to take in optimizing your content. It gives you the blueprint on how to rank high on SERPs.

Follow these steps to analyze search intent content and optimize content that outranks the competition.

1. Go Over the Search Results of the Keyword

Enter your keyword of choice into Google and browse through the results that follow.

Here’s a screenshot from Google’s first SERP for the keywords “digital marketing.”

From the image, you can see that searchers are interested in what digital marketing means, its types and how they can market online.

Take note of the “People also ask” section to have an idea of the most common searches linked with the keyword. It shows follow-up questions users query for.

2. Classify the Search Intent

For each result on the first SERP for the keyword, note and classify the intent for which the blog or article was written.

From the screenshot above, you can see that searchers want to know more about digital marketing. Some want a quick insight into the term, and others don’t mind taking the longer courses.

Keyword modifiers specify what the user needs.

Words like how, why, what, guide, resources and tutorial suggest the searcher wants more info about the subject.

The search engine analyzes words like buy, price, cheap, coupon and order as transactional. If the searcher attaches a brand, website, or domain name to the keyword, the search engine reads it as asking for directions.

3. Integrate Your Findings into Your Content

After deciding what the most common intents associated with a keyword are, the next step is deciding on ways to build your content around solving searchers’ problems.

Study your past content, if you have any, and see what was lacking. Did you have an ideal target audience or you’re targeting everyone?

Researching and interacting with your target audience makes it easier to identify their pain points.

Use the results to create valuable and actionable content and optimize the meta title and meta description, with adequately descriptive page headers and titles to round off.

Get Intentional With Your User Intent Marketing Strategy

You can’t escape the user intent in your marketing strategy.

Stuffing keywords into content used to be the way to rank, but Google wants to match valuable content with searchers. And infusing user intent into the content you put out is the only way to stand a chance to rank high.

Want to improve your marketing planning, analysis and execution for higher SERP ranking? Get your free Marketing Planning Bundle from Rock Content and get ready to outsmart and outperform the competition.

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